Many of the technology solutions developed in advanced countries assume universal availability of essential resources such as electricity, water and advanced communication infrastructures. However, these solutions are not applicable to much of the developing world where these essential resources are scarce. There is a great need, therefore, for producing technology solutions that can overcome the scarcity of these resources in creative ways. This is often referred to as "Designing for the other 90 percent".
Ingenious solutions include the solar water pump, which pumps water using solar energy and is proving to be a boon to many developing countries. An inexpensive system that generates electricity from human/animal waste is another example of an appropriate technology solution.
For systems such as these to make an impact they must be widely available economically and without licensing restrictions.
The faculty at West Virginia University, in collaboration with faculty from universities in Mexico and China, have recently launched a capstone program track, which emphasizes development of appropriate technology solutions that are especially suitable for the developing world. Senior engineering students work on a year-long group project that addresses a major societal need.
We believe there are many such programs around the world producing solutions that will have far-reaching consequences. Our goal is to create an international collaboratory, where faculty, students, researchers and non-profit organizations from around the world can cooperate voluntarily in producing novel solutions and share them freely.