# Technology in the Developing World: Revolutions for Monitoring Success

guess so what’s happening here we’re on what’s called the vomit comment it’s the c9 aircraft and it’s flying we’re called parabolas it’s flying straight up in the air it comes over the top and then fly straight down and then at the bottom it pulls out and so we were weightless like as you see in the pictures and the video here for about 30 seconds at a time and then when we pull out we wait 2 g’s so we weigh twice as much as we normally do and in those 30 seconds we are weightless and we’re able to test our experiment so what’s happening on this airplane right now and is it the same or different as what happens on the space station or when the astronauts go to the moon anybody have a guess anybody a physics major is it the same as what’s happening on the space station come on I show this video to elementary school students they’re willing to guess not the same it is the same but good guess it is the same so what’s happening on the space station is that the astronauts aren’t free fall they’re literally falling towards the earth just as fast as the airplane is falling towards the earth but the earth is moving away from them at the exact same rate so every 100 feet they fall down they actually move forward and the earth curves away from them another 100 feet so if the earth was flat that nobody no such thing as weightlessness in space I me and the airplanes doing the same thing the only problem is we’re not going fast enough to be in orbit so we’d hit the ground if the airplane doesn’t pull back out again here’s another question for you and I asked this question of the pilots one time when we were flying so we’re weightless for 30 seconds at the top of the parabola then we pull out and we way to geez we weigh twice as much as normally do so what would happen if the pilots pushed it into 40 50 60 seconds of zero-g and then they were to pull out what would happen would we feel three times as much as we normally do or would we just feel 2 g’s for 3 for twice as long what do you think would happen anybody have a guess 2 g’s for twice as long so I asked this question of the pilots and the answer was the wings will shear off and the reason is that they go we’re going so fast when we come over the top we’re nearly supersonic over the wings and if the air goes supersonic over the wings of a subsonic aircraft it goes unstable and the wings which ear off so the answer is we just can’t do it so while is at NASA we founded a company called mana Energy Limited which is a for-profit company it’s a social enterprise where our aim is this is similar to nonprofits where we’re at reducing poverty in developing countries but we do it through some business mechanisms that I’ll be talking about what the sweet lab is focused on is improving sustainability through accountability in international development the word sustainability has been thrown around a lot we use it here in the Institute it’s used all over Portland it’s a great word and it is a meaningful word but sometimes the tangible pneus of it is lost in some of the PR you know greenwashing or just saying that you’re sustainable really means that you are and it’s hard to actually define sometimes what sustainability really means especially in international development what we are trying to do is we believe that sustainability is is an extra bleeped I’d to accountability where we want to provide feedback and hold international development organizations accountable and give them tools to be accountable for the results of their projects because a project is not sustainable if you’re using funding from one source implementing a water sanitation energy infrastructure program walking away from it and it falls apart after a few years that’s pretty much the intent sustainable so we think that there is a need for metrics and data that tell us the performance and use very simple things whether or not it works and whether or not people use it of these programs so here’s how things currently work now there are project implementers that have the money or they get the money from donors from USAID or from the Gates Foundation or from Rotary clubs or churches or private donations and they go and do a project a project could be a water project or sanitation or energy cookstoves PV lighting a footbridge and then they want to know they want to they’re doing these things because they want to have an impact on local communities these aren’t projects for the sake of having projects at least they’re not supposed to be they are technologies and tools that are meant to build capacity and to result in tangible public health improvements and livelihood improvements in developing communities so with a water project and the sanitation project we ultimately are after reduced incidence of diarrhea with a cookstove program we’re after reduced

incidence of indoor air pollution and upper respiratory disease and more money in people’s pockets because they’re saving costs that they would normally spend on wood fuel with infrastructure we’re after things like better living conditions or transportation where we will connect a village across a river to a market or to a school or to a healthcare facility so that’s why we do these projects and those are the impacts that we seek but we often are we struggle to actually be able to measure that impact and know with one program is working or not and if the mechanisms are implementing the programs are working and this linear structure is common there’s a few different twists on it some have micro enterprises where you are do or microfinance where there is participation on an economic level from local communities there’s often talk of community participatory development where the local communities have buy-in sometimes it’s more real than others but they’re expected to put in to guide the process to guide the work and ultimately take responsibility for the programs but the measurement need is the same whatever mechanism you using for implementing these programs you still want to measure whether or not you’re effective right now the model for measuring this is shown on the bottom it’s expert surveys where you under the best of circumstances you hire a trained experts who goes and tries to collect as unbiased data as possible on whether or not you’ve accomplished what you said you were going to accomplish and the experts will go into the communities they will do interviews they will do surveys they will examine the technology they will try to look at impacts like reduced diarrheal illness and then they come back to the report on whether or not things are working unfortunately this mechanism doesn’t doesn’t work we don’t think it works which is why we’re offering a solution that can augment this process the challenge with expert surveys is that even under the best of circumstances there’s snapshots in time they are they represent one data point maybe a few days or a few weeks of time in a village and then you don’t go back and check for a month two years or perhaps never again and these reports sit on shells so even if they’re accurate they still end up being these snapshots in time and more often than not they’re not really that accurate there’s a big courtesy bias that’s inherent in these surveys where recipient communities will often tell the experts what they think they want to hear or what they think the donor or the project implementer wants the result to be you know of course I’m using that sanitation system of course I’m using that cook stove and so there’s a lot of bias inherent and we see this because we see surveys coming back saying everything works and then we see competitors reporting on other programs showing actually know you guys aren’t doing that great here’s our evidence here are our anecdotes on what’s working and what’s not and as a result the international development community is rife with these this infighting there’s these debates constantly I just got back from a conference in Seattle where this was in big evidence where the little guys are disdainful the big guys the big guys are distain ‘full the little guys the competitors are disdainful of each other and it ends up being power of personality power of anecdotes who you know and there’s very little data to back up these programs at least there’s a weakness I don’t want to say that it’s universally a problem but we’ve at least identified a weakness in the sector so our approach is purpose-built instruments that monitor these technologies monitor whether or not people are using a given project and whether or not that project is actually performing so with the water treatment system we want to know do people use the water system and is it actually affected in cleaning the water with a cookstove program we want to know whether or not people are using the cook stoves and if it’s actually reducing emissions reducing fuel use so does it work and do people use it and then these the results of this data doesn’t replace surveys it informs the surveys we’re able to go back to the experts show these results and help improve designs for technologies designs for implementation models and designs for these same surveys so here’s how our technology works we have something called sweet scents which are our sensors the purpose-built we didn’t set out to invent anything I’ll talk a little bit about the technology but there were not really sensors off the shelf that were appropriate for this international development application so we’ve spent the past year developing this new technology and implementing it the sensors measure things usage and performance at these different projects locally and then wirelessly send that data over the Internet via the cell phone networks to our web based system the process of the data it’s called sweet data and this is where all the data processing is done and we’re able to output to our partners to the project implementers what’s working and what’s not where there are strengths where there are weaknesses so the technology of our technology sweet scent is low power and low cost we’re able to run off of a couple batteries for six to 18