San Francisco (Business 2.0) - Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those figures add up to a big problem for the world—and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.via BoingBoing.net.
To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.
"Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. "The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what goes into it. And the power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns."
Providing clean water and electricity has some obvious benefits, but one of the less obvious ones is the amount of human potential it would unleash. Consider that among the desperately poor, a woman may spend up to 2/3 of her day gathering water, fuel, and food - and then preparing the food, often with something as primitive as a handheld grinder. We could open up a vast pool of labour simply by providing tap water, electricity, and even a small food processor and a toaster oven.
Obviously, there's more we'd like to do. But some pretty simple first steps could have huge multiplier effects.