From Popular Mechanics
A genius at serving the poor...
MIT's Guru of Low-Tech Engineering Fixes the World on $2 a Day
"From impoverished Peruvian villages to MIT's D-Lab, professor Amy
Smith and her spirited team of engineers are on a mission: Fight global
poverty and improve living standards for developing countries -- one low-
cost, accessible invention at a time."
and here's Amy Smith's 7 rules of design
"1. Try living for a week on $2 a day. That's what my students and I do when I teach my class about international development. It helps them begin to understand the trade-offs that must be made when you have only very limited resources. More broadly, it was in the Peace Corps in Botswana that I learned to carry water on my head, and noticed how heavy the bucket was; and I learned to pound sorghum in to flour and felt the ache in my back. As a designer, I came to understand the importance of technologies that can transport water or grind grain.
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2. Listen to the right people. Okay, so you probably don't know what it's like to carry fifty pounds of firewood on your head. Well, don't pretend that you do. Talk to someone who has done it. I believe that the key to innovation in international development is truly understanding the problem, and using your imagination is not good enough.
3. Do the hard work needed to find a simple solution. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—and it is the key to this type of design work.
4. Create “transparent” technologies, ones that are easily understood by the users, and promote local innovation.
5. Make it inexpensive. My friend Paul Polak has adapted a famous quote to the following: “Affordability isn't everything, it's the only thing” and there's a lot of truth in that. When you are designing for people who are earning just one or two dollars a day, you need to keep things as cheap as you can and then make it even cheaper!
6. If you want to make something 10 times cheaper, remove 90 percent of the material.
7. Provide skills, not just finished technologies. The current revolution in design for developing countries is the notion of co-creation, of teaching the skills necessary to create the solution, rather than simply providing the solution. By involving the community throughout the design process, you can help equip people to innovate and contribute to the evolution of the product. Furthermore, they acquire the skills needed to create solutions to a much wider variety of problems. They are empowered. "