From D-Lab Cambodia: local innovation center, low-cost water testing and technology dissemination

With the arrival of Jeff and Ed last night, the entire team is finally together! We have been hard at work over the past couple days, and we wanted to share our exciting progress with you. As mentioned earlier, part of the team is working with International Development Enterprises (IDE) on a design center to foster innovation and provide a central space for individuals and organizations in Cambodia to access machines, tools and other resources to create appropriate technologies. After an orientation which included basic Khmer language lessons and some cultural immersion, the subteam has been visiting local markets and learning as much as they can from the IDE staff about the project. IDE has been incredibly supportive and even provided some office space filled with materials for brainstorming and project development sessions (lots of white boards, markers, etc.).

Another subteam is working with Resource Development International (RDI) on a low-cost test for hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria, conducting a field verification of the test as well as trialling the test in primary school classes or community meetings as a visual aid for education on water, sanitation and hygiene. While IDE is headquartered in the capital city, RDI is based in Kien Svay (which translates to "place of the mangoes"), a periurban region about an hour away by tuk tuk along the dusty national highway. Since the highway is currently also under construction and the ride was in an open air vehicle, the students wore face masks like many motorbike riders in Cambodia. The subteam met with the lab and research manager to talk about the project, and took a quick tour of their ceramic water purifier factory and water testing lab. After a break under a fig tree by the Buddhist temple, the subteam returned to Phnom Penh finish background research on low-cost hydrogen sulfide test strips in preparation for making them with the RDI staff on Monday.

The last subteam project is headed by Sam Kornstein, MBA student from the MIT Sloan School of Management, who is working with the MIT International Development Initiative (IDI) to research effective approaches to the dissemination of technologies developed by D-Lab and other groups at MIT. Sam has been running around the city meeting with many people and organizations, including Mike Roberts, the country director of IDE, and Curtis Hundley, who heads a USAID initiative to strengthen micro, small, and medium enterprises in Cambodia. Sam plans to continue to meet with key development organizations within Cambodia over the next week, and then he will be visiting a number of rural villages with local development partners to learn about effective agricultural, sanitation, and water purification technology dissemination strategies.