Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A phone worth keeping...

As I mentioned before, I'm helping to organize the International Conference on Appropriate Technology in Nairobi this year. As it gets closer, I'll be sharing a series of short posts about projects and information that's inspiring to me and my notions of appropriate technology. This is the first in that series.

The way that we use and dispose our electronics is unsustainable and needs serious revision. I enjoy my new phone or computer every other year (or every year) just as much as the next techie, but the impacts (environmental and social) of this rapid replacement cycle have been weighing on me for a long while.

I was certainly not alone in feeling this way. Phonebloks, an "independent organisation with the purpose of encouraging the development and production of products that produce less electronic waste," organized an incredibly successful Thunderclap campaign last October to raise awareness about the issue and the idea. 979,255 people agreed to allow the project broadcast from their social media accounts in late October 2013.

Phonebloks's most compelling partner to date has been Google's (formerly Motorola's) Ara Project for a modular phone. The Ara project intends to create a phone whose components can be easily swapped. They have tossed around $50 as the price for a base model of this phone.

Critics have noted the technical infeasibility of creating a modular phone that people will actually want with today's technology (though Google disagrees), but it's the experimentation with the ideas that excites me. With the increasing ubiquity of mobile tech, it's refreshing to see design innovations that potentially lower our environmental impact.

Let's discuss on twitter...