The Four Billion Dilemma…

And why isn’t technology fixing things?

First day of G/B20 in Los Cabos , Mexico, there were two very interesting speeches on technology and its applications. One at a fifty thousand feet level with biomedical changes and genome and how it will change us humans; the other on real life applications to problems for other 4 billion people; power and electricity. 

Dean Kamen is president of DEKA company. He worked on stairs climbing wheelchairs; prosthetic arms; pap smear test machines prior.  In his opening line he mentioned all the CEOs who are coming to G20 represented business who operated mostly in the 60 countries in the world and had no interest to go beyond that for economic reasons and he made a call to the room for everyone to focus and help to find a way to fix two very fundamental issues that people in remaining of the world faced today. Water and electricity. He talked about two billion people on earth with no access to electricity and over one billion people with no clean water access; and the other two billion scrambling to get it.
He mentioned there was one technology that everyone in the world had access and that was cellphones; and he asked if people can get that–why can’t they get clean water and electricity too?
Along the way he offered his own solution (yes–very rich potential customers sitting in the audience!); a water purifier machine that turns any contaminated liquid to clean drinking water; and another machine that utilizes any type or form of energy including methane; and yes, cow dong-into electricity. He tested it in Bangladesh, and now he is rolling them out in Ghana, Africa to test them. You can debate whether this could be the real fix to existing monumental issues; or this would ever work. Important point is the issues do exist and do we have enough people on earth worried about them.
I been pondering during his speech that there is one more thing missing in this formula from my own world view: fast, reliable, affordable internet connections. When someone goes out there and decides to do something as simple as this, providing a machine that can purify water for hundred people at a time; isn’t there so many other simple things that we can do within our reach, within our knowledge that we are not SHARING?
I believe it is testing, piloting, finding simple little solutions and rolling them out tirelessly. It is the only way.
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