Many intellectual exercises are slanted copy left. So why not design? Well, now there is a non-profit initiative engaged in supporting distributed collaboration towards design challenges among underserved communities: www.thinkcycle.org. The site seeks to create a culture of open-source design innovations. Through it, The Open Source Research Community at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, provides equal shelf space for cheap goggles as well as computer hardware; both come free. The site is at present much about design problems and solutions that come out of the universities in the US. But they remind one of the old oral (and occasionally formalised) sharing networks of benign technologies that rural India has thrived on. Remember passing by the ubiquitous Maruta (a bullock cart retrofitted with a diesel engine sans the bullock) on your trip through Punjab and Haryana, or the little more formalised Honey Bee newsletter, run by the non-governmental organisation Srishti to connect rural creativity and innovations? Has the time come to put up all these innovations on an Indian Thinkcycle? Indian universities may not be the right incubators for such innovations right now, but Thinkcycle might just spur them on. Perhaps the Indian Tobacco Company's rural chaupals might sell more than its shampoos and cigarettes if such simple ideas are replicated on Indian websites. All we can say is browse it, learn from it and hopefully morph it.
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