A request for Design for UNICEF support

Hello!  My name is Dylan Fox, and I represent Berkeley Innovation, a human factors design group at UC Berkeley in California. This semester, we’re trying to help at Open Mind by designing a new variant of Question Box: one that can be manufactured, installed, and maintained using only locally available parts and labor.

Question Boxes are call-box information access points that can be installed in villages around the world,  connecting the users to a local language informational hotline.

I am writing this blog post in the hope that we can connect to some of the designers, students and academics working on “Design for UNICEF” classes or challenges.  We are excited at the potential to connect to the students from Art Center who are in Uganda, those from NYU’s ITP who are working on Design for UNICEF, and students from IIT Delhi, Aalto, etc. – so we’d welcome comments and emails from any of you.

Essentially, we need your help to advise us about the realities of designing hardware that can be built and run in the developing world.

We’d like technical input from various countries.If you can help, or know someone who might, please put \ them in contact with us!  We need your help to make our version of Question Box into a reality. You can also post responses in comments on thispost so that they are available publicly. We will make sure any information that is shared with us is in the public domain.

Here are some of the things we want to know about villages in the places where your work is focused:

Users

  • What kind of power infrastructure is common?  What kinds of electronics are common in the village?  Can regular cell phones usually get a good signal?
  • What are the usual gathering spots for people?  Ideally, we’d like to put the Question Box in a place that is highly visible, yet sheltered from the environment?
  • Suppose the village wanted to band their resources together to build a Question Box.  About how much would they be able to raise?  $10? $50? $200?
  • Do people typically repair (or troubleshoot) their own electronics?

 

Manufacturing

This is where we really need a lot of info.  In order to design a Question Box to be made of local components, we need to know a ton about what components are available locally, and who might be putting them together.

  • A cell phone is the heart of a Question Box.  What kind of models could you buy locally?  How much would they cost? How long would they last?
  • What kind of rechargeable batteries are available? How much do they cost? How long do they last?
  • What miscellaneous electrical items are available, like switches, LEDs, wires, speakers, and microphones?
  • What kind of dangers might a Question Box run into?  Rain and heat are a given, but what about animals? Vandals? Freezing?

If you think you could help with insights into any of these questions,  please get in contact with us.

Thanks, everyone!  I look forward to working with you all on improving our world.

 

Dylan Fox

University of California, Berkeley

 

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