18 March 2008

D-Labs Updates! Wheelchair Design & ICT4D

I just sat in on two classes of the D-Labs family of offerings -- Wheelchair Design for Developing Countries and Information and Communications Technologies for Development or ICT4D.

Wheelchairs had two guests visiting MIT for the week from their wheelchair manufacturing workshop in Tanzania. Very interesting to hear of their challenges. For instance, you would think that donated chairs from well-meaning US foundations would be a good thing. But if they're shoddy chairs which break quickly and they undercut local manufacturing capacity, maybe they're not so good. Mostly we brainstormed new design ideas for brakes, on-chair storage space, ease-of-use innovations, and other improvements. Way cool!

ICT4D had mid-semester progress reports from the students teams on their initiatives. These included a microfinance tool in India, a mobile-phone labor market in Brazil, mobile camera-phones for diagnoses in Tanzania, and an education system in Malawi. Several of the teams are traveling to their target markets over Spring Break! This Thursday is the second-half of projects. One especially pleasing development is how many projects continue over from previous Developmental Entrepreneurship seminars and other D-Lab offerings. This continuity means ongoing intensity of effort and progress!

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