Why Africa needs a local 3D printing industry and an ‘appropriate tech maker movement’ – Interview with Roy Mwangi Ombatti at re:publica 2015

May 26, 2015 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn, Open Source & Africa

Roy Mwangi Ombatti builds a 3D printer from waste materials at re:publica 2015

Roy Mwangi Ombatti builds a 3D printer from waste materials at re:publica 2015

Roy Mwangi Ombatti  started to tinker with 3D-printing in Nairobi, Kenya more than three years ago. He co-founded and led the Nairobi FabLab Robotics Outreach Program, he produces 3D printers from waste materials, became a Stanford Fablearn Fellow 2014 and he developed a successful low-cost solution to a pressing health problem (his project ‘Happy Feet’ aims at providing bespoke shoes for people with foot deformities as a result of the jigger sand flea in Kenya). I talked to him at re:publica 2015 about his future plans, the role of open source and open innovation and why Africa needs a local 3D printing industry.

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Q: Roy, you just had a workhop on “Motors, Circuits, Value Chains – Building a 3D Printer with E-Waste” here at re:publica 15.  Why is it important for Kenya, or for Africa at large to develop such a local 3D printing industry?

Roy: I am passionate about bringing technology to the less fortunate in my country to solve pressing problems.  I feel that local self-made technology is the thing that has most impact. For one, it is most easily adaptable to local circumstance, as shows for instance my approach of using available e-waste to build the printer. Also, such self-help in innovation is a perfect tool to promote real change: If you empower people to build their own tools to solve their own problems, you win. In fact, this might be the only way to have sustainable lasting impact.

 

Q: You are in the last stages of producing a 3D-printer out of locally available electronic waste. When will it be ready?

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Made in my backyard – by and for the world. third day of re:publica is starting

May 4, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn, Open Source & Asia

 

Illustration of low cost prosthesis 1. Copyright, Author: Waag Society/Arne Kuilman 2012, licensed under a cc licence: Naamsvermelding 3.0 Nederland (CC BY 3.0 NL). Source: http://waag.org/en/project/low-cost-prosthesis

Illustration of low cost prosthesis 1. Copyright, Author: Waag Society/Arne Kuilman 2012, licensed under a cc licence: Naamsvermelding 3.0 Nederland (CC BY 3.0 NL). Source: http://waag.org/en/project/low-cost-prosthesis

Bas van Abel, head of the design lab at waag society, Netherlands had a great session where he spoke about empowering people and fixing our economy by moving to open peer-to-peer production communities. He gave examples of concrete work with miners in Congo, and prosthesis-makers in Indonesia.

Bas starts with a quote from Oscar Wild: “People know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” He then gets to the argument, that social values are interlinked with economical values: Baas asks us to look at building a relational system, with the core needs of openness and transparency. “We need transparent products, where we know how they were made, and if they were made under fair conditions.”

This may mean to roll back some economic beliefs like division of labour and ‘the invisible hand of a self-regulating markets’. Baas gives the example of mineral extraction in Eastern Congo for cell phone raw materials. See e.g. the documentary ‘blood in the mobile‘.

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