Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The World bank blog asks....,

A Question Going Global: What Will It Take to End Poverty?

As is the case with such questions, there are as many opinions as there are readers. Almost everyone agrees on the basics and I quote from the post ‘They have talked about education, food security, health, jobs, child care and many other issues. Here’s what a couple of people have had to say: “Countries need to put in place the critical infrastructure in the rural areas like roads, market stores etc and then work direct with the rural poor” and “make secondary education free for all children & increase access 2 domestic water.”

The blog post by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank group, invites everyone to be a part of this effort and you can participate with tweets, comments and ideas. I love the idea of having everyone answering a question that should concern all of us. In fact we should all care about such questions and where the answers lead us. It may even lead you on a path of self-discovery. Inconvenient truths like poverty, female foeticide, a fast detetiorating forest cover, pollution etc cannot be swept under the carept and forgotten.

Like many others I too believe that a lot can be done in fields of education, women’s health and the like. We all try to do our bit in whatever way we can, however we can fit that into our busy everyday lives. But once in a way we get an opportunity to do something that can make a concrete difference to people who could do with some help.

So in answer to the question ‘What will it take to end poverty?’ I believe that while there is a general overall need for education, health, food for all and along with that each of us should do whatever we can, big or small. Each one can teach one to fish so he can feed at least himself. Here is my chance to do something a bit bigger than what I have been doing so far.

With 3D printing all set to take the manufacturing industry by storm, it seems fitting that there should be other aspects of our life that it should touch. 3D printing lets you print your designs in any material you want and translates your drawings into a touch and feel reality. The raw material is often plastic.

With a rapidly emerging consumer economy, plastics are pervasive in urban India. In fact, urban areas are characterized by plastic bottles and bags which litter the sidewalks. It is estimated that 12.5 million tons of plastic are consumed per annum by India. Unfortunately, environmental preservation is not high on the list of priorities and littering is rampant. And while over forty percent of the total plastics waste generated is recycled, almost all the segregation occurs at the dump site.
In the city of Pune, India where this project hopes to take flight, there is a system of waste pickers cooperative that collects garbage at source and sells it to scrap dealers.  The team at ‘Just 3D printing’ has conceptualized a three pronged collaborative approach that takes into account all this.
Just 3D printing will source recycled plastics procured from local waste pickers. This will be a three-step process that will in fact provide opportunities.

Step one, which has been called ‘Flakerbot’ will provide opportunities at the waste picker level. It involves transforming the waste plastic products into ‘flakes/ grounds’ using low tech mechanical means. It requires almost no investment or skills but will raise the price of the product and will fetch the waste pickers more money. It is also easy to store and transport, thus cutting costs.

Step two, or the ‘Refilbot’ will convert these grounds/ flakes into filament that can be used for 3D printing. This will also need very little investment and easy to learn skills and will provide opportunities raising the level of the unskilled to semi-skilled to add even more value to their product thus raising their economic and social standards. The filament thus produced can either be sold to ‘Just3Dprinting’ or to other users of filaments.
Step three, involves 3D printing machines, which traditionally have been too expensive to be available to smaller businessmen. The 3D printing machines that are used by this group are low cost DIY printers that can be replicated in developing countries like India. They will be placed in kiosks that will print 3D objects for a small fee.

These kiosks will be geared towards young entrepreneurs and students and will be fairly priced and subsidized so as to allow rapid and low cost prototyping. The hope is that the access to these resources will encourage small business owners to invest in indigenous product design and development while simultaneously serving as an important education tool to the country’s youth. The kiosks will be staffed with local employees, trained to use computer our ‘3DPrinterBot’ equipment

The Flakerbot and the Refilbot can be placed even in homes of those who wish to use them, those creating many micro-entrepreneurs. This will ensure that the plastic is recycled as well as more employment opportunities are created, thus resulting is a socio-economic- environmental collaboration that augurs well for all concerned
Just3Dprinting also plans on taking the ‘Cradle to Grave’ approach that will recycle its own products, ensuring a responsible approach to business. Using materials sourced locally will be also good for the environment. While the business plan is very simple, it will solve several problems facing the developing world today.

Now we have an opportunity to transform this concept into reality and a step in this is the worldwide competition being held in London in October this yearYou can read about it here. We do need the support and help of many people in this as there is also public voting at the contest. Also I believe that there are many people behind every success story.

We may not be able to end the poverty of the world, or have a complete solution to the problem, but this and projects like this may be a start, along with education, health care and infrastructure.

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