Every few months there seems to be another region somewhere in the world that claims to be the next Silicon Valley. Sometimes the new high-tech hub is hyped up, but other times, it’s evident that there’s something special brewing.
These countries have digitized governments that will put our Healthcare.gov problems to shame, fast broadband Internet speeds beyond comparison, and instead of hookup apps, you’ll see innovations in energy alternatives. These are exactly the reasons why America’s magical tech land should keep its eyes on the countries below.
Wadi, which is solar-powered of course, works like an alternative bottle top. You screw it in place, leave it in the sun (you can measure several bottles at once if they’re close together), and then consult a progress bar on the side. An unhappy smiley indicates bad water. One, two, three, four bars (like on a mobile phone) show water getting cleaner. Finally, when there’s a happy face, you’re good to go.
Walls might be the next frontier for urban farming.
“Micro-organisms like algae are like bacteria—it’s one of those things that in our culture people try to get rid of,” Griffa says. “But algae offer incredible potential because of their very intense photosynthetic activity.” Algae take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen while growing. Compared to a tree, micro-algae are about 150 to 200 times more efficient at sucking carbon out of the air.
For kids in developing world slums, dental hygiene is a real problem. With this cheap gum developed by a team of college students, they might be able to have their candy and clean teeth.
"The thing with gum is that you want it because it’s tasty. The health benefits are almost extra," says one of the gum’s creators, Josh Tycko. "Toothpaste is seen as extra expenditure for long-term dental care that is too far on the horizon to be thinking about when you’re living on a small budget."
Choosing solar power no longer has to be a sacrifice for the sake of the environment. In Germany, Italy, and Spain, installing your own solar panels can now actually save money.
A report released by European renewable energy consulting firm Eclareon shows that solar energy has reached “grid parity.” In other words, over the full lifetime of the equipment, the total cost of owning and operating rooftop solar panels is about the same as buying electricity from the grid.
High-school student Megan Grassell couldn’t find cute, age-appropriate bras for her younger sister, so she made her own. Now her company Yellowberry is being held up as a model of innovation, design, and feminists united against the sexualization of girls.
"At first, … it was hard to get people to take me seriously. I was talking to someone the other day who’s been a great mentor to me, and he said "Megan, when you first came to me with that bra, and you thought you were ready to go, I thought, ‘Who is this high school girl?’"
There’s little need to be wary of a nighttime stroll though a park in Cambridge, England. During the day, particles in the surface of the path absorb UV light. In the evening, they release that energy again. The result is a beautiful effect that its creators call “Starpath.”