Design Indaba 2018: The role of innovative design for social change
Hard times require us to dig deep – sometimes it means digging into our creative minds, imagining the impossible. This is what we experience in the innovations of designers on the second day of the Design Indaba 2018. Kenyan user experience designer, Mark Kamau and Renata Souza, a product designer and healthcare innovator from Mexico, showcased their trail blazing interventions to some of the world’s dire social problems and health conundra.
Souza narrates a personal story of trial and triumph when her family discovers the cousin’s diagnosis of Type I child diabetes. As a close family, this is a blow and it kick starts the journey to finding the most comfortable way for a child to manage this chronic disease. Renata Souza was disturbed by the fact that her cousin would be forced to miss out on childhood so she felt compelled to conceptualise a medical solution that would be fun and child-friendly. A family crisis gave birth to a global insulin kit, branded THOMY constructed for children to have fun while managing their condition. It comes with a trendy temporary tattoo to replace site rotation challenges when injecting insulin, a colourful toy-like pen designed for a child’s hand and a cheerful plastic carrier case to house all the components. When the end product appealed to the cousin’s sibling, a non-sufferer of diabetes, Souza said, “I knew that I had achieved what I has set out to do….. I wanted to create an emotional attachment [to the kit] – something they are proud to carry.”
Making life easier for those in vulnerable situations was also a lifelong dream of Mark Kamau. When he realised that for him, playing for the national soccer team would not put food on the table, his curiosity for accessing opportunities grew and his love for multimedia designs set him on a path of discovery. Kamau wanted to make a difference and design technologies was to be the tool he would use to solve some of Africa’s problems. He spent many years helping the West understand Africans but not knowing where this information went, he decided to use his knowledge of African markets and their challenges for good and to change the trajectory of education in the continent. A company called BRCK was formed to solve problems and to connect a borderless continent where young and old could have access to information despite their economic misfortunes.
This ruggedised technology would keep people connected when electricity went down – a disruptive tool brick was created to close the 3 billion gap of people who don’t have access to the internet. Schools with no infrastructure today boast of digital classrooms with a KIO kit with tablets that don’t break for an 8-hour school day, a wireless charging facility and educational content. BRCK has also designed weather-proof servers that can go on buses, a tree if need be to provide the internet anywhere, anytime. Today this African pioneer and social entrepreneur enjoys the attention and financial backing of the Mark Zuckerberger’s of this world to build capital for a greater impact in the continent.
Written by: Anda Ngani