Patent-Free Zone

For Governments

Imagine you're the minister of commerce in the government of an African country. You've received word that a USAID project will begin soon in a remote part of your country to dig wells for drinking water. Project planners tell you they will install manually-operated pumps in the wells, to simplify maintenance and reduce breakage. That sounds fine, but you wonder if hand-pumps are the best choice. Why not use something powered by electricity? The planners say your government asked for hand-pumps, and besides, electric pumps would probably just break, and then no one would get any water.

You see a chance to do things a little differently.

Instead of digging wells for people to pump water from by hand, why not start a small business? Slash the time women and children spend hauling water every day. Dig the wells, and furnish them with solar-powered pumps. Train a few people to service the pumps and supervise their correct use, and then set up either a delivery service to bring water to villages or homes, or a kiosk to sell water at the well. Set up a sustainable, scalable solution to a basic need, using modern patented technology, locally produced and maintained.

• Find the best solutions to local problems, not generic answers
• Learn from others’ successes before launching initiatives
• Apply leading technology to develop sectors with the most promise
• Choose good technology over what’s convenient