How can digital, open manufacturing help to cover basic needs in crisis situations?

May 19, 2018 in Freedom to innovate, Open Source & Asia

Bahar Kumar from Nepal Communitere speaking at the session “Crisis response makerspaces” / Copyright: Foto Jan Zappner/re:publica, Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I report here about one of my favorite sessions at re:publica 2018, which was on „Crisis response makerspaces“. I finally had the opportunity to meet Susan Long, innovation adviser at Field Ready in Syria and Bahar Kumar, strategic adviser at Nepal Communitere. Both stressed the need to „be locally grounded“ and to build strong communities to unleash the power of makers under difficult circumstances. Here‘s the topic of the session: „A mid-wife in the mountains of Nepal, a surgeon under bombardment in Northern Syria – how can digital, distributed manufacturing support them to deliver basic needs and healthcare services they need?“ I highly recommend to check out the recording, which is online now:

Disclaimer: I was part of the team that supported the BMZ partnership with re:publica, including the topic „tech for good“, which featured this session.

Note: This text was first published on the blog of Balthas Seibold at the Alumniportal Germany ( Check the blog ( register or login first). All blog entries represent the personal views and ideas of Balthas Seibold.

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.


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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„Amorphous action communities for commons-based peer production“ – some thoughts on networking in the future

November 1, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn

seibold_future of global networking for international cooperationYesterday, I tried to put the future of „global networking for international cooperation“ in one slide –  looking five to ten years ahead. My first problem was to find a name for the future. I ended up with „Amorphous action communities for open innovation and [commons-based] peer production (globally connected, innovating locally)“.

Then, I outlined some of intermediate steps in networking such as „Open networks of trust“ and „Communities of Practice“, which we are already seeing popping up. My final guess was on some of the driving forces, that will lead us from today’s networks all the way to the „amorphous action communities“.

So here’s the picture, with the steps and the driving forces:

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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:

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:

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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