Posted tagged ‘governance’

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Promote synergy with civil society in the development path

February 5, 2015

 

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Promote synergy with civil society in the development path

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

In the old formulations, development was an exclusive endeavor of state and market players. That is, the directions of development were largely the handiworks of political, bureaucratic and corporate elites. There should be an admission that this structural formulation was a factor in generating the crisis-level ailments of mass poverty, large-scale unemployment, low wages, sluggish growth and dependence. So why retain a formula that had failed us miserably?

The current context, where a dynamic and colossal civil society operates, points to the ever-growing recognition of the potent role of civil society in co-determining the compass of development. At the grassroots level, development efforts will be accelerated to a great extent by involving civil society formations acting as ‘social capital’ base, as studies have positively demonstrated (citations from Peter Evans’ works on ‘state-society synergy’). Insulating the state from grassroots folks, as the same studies have shown, have produced dismal if not tragic effects, e.g. India’s non-involvement of ‘social capital’ in the erection and maintenance of irrigation facilities resulted to program failure in the end.

Building and maintaining ecologically sound, clean cities can likewise be effected through the tri-partnership of state, civil society and market, as demonstrated by the Puerto Princesa case. Under the stewardship of the dynamic city mayor (Mr. Hagedorn), the tri-partnership was galvanized. Businesses have since been conscious of operating on clean technologies and environmental responsibilities, city streets sustain hygienic images, traffic is well managed as motorists exude discipline, and civil society groups constantly monitor the initiatives that saw their hands dipped into their (initiatives) making. All we need to do is replicate this same Puerto Princesan trilateral partnering at all level and in all communities to ensure better results for our development efforts.

The ‘state-society synergy’ in our country had just recently been appreciated and grasped by many state players. Being at its ‘take-off’ phase, it is understandable that synergy is only a lip-service among many state players, notably the local officials. State players still regard civil society groups with ambivalence, while civil society groups are suspicious of state players whose sincerity can only be as low as their Machiavellian propensities would dictate. Such local state players desire to subordinate civil society groups, and many politicians have constituted ‘government-initiated NGOs’ or GRINGOS as cases of non-authentic subordinated groups. On the other hand, local-level volunteer groups can at best perceive domestic politicians as ‘Santa Claus’ providers, and utilize them largely as gift-giving patrons. Strengthening state-society synergy has a long way to yet, but it is not exactly starting at ground zero in this country. It is, by and large, a core variable in developing citizenry and constituencies, and must be advanced beyond its current take-off phase.

 

 

[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004. For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

 

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Shift intervention from the ‘provider state’ to the ‘enabler state’

January 28, 2015

 

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Shift intervention from the ‘provider state’ to the ‘enabler state’

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The failure of neo-liberal policy regimes does not mean that the state should go back to a full interventionist role, performing a guardian regulator and ‘provider’ for all sorts of services. The problem with the excessive ‘provider’ role is that it had (a) bred rent-seeking on a massive scale among market players, (b) reinforced dependence among grassroots folks who have since been always expecting for a ‘Santa Claus state’ to provide abundant candies, (c) produced new forms of rent-seeking, with civil society groups serving as the beneficiaries, and (d) further reinforced graft practices in both the public and private sectors. Thus, the ‘provider state’ further reinforced the patron-client relations in the various spheres of life (‘feudalism’ is the term used by Maoists for clientelism), consequently dragging all of our development efforts into a turtle-paced sojourn.

In the new intervention mode, the state, armed with a leaner organization and trimmed down budgetary purse, performs a superb catalytic role. It engages various stakeholders in the growth & development efforts, challenges them to directly embark on development pursuits, and demonstrates unto them how welfare can be accessed to through alternative means other than through the state’s baskets. As the state continuously engages the stakeholders through dialogue and cooperation, institutions will also become strengthened along the way. The state will gain its esteem as an ‘activist state’, while at the same time receive acclaim as a truly ‘modernizing state’ as it propels society gradually away from clientelism towards a context marked by rule-based (modern) institutions, citizenry and dynamic/autonomous constituencies.

However, within a transition period from ‘maximum provider’ to ‘maximum enabler,’ the state should continue to perform a provider role in such areas as education, health and such other human development concerns that are, in the main, crucial to building national wealth. Combining state regulations and at the same time giving ‘fiscal autonomy’ in tertiary education and vocational-technical level would remain to be a fitful strategy of ‘minimal enabler’. A similar strategy will have to be applied to some other economic sectors to be able to advance gender equity, by recognizing rights of marginalized gender to education, employment, representation in managerial positions and other related concerns.

