Next Generation of Innovation for the Grass Roots
Taking inspiration from science fiction sagas, the next generation of innovation is already taking shape in the South. A group of innovative facilities called Fab Labs (short for Fabrication Laboratories) in Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica is applying cutting-edge technology to address people’s everyday needs.
Like the futuristic “replicator” in American television and film science-fiction series Star Trek, Fab Labs enable people to design and produce what they need there and then. The labs are mushrooming throughout the South as people get the innovation bug.
Originally an idea from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, which sponsors nine of the labs, Fab Labs let people use digital technology to build physical objects, from eyeglass frames to toys and computer parts. Fab Labs empower local invention by turning education, problem-solving and job creation into a creative process.
With minimal training, children and adults are designing and making their own toys, jewellery and even computer circuit boards with the machines. It is turning people from consumers into inventors. – (October 2007)