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Inventions for developing countries

23 February 2013 | 8:00 am

Although in Australia we wait with bated breath for the next rollout from Apple, across the world there are some inventions and innovations that are doing so much more for the world.

Sometimes, the best of these inventions are the ones that sound so simple it’s amazing no one has thought of them before. Below are some of our favourite innovations that are helping to overcome some of the biggest problems in the developing world.


Lack of access to safe drinking water is a major problem for around 884 million people on our planet, according to figures from WHO and UNICEF. Drinking dirty water leads to diseases, which too often lead to death. By filtering the water, LifeStraw allows people to drink from almost any source of water, so long as it’s not salt water or contaminated with chemicals or radiation. The LifeStraw comes in two formats: a family filter pack for homes and an individual straw that can be carried around. Each straw is capable of filtering around 1000 litres of water.


Finding a way to create cheap electricity, preferably from a renewable source, has been a long struggle. While turbines have long been the preferred method for harnessing wind power, the Windbelt is a huge step in the right direction, being 10 to 30 times more efficient than a microturbine and costing just a few dollars. The device can sit happily on the side of a house and can easily power a lamp or radio. An added benefit is that, unlike with turbines or solar panels, the technology can be fixed on site by locals.


Getting your power from the weather is all well and good, but if you have an abundance of children around why not get them to create electricity? That’s the thinking behind the Soccket, created by a group of Harvard students. Soccket is a cleverly manipulated soccer ball that stores electricity each time it’s kicked, bounced or rebounds off a hard surface. Fifteen minutes of play is enough to power a light for around three hours. The only problem comes when you have to decide whose ball to use.

Solar light bottles

Sometimes though, it’s better to work without electricity altogether. Slums across the world have been brightened thanks to the work of Illac Diaz, or ‘Solar Demi’ as he’s known in the Philippines. Slum housing estates are commonly dark places with no electricity, meaning the homes are pitch black and dangerous places. By putting a plastic bottle, with a solution of bleach and filtered water, in the metal roof, these houses are suddenly illuminated with the power of a 55-watt bulb. This cheap and environmentally friendly lighting system is now present in more than 28,000 homes worldwide.

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