How do you get simple, affordable technology into the hands of people who need it most?
This is the question that drives Kopernik, an online marketplace connecting life-changing technologies with rural communities in developing countries. While a plethora of new technology solutions are transforming the lives of the poor, many of these products never make it the last mile to the communities that need them most.
So, in steps Kopernik – connecting tech products to rural households via local NGO partners, crowdfunded by folks like you and me.
Today we hosted Toshi Nakamura, co-founder of Kopernik, who discussed this issue further as part of our Skoll Centre Speaker Series. Toshi gave examples of some of these life-changing technologies, such as the well-known Life Straw (portable water filter), SolarEar (solar-powered hearing aid charger), Q-drum (water rolling vessel) and D-light latern (solar light and mobile charger). Some incredible technologies touched upon earlier this term during the great talk by Rada Basu on frugal innovation.
In terms of its model, Kopernik seems to be exciting both technology producers (who view Kopernik as a critical distribution channel to new customers) as well as local NGOs (who are discovering this “supermarket” of technology innovations and purchasing them at a subsidized cost thanks to crowdsourced micro-investments).
What I found most interesting was Kopernik’s emphasis on transparency and accountability. Through their “rapid impact assessment”, Kopernik is gaining real-time data on the use, efficiency and impact of these products. These feedback loops enable them to get user opinion up and out to the public, and offer technology producers a plethora of market research to improve their products – and ultimately the lives of millions of people.