To take a step back a bit from post 1, it will probably be beneficial to introduce Arduino to those that aren’t familiar with it. The concept behind it is simple: a micro-controller that can have different components plugged into it that will sense the environment and allow an interaction with its surroundings – such as sensors, motors and lights. The scope of projects that are being created using this technology goes beyond robotics however, and very often respond to a need identified by the ‘makers’ from their own life. The above documentary gives an interesting insight into how Arduino fits into the maker movement.
This links into the question that I’ve had to answer a lot: why India? One of the predominant anthropological schools of thought when it comes to technology is that as material objects technologies are imbued with a purpose or specific use, determined by their creator and therefore the creator’s cultural background. Arduino as a technological component, is designed to be fluid, adaptable to any use: does this allow it flexibility as it is appropriated by different cultures?
Vinay Venkatraman, while introducing Frugal Technologies at a TED talk, also inadvertently introduced me to Arduino, and the concept of open-source technology. His medical screening tool uses a microcontroller to allow local health workers to pre-screen patients, in order to establish those that need to be prioritised and those that need to be monitored. Further online research opened my eyes to a range of open source hardware projects being worked on across the globe; however it was the examples produced in India that caught my interest. Was it the resourcefulness exhibited by Indians that appealed? Or the innovation of the design? In all likelihood it was the glimpse into the cultural psyche, the knowledge that the designs addressed the needs and interests of the society in which they were being produced, resulting in particularly Indian innovations.
Take Vinfinet Tech’s product Kisanraja as an example: he identified the need to monitor rural irrigation systems, and to take into consideration the fact that power is often lost for long periods at a time and water may only be available at certain hours. Kisanraja is designed so that the farmer can remotely control when his pumps are in use to coincide with the water and power availability, thereby extending the life of the pumps themselves, and minimising the farmer’s need to struggle over rough ground populated by snakes in the early hours of the morning.
I look forward to seeing many more such examples and prototypes while I’m here in India!