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Introduction

The world’s population is under an economical divide. This can clearly be seen at satellite images, showing our globe at night and gives us an incredible understanding of the infrastructure and development of the world today. The Western hemisphere is lightened up and glowing while Africa and South America is hidden in the dark. The Asian continent and Russia represent middle level of infrastructure availability, with the exception of Japan: shining brightest of them all. In other words, this picture taken from outer space clearly shows the economical divide between people on the planet Earth. Those with light and those without!

A natural consequence of limited economical resources is a lower access to information. This means fewer possibilities to gain knowledge, learn new skill or develop a business to feed the household. But as the digital revolution is spreading into the developing countries, it is my belief that the Western hemisphere must be willing to share knowledge in every field to improve the situation in the underdeveloped, unlighted parts of the world. The human capital, if properly developed and used, is the most precious resource for undeveloped countries enabling them to skip over the industrial age and enter directly the digital age.

This shift into the digital age, merged with adequate advancement in farming, will create enormous possibilities for the third world countries. New business partners for Western companies might appear more frequently in poor regions but for this to happen, policies must be changed, enabling opening up the markets for everyone. Sub Saharan Africa has a unique advantage for this kind of development. The land provides great resources in its potential fertile soil and due to its climate; crops might be yielded several times per year. For this reason, together with the amount of million cities, and existing development are South Africa and the city of Pretoria chosen as the case study for this report.

How important knowledge is for survival and success in the developed world is shown in a case study presented by: University of Michigan Dept. of Atmospheric [Zurbuchen & Ervin & Moran & Heckathorn, video recording, 2008]. The case pictures one farmer in Africa who during a short time spent on the Internet learned about the sunflower. This information gave him the possibility to develop knowledge and become a sunflower farmer, with 10 employees, only one year later after seeing this information.

This was a success story on the individual level developed through a pilot project, but most people today do not have the privilege to use the Internet or other digital communication tools. In other words: it’s a world where “poor people are dying because lack of knowledge” [Missen, video recording, 2008]. They face these difficulties because they don’t have the opportunity to perceive another reality, being forced to live on the bottom of the Maslov pyramid.

Additionally, the global economical crisis lead investors and short term capital to withdraw from developing countries causing instability. Moreover, people move away from rural areas to big cities, seeking not necessarily a fortune but basic means to survive. Rural land is also affected by local changes in climate and people literally become forced to move out and make a living elsewhere, resulting in a higher urban population growth than cities economically can handle, generating slum areas.

These slum areas are housed by people with an economical potential of a few dollars per day [Gapminder, 2002]. They live from day to day, often on illegal properties in shacks. They cannot afford to be a part of the common housing market but have instead developed a black market for shack real-estate. Major group of the cities’ poor often constitute workers or work seekers who are the only providers for whole families. These people have little possibility to come out of the slum unless authorities help them financially or provide basic housing. In other words are they trapped in an economical situation where they need liberation through knowledge.

Looking at this target group through the lenses of Cradle to Cradle model, developed by McDonough and Braungart [McDonough and Braungart, 2002] which is a manifesto of green design approach, presenting appealing comparison between a cherry tree and a house, is it clear that a primarily economical solution is not optional. In a world where a “tree is a place inhabited by many species and provides them with both shelter and food”, the real resources people have are those available at hand - not their capital but their own work and the potential in their human capital, which can be released through training and social development. This potential is seen in the physical waste the wealthy society every day throws away. This waste is perceived as garbage but can instead provide “free” resources for needed people and through development and spreading of knowledge can create a possibility for the target group to develop their own houses at a minimum cost level. An analysis of the stakeholder and their housing needs will therefore be the theoretical basic for this development in the project.

Most development projects today are demo projects or limited projects in a small scale. Examples of this can be the voluntary organisations from the West who finance housing in the developing world, built with self-help. Others could be Western companies who develop industrial houses for governments in the developing world, organized through big aid organisations. However, both of these solutions face a problem with the limited amount of resources for every project and therefore a small degree of improvement and impact on the big scale.

Due to this economical divide shown previously it is my hypothesis that an aid project must be developed as a “bottom up” business model, focusing on the real resources available for the stakeholder and lowering all capital costs. This stands in opposition to the models described earlier where the goal is to lower cost in order to maximize profit, or where resources are limited by the willingness of the Western societies to give donations.

A potential answer for this is scaling, but for this to occur, an industrial and knowledge based solution must be designed with help of accessible “free” resources and labour. For this, sharing of knowledge is crucial and the project will therefore be released under the “general public license”. A solution that provides “free” knowledge, and at the same time gives the possibility to create a service business to anyone.

To achieve this objective is it necessary to train thousands of people over time so they can start up small, simple production lines of basic housing components and at the same time establish a more central industrial production for core components. Combined together, this will provide a practical and cost effective solution that will meet housing needs at low cost level.

The approach is inspired by the works of voluntary organisations such as; Gapminder.org, WiderNet Projects and Architecture for Humanity presenting a new type of aid where knowledge has the main value. By including organic and system orientated insights from the architects; Frank Lloyd Wright and Jean Prouve, the modernist era can merge with biotecture developed by the garbage warrior and biotechnologist Micheal Reynolds in a system based green solution for the 21st century.