Inventors are creative people who naturally think ‘outside the box.' Inventors look at things differently and, as a result, create unexpected solutions to problems others simply accept as normal. But, maybe we really aren't so different and creative in our thinking. Read on.

Lives in the ‘Lap of Luxury'

All of us throughout the developed world, think and behave very predictably and alike when it comes our income and how we spend it.

We may buy a quick cup of coffee on our way to work each day, spending perhaps $3 to $5. We don't give it much thought. We might have lunch with colleagues at a restaurant and spend $10 or more. We come home to our comfortable homes or apartments after work and entertain ourselves with dozens of program choices from cable or satellite TV.

We may complain we just can't seem to ‘get ahead' at work. Paying the bills every month is such a drag and it feels as though there is too much month at the end of our money each month. Can you identify with this?

Welcome to the global 1%! If you make more than $32,000 per year, you earn more than 99% of the people on planet earth. Over half of the world's population, more than 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day. You are living life in the ‘lap of luxury'!

Welcome to the Other Half

Let's go on an imaginary trek to a remote village in Zimbabwe.

Here no one complains about high costs of electricity and water, because homes have no such comforts. Homes are typically small shacks with thatched roofs for cover from the rain and other elements – though cold is not a problem. No one has a cell phone, a television, a computer or any of the many other things we Westerners regard as ‘necessities.'

Families plan for at least 5 children knowing one or more of them may die from malaria or intestinal parasites. There are no health plans and the nearest hospital is hundreds of miles away. The average life expectancy is around 53 years. No one ones a car. The primary mode of transportation is walking; many don't own shoes.

Women often hike long distances to get water from a stream for the family. They cook dinner over a fire pit, using wood and charcoal, indoors in poorly ventilated areas. Millions die from asphyxiation and black carbon diseases each year.

Welcome to the other half of the world!

Over a billion people in Africa, India and many other countries live in conditions similar to this.

Simple Solutions Yield Dramatic Life Improvements

Now for some good news. Inventors can design simple solutions to the profound problems faced by impoverished people – yielding dramatic improvements in their lives.

Kenneth Ndua of Kenya, invented a simple clean cookstove that burns wood or charcoal much more efficiently. Diseases caused by smoke inhalation from open-fire cooking kill more people worldwide than HIV and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization.

Manu Prakash has invented simple, inexpensive products to address two problems faced by medical personnel in rural areas of developing countries:

  1. Microscopes are expensive and unavailable to impoverished rural areas
  2. Centrifuges, used to for analysis of blood and urine, are expensive – rarely available

Dr. Prakash invented the Foldscope, a simple paper with a small lens that can be folded, origami style, to form a functioning microscope. The cost? Less than $0.50. Now millions across the developing world have access to microscopes at minimal cost.

But, Dr. Prakash has now turned his genius towards a simple, low cost centrifuge, called the Paperfuge. It involves two paper discs and strings attached to small simple handles. when the strings are pulled, the discs rotate very rapidly. Items placed in small straw tubes at the periphery of the paper discs rotate rapidly, separating samples just as an expensive centrifuge does. But, the Paperfuge costs about $0.20 and anyone can use it with a few minutes training.

Your Turn!

Calling all inventors. The Other Half desperately needs your creativity, your problem-solving and your new inventions. Maybe you can invent something super simple and inexpensive, like the Paperfuge that will touch the lives of millions.

Stay tuned!