[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004. For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

January 21, 2014

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

 

ASEAN’s planned economic integration next year is getting too near for comfort. Excitement from diverse quarters concerning the unification in ASEAN and across the globe is growing, so let me share a note on the subject by focusing on its middle class.

 

Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN comprises a total population approaching 670 million as of end of 2013. Of that total, approximately 160 million belong to the Middle Income classification. Since the middle income families comprise the consumer base of a developing country, it is normally extendable to an entire region such as ASEAN to evaluate whether that region possesses the demand base for a truly prosperous and economically powerful region.

 

Middle Income classification for developing countries or DCs is pegged at U.S. $6,000-$30,000 annual family income. Earning beyond the $30,000 annual income in a DC is considered a fortune, qualifying the family thus for a ‘wealthy family’ status. While this middle income bracket is lower than those in the OECD countries, it is crucial for testing the future waters and catapulting a region to an economic power.

 

The approximate middle income composition of each member country of ASEAN is as follows:

 

Country                      Middle Income Persons (In Millions)

Singapore                                  5

Thailand                                     35

Malaysia                                    20

Philippines                                  20

Indonesia                                   60

Brunei                                       0.7

Vietnam                                     12

Myanmar/Burma                         5

Kampuchea                                1

Laos                                          0.5

TOTAL:                                      159.2 Million      

 

That total of 159.2 million is just rough, conservative estimate, based on my stock knowledge of previous reports about the region from the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and thinktanks. Let’s round off the figure to 160 million for simplification.

 

The totality can actually easily move to 165 million with updated data on the subject. The 160 million alone suffices ASEAN’s middle class to be numerically at par with the USA’s middle class that stood at 160 million when the last presidential electoral campaign raged there.

 

The big challenges for the ASEAN and its member nations are (1) to increase the per capita or per family income of the middle income persons, and (2) to increase the number of middle income persons and/or families across the coming years, until at least half of the region’s population turns Middle Class. 

 

160 million is indeed large enough already as an aggregation of all the 10-member nations’ prosperous middle income earners. However, that is merely 1 out of every 4 ASEANian persons. Which means there are still vast numbers of families and persons down the income pyramid, hundreds of millions in the D & E classes in particular.

 

The good news is that ASEAN comprises of 1 Dragon Economy (Singapore), 1 Tiger Economy (Malaysia), and 4 Emerging Markets (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam). Such dynamic economies more than offset the laggards in the region, namely Myanmar, Laos, and Kampuchea. Brunei is a special class that belongs to the wealthy Petro-dollar economies, with almost its entire people sufficiently provided for by the ruling dynasty.

 

Meeting the target of the Millenium Development Goal or MDG for poverty alleviation is indubitably the most urgent thing to accomplish. The neighboring countries can compare notes and share experiences on how to redistribute wealth equitably in vast quantities to the poor, a departure from the ‘trickle down’ approach that breeds more paradoxes of mass poverty amidst prospering economies.  

 

I will not hazard a recommendation such as adoption of Philippine’s Cash Transfer Program in the region. Such a strategy worked well in Brazil which now has over 50% of its families above the middle income threshold, but whether it will indeed work for the ASEAN poor is another thing.

 

Meantime, what is less risky a forecast is that the 160 million middle class will be a sustained base for consumption in the region. Sustained consumption at this juncture equates to Big Opportunity for any market interest group or person to surf the ‘economic sea’ here.

 

Direct Foreign Investments from all over the globe can surely be poured now in even colossal amounts with lesser risk and surefire gains. The ASEAN’s high levels of foreign exchange, banking & finance resources, and big middle class altogether comprise a formidable fortress that can easily hedge against volatilities in the North & West that cause capital flight from short-term capital, which should all the more magnetize investors from elsewhere.

 

[Manila, 20 January 2014]

NAZI HEALTHCARE AGENDA RISING IN AMERICA

November 27, 2013

NAZI HEALTHCARE AGENDA RISING IN AMERICA

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

It is night time as I write this note. The easterly winds have been blowing, seemingly reminding us here of the coming hot days. While this happens, winter has been bringing storms in America, storms that accompanied the torpedoing of the new health bill, the torpedo ‘storm troopers’ being the neo-fascistic ‘Tea Party’ of the Republican Party.

 

The world is watching the unfolding events in America concerning health care. This analyst is among those keenly interested, as the matter of making health care accessible to everyone in my own country has been a mind-boggling challenge for the development experts. We have been scouting around for models of health care accessibility, and the concept of ‘universal healthcare’ that some experts are espousing in the USA is worth examining.

 

A question that arises from the unfolding events is this: is health care headed for a new summer in America, or is it moving towards a long winter? The enthused readers can go ahead and choose to discuss the matter, and generate their own opinions about it.

 

My own reflection about the matter makes me conclude preliminarily that America’s health care is heading towards a parallelism with the Nazi health care of the Hitler’s heydays in Germany. Nazi policy in health means a dichotomous delivery of access to health: make those strongest physically and mentally have access to state-sponsored health care, while close the access to those who are the weakest.

 

To reduce the cost of sustaining a state-sponsored health care program, eliminate those who are the weakest. Round up those with lingering ailments, the lame and blind, the ‘subhuman’ or below-normal intelligence, and so on, line them up on the wall and machine gun them to death.  

 

My own reading of the events in America makes me see, among other things, the increasing closure of health care to the impoverished families and individuals there. Poverty now exceeds 40 Millions of Americans, with the Blacks and Latinos comprising the greatest percentage of ethnicities below poverty line.

 

It seems, as of now, that no one single political force has a monopoly of Nazi-type health policies there. True, the fascist wing of the Republicans, coming under the names of ‘Tea Party’ and ‘neo-conservatives’, have deep, elitist, condescending scorn for poor folks and colored peoples who are receiving too much state attention via welfare subsidies for health. But that is belaboring the obvious.

 

There are forces within the Democrat Party—masquerading in the mantle of liberalism—who would have none of the drift of America towards a Welfare State akin to what befell Europe. They know that America’s coffers don’t cough up enough funds for subsidies, so what they do is pretend to be pro-people by voting for bills that allocate greater state subsidies for health care.

 

Such forces are making use of political parties as Trojan Horses to wage a sadistic attack against the poor people of America. They will brook no quarters in excluding the poorer folks, including immigrants, from mainstream health care, and they commit the heinous act through rigmaroles of legislative fiats.

 

While such new Nazis, and real Nazis to stress the point, fiddle their superficial policy agenda and do backroom maneuvers that concern health care, hundreds of thousands of poor folks die yearly of every kind of ailment there. By dilly-dallying on the galvanization of the ‘universal health care’ idea alone, numerous dying folks are already being sacrificed in the altar of Evil there.  

 

Let us all watch closely the events concerning health care, and see what happens after another year will elapse. If it will be so easy to forecast that more Americans are being kept out of the health care circuits, then rest assured a Nazi killer agenda is in place to satisfy the sadistic lust for blood by demoniacs in the Establishment.

 

That being so, the rest of the world, more so the emerging markets, will add another reason to their rising list of rationales for ignoring America as a recognized leading state by showing leadership through example. The year 2012 will be a clear turning point, when nations will decide whether there is still an iota of leadership that America can demonstrate.

 

Health is wealth, and a nation that closes health care access to its people is a nation without soul and conscience. Other nations should move on in life without that soul-less state to reckon with.

 

[Philippines, 17 February 2011]

 

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PORK BARREL SCAMS’ ADDRESSING IS POSITIVE SIGN FOR GOVERNANCE

November 20, 2013

PORK BARREL SCAMS’ ADDRESSING IS POSITIVE SIGN FOR GOVERNANCE

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Pork Barrel talk has become outlandishly stylish a gibberish of sorts for all stakeholders in the Philippines. Public outrage has been relentless since the scam involving a certain Janet Napoles’ and her politician beneficiaries’ plunders via the pork barrel were exposed to the light of day.

 

I may have been silent about the matter in my own blogs, as I preferred to write more positive developments about the sciences and technologies over the last two (2) years. My acquiescence however shouldn’t be equated to being apathetic about public issues concerning good governance. On the contrary, I was ever a social activist since my youth days, and I do silently support the tax payers’ crusade to ax those found criminally liable for diverting tax monies to their own pockets.

 

First of all, the Philippines is blessed with a Strong Civil Society. Social activism and dynamism for nigh three decades past already have been coming forth from civil society. The constant, sustained engagement of civil society with the Philippine state has in fact been a hallmark of good governance measures. Many economic and social reforms of a national character did spring off from civil society formations, and those reforming tasks continue till these days in order to solve problems of marginalization and mass poverty.

 

Contrasted to the Strong Civil Society, which renders it among the exemplars for studies internationally in political science and sociology, is a Weak State. Patrimonial interests of diverse natures continue to wield power and influence over the Philippine state and its purses which continues the history of ‘bureaucrat capitalism’ or ‘crony capitalism’ in the Philippine context.   

 

Albeit, in fairness to state players, reforms of governance institutions have been ongoing for over a decade already. For instance, the tax bureau, audit commission, justice system, and public works department have undergone reforms. The results of such reforms paid off as the Philippines’ credit standing, global competitiveness, and related indicators zoomed up very significantly as of late.

 

Now here comes the pork barrel scam centering on this obnoxious evil figure Napoles, even as another brewing scam investigation involves a shadowy ‘Madam Arlene’. Napoles engaged legislators and local government officials, while Ma’am Arlene engaged the Supreme Court and justice system. The Napoles-centered scam is now being addressed, while state bureaucrats search the Earth for the shadowy Arlene.

 

As of this writing, the Supreme Court already decided 14-0, declaring henceforth that the Philippine Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, pork barrel in layman’s term, is unconstitutional. This is truly a landmark decision, thanks to the civil society groups that lobbied the Supreme Court to rethink its earlier decision on the matter. So even the judicial branch of state is addressing the pork barrel issue, brooking no quarters with its added declaration that those state officials who personally benefited from pork barrel over the last 20 years are liable for criminal offense and should be penalized thereof.

 

Which brings us to the conclusion: the Pork Barrel Scam is a positive thing for good governance. The scams are being properly addressed, and it doesn’t need a sophistical mind to see that any social problem that is appropriately addressed is a positive thing. A social problem that remains un-addressed is a negative thing, such as many crime cases that remain unreported or unresolved.

 

Being a positive thing, the moment that the criminal cases will begin to show progress, as one by one the involved politicians will be incarcerated for their indubitable evil, the rating of the Philippines in the global competitiveness indicators will move up again. I have no doubt about this development. Napoles is in jail, and before her there was the corrupt former president Erap Estrada who spent 7 years in jail, so it should be clear to intelligent observers that it is a different time in the Philippines today as big fishes are getting criminalized and jailed for their heinous or sordid crimes, therefore the competitiveness of PH will go up along the way.

 

Eradicating graft in itself takes a long time to execute, and nothing can eradicate graft completely. The sociologist Emile Durkheim said in his classic books over a century ago that there shall always be criminals, as there shall always be deviants in society, for we are not a people who are complete saints but rather ones who have to deal with our own ‘insatiable desires’ that propel us to commit deviations (‘sins’ in church language) such as crimes.

 

Society and its institutions can only progress step by step towards desired ends. So will it be for instituting reforms towards good governance that will hopefully lead to a Strong State in the future. Civil Society is really strong in the Philippines, while the business community is nearly a Strong Market as corporate governance reforms were instituted over the last 2 decades. Witnessing the transformation of the Philippine state into a strong one isn’t far-fetched, but this will proceed on parri passu basis and not as an overnight phenomenon.

 

[Manila, 20 October 2013]

DESERT’S GRACES: PLANTATIONS CAPTURE CARBON!

September 14, 2013

DESERT’S GRACES: PLANTATIONS CAPTURE CARBON!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Here’s another one for the good news, fellows! That desert plantations offer basic graces for whole nations.

According to a study published in the Earth System Dynamics, cultivating plants such as jathropa in deserts could absorb up to 25 tones of carbon dioxide annually. Desert plants also reduce desert temperature by a centigrade at least, and also induce rainfalls.

The advantage of desert-fit plants is that they don’t compete with other crops. It just needs some special technical expertise to plant them. In my own country [PH], desert-fit plants are among the top waves for renewable energy or RE sources, backed by policy environment that is among the world’s top as regards RE for power production.

Enclosed is the reportorial from the scidev.net about the intriguing find.

[Manila, 06 September 2013]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/desert-science/news/desert-plantations-could-help-capture-carbon.html
Desert plantations could help capture carbon
Speed read
• Each hectare of the tree could absorb up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year
• Jatropha needs little water but could be irrigated by desalination plants
• Plantations can also cut average desert temperatures and boost rainfall
Planting trees in coastal deserts could capture carbon dioxide, reduce harsh desert temperatures, boost rainfall, revitalise soils and produce cheap biofuels, say scientists.

Large-scale plantations of the hardy jatropha tree, Jatropha curcas, could help sequester carbon dioxide through a process known as ‘carbon farming’, according to a study based on data gathered in Mexico and Oman that was published in Earth System Dynamics last month (31 July).

Each hectare of the tree could soak up 17-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, they say, at a cost of 42-63 euros (about US$56-84) per tonne of gas, the paper says. This makes the technique competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage.

Klaus Becker, the study’s lead author and director of carbon sequestration consultancy Atmosphere Protect, says that a jatropha plantation covering just three per cent of the Arabian Desert could absorb all the carbon dioxide produced by cars in Germany over two decades.

“Our models show that, because of plantations, average desert temperatures go down by 1.1 degree Celsius, which is a lot,” Becker says. He adds that the plantations would also induce rainfall in desert areas.

Jatropha, which is a biofuel crop, needs little water, and coastal plantations would be irrigated through desalination, Becker says.

He also envisages a role for sewage in such large-scale plantations.

“There are billions and billions of litres of sewage that are discharged into the oceans every week, but instead we could send that water to the desert and plant trees,” he says. “In this situation, you wouldn’t need any expensive artificial nitrogen [to fertilise the trees].”

The team has also been working in Israel’s Negev desert, where they planted 16 tree species, which, they say, is preferable to a jatropha monoculture. “A diversity of trees is good for the environment, good for investors and good for preventing diseases,” says Becker.

At another of the team’s carbon farms — a jatropha plantation in Madagascar — the organic matter content of degraded soil has risen from 0.2 per cent up to three per cent.

Local people now harvest beans planted between the trees, providing a vital source of protein and creating a symbiotic exchange of nitrogen — fixed from air by beans — and shade provided by the jatropha trees.

“Previously, no one had the idea of using uncultivated land to plant these kinds of leguminous beans because they would not grow there. But after four or five years of applying cultivation techniques, the soil quality increases dramatically,” Becker says.

Alex Walker, a research assistant at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, describes carbon farming as a “common-sense approach to rising carbon dioxide levels, with potentially positive biodiversity impacts”.

He adds: “It will grow on non-arable land, and so not compete with food production, but it is more difficult to process and subject to varying yields and absorption volumes”.

Egypt is pioneering an experiment in desert farming, using sewage water after basic treatment to produce wood, woody biomass and biofuel crops, such as casuarina, African mahogany, jojoba and neem, in addition to jatropha.

“In Egypt, there are 15,000 acres planted with trees of good quality but so far they have not been sold to create economic value,” Hany El Kateb, a professor at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, tells SciDev.Net.

According to El Kateb, Egypt produces more than 6.3 billion cubic metres of sewage water a year, and 5.5 billion cubic metres of this would be sufficient to afforest more than 650,000 hectares of desert lands and store more than 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually in new forests.

El Kateb points out that Egypt has an advantage over European countries that are leaders in forestry, such as Germany, because the same trees grow more than 4.5 times faster in Egypt where the sun shine most of the year.

But Mosaad Kotb Hassanein, director of the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate in Egypt, says: “One of the big challenges of planting forests in arid areas is the lack of experience, expertise and technical personnel involved in the establishment and management of forest plantations.

“The project in Egypt was lucky to have technical assistance and support establishing a forest administration from the German Academic Exchange Service.”

Additional reporting by Nehal Lasheen.

Link to full paper in Earth System Dynamics

References
Earth System Dynamics doi: 10.5194/esd-4-237-2013 (2013)

SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT DESIGN: INFORMAL MARKETS

September 14, 2013

SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT DESIGN: INFORMAL MARKETS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day, fellow global citizens!

What makes a product design click in a certain market? As far as developing countries are concerned, the presence of informal markets matter most. This was the astounding finding of a study done in the M.I.T.

