Daily Archives: August 20, 2008

Paul Polak’s Twelve Steps to Practical Problem Solving

Paul Polak is a physiatrist by training but has spent the past 25 years working to alleviate poverty in the developing world. His non-profit, International Development Enterprises, has come up with innovative low cost technologies that have improved the local livelihood of people at the bottom of the pyramid. For example the simply designed bamboo treadle pump has sold over 1.7 million copies and generated over $1.4 billion in farmer revenue in Bangladesh.

Paul has encapsulated his learnings in a book Out of Poverty that describes a number of these technologies. More recently, Paul has posted an interesting video on You tube that summarizes his Twelve Steps to Practical Problem Solving.

Some of the observations are commonsense ones but it is remarkable how often people forget them in their eagerness to push technology.

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Waste Streams turn to Gold

A couple of related articles in the past months have got me thinking about the trash streams we generate and its adverse impact in the developing world.

The National Geographic in an article “High Tech Trash” estimates that over 70 per cent of high tech trash winds up in landfills creating a toxic time bomb. The EPA estimated that between 1.5 and 1.9 million tons of electronic junk was discarded in 2005. The future looks even bleaker as millions of TVs will be rendered inoperable with the switch to digital transmission next year. Already the US discards nearly 25 million TVs and 100 million cell phones every year. Continue reading