Week 9: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Along with the subject of health, this week we are also concentrating on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Apache Open Climate Workbench is “a platform designed to create climate evaluations using models developed from a range of sources including NASA, the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment, among many others.” (Apache) The system is able to create climate computations based on these analyses and then projecting the predictions. Through an open source platform Apache is able to realistically forecast climate change and thus the effect of humans on it. The realistic assessment of our climate and its changing tendencies is becoming extremely important towards creating environmental change. Apache is able to provide information critical for proving our effect on the climate and thus creating economic and political change. “A core element of the climate assessment is numerical model predictions that not only provide a foretelling of physical indicators of future climate but also indirectly provide information on societal impacts and thus provide a key resource for addressing adaptation and mitigation questions.” (Apache) Apache is helping create much needed change in our political system that hopefully will increase our positive involvement with the environment and implement severe consequences for hurting it.

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WIPO has become increasingly involved in the fight against climate change. They claim that total investment in Climate Change and Mitigation Technologies (CCMT’s), but specifically renewable energy and fuels, was $244 billion in 2012. The growing investment in CCMT’s has also strongly increased the global patent filing rates. In some cases the average annual growth rates of patents in this sector grew 8x between 1975-2006. “The growth in patenting rates in the respective technology is likely a combination of the positive impact of policies and response to market conditions, including increased levels of R&D investment, shifts in policy incentives, such as feed-in-tariffs, as well as technological advances, such as cost reductions in manufacturing.” (WIPO) The reasons for growth in patent rates above are most likely correct, however, filing for intellectual property and installing the designs have become increasingly time intensive. Intellectual property, and specifically in the field of climate change, has become not as effective compared to open source design. Open source design provides an easily accessible way to get involved in the fight against climate change without the need for resource and monetary intense research like that needed for intellectual property. Like that of the Danish Concept, mentioned in my Energy blog, OSD has provided an incredible system for sharing information and the adaptation for products especially in the sphere of climate change mitigation.

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Week 8: Health

This week we are focusing on health as the main subject in our Open Source for the Common Good course. Open Medical Record System or OpenMRS is “a software platform and a reference application which enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS’ model is based on the belief that medical information should be stored in a way that is extremely easy to analyze and is easily accessible in rural communities. OpenMRS is an open source application that allows medical professionals from around the world be able to access the records of individuals. It essentially enables doctors to give recommendations or diagnoses from across the world. In rural countries where “over 40 million people are infected with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and malaria – most (up to 95%) of these afflictions are present in developing countries.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS is capable of severely reducing the number the illnesses, and most importantly undiagnosed illnesses, around the world. Through an open source platform, clients and doctors in rural communities can professionally present their cases for the evaluation by multiple medical professionals with access to more modern tools and diagnostic systems.

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The Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property Team, or PHI, is a group under the umbrella of the World Health Organization. PHI “is responsible for promoting innovation in the discovery, development, production and delivery of essential health technologies.” (WHO) The main goals of PHI are to adhere to the purposes and uses of intellectual property, while at the same time trying to make as impactful of a difference as possible in global health. Though intellectual property may not be as effective as open source in regards to curing global illnesses, PHI is determined to provide patented products to communities and people that need it most. Their two most important goals are to: “1) Develop policy guidance and provide technical assistance on management and application of intellectual property with a view to promote needs based innovation and access to patent protected essential medicines and health products and 2) Facilitate technology transfer to and build capacity in developing countries for the manufacturing of strategically selected health products in order to improve access.” (WHO) During the majority of my blog posts, I have rejected the need for intellectual property as an alternative to open source since open source has become so much more effective in developing successful solutions much quicker. Although I still agree that open source is a much better alternative, PHI and the WHO have also been able to make significant impact around the globe regarding the health of rural communities.

 

Week 7: Infrastructure

Our course is currently focusing on infrastructure. Cleber LLC and their Oggun tractor have been working on revolutionizing the farming industry. Though the design is based on a 60-year-old model, they have managed to change some key components in the machine regarding the frame. The design is perfect for subsistence farming found all over the globe and will assist in increasing agricultural production in those countries. Cleber has also created an “open source manufacturing model that will be easy to fix and maintain.” (NPR) By doing so, farmers will be able to keep their tractors running and up to date. Contrastingly to other companies whose goal is to force consumers to buy a new machine once theirs breaks down, Cleber focuses on maintenance. Their tractors are expensive, between $8,000-$10,000, and most farmers in their market would not be able to afford new tractors if theirs were to break down. Their business model is perfect for subsistence farming. Through open source maintenance, farmers will be able to continuously produce more goods on their farm. As Cuba begins to attract more and more tourists and businesses, the need for tractors will only continue to grow in order to counter the demand for goods. This, in turn, could help drive industry and encourage a shift from a subsistence lifestyle to an urban one.

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The infrastructure sector is a billion dollar industry. With firms such as Bechtel Corp., who built the Hoover Dam and the Dulles Airport Silver Line expansion, and Fluor Corp., who built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, there has been significant amounts research and development put into their projects. They have completed some of the largest modern architectural designs in the world. There is a lot of IP that is created as a result of the designs of these projects, however, if these firms were to use or upload their open source designs, they could make their projects much cheaper and safer. With the help of other infrastructure firms, through the use of open source, a firm could significantly increase their efficiency and greatly decrease the time it takes to complete their tasks. “The problems on the $1-billion-plus megaprojects Bechtel had in mind reflect the shortcomings of engineering and construction.” (ENR) The construction industry runs into continuous problems in the design and development of their projects. The use of open source could greatly reduce the number of setbacks that they face. Not only will their firms perform better, but the infrastructure that they create will be better fit for society as well.

Week 6: Communication

The focus of our course this week revolved around communication. Kaa IoT development has provided an incredible resource for enabling the creation of highly innovative and groundbreaking products. “Kaa is a multi-purpose middleware platform for the Internet of Things that allows building complete end-to-end IoT solutions, connected applications, and smart products. The Kaa platform provides an open, feature-rich toolkit for the IoT product development and thus dramatically reduces associated cost, risks, and time-to-market.” (Kaa) Kaa has, through open source design, enabled users to create much more efficient and useful products in a much shorter time frame. Kaa perfectly satisfies the goals of open source design and it has become an extremely beneficial asset for product developers. It handles all of the communication across a user’s devices and creates a platform that is designed to facilitate efficient interaction between a user’s hardware and their application. It is through programs such as Kaa that there is increasing recognition of the substantial benefits of open source communication.

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In a world that is becoming increasingly technologically advanced, the desire to stay one step ahead of competition is also on the rise. IP is becoming a vital part of our culture  at least for the time being. However, open source design and the applications through which it is used, such as Kaa, have been driving more innovation than IP alone. Open source design has become a much more beneficial platform for not only firms, but for everyday consumers as well. The only downside has become data security. There have been an increasing number of hacks through communication platforms, which has led to serious concern over the safety of open source design. Though there have been many measures put into place to counter hack attempts, the number of large-scale attacks have risen 40% since 2015. (Bloomberg) Our growing reliance on communication and open source have greatly increased our vulnerability to attacks.

Open source communication is an incredible resource that has been able to stimulate innovation. We rely on virtual communication every day and it has become imbedded in our lives. Though our Internet safety is becoming increasingly more at risk, our communities and businesses will rely more and more on open source forms of communication. Open source communication is driving the way we progress and if we are to continue using these methods, we must be aware of the possible consequences.

Week 5: Food and Agriculture

The focus of our course this week revolves around food and agriculture. A leader in the open source agriculture sector is the program Growing Innovation. Growing Innovation, started by Rural Advancement Foundation International and Farm Hack as a Kickstarter, is “an online library of agricultural innovations developed by farmers to create a book celebrating their ingenuity.” (Growing Innovation) It is a project that documents new and groundbreaking sustainable methods by farmers. The library will include detailed plans of blueprints and budgets that are highly adaptable to most farming plots. The goal of this open source site is to provide farmers with substantial knowledge on how to successfully and efficiently grow their own food. Many supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods will provide healthy organic foods, however, many of their goods have been picked days or even weeks before arriving to the market. 80% of the nutritional value disappears within two weeks as vegetables age and dehydrate. Though kale and broccoli for instance, among other vegetables, are very healthy, if they are aged for too long, the vegetables provide little benefit to us. Transportation of foods across the world has also become a large part of the food industry. In the US, we have become accustomed to being provided year-round foods that only bloom during certain periods in our country. This means that these products must be shipped from the southern hemisphere during off-seasons. With the development of quick transportation, foods such as avocados or mangoes can be sold in the US prior to their rotting. Though this seems like an incredible luxury, the transportation of millions of pounds of food each year have had drastic impacts on climate change due to the energy it requires for travel. With the implementation of open source local farming, we could significantly reduce emissions, while providing ourselves with much healthier products. Though we might lose the year-round fruits and vegetables, we will be in a much better place in the long run.

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Companies like Cargill and Monsanto have taken over the food industry. Cargill now touches almost every piece of food that we eat since they have operations in every aspect of food around the world. From energy to pharmaceuticals to food production, Cargill has created an evasive presence through IP. Monsanto has also played a huge role in the use of IP to further their profits. Monsanto began genetically modifying soybeans, however, they have shifted into many fields. For example, they began licensing their modified cotton to farmers in India, promising the benefits of drug resistance. However, the rural farmers quickly began to fall back on their payments and were unable to pay for the cost of the seeds. Many of the poorer farmers committed suicide due their heavy load of debt. Though IP has been extremely beneficial in many ways, especially in the food industry, it can easily be seen the drastic negative effects of its use.

Open source agriculture is the future of the farming industry. Through the transfer of knowledge provided by open source, any person can become an efficient farmer. With a growing shift to local growth, transportation costs are diminishing, and people are eating healthier and healthier. In a world that is becoming exponentially obese, the importance of health is critical. I believe that open source farming could provide an end to many of our worlds current problems.