PLAN 83: Article
Sanyal To Lead Mit Role In Major Consortium

Five-Year Anti-Poverty Effort Will Receive Up To $25M in Funding

SA+P’s Bish Sanyal, Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Amy Smith from MIT’s D-Lab, have been designated the leaders of MIT’s participation in a new five-year project intended to help meet the needs of the world’s poor.

MIT will receive up to $25M in funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and evaluate useful technologies for developing countries around the globe. The project is the result of a competition conducted by USAID for new ideas to combat poverty; MIT’s proposal was selected from 500 entries, coming from 49 of the US states and 30 different nations.

As one of six academic institutions chosen by USAID to help create its Higher Education Solutions Network, MIT will conduct two related but distinct efforts:

The International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), a consortium of higher-education institutions led at MIT by Smith, will foster and provide institutional structure for technological innovation in developing countries.

The Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation (CITE), led at MIT by Sanyal, will develop rigorous evaluation methods for those new technologies to assure they are properly assessed; alumnus Derek Brine (MCP ’10, MEng ’10) will serve as project manager for CITE.

Because promising technological innovations have not always taken hold as intended, the CITE program will evaluate technologies along three dimensions:

  • suitability, to assess if innovations match the needs of the poor and perform according to technical specifications
  • scalability, to assess if innovations can be disseminated broadly
  • sustainability, to assess if technologies can be sustained over the long term, considering resource and institutional constraints in developing countries

To help develop new technologies, the IDIN portion of the program will involve, among other things, the building of eight Innovation Hubs to act as centers for development in five areas including agriculture, health-care projects, clean water and improvement of power sources in rural areas.

A crucial part of the work will be building a network of technologists to help solve those challenges; the networking effort will involve twelve international design summits and intensive, month-long workshops. CITE will assess technologies which emerge out of IDIN’s global effort.

CITE will also work with the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, UNICEF and the World Food Program to identify and assess emerging technologies with potential for high impact.

IDIN will partner with Colorado State University, Franklin Olin College of Engineering, UC/Davis, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

The USAID program helps provide long-term structure for some of MIT’s many efforts, to encourage innovation and growth in developing countries. In addition to the planning department and D-Lab, key participants at MIT will include the Sloan School of Management, the Center for Transportation and Logistics, the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Public Service Center.

This story is based on a report by Peter Dizikes of the MIT News Office.