International Development Design Summit: Design to Save the World


Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan

Advances in technology -- increased solar efficiency, electric cars that work, that kind of thing -- have the potential to do a lot of good for the world, but sometimes it's best to cut back on the complexity and concentrate on some simple ways that design can improve the world. A handful of these simple solutions for complex problems were on display this week at the first International Development Design Summit. For example, the problem: More than a billion people -- almost one-fifth of the world's population -- lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. The solution: a transparent plastic backpack (pictured above), which uses heat and ultraviolet rays from the sun to disinfect the water inside.The backpack, which its developers would hope to retail for less than $5, is just one of 10 low-tech prototypes were developed in just four weeks by participants from 20 countries to combat some of the developing world's most stubborn problems. By substituting clever design for technology, they're able to combat wide-reaching problems with low-cost solutions, thereby extending the reach far into the developing world. Like we've seen in things like LifeStraw and Design for the Other 90% before, maybe it really is possible for design to save the world. ::Boston Globe via ::Gristmill