10/11/2005

Business Plan to Improve the World

Many people in the world are just waiting for this brilliant, state-of-the-art idea to strike them, make them rich, and then live off the profits of that great invention for the rest of their lives. I found an article in Business Week that has a pretty good idea. Though it's great to see the advancement in technology, there is also a need for simpler products in third world countries. This article talks about a group of students that are combining all of the monitoring devices found in an intensive care unit into one simple device that can even be plugged into a T.V. This simple piece of equipment could bring the cost of getting all of those instruments down from $5,000 to $50. There are 5 billion people out there living at the bottom of the economic pyramid, they don't require the most state-of-the-art technology, but there is definitely money to be made by catering to the simple needs of these people.

3 comments:

Ann said...

What a great contest. I think theird-world countries could definitely use these types of devices. I have a few concerns, such as where hospitals are going to come up with the money for the device, not to mention a TV for every room. But if they can make it work, I think it would be great. It would be even better if we could help these people boost their own economies by teaching them this technology.

Logan said...

That is great news for third-world countries, but what about us. If this product that costs so much less delivers the same amount of quality as all the monitoring devices in our American hospitals, why not adopt it here? If these types of innovations became common among our hospitals maybe health-care costs would decrease enough to allow our poor a chance at adequate care.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on Ann's and Logan's comments for spelling and/or grammatical errors.

I hate to rain on your collective parades.

I was involved in this sort of operation between 1983 and 1989. I bought into the whole "doing good for poor people" idea, and so did everyone I worked with. And ... we did do some good.

But, I gave up on this sort of stuff because it clearly wasn't working as well as it should have.

It turned out that growth theorists had already figured out why (and if you take my ECON 3020 class we discuss this result). It turns out that with technological improvement, the well-being of individuals depends both on what they do, as well as the level of technology that surrounds them. We see that in this case. One problem has been addressed - ICU services. Now they need TVs. And nurses to monitor them. And doctors to solve the problems that come up. And a steady supply of electricity to run the TVs. And clean drinking water so that the nurses and doctors aren't absent with dysentery. And ... and ...

The beauty of decentralized exchange and growth through technological change is that these problems can be addressed. But, it is likely that an individual project like this will fail because decentralized exchange hasn't generated a need for it yet.

Having said all this, keep in mind that by all means projects like this do help. The problem is that they're not always the best way to proceed.