Tech Winners Starting Small, Scaling Up

Remember the Tech Museum Awards? The award “honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity.” The 25 winners were announced yesterday, with two innovators from India. MercuryNews.com covered the ceremony in San Jose, California and met with the winners, including DESI Power and Digital StudyHall.

First, DESI Power is based in Bangalore and utilizes affordable and reliable electricity:

Hari Sharan employs 19th-century biomass gasification technology to bring electricity to rural Indian villages. His company, DESI Power, converts vegetation — such as rice hulls and corn husks — into energy. Not only does that provide power to poor communities, it also creates opportunities for micro-enterprises that keep residents from migrating to the slums of big cities.

TC-I covered another unique way of converting vegetation to energy via rice husks. There is tremendous potential to scale up with these plants, and DESI Power is already operating four plants and increasing to twenty next year.

Another creative use of technology aims to strengthen education. MercuryNews reports on Digital StudyHall, which is actually a research project out of a US university. Continue reading

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Digital Green: ICT and a Participatory Framework

SciDev.Net brings attention to Digital Green, a project that uses digital video to disseminate information to small and marginal farmers in India. Recently, Digital Green won the culture category in the Stockholm Challenge Awards. According to its website, the project originated from Microsoft’s research team in India. Working with GREEN Foundation, the project is explained by the following:

The system includes a digital video database, which is produced by farmers and experts. The content within this repository is of various types, and sequencing enables farmers to progressively become better farmers. Content is produced and distributed over a hub and spokes-based architecture in which farmers are motivated and trained by the recorded experiences of local peers and extension staff. In contrast to traditional extension systems, we follow two important principles: (1) cost realism, essential if we are to scale the system up to a significant number of villages and farmers; and (2) building systems that solve end-to-end agricultural issues with interactivity that develops relationships between people and content.

Essentially, the project is a way to spread useful information to even illiterate farmers, using networks that they can trust (i.e. other villages, farmers in similar situations). The short documentary below further explains Digital Green’s work.