The poor of our "rich" society are often overlooked. Every now and then we hear about disasters or crisises in distant countries that make thousands, hundred thousands or even more people homeless and poor. But we in countries that look at ourself as "developed" also have our poor people with low standards of living. And we need to help them, as well as poor people in other countries. So we're going to look at several technologies that can improve the life of poor people or help them lift themselves out of poverty.
Some times people without homes might find themselves sleeping outside or in provisional rooms. The living standards of homeless people might be improved by using shipping containers as housing. Many companies have excess shipping containers that just take up space they could use for other things. And a shipping container is a standardised container that is easily stacked, and easily moved which makes for a easily and quickly established home.
But maybe you're thinking, "a shipping container would be cold, dark and ugly".
Not necessarily. It can easily be painted and insulated. Windows can be mounted as easy as in a regular house. The container could even expand to increase space available inside. Shipping containers could become cheap, comfortable and good looking spaces to live for both the poor and the modernist.
A common trait in some undeveloped countries is that many people have limited access to clean drinking water. Half of the world's poor suffer from water borne diseases. As much as 6000 of these, mostly children, die daily. But cleaning water would be too expensive, right? Not any more.
LifeStraw is a straw that filters water, removes bacteria and viruses and makes unclean water taste better. It'll clean drinking water for one person for one year. It's easily mass distributed where it's needed the most.
A common cause of poverty is lack of education. Education material and access to knowledge in developing countries can be very limited. Computers with a connection to the internet could solve this problem, but computers are expensive and so is the infrastructure.
The OLPC XO-1 is built to solve this problem. It's built to be a cheap, yet powerful, state of the art laptop, tailored to childrens education, especially in developing countries. At the price of $188 it hasn't reached its goal of becoming the $100 laptop yet, but will hopefully do so during 2008.
It's a robust laptop that can be carried like a suitcase when closed. The screen can be rotated and will work as a ebook when closed over the keyboard. The shell is specifically built to withstand dust and moisture. It contains no moving parts inside and thus is rather resistant to shock. The keyboard is sized to fit the hands of children.
The XO-1 contains a set of technologies tailored for education in developing countries. It comes with lots of educational software, a offline version of Wikipedia, has a very low power consumption and can be charged by hand, or with a car battery. XO-1 can make a so-called "mesh network" where many laptops work together to form a network with eachother over a wide area. If one laptop in this network is connected to the internet, it can share this connection with the rest of the mesh network.
These are just some of the ways we can improve the lives of the poor, both in both developed countries and in developing countries. These solutions are in no way a master cure for poverty in the world but can still improve the situation for the world's poor people and poor countries considerably. These solutions doesn't necessarily have to be paid for by poor people. We whom aren't poor can help the poor fund these solutions.
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