Four Notable Gadgets Designed to Help Impoverished Countries

Often, companies and organizations will develop technologies with the idea in mind of helping a group of people who are at a technological disadvantage. These projects make big waves in the media, but what you may not know is just how much they can impact the rest of the world. Some of the most notable gadgets we use throughout the world today were originally inspired by the idea of bringing often lifesaving technologies to developing areas.

Whether the product is intended to make dangerous water drinkable or put computers in classrooms that normally couldn’t even afford textbooks, there is a clear correlation between innovations for developing countries and technology trends throughout the world.

OLPC and Netbooks

OLPCNetbooks are often considered a drastic response to a global economic downturn. While this might explain their rise during the latest recession, the idea of these little underpowered laptops has been at the heart of products like OLPC (One Laptop Per Child). The OLPC Project originally called for the development of laptops that were both energy efficient and cheap enough for schools in developing areas to take advantage of.

The result didn’t exactly hit the low price mark, but with initiatives like “Buy One; Donate One,” which allowed just about anyone to both buy one of these laptops and donate one to a child in a developing area, the idea that the mainstream public might want an inexpensive alternative to larger laptops certainly stuck.

It’s from there that the greater trend of netbooks made with ATOM processors really took off. You might not give OLPC total credit for the rise of netbooks, but it certainly brought attention to the possibility of creating cheap alternatives to what was then an expensive laptop market.


Roughly 43% of people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water in their homes. Instead, they suffer from dehydration and risk drinking from contaminated lakes and streams. Many of these areas are plagued with illness and disease brought on by drinking from water riddled with bacteria and deadly contaminants.

Enter LifeStraw, a straw-like product that filters water as you drink from water sources. Originally intended to make drinking from local water sources safer in developing areas, the LifeStraw is a favorite survival tool for campers and hikers alike.

The LifeStraw brings harmful bacteria levels down to safe levels through the use of quality filtering technology. You can carry it around with you very easily, and use it in a variety of situations.


GravityLight is one of the latest technologies generating buzz that’s sure to help developing areas deal with a very big issue. When the sun goes down, it means complete darkness for many regions of the world without ready access to electricity. This includes almost half of the Earth’s total population.

GravityLight promises to bring reliable light sources to these areas with power generated from gravity. It sounds too good to be true, but recent advances in lighting technology (including LED) makes it possible to power bright lights with very little energy.

All you need to do to power the device is fill a bag with earth or rocks and attach it to the light. The weight of the object will pull down on the cord, which drives an internal mechanism that generates electricity. The end result is up to 30 minutes of light for just a few seconds of effort. It might not replace electric lights for the entire world, but in areas where a $10 solution providing critical light for years to come makes the most difference, it could be a lifesaving technology.

We’ve written about GravityLight recently and hope the project is a smashing success.

MoneyMaker Hip Pump

Farming is the heart of the world’s free market. You farm to grow food to feed your family or village, and any extra produce can be sold to provide for other life necessities. In areas without easy access to advanced irrigation technologies, having a water pump available is an absolute must. The problem is that most water pumps cost more than farmers in developing areas can afford.

The solution is the MoneyMaker Hip Pump. This human-powered water pump has empowered farmers around the world to grow sustainable crops on land that rarely sees rain or undergoes proper irrigation. Where western farmers benefit from piped water and expensive sprinkler systems, developing nations have long had to suffer through producing only what they could grow by hand. The Hip Pump makes it possible to water a much larger area of land more efficiently.

Families no longer would have to struggle to survive on what little is grown. Instead, they can profit and actually sell produce in order to make a better life for themselves and their community.

Image: Wikimedia

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