By Haris Silic
I am continuously amazed at the power of human-centered design. Recently, I came across a CNN article about Ewans Wadongo, a Kenyan inventor of solar powered LED lanterns. His design solution is not just lifting people out of poverty, but also saving lives.
Ewans Wadongo grew up in a household where he had to study by a kerosene lantern. It was expensive to keep them lit so he had to share them with siblings. Ultimately, it did not provide adequate lighting, causing his sight to suffer as a result. However, it has provided him with fuel on his quest for a solution. Currently, rural communities in Kenya spend about $4 per week on kerosene, which also pollutes the air that villagers breathe in.
Ewans Wadongo, in partnership with Mwanga Bora designed a solar powered LED lantern that is assembled by the local volunteers, and distributed for free. The metal shell of the lantern is made from scrap metal, and solar panels come from discarded scraps from large solar panel producers. He is very excited about the fact that villagers will be able to use the saved money for food, and will not need to skip meals to keep the lights on.
The LED lantern has delighted rural Kenyans and provided ways for communities to be self-sustaining. So far he has distributed over 10,000 lanterns.
Ewans Wadongo’s invention is a perfect example of strategic design application to create a better world. His lantern has succeeded in having both a positive impact on the environment (lowering of carbon emission by replacing kerosene lanterns) and society (providing opportunities for communities to save money and become self-sustaining).