Yet another input of interesting ideas from the BBC's Radio 4: the 3 May 2012 edition of In Business looks at 'frugal innovation' . It mentions the Honey Bee Network. It's well worth a listen and then a look at the Honey Bee Network website, where local innovations in rural India are shared. www.honeybee.org .
The programme discusses, for example, linking the huge Indian market at the bottom of the economic pyramid, with the elite business brains of Universities in India and around the world, in what should be empowering rather than exploitative ways.
This reminds me of the discussions on sustainable, affordable, rural housing at the ART weekend a few years ago. The only bone I would pick with what was presented in this programme is that the idea of promoting the use of a clay pot and water technology as a fridge is great, and I've lived with a variation of this very successfully myself in the past; but there is an important boundary between, on the one hand, making widely available an affordable yet commercially viable product based on this principle and, on the other hand, stealing a widely known and used technology and then proceeding to claim intellectual property rights by patenting and branding it. Echoes, at the other end of a technical sophistication continuum, of Montsanto wanting to patent Basmati rice. (I'm sure, by the way, I'm doing the intentions of the water fridge people a disservice here, and they don't mean that at all...)
There's also a 28 April edition of Global Business on the related theme of 'reverse innovation' - innovating in poor countries and then taking the innovations to the rich countries, in reverse to the customarily assumed business model.
Both programmes are available as podcasts on Peter Day's BBC site: