Projects designed to help communities improve access to clean water, cook with clean-burning fuel, fortify salt to maintain nutrients, and use mobile phones as learning devices have been honored with awards for technology benefiting humanity.
The annual Tech Awards, sponsored by The Tech Museum in San Jose, Calif., were given to the winners in a ceremony tonight.
Two of the winners were projects that dealt with the problem many local communities around the world have in getting enough clean, fresh water. The Peer Water Exchange, a project of Blue Planet Network, is a global clearinghouse where communities can share water solutions and connect with others to help fund and implement grassroots water projects. More than 60 agencies around the world have used Peer Water Exchange to get help needed to improve the water supplies for more than 300,000 people.
The other water project honored was A Single Drop for Safe Water, which helps communities gain access to clean water and sanitation using a social entrepreneurship model. The organization, which was started by a preschool teacher, fosters income-generating education, training, and service centers that design sustainable water programs.
Another winner, Alexis T. Belonio of the Central Philippine University, developed a cooking stove and continuous-blow industrial burner which use a gasification process that produces a clean-burning fuel. The Rice Husk Gasifier (PDF) is designed to keep the large piles of inedible rice husks that smolder in fields and produce smoke emission in rural areas from adding to the greenhouse gas emissions.
Other research honored was a process to double-fortify salt with iron and iodine, which is designed to improve diets in developing populations. The Micronutrient Initiative, run by Venkatesh Mannar and Dr. Levente Diosady of the University of Toronto, aims to impact iodine and iron deficiencies that can adversely affect brain development and child mortality. Double-Fortified Salt protects 3.6 million children in the state of Tamil Nadu in India.
The final award went to BBC Janala which enables people in Bangladesh to learn English via audio and SMS-based lessons on their mobile phones. The lessons cost less than one and a half cents a minute for people who live on less than $2 a day. The BBC has partnered with the country's six mobile operators who agreed to cut tariffs for the service.