I do resonate with the study findings, being a development worker who knows the basic end-users in my country. Those families in the lower middle to lower income brackets comprise a very large portion of the population here, a fact that was highly recognized by big retailers and manufacturers who tailor fit their products for them.

For the product designers, better consult economists who are in the know about markets or end-users. The antiquated Say’s Law, which posits that “a supply creates its own demands,” was long debunked, with John Maynard Keynes providing the coup d’ grace to the demolition of the flawed doctrine.

The lesson forwarded is: don’t ever engineer products that require a lot of time and effort to educate the end-users. In developing countries, among informal markets, such a line of thought won’t work, as the end-users want a quick usage of the items without much ado about how to use them.

Below is the reportage about the revelatory development.

[Manila, 01 September 2013]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/enterprise/news/study-reveals-secrets-to-successful-product-design.html

Study reveals secrets to successful product design
Speed read
• Sales hits such as a phone for rent were designed for micro-entrepreneurs
• Design guidelines call for a focus on products’ money-making ability
• But a product’s business model is also viewed as crucial
The secret to successful product design for developing countries is to tailor products for informal markets, a study has found.

Some of the best-selling products in emerging markets, such as solar lamps and a Nokia mobile phone, were specifically designed to help the owners of low-income businesses, known as micro-enterprises, make money, the study says.

These micro-enterprises are an untapped but potentially lucrative market and products tailor-made for them could make large profits for both local salesmen and multinational corporations.

The study authors, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, are now planning a large-scale study to evaluate and refine a set of guidelines for those designing products for developing countries.

Design firms in more mature markets generally develop products for consumers or businesses, but not for the informal markets that are prevalent in developing countries, says Maria Yang, co-author of the paper published as part of the ASME international design conference this month (4-7 August).

The study cited mobile phone multinational Nokia as an exception.

In 2003, Nokia launched a phone that dominated sales in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. It was designed for the owners of small, phone-renting businesses, according to the study.

The Nokia 1100 was intended to be shared by many people and used in various environments. It had an easy-grip back for humid climates, a dust-resistant keyboard, an LED torch and several contact lists so users could share the phone and keep personal contact lists separate. Nokia also developed eRefills, a metering tool that displays the exact cost of each call. In addition, Nokia used a fleet of vans to reach rural customers for marketing and product servicing.

“The phones have been used by farmers, fishermen and other producers to check market prices. They have also been used as the basis for money transfers in communities without adequate access to financial services,” Yang tells SciDev.Net.

Products designed for this sector not only benefit local entrepreneurs, but can help develop whole communities.

“The ability to communicate is critical to development at a basic level, particularly when some emerging markets lack the infrastructure to support other key types of communication such as landlines,” says Yang.

The researchers highlighted solar lamps as another example of design success aimed at micro-enterprises.

Solar lamps enable micro-entrepreneurs to keep their businesses open at night. US firm Greenlight Planet has designed one that can also charge mobile phones. This lamp has sold particularly well because buyers can make money by charging phones for a fee.

But supplying emerging markets with solar lamps also benefits the entire community, driving the switch to solar lighting from expensive, potentially dangerous kerosene lighting.

Daniel Schnitzer, founder of the NGO EarthSpark International, which provides solar lamps to micro-entrepreneurs, believes that strong product design is not the only factor in ensuring sales success.

“Way too much effort is put into designing these products, rather than on coming up with the right business model and the right after-sales service model. That’s really what makes these businesses successful,” he says.

He adds that EarthSpark has spent much time and resources on designing education and training materials for the entrepreneurs to use themselves and to give to their customers. “I think this is an area where manufacturers have really fallen short,” Schnitzer says.

But Yang disagrees. “Educating the user can take a long time, which can backfire,” she says. “The best strategy is to come up with a novel product and business models that users can immediately grasp.”

The paper offers some guidelines for future designers that focus on creating products that foster micro-enterprise. For example, it says that designers should think of their target users not only as consumers but also as micro-entrepreneurs, and be aware of their needs. It must be clear how the user can make money from the product, and the product should be upgradable so its performance capacity can grow with the business.

Another guideline calls on designers to consider multi-functionality, for example, the solar lamp’s ability to charge phones was key to its success.

Link to the paper
References
Austin-Breneman, J. and Yang, M. Design for Micro-Enterprise: An Approach to Product Design for Emerging Markets (Proceedings of the ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, 4-7 August)