Monday, February 18, 2008

$15 Laptop seen in Mumbai

This toystore in Bandra was selling a number of "educational computers" that purport to teach English, Spelling, Mathematics, and Music. I can't vouch for their efficacy, but they sell for about $15 and they do 'work.' However, in my limited experience, they were very difficult to use, and not very much fun. Couldn't this be improved upon? I like the idea of developing educational toys, at a price that is within reach. If only these computers had better content and design!
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Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Streets Flood During the Monsoon

Where's the grate?

Meanwhile in Bombay, 10,000 immigrants have fled the city, after organized violence this week by the Shiv Sena, the MNS, and other Hindu fundamentalist groups.

As they say, "Blaming Mumbai’s problems on the economic migrant is to simply escape responsibility for failing to address the core issue: a serious crisis of governance."
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Six Principles of Sustainable Development


The Ontario Round Table members believe that these goals are attainable,
based on six fundamental principles that resulted from the Round Table's
research and consultations:

  1. Anticipating and preventing problems is better than trying to react
    and fix them after they occur.

  2. Accounting must reflect all long-term environmental and economic
    costs, not just those of the current market.

  3. The best decisions are those based on sound, accurate, and up-to-date

  4. We must live off the interest our environment provides and not destroy
    its capital base.

  5. The quality of social and economic development must take precedence
    over quantity.

  6. We must respect nature and the rights of future generations.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Meet Some Street Kids and Walk through the Markets of Mysore

These are some initial tests from my new video-camera sunglasses. I'm hoping that these videos can provide a better sense of what it is like to actually walk through the streets... san sound and smells.

Soon, I promise video taken from the perspective of vegetable sellers or rickshaw drivers! I'd love to be able to document and experience the rhythms of what they see.

I believe documentation like this is important in the context of Design for Development, because we need to be able to gain a strong sense of empathy for the persons for whom we will be designing.
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When Technology Initiatives Destroy Cultures

Eric Writes:

The Skolt Lapps are a group of reindeer herding people in Northern Finland who had a fairly robust culture built around reindeer herding, eating, and trading, that was deeply upset when snowmobiles began to inflitrate their society and replace previously reindeer-centered activities. The snowmobile became the “thing to have” and people made fatal sacrifices to have it. Unemployment skyrocketed, debt exploded, the reindeer population dwindled, and their previously sustainable economy collapsed.

The Full Blog Post has a number of other great examples:

Economists, can you explain why this is good news?

According to this BBC Article:
The Indian government recently said it expected the economy to grow by 8.7% in the financial year to the end of March, which would be the slowest rate of expansion in three years.

The government has raised interest rates and reduced the amount of money banks can lend out to cool the industrial and financial sectors. The government is also predicting a slowdown in agricultural output.

Analysts broadly welcomed the latest figure, as it shows government efforts to slow breakneck economic growth are continuing to be successful.

What are the benefits of slowing India's economy down? Especially the agricultural sector? Any ideas?

Packaging Everywhere!

Only 3 Rupees, about 8 cents, for a bag of chips. And man, I love Kukure--they're like a masala flavored Cheeto.

But most of these bags get tossed on the ground, along with all the other ubiquitous forms of plastic mylar packaging. Cows then eat this stuff, which can't be good. I think we need a 'Littering is Bad Karma" campaign here. I tend to think that environmental respect starts on our own streets.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Organic Packaging

I love this, I really do. I bought an omlet off the street recently (my digestive system adjusted a long time ago, so I like to keep it in good practice), and they wrapped it in leaves, and then folded it up into an old sheet of newspaper. Imagine if all the consumer packaging we have in the states literally grew on trees?? I've seen so much stuff like that here, from paper plates made of pressed palm leaves or recycled milk cartons to grocery bags made of glued up newspapers. Even a drink container made of a coconut shell ...containing coconut milk! wow!
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Small Family Happy Family

More like: Small Family, Happy Planet. Did you know that there will be an estimated 9 Billion people on the planet by 2050? That's like adding two more Chinas! How will the world be able to sustain such growth, which is primarily happening amongst the world's poorest citizens?

This picture is from the back of a 1993 2 Rupee coin. I wonder if it had an effect...?
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Some Unfortunate Irony About Garbage

An empty garbage bin and a lot filled with trash. Why is India filled with so much trash everywhere? It was such a striking contrast to Japan, where they don't even allow public trash bins (after the Sarin Gas attacks)--people just carry their trash until they visit a restaurant or something. We try embarassing people who blatantly throw bottles on the ground, but honestly, many people don't feel any sense of shame over littering. One could argue that littering is good, because it helps the ragpickers recycle more effectively... But that logic fails during the monsoon, when the streets everywhere flood from drains that have been clogged with plastic bags and everything else imaginable.
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Greywater recycling in rural Karnataka

This is a nightime picture of a greywater recycling technology which is in use in a small village outside of Mysore. Instead of simply having waste water drain away into a river via a series of ditches, houses have their greywater drain into a specially prepared pit, composed of layers of rocks and topsoil--this drains quickly, and replenishes the groundwater supply. Very cool!
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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Design For Development

I've recently moved out of my apartment in Bandra, Mumbai so that I can be completely mobile. I'm currently in Delhi, which has a very exciting group of expats working on a variety of development and sustainability initiatives.

The Class I proposed to teach at UCSD--remotely, from India--has been approved, and this is my current occupation on Wednesday Nights. You can learn more about this class "Developing Technology for Developing Economies" at