The relevance of an appropriate technology database

June 14, 2013

Social businesses need to constantly innovate to provide better and more affordable products and services to their customers. Having access to information on technological innovations from a variety of fields can only be helpful in this endeavor. Through its “empowering people. Award” the Siemens Stiftung is in the process of creating a database of technological innovations that are appropriate for a developing country context. After screening and vetting by a panel of experts, the top innovations will be made available for the wider public.


Such an innovation database is beneficial to social (and other) businesses in different ways:


New products: Social businesses fulfill previously unmet needs of low income consumers. In the process of doing so, additional needs are often discovered. A solar lamp supplier might discover a demand for energy related products, such as durable radios. As the distribution network is already in place, it now becomes easier to supply additional products. A database of technological innovations can help social businesses in identifying innovative and proven products to supply to their existing clients.


New production processes: Delivering services or goods affordably means constantly trying to make production processes more efficient. A low-income housing provider will need to find ways to reduce building costs. Access to innovations such as building materials from Tetra-Pak waste, which are low-cost and provide great insulation, allow for important improvements and savings.


New client interaction mechanisms: Ranging from customer surveys to receiving payments, clients are challenging to interact with: They are geographically disbursed and often can only pay in small installments. Having the appropriate technological solutions for engaging with clients is essential. Remote customer surveys through SMS platforms; mobile phone based repayment systems that active and de-active products; GPS tracking the location of clients; these and other innovations have the potentially to significantly improve the interaction between social businesses and their customers.


New support equipment: Basic equipment is needed to deliver products and services. A waste management business needs overalls, boots, handcarts and much more to provide a good service. Having access to information about the newest innovations can make the day-to-day operations easier. A stronger and lighter handcart not only lasts longer, hence reducing costs, but also provides ergonomic advantages to handcart drivers.

Daniel Paffenholz
Daniel Paffenholz

Daniel Paffenholz is the CEO of TakaTaka Solutions. TakaTaka Solutions is a Nairobi-based social enterprise providing affordable and environmentally friendly waste management services to lower income communities