May those who help most win so they say.
I made three entries – the hexayurt, the infrastructure package, and the low cost medical care.
The hexayurt is a reasonably well tested next generation disaster relief shelter built on free/open source principles and industrial supply chains. It comes from work done at the Rocky Mountain Institute. The basic idea is to take 12 standard 4’x8′ industrial panels, cut six in half diagonally and fasten them into a cone (see the site for pictures) and use six whole panels for the walls, giving a durable shelter of 166 square feet, big enough for 5 people at UN standards. These shelters will survive 80 mph winds easily.
The emphasis on using standard industrial materials is the key. Nobody can afford to carry extensive stocks of emergency housing for disasters in the developing world, which often displace millions of people. Airfreighting tents is expensive and inefficient, and tents are lousy shelter for long term use, which is all-too-frequently how they are deployed. The Hexayurt idea is that industrial cities near regular disaster zones (Bangaladesh, strife-torn areas of Africa, the hurricane belt) take their existing industrial infrastructure and add a few simple new skills so that before or after a disaster they can mass produce a simple, long-life shelter for affected populations. This is a step towards disaster relief self-sufficiency at a regional level, so that these areas begin to be able to cope without being so reliant on patchy and poorly-funded international relief effots.
The Hexayurt concept has been tested by US DOD, and is an integral part of the STAR-TIDES program. American Red Cross and Netherlands Red Cross both think it is a great idea and have supported its development, and AMURT is considering the system. All of this has been done by a persistent self-funded open source development effort.
The Hexayurt Infrastructure Package
The hexayurt is a free/open disaster relief shelter which has its own entry. However, a shelter alone is not enough to really help people after a disaster. If you have 100,000 perfectly good shelters in a field, the next problem you face is water and sanitation: without some deployed solution, people will get sick and die.
There are lots of appropriate technology solutions to sanitation, cooking without wasting wood or generating toxic smoke, purifying water to drink. All of them are under-funded, under-tested, and under-adopted. Millions to tens of millions die every year because this “appropriate technology infrastructure” is not being properly funded, and the result is needless loss of life.
The key is to understand that credible candidate technologies exist to provide all the same basic essential services that people enjoy in the developed world on a budget of maybe $200. Furthermore, the services can be provided house-by-house. For example, rainwater is collected on your roof, then purified using a biosand filter to give you safe drinking water, rather than having a water purification factory down the road and pipes. These systems are basic, and some need work, but some combination of SODIS, solar water pasteurization, thermophilic composting toilets, sulabh toilets, solar cookers, rocket stoves, gasification stoves, biosand filters, microsolar, microwind and microhydro will provide all the basic essential services of life in nearly any climate anywhere in the world. What hasn’t been done is a global systematic program of testing each of these individual technologies in each region of the world, making local adaptations, cleaning up and publishing the designs, making training videos, running educational courses, and looking for chances to integrated, combine and synthesize systems into whole packages which are proven to provide all essential services in the field. This is our proposal.
The $10 per year health insurance system
There is no current model for health care for the 4 billion rural and slum dwellers. We can lower the cost of some kinds of healthcare to affordable levels using the network. Here’s how.
Firstly, we need a global map of diseases, and their symptoms and progression, represented in a machine readable and standardized format. This is a major labor in and of itself, but will find many supporters in hospitals and universities.
Secondly, a treatment database exists, and is filtered for the treatments which have little negative effect if misapplied by an unskilled worker. For example, giving babies boiled water with a little lentil soup mixed in will not ever harm them, but if they diarrhea, it can save their life.
Now these databases are combined into a medical expert system, which has probabilities set from field data about the area it is deployed in, which takes symptoms from users and returns non-invasive care suggestions, including “seek medical help immediately” for indications of serious disease. This front line system will likely save lives immediately. As data improves and statistics from all the users are gathered and combined, the system will improve. Think non-insulin dependent diabetes management as an example case.
To handle prescribing drugs, a safe pharmacopeia (drug list) is compiled – under $10 a dose, no refrigeration, hard to abuse, no overdose. People pay $10 per year for health insurance, getting them a few visits a year from a bicycle-riding health worker who has a backpack of drugs, and a more advanced expert system to guide them, analysis of their prescribing habits to watch for mistraining, and tools (stethoscope) for simple medical evaluation. Visits are scheduled in priority order using the network to coordinate. Affordable rural health care needs the network!
A COSMOS for the 21st Century
Remember the first time you heard Carl Sagan say something that just totally transformed your understanding of reality? I was about 8 when Cosmos started showing on British TV. I lived in a 5000 person sheep farming town. Once a week, I tuned in as a religious ritual to understand the world around me was not made of rugby and action man and the Beano. I tuned in because I wanted to know how the world was made.
I want to extend that model to the rest of the planet, but I want to add in a new concept: training to survive poverty. Yes, the 11 year olds of sub-saharan Africa should see a show that tells them the sun is a ball of burning gas in space. But they should also know germ theory and the lifecycle of the malarial mosquito.
The proposal is as follows: script and fund a pilot for a world transforming TV series. 60 episodes, covering the world of basic survival science using a COSMOS type format. 12 episodes on farming, 24 on health/ecology/environment (linked in the developing world,) 12 on culture, 12 on cosmology. All science to be both pure and applied, from the history of the microscope through to how to make a sand filter. Focus on teaching people what is possible, and showing people just like them doing it. Show them a better world, that they can live in, if they learn and apply appropriate technology techniques, basic science like germ theory, and use the other information resources at their disposal to get the rest of the story.
Series to be produced internationally with local stars, dubbed into many languages, distributed under open licenses. Slick, professional, global culture product.
(thanks to Lucas for encouraging me to post this!)