Two MacArthur Award Winners Honored for Work with Low-Cost Technology


This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Two winners of MacArthur Fellowships are being honored for their work with technology in the developing world. Amy Smith and David Green are among twenty-three MacArthur Fellows chosen for this year. Each will receive five hundred thousand dollars, paid over the next five years.

The MacArthur Foundation chooses highly creative individuals in the United States who show great promise for the future. People are nominated secretly. There are no restrictions on how the award can be spent.

Amy Smith teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. She served in the Peace Corps in Botswana. She is a mechanical engineer who develops labor-saving technologies for poor people. One of her inventions is a low-cost machine to crush grain. Another is a device to test water quality without a laboratory.

In two thousand, Amy Smith became the first female winner of the Lemelson-M.I.T. Student Prize. She won thirty thousand dollars. But she tells us that she usually has very little money to pay for her projects. She currently has several in Haiti.

For example, Haitians traditionally use trees to make charcoal for cooking fires. But most of their trees have been cut down. Also, smoke from wood fires is bad for breathing. So, last year, Amy Smith helped a group of students develop a process to make sugarcane waste into cooking fuel.

David Green lives in Berkeley, California. He brings together experts to start companies that produce high-quality medical products at low cost. He calls his way of doing business "compassionate capitalism."

Four years ago, Mister Green started Project Impact. This is a non-profit group that works to develop and produce medical technologies in several countries around the world.

Over the years, David Green also launched a project to sell high-quality hearing aids at a low price. And he started a company in India that makes corrective devices for people with cataracts and other eye diseases.

The Aurolab company now sends these special lenses to more than eighty-five countries. They cost about four dollars each, compared to about one hundred dollars in the United States.

David Green says he wants to use his MacArthur award to expand his work. He says his next project is to provide low-cost AIDS drugs to poor nations.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Bob Doughty.