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CAN THE GLOBAL HOUSING PROBLEM BE SOLVED?

Where’s the Profit and What Does Corning Have to Offer?


We shouldn’t expect a simple market and product to be sitting there waiting for us. If it did, in all likelihood someone would already be selling it. The opportunity will arise from looking at the problem in a new way, in finding innovative solutions. The critical step at this point is to identify key parts of the problem and ask if we have innovative ways of addressing them.


The problem itself is big. This housing need is like a huge body of water behind a giant dam. Even punching a little hole will yield a significant flow The opportunity to continue innovating will last a long time. The need is pressing against the dam, waiting for a way to move.

 

I earlier emphasized that the amount of external input in solving the housing problem needed to be small. However, it canít be nothing. Some outside input is required. In our demonstration project, the total outside input was $300/house. If someone had a $5 piece of that budget, a product that was deemed sufficiently useful and productive to be selected, even people living on $1/day might be able to afford it, and that would represent a $10 billion market. I donít mean that as a serious calculation, but I do mean to point out that looking for ways to address this need has a potential for profit even though the participants in the market are very poor. If nothing else governments with housing programs for their poor would be customers.

 

The question then is do we have anything to offer.


Where can Corning innovate?

 

There are at least 3 basic areas in which we can look for innovation and solutions:

1. Technology

2. Business

3. Marketing.


What are some of the questions in each of these areas?


Technology


There are some basic characteristics of technologies that would be most useful. Technologies that:

 

        Function with local resources: local labor, local materials, local energy, with little of no imported component,

 

        Adapted to local markets, local needs and conditions.

 

        Small scale: small investment, adaptable to many small regions,

 

        Produce for Self-consumption and local consumption.

 

        Mixed Hi-Lo tech. Simple solutions applicable under third world conditions made possible from tremendously expanded knowledge obtained with our high tech science.


What is meant by local? We need to be careful. For example, in Nicaragua cement is produced in the country with local factories using local raw materials. However, it is fundamentally an imported product. The energy is imported and the factory itself is imported. 80% of the cost is in imported components.

 

A fundamental issue in seeking local solutions is the terms of international trade. If we could produce a product locally, sell it and buy imported products for less labor/cost than what it would cost to produce them locally, we would do that. That is what the U.S. does. We buy imported products because they are cheaper than what we can produce. We get more for our labor and materials than the people we are buying from. At the other end, the situation is opposite. The poor countries and communities are selling their labor and products low and buying high. In general they are better off to produce things themselves. Because the handicap is so large, this is true even when the local product is produced much less efficiently, is of lower quality and when it must be replaced by another product altogether.


Small scale. “Small” can mean anything from the village level, as in the project in San Dionisio, to a region to a country such as Nicaragua. (continued, click "next")

  

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