Tweaking the design of electronic goods could reduce poverty. Here’s how.

In 2016, two hundred printers and monitors were fitted with GPS trackers and dropped at recyclers and charities across the US. After just a few months, one in three had been shipped overseas, mostly across the Pacific to Asia. This experiment by MIT and the Basel Action Network reveals the tip of the electronic waste iceberg: experts estimate that as many as nine out of ten discarded computers eventually end up in developing countries.

waste GPS track

GPS Tracks for the US’ Electronic Waste.  Image: MIT Senseable City Lab, visualisation from the Basel Action Network’s E-Trash Transparency Project


These electronics exports can help people escape poverty, but they can also hinder them, and the key lies in product design.  [Read more…]

Three ways product design can reduce poverty overseas


One day, your smartphone will probably be recycled by a teenager on a rubbish tip; perhaps in Ghana or Nigeria. Months before that, it will likely have been repaired and sold on by an entrepreneur in the same country.  The health and livelihoods of these women and men depend on the way we design our products in the EU – the toxic chemicals we permit and the ease of repair that we require.  [Read more…]

Hope, identity, and character: three forgotten truths about ending poverty


Imagine a community in the Global South, perhaps a group of informal workers in an urban slum, or a group of subsistence farmers on marginal land.

Is there a successful model or simple idea that might dramatically change things for these women and men?  A magic bullet that could help them escape poverty? [Read more…]