My first post on this blog was about competition vs. collaboration. For those who didn't get a chance to read it, I was basically arguing the importance of organization to convert from a competition based mindset to a collaborative model as it would allow for more things to be achieved with less being left out. With climate change becoming a visible reality and the world showing no signs of slowing down their consumption patterns, it is refreshing to see some institutions adopt the mind set that I was discussing. 

For my first example, i introduce to you the ingenuity of the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC), who teamed up with ad agency Mayo DraftFCB looking for a way to promote their application period of 2013. Mayo DraftFCB focused their marketing expertise on the expertise of UTEC and together, they made a billboard. 

Now this isn't just any ordinary billboard. Dropped along the Pan-American Highway near the city of Lima, the billboard hopes to capitalize on Lima's highly humid environment by using an inverse osmosis filtration system to produce a commodity that residents of the desert city seriously require; water. For those who don't know, Lima is one of the most humid and driest city in Peru and one of the driest in the world. With 1.2 million residents of Lima lacking running water, they have to rely on private-companies to deliver water that ends up costing 20 times more than what the wealthy pay for their tap water.

In three months, the billboard has been able to produce 2,500 gallons of water, quenching the thirst of hundreds of families per month. 

The only down side I saw to this project, was its inability of being self-sufficient. Requiring electricity, it is troublesome to think of how long electricity will be provided for the billboard by UTEC. Once the campaign for enrolment is over, will the billboard go along with it, or will the people at UTEC seriously adopt this as an initiative to further salvage the issue of scarce water?

Guess we will just have to wait and see.

The second example of collaborative innovation I want to bring to attention is Google's newest project, Loon. Much like the name suggests, Google is teaming up with Raven Aerostar balloons on a crazy conquest to bring wireless internet access to the most remote parts of the world. Using helium balloons, solar panels and wireless antennas, a coverage area of 1250 square km can be provided to those who want/need access to the internet, all you'll need is a special antenna fitted to your house. 

The main issue with this project is the demographic that is being reached out to. Targeting remote areas of the world that don't have internet is a pretty good indicator of the level of technical aptitude in those areas as well. Flight time is another issue, as the balloons have a maximum flight time of 55 days, meaning that they'll either have to be replaced or refuelled. Critics of this endeavour suggest that such top-down hardware distribution techniques, historically, are prone to failure and focusing on what is available in the areas being targeted would be a more viable solution.

Regardless of the flaws associated with the project, I think Google's initiative is a commendable one and helps bring the world a little closer. Can you think of alternative solutions to the posed problems? Is trying to get everyone on the internet a feasible initiative? Does everyone need to be on the internet? I don't have the answers to all of these questions, but I do know having a vast amount of knowledge at the tip of your finger and being aware of it is a future that can help tackle problems more efficiently than we are able to today.

7/14/2013 15:59:21

I love the billboard. It is such a cool idea, that I shared it on my blog as well (read it here: In regards to the balloon internet - I think they may be overreaching on the issue and it may not succeed - you do not mention if they have collaborated with the local people to see if it is actually an innovation that will be usable for them. I think that the need of the community should usurp the innovation and good publicity of making internet available in these remote areas.

7/15/2013 23:56:14

Hey Katiana. I wasn't able to find any information on whether or not they've collaborated with the locals. I think along with providing the service, there might need to be some local intervention for teaching the locals on how to use these services for their best interest.

7/14/2013 18:04:50

That billboard you mentioned is more than just a great example.

I'm all for collaboration. You would know, I see you doing that with your music as well.

7/15/2013 23:56:51

Haha, thank you Renish :)!

7/14/2013 18:38:42

Wow, I’m in awe at that billboard water generator. I don’t know how to feel that such a fantastic invention was created for the purpose of advertising, however, it seems like a win-win situation for the time being. I really hope they find a way to maintain it to continue providing water for Peruvians and perhaps even introduce this technology in other cities. It seems relatively inexpensive to set up. If not in a big billboard form, maybe they can construct smaller structures with the same technology? It might lead to lower electricity costs that way. If creating this generator was possible, then I’m sure someone can find a way to make it permanently accessible!

Do you know if this billboard helped increase enrollment at the University? If it did, it could seriously change the world of advertising. It’d be great if other companies started to similarly make their ads more meaningful. Win-win.

Great post Zain!

7/16/2013 00:08:54

Hey Ajani! Thanks for the input. I did not look into the increase in enrolment but it definitely got international attention. I hope they utilize what they have been able to create and use it for the greater good because there are many that need water and it should be a right for them to have it!


Leave a Reply.


    As an avid listener of instincts and humanity, I strive to do things that put me out of my comfort zone. Cherishing the growth that comes along with this habit and all the beauty that life has to offer, I'd like to share my experiences with you. 

    All posts and opinions expressed are mine and completely independent of the University of Waterloo and the International Development program.


    July 2013
    March 2013



    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner