Saturday, October 4, 2008

Space technology vs. Rural technology

At yesterday's Engenious event, held as part of Shaastra 2008 and sponsored by RIN, we had a very interesting panel discussion led by various members of Tamil Nadu's innovation community.

One of the panel discussants was speaking on the difficulty of encouraging students to take up projects for rural development, especially on the perception that rural technology is boring. He shared an interesting perspective he'd heard from somebody else (and I paraphrase here):

Rural technology and space technology have a lot in common.
  • You have to design for an inhospitable environment with harsh environmental conditions
  • Once deployed, service or maintenance is very difficult/impossible to undertake
  • The challenges being faced are very difficult (and often similar, such as creation of energy, sanitation and communication)
  • The products/services often cannot depend on existing infrastructure
The great thing about rural technology, and the key point that makes it so interesting, is that you must meet all of the above challenges and with two extra difficulties:
  • It must be delivered at an extremely low cost
  • There is a wide variety of customers to satisfy, each having different needs and wants
I thought it was a great perspective to share with students and one which I will surely use in the future.

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