Written by Betsy Teutsch and Chidinma Moito, MD
My first contact with Technology Exchange Lab (TEL) was almost by accident, through their Facebook page. I remember being filled with so much excitement after scanning through, and then going ahead to take a detailed look at the TEL website! It was exciting to me because up until then I had never seen such a huge compendium of resources available for use in low-resource centers such as where I grew up and attended school. The constraints faced in developing countries are hardly imaginable if you haven't lived and worked in the settings. Imagine my great joy as I browsed through the TEL website and saw innovative tools such as solar powered autoclave machines, LED lights operating without a plug, clean water solutions, and numerous other products that met vital needs. My greatest excitement was the realization, through TEL, that technology is being produced that works around a lot of the complexities faced in Africa and other developing countries. All in one location!
As a physician trained and practicing in Nigeria, the discovery of such as useful resource is humbling. For me, it not only serves the purpose of presenting simple solutions to gigantic problems I face on a daily basis in practice; it also serves to provide links to solution providers and the opportunity for problems to meet their solutions! For me, TEL is an excellent platform for solution makers and solution seekers to interact, and through this 'little step' of connecting, step by step, we can make a difference at every level. Great job, TEL!
Betsy Teutsch, author of 100 Under $100: the Women’s Global Toolkit
A few months ago, Dana Raviv over at Catchafire told me about Technology Exchange Lab, a group creating a developing world technology catalog, a bit like my book project. First I freaked out. Then I got excited. There are a billion women who need improved technology, and here’s a chance to collaborate. How wonderful the TEL folks feel just the same way. Thanks, Dana!
Back in the day working for GreenMicrofinance, I learned about energy and sanitation poverty, and was impressed by the ingenious, eco-smart solutions helping to eradicate these immense drags on women’s productivity. Recently I joined Dining For Women, a growing network of over 350 local Giving Circles which together support women’s global empowerment. Focusing on girls’ and women’s legal, educational, health, and discrimination problems is super important, but I kept thinking: something very basic is missing. Technology.
The tech world is buzzing with appropriate, entry-level developing world offerings, but – as in the developed world – the tech sector is male-dominated. Women are rarely included in technology design and application. One notable exception is Dr. Pilar Mateo, a Spanish chemist and humanitarian, inventor of an insecticide-infused paint that repels the vampire-like insects that spread Chagas disease. Why do more people not know of her breakthrough work? Making sure people do is the goal of 100 Under $100, a catalog of 100 products and practices under $100 that will specifically help women climb the ladder out of extreme poverty, together
One of the solutions in TEL’s database is the LifePlayer, the first MP3-enabled multi-band radio designed and engineered for the humanitarian sector. It has the potential to change the rhythms of women’s daily lives. I quite agree with Tom Hanks, LifePlayer’s ambassador, – we can’t envision all the ways the LifePlayer will spark creativity. Using its recording capacity, imagine how exciting it will be for women to hear their own voices and broadcast their own truths!
We all love a good story. The soap operas so beloved by past generations have proven to be an excellent format for disseminating public health information. Women working together, while they listen to the daily installment – they are the ones that will fight for clean water and schooling for their daughters. And when they hear about Pilar Mateo on their LifePlayer they will want that magic paint. Next thing, they’ll be lobbying for a paint factory in their country, and the next thing after that, they’ll be selling and applying the paint. I can’t wait!