(Source for graphic: The $300 House)
National Geographic (January 2011) reports that one out of every seven people—or 1 billion people—in this world lives in slums.
Forbes (11 June 2007) predicts “By 2030, an estimated 5 billion of the world’s 8.1 billion people will live in cities. About 2 billion of them will live in slums, primarily in Africa and Asia, lacking access to clean drinking water and toilets, surrounded by desperation and crime.”
Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011) shares an innovative idea by Vijay Govindarajan to design and mass-produce houses for the poor for $300! Moreover, these units would include “basic modern services such as running water and electricity…[and] create shared access to computers, cell phones, televisions, water filters, solar panels, and clean-burning stoves.”
The breakthrough idea of the $300 high-tech house is that this is not something governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or charities would develop and deploy, but rather one that is a challenge for commercial interests who can take lead on creating mass scale, “ultra low cost, high value housing…as a mega opportunity, with billions in profit at stake.”
While I understand that the profit motive is very compelling and efficient in getting results, I would suggest that when it comes to helping the poor and downtrodden that we need to temper this as a driving factor, and let our humanity and conscience kick in as well. In other words, sure make a profit, but by G-d have a heart.
With The $300 House, aside from the notion of truly helping people—en masse—and making a genuine difference with moving them from slum houses to homes is the concept of leapfrogging them in their technology. Think about it:
- Solar power
- Walter filtration
- (Even) Tablet PCs
This reminds me of the One Laptop Per Child initiative of 2005 that sought to put $100 laptops in the hands of hundreds of millions of disadvantaged schoolchildren to advance their educational opportunities. It expands and augments it to make the change impactful to people’s lives on the ground today in terms of how people are able to care for themselves and their families, so that they can get to a brighter tomorrow and put that education to work.
While we may never be able to fully eradicate poverty, we can certainly significantly raise the status of living for the masses that need help through commercial opportunities, technological proliferation, and of course, through a charitable heart.