Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't forget the low tech

Frequently we think of Innovation as being the latest, modern and often high tech gadget. Given that Innovation can be about combining old knowledge in new ways it often pays to reflect on what we already know. Years ago Russian troops were issued with pacthes that contained maggots that were used to combat infection in open wounds. Now that many viruses have become resistant to drugs, the same techniques are being used to combat MRSA in hospitals.

There was recently an articles published on the BBC news website about 'Bibliomulas' in Venezuela. In many countries we have mobile libraries, trucks or buses that travel around taking books to remote villages. In mountainous terrain, how do you do this? The answer is simple, take the concept of a mobile library but substitute the vehicle. In this case use a mule.

But why stop there? In the mountains the farmers have no telephones or computers but they could do with the ability to send messages and order food and goods from the valleys. So now these trusty libraries are equipped with mobile phones and laptops.

I'm sure that readers can think of many other such tales of ingenuity. High tech is fun and bewildering but often the combination with low tech is what gets the Innovation into everyday use.