Young Colombian entrepreneurship wins IDB’s technology competition for inclusion
Washington, D.C. and Bogotá, January 29 2010
At first glance, the notions of technology and social inclusion seem to be disconnected. The scenario in which access to technology is limited, either due to its traditionally high costs or because of the customary difficulty of users with low ability levels to gain access, has changed. Today, technological innovations such as the Internet or mobile phones have provided an opportunity for the most excluded groups to have access to health services, education, entertainment and the marketplace. And, as new products and services enter the market, they facilitate increased access for lower income groups to take advantage of these, as well as additional, services and opportunities.
Recognizing the potential that technology offers to improve the inclusion economy, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) launched a contest titled: A World of Solutions: Innovations for People with Disabilities. The aim of this initiative was to support the implementation of pilot projects to use technological innovations to facilitate access for people with disabilities to education and the labor market. DUTO Engineering Company was selected as one of the winners from among more than 150 proposals from 22 countries. DUTO was created more than 6 years from a thesis project at the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira which developed social engineering projects. DUTO has developed the IRIS system, among its other products, a technological instrument that links a computer that allows blind children learn colors and shapes.
“The IRIS system is a hardware device in which children can use vibrations in their hands to identify shapes and colors. The technology includes a database that can access hundreds of images, allowing teachers to teach using traditional visual pedagogical materials that are used in classes with traditional students may also be used for blind children” says John Guerra, co-founder of DUTO.
According to 2008 figures from the Colombian Ministry of Education, 3,742 elementary school students in Colombia had basic visual disability status.
Through the support of IDB, DUTO will undertake a project to implement the IRIS system in a school in Colombia which will allow visually impaired children to play and learn in a world of colors.
“The IDB has offered to work on technology innovation projects that generate high social impact and Colombia is the ideal partner to carry out such initiatives, ” concludes Rodrigo Parot, IDB Representative in Colombia.
For more information
• DUTO: Dirección: Cra. 31 No.15-87 Polo de Innovación B. San Luis, Pereira, Risaralda,
Tel: +57 (6) 3216899 www.duto.org
María Fernanda Zúñiga Zabala
Cel: 300-463-2807 (Colombia)
• Information about the competition: www.iadb.org/innovation
• Press Information:
Serrana Mujica, Science and Technology Division, IDB
Washington DC, Tel: (202) 623-3493; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Juan Pablo Turbay, Colombian Representation, IDB
Tel: 325-7000 ext. 7066; E-mail: email@example.com
John Alexis Guerra Gómez
DUTO S.A. Engineering with a social purpose