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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Spinning Electricity With An E-Charkha

Followers of Mahatma Gandhi are familiar with the charkha, a spinning wheel that produces a type of cotton known as khadi. A new twist on this old tool is that it can also be used to generate electricity, as an article in The Hindu describes its use near Jaipur:

In a few villages near here, Charkha, promoted by Mahatma Gandhi as a symbol of self-reliance and source of income for the rural population, has started doubling as a virtual micro-power plant in each poor household.

e-charkha — an improvised version of Ambar charkha, designed by Gandhian Ekambar Nath — does not resemble a typical charkha but can be operated by hand. A battery is attached to the e-charkha, which stores the electricity generated when it is being run. Two hours of operation is enough to light up the specially-designed LED light fitted to the e-charkha for eight hours.

A great way to continue an independent source of income, while producing electricity at the same time.

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health: According to a report, India is not on track toward the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child and maternal mortality. The number of children who die before their fifth birthday stands at 76 per 1,000 live births, while the goal is 38.
  • Government Schemes: The Gujarat state government’s Jyoti Gram Yojana, a program to ensure 100 per cent village electrification, increased employment and reduced migration from rural areas by 33 per cent. The government is considering scaling up further and replicating in other areas.
  • Energy: India is one of the three countries in a renewable energy project by Osram, a lighting company, where solar-powered lanterns and battery boxes will replace kerosene lamps in villages.
  • Agriculture: In some positive news following the concern of rising food prices, the government estimates that India’s total food grains will be a record 227.32 million tons, which is 10 million more tons than last year.