The Bloat Backlash (Bloatlash?!) Spreads

You can say this again: hip gadgets for the developing world won’t solve global poverty, as Hugh Whalan argues.

It’s nice to see this anti-bloat rant get some viral traction online. It shows there’s a growing awareness of the problem. I especially liked their takedown of Soccket, the deliriously bloaty gadget pictured above, in effect:

soccer ball that harnesses kinetic energy to generate light. Cool right? This company has received loads of press (including here at Co.Exist), and has raised nearly $600,000 from crowdfunding sites. Even Obama and Bill Clinton love it. It is undoubtedly a nifty piece of technology.

The problem? At a cost of $60 per Soccket, it is the most expensive six-watt light on the market. D.Light, for example, produces a high-quality study light with a two-year warranty and similar functionality that retails for $10. The Soccket is also certainly the most expensive soccer ball the customer, presumably kids with no access to electricity, is ever going to see. (A more in-depth analysis of the concerns with Soccket’s approach can be found here.)

I do think it’s important to go beyond denunciation to a positive agenda, one that goes beyond blasting bloat. Whalan is right to note that “many entrepreneurs (incorrectly) think the biggest challenge is actually making the product.” But if that’s not the biggest challenge, what is?

If it’s achieving efficiencies in marketing and distribution, then let’s talk about that. If it’s ensuring poor people have enough money in their pocket to buy any given product, then let’s talk about that. If it’s Financial Inclusion, then let’s talk about that.

But let nobody think you can  just bitch about hopelessly bloaty products and projects and call it a day.

3 thoughts on “The Bloat Backlash (Bloatlash?!) Spreads”

  1. well… obviously this ball is not a way out of poverty. It is merely something that wins design contests. At $60 I can only imagine that their customers and who the market to are NGOs.

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