Why the developing world can drive innovation that the developed world can't

By | February 27, 2012
Why the developing world can drive innovation that the developed world can't

This is why the developing world can innovate in ways the developed world can't: they are forced to be creative. The developed world is just spoilt in comparison, and has to innovate in high-end nieche areas instead. The ceramic pan is one of the more recent examples of innovation that started in the developing world and wandered over.

If we can fiy the caste system in research and development, I think we'll see a lot more innovation by bringing the two groups of innovaters together.

Reshared post from +Gideon Rosenblatt

Light as a Service: Solar Lighting Technology Leapfrogging in the Developing World

Some of you will have do doubt already seen this video, which I love because it highlights the beauty of a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-distribute, and sustainable technology for lighting. I rediscovered this video after reading a really interesting piece in the NY Times called "Innovations in Light" by Tina Rosenberg:


The article lays out the disruptive power of various solar lighting technologies, from the simple and dirt-cheap water-filled-bottles in a roof (only good for lighting indoor spaces during daylight hours), to simple rechargeable solar lights that are managed by local social entrepreneurs for a community and run on a "lighting as service" business model.

Just as with cellphones, these new solar lighting technologies have the potential to "leapfrog" over traditional electrical grid-based solutions that require heavy infrastructure that is unlikely to be built in developing economies for some time (if ever).

One of the things that I really like about Rosenberg's article is the focus she rightly puts on getting the business model right. So much of what makes social entrepreneurs, and really any entrepreneurs succeed comes down to getting the right business model; one that fits with the economic ecosystem that surrounds an organization and its solutions for the market. In this case, low upfront cost, minimal infrastructure, low operating costs, simplicity of service, and ease of distribution are all dominating factors in the success of these technologies. In short, their appropriateness is set not just by the technology itself, but by the business model that wraps it.

Great stuff, and really worth a read. The video is 3:28, and just watching that will give you an intuitive feel for one of the technologies that Rosenberg is highlighting here.

4 thoughts on “Why the developing world can drive innovation that the developed world can't

  1. Michael-Forest M.

    No one would have had access to this technology if the creator had immediately sold it to a large corporation who slapped a patent on it and sued the socks off of anyone attempting to make their own. What we lack in the West is not the ability to innovate. What we lack is Free Culture.

  2. Frédéric Bazin

    I don t agree about the west not beeing able to innovate. I would rather say that we don't make money so easily from innovation. There are so many critical needs to be filled in the developping world that any relevant innovation is bound to success. Especially over last 5 years , as technology and communication enable to share and spread ideas globally.

    There are very innovative approach in the west that actually don t make money such as open source window garden development or global village project.
    Still you are probably right at some point that our education and welfare makes us less likely to jump into entrepreneurship.

  3. John Despujols

    Solar is very disruptive here too: " Deutsche Bank solar analyst Vishal Shah noted in a report last Friday that German utilities are being significantly impacted due to excess solar generation – a result of the “merit order” impact that this website has reported on. This is true not just of the German market, but Italy as well, which actually exceeded Germany last year for the amount of solar PV installed in 2011.

    So much so, Shah noted, that prices in peak power periods in the middle of the afternoon on sunny days are running lower than base power prices of 2am. The merit order impact was detailed in a recent study by IZES, which found that solar power has reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated.
    This causes massive problems for generators …" http://tinyurl.com/7dnr23n


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