It can be easy to assume that the words of a nation’s leaders reflect the views of its people. Because Engineering for Change is based in the United States, we feel it is important to point out that we disagree with some of the rhetoric coming from this country’s capital. We dug into our archive for examples of the creativity and technological prowess of people from Haiti, African countries and other emerging economies. Iana Aranda, E4C’s President, explains.
“E4C was founded in the spirit, and engineering practice, of advancing humankind through technological innovation, Ms. Aranda says. “Over the past decade, we’ve engaged and activated a community of engineers and technical experts to address some of the most pressing problems facing humankind. From lack of clean water and sanitation, to the growing need for sustainable and affordable energy, to innovative ideas for agriculture and healthcare worldwide. We’re inspired by the talented and exceptional designers, makers, engineers, academics, and entrepreneurs striving for positive social impact. And while we can think of an infinite number of reasons why the United States should be happy to welcome immigrants and visitors from the world’s emerging economies, we’ve summed up five here.”
These are five reasons why the United States should be happy to welcome immigrants and visitors from the world’s emerging economies.
1. A Kenyan immigrant is finding solutions to the housing crunch
Dr. Esther Obonyo is an Associate Professor of Engineering Design and Architectural Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University who was raised in Kenya. Her research and experimentation with building materials are laying the foundation for more affordable housing worldwide.
“Transformational use of sustainable building materials would result in significant financial benefits, reducing construction costs while enhancing the use of scarce materials.”
Dr. Obonyo explains in her article, The Worldwide Elusive Search for Affordable Housing.
2. Ethiopia Demonstrates Mobile Tech as a Boost to Small Farms
Smallholder farmers struggle to make profits in the United States and all around the world. The Ethiopian government is in the midst of a nationwide demonstration of the boost that farmers can see through mobile technology and responsive information services.
As explained by Temesgen Gebeyehu, who works in ICT for Agricultural Services at the Ethiopia Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ethiopia’s new 8028 Hotline has handled a deluge of calls from farmers looking for agricultural information. The agency’s hotline launched in 2014 as a text and interactive voice response system that shares agricultural advice to smallholder farmers. To date, the system has received 17 million calls from 2.2 million registered users, amounting to more than 2 percent of the country’s entire population.
The hotline addresses obstacles that are common to the region, including the voice response feature for illiterate callers and text-message character limitations for those with few funds. Information is also provided in Ethiopia’s three major local languages, Amharic, Tigrigna and Oromiffa. Mr. Gebeyehu explains.
3. Africa is a hub of agricultural technological innovation
A wave of agricultural machines and digital applications for farmers is swelling in Sub-Saharan Africa. This innovation, spilling from the continent’s universities and start-ups, has the potential to improve yields and increase incomes. The United States and every other nation with farms inside its borders should seek to attract the kind of talent that is on display in African workshops and research laboratories.
We partnered with the Resilient Africa Network, a partnership of 18 African universities in 13 countries led by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to produce the following list of examples.
4. Haitians Are Designing Earthquake-Resistant Buildings
Haitian structural engineers and housing contractors are researching, designing and building earthquake-resistant structures. The nation’s earthquakes have taught valuable lessons about which materials and construction techniques can withstand disaster, and Haitians are responding. See one example of earthquake-resistant construction here.
5. Haitian Technicians Are Building Some of the World’s Lowest-Cost Energy Grids
Haitian electrical technicians at Sigora Haiti are building low-cost and reliable solar-powered microgrids. A difference between Sigora and many other microgrids around the world is that Sigora is financially solvent – the company sells its energy at a price that sustains its continued existence. Techniques learned and demonstrated in Haiti can inform energy projects in the rural United States and around the world. Frank Bergh, a Contributing Editor at E4C and Vice President of Grid Engineering at Sigora International, explains the Sigora model below.