TED India Conference: “The Future Beckons”

The inspirational, energy-filled, and fun TED conference is heading to India this year.  From November 4-7, 2009, TEDIndia will take place in Mysore and bring together speakers and delegates that are reinventing India.  The huge success of TED makes its arrival in India even more exciting.  At TC-I, we covered a few TED talks here, here, and here.

A little background on the TED conference:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Attendees have called it “the ultimate brain spa” and “a four-day journey into the future.” The diverse audience — CEOs, scientists, creatives, and philanthropists — is almost as extraordinary as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Nandan Nilekani, Jane Goodall, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck and Bono.

The India conference will answer questions like:

  • Which local innovations are destined for global impact?
  • Who are the young thinkers and doers capable of shaping the future?
  • Can there be economic advancement without environmental destruction?
  • Can a pluralistic democracy survive in the face of rising fundamentalism?
  • Can we make money and be good? Really?
  • What should we learn – or fear? — from China’s investment in Africa?
  • Do we have enough water for everyone?
  • How do we keep our youth challenged and our aged healthy?
  • How can anti-poverty solutions be brought to scale?
  • Is there wisdom to be found in traditional medicine?
  • Which other ancient traditions can illuminate modern life?

This will be an event that any social innovator in India will want to attend – register to apply here.

Pedal Your Way to Clean Water

Stories on water are either on the rise or are more likely to catch my eye – either way, another interesting design innovation to contribute to water issues is critiqued by NextBillion.net. A YouTube video on the site also explains the Aquaduct, a tricycle that aims to provide a means of transportation and simultaneously filter water.

Developed by Ideo (an extremely successful design company), the cycle uses energy from pedaling to filter two gallons of water from a 20 gallon tank- supposedly enough for a day’s worth of water for one family. Derek Newberry points out:

As with any shiny new BoP innovation, it’s important to remember that just because the product is inarguably cool doesn’t mean it will actually be applicable in the specific context of local consumers. Has research been done to confirm that the Aquaduct would be cost effective and functional for the BoP in different regions as compared to other available means of water filtration and transport? And I didn’t understand the idea of storing 20 gallons of water but having only two gallons filtered – is this really enough for a family? Does the user have to pedal around every time they want an additional two gallons of filtered water?

All insightful questions. I personally also take issue with the design itself. When I used to bicycle to my project every day in India, I realized that cycling was no simple joy ride – I needed to utilize the basket installed in front and the small clip in back to carry my daily necessities with me or throw in some fruits and vegetables I might purchase from the street vendor on the way home. With that removable tank put in the front, the Aquaduct might have to be a separate purchase for a family, in addition to their other bicycles.

At the same time, the creation of designs aimed for the developing world can be really useful social innovations, once they have been properly priced and adapted. The Aquaduct is another one to watch and see if it moves past the prototype phase.