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KOPERNIK is an organization that gained global recognition as pioneer in aid to developing countries. KOPERNIK is a social enterprise that finds what works to reduce poverty through lean experimentation, and also is an organization that connect life-changing technologies to people in the Last Mile, that are rural off-the-grid areas in the developing countries.
Pureosity interviewed the Co-Founder & CEO of KOPERNIK, Toshi Nakamura, an alumni of Kyoto University at his base in Bali, Indonesia.
Innovation that originated from meeting the needs of the people, That is the key to solve global issues.
Most of the technologies that KOPERNIK introduces to the Last Mile are clean-energy technologies. How you choose those technologies?
When we first started up KOPERNIK, we thought of handling a much wider range of technologies related to Healthcare, Education, Water and sanitation, Energy, Agriculture, and so on.
However, when we asked many Last Mile communities which was most needed, the answer was usually life-energy related technologies. Consequently, most technologies that we have handled are energy related technologies, such as solar light, and high combustion efficiency cook stove.
I think discovering energy resources and development of energy have had the greatest impacts through human history. Even now, energy related technology is one of the most life changing for people who live in the Last Mile.
However, the other targets are also important in the Last Mile, such as easier access to safe water, infection control against malaria and dengue fever, and improving farming practices such as the drying and storage of grains.
You have lived in the typical developed countries such as the US, UK and Switzerland. Now you also have experienced life in the Last Mile, regions in countries such as Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone. Do you think solutions to environmental issues in these countries are different?
Advanced economies have various environmental issues that need to be solved as soon as possible. However, solutions to environmental issues in developing countries are lagging behind. Economic disparity is one factor. Developing energy and water systems in dispersed rural areas is expensive compared to the costs in large cities. For example, in some rural areas of developing countries, people get light by burning kerosene because of no access to the electricity network. A lot of things are still done manually, such as carrying firewood and water. Things like this create a vicious downward spiral of economic disparity. Solving environmental problems in developing countries might be better through solving the productivity and life of those communities.
I know appropriate approaches to tackling environmental problems on these two sides would be different from one another. However, dissociating one side from the other doesn’t seem to be the best way?
In my perspective, technology innovation and science to solve global issues have brought them closer.
The science world is changing globally. Many scientists, who are aware of global issues, have started to talk about the importance of changing awareness in young people and scientists to focus more on innovating solution that can address to people in developing countries. As a result, more scientists and researchers in cutting-edge companies have started to focus on solving environmental problems in developing countries as well.
Prominent Universities overseas have started the course called “Appropriate-Technology”; it is about finding needs of their researching field in developing countries and innovating solution. We have done several projects with researchers in leading scientific technology companies and also teams in Universities. Their focus is on people. In other words, their <Innovating technologies originated from user’s needs > always create good impact on our activities.
So, establishment of iCeMS, which is an international hub for innovative science in Japan, and activities of Pureosity in Kyoto Japan, could be good news for you?
Yes, very much so. Personally, I am paying attention to Pureosity’s activities.
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When I went to interview KOPERNIK, I asked to send message to Pureosity. Toshihiro Nakamura (Co-Founder & CEO) and Ewa Wojkowska (Co-Founder & COO) kindly gave a wonderful message to us and we would like to share it here.