The tricycle ambulance and the logic of developing within our means.

Innovation does not necessarily have to be sophisticated. As long as it is fit-for-purpose, it should be given a pass mark.

I have seen a lot of mixed reactions towards the newly deployed tricycle ambulances in different states across the country and I must say I am disappointed at the negative responses and backlash this solution has received. Before I move on, I would like to remind us that Nigeria is a third world country and what this means is that we are underdeveloped/developing. We are rated poorly at most things – income per capita, education and literacy, life expectancy, access to electricity & basic amenities, access to clean and potable water, low regard for human life and the goes on and on.

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Tricycle Ambulance deployed by the Ebonyi State Governement.

The tricycle ambulance which shares principal features with Clayton Christensen’s disruptive-innovation model is an example of what is called catalytic innovation. It is a kind of disruptive innovation focused on creating social change. I’ll briefly list the features of solutions that fall under this category of innovations as found here.

 

1. They create systemic social change through scaling and replication.

2. They meet a need that is either over-served (because the existing solution is more complex than many people require) or not served at all.

3. They offer products and services that are simpler and less costly than existing alternatives and may be perceived as having a lower level of performance, but users consider them to be good enough.

4. They generate resources, such as donations, grants, volunteer manpower, or intellectual capital, in ways that are initially unattractive to incumbent competitors

5. They are often ignored, disparaged, or even encouraged by existing players for whom the business model is unprofitable or otherwise unattractive and who therefore avoid or retreat from the market segment.

The tricycle ambulance has most of these features and besides serving rural communities, it would serve the rural and suburban areas of Nigerian cities. It is very easy for some people to criticize the development and ask that we innovate forwards and not backwards (as some have already mentioned) but in my opinion, innovation is not necessarily about sophistication, its about meeting the needs of people in new ways either by building upon something that has been introduced or bringing in something totally new. The result and impact of any innovation is what should be our priority and not the style.

I currently reside in a suburban area of Lagos and work in the rural part of that area so its quite easy for me to resonate with the tricycle ambulance. If the operations are run as they should, they would go a long way in saving many lives that would ordinarily be cut short by the lack of conventional ambulances on four wheels with sirens blowing and of course the unnecessary traffic caused by some of the backward thinking people in my area.

What do you think about the tricycle ambulance?

Do you think you might benefit from it?

Should the tricycle be redesigned and deployed for other inadequate facilities like trash collection, fire service?

 

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