FAQ

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Who started Kopernik?

Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska founded Kopernik after seeing that life-changing and affordable technologies existed, but they weren’t reaching the people who lived in the ‘last mile’. They wanted to bridge the gap, and left a decade of service with the United Nations to launch Kopernik in 2010.

What does Kopernik mean?

Kopernik, pronounced ko.per.nik is Nicolaus Copernicus’ Polish name. Our namesake changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.

What does Kopernik do?

Kopernik connects simple, life-changing technology with the people who need it the most. We balance a philanthropic and business approach to distributing technology. Our donors fund the upfront costs of introducing technologies and creating micro-business opportunities in remote communities. The money raised from product sales is reinvested in more technology for the last mile.

Where in the world does Kopernik work?

To date, Kopernik has connected technologies with last mile communities in 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean. 

Since our launch we have received an incredible number of technology requests from organisations in the Asia-Pacific. We have found that we have been able to fund projects in the Asia-Pacific the fastest, while it has taken longer for our projects outside of the Asia-Pacific to reach full funding. Reflecting on this, we have decided to phase out of crowdfunding projects outside of the Asia-Pacific during 2013. However, we will continue our Last Mile Consulting activities for corporations, aid agencies and foundations in all regions.

We are committed to best serving the needs of people in the last mile, and ensuring that the money raised through our website is used efficiently and effectively. This shift in crowdfunding focus to Asia will allow us to fully fund more projects faster, meaning that the donations we receive can be put to use sooner, and our life-changing technologies can reach more people most in need.

How does Kopernik know the technology is having a positive impact? How does Kopernik measure its impact?

Rigorous testing, feedback mechanisms and impact assessments are essential to Kopernik’s success, because the technology we distribute must be effective and have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Central to our philosophy: we view the poor communities we work with as our customers and we want them to be satisfied. This means regularly asking for their feedback and rating of the technology, which we then share - be it good, or bad - via our website.

Through our Kopernik Fellows program and partnerships with leading research institutions (including Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Thunderbird School of Management, Keio University and IDE-JETRO), we have collected and analysed data across a significant number of our projects that demonstrates that technology is having a positive impact on people’s lives. Specific results include raising income, saving money on fuel for lighting and cooking, saving time (collecting water or firewood, for example), and improving health by reducing exposure to smoke from inefficient cookstoves and kerosene lighting.

Why technology? And can poor people really afford to pay for this technology?

Simple, innovative technology is life-changing for last mile communities. Clean, fuel-efficient cookstoves lead to a reduction of indoor air pollution and deforestation; solar lights replace the need for dirty and dangerous kerosene. Technology also creates a positive economic impact - for example, saving on fuel expenses or creating opportunities to earn more income.

We overcome supply chain issues by involving local partners, and address sustainability by encouraging local partners to devise locally appropriate pricing and payment mechanisms. This may take the form of:

  • Selling the products at a locally appropriate price, with a locally appropriate payment scheme
  • Product rental
  • Developing a lease to buy system

In certain cases we do distribute technology for free, for example when responding to natural disasters, or supporting public clinics or schools.

Where does Kopernik’s funding come from?

Our funding sources are diverse and come from:

  • Donations made by individuals directly to our projects
  • Funds donated by funding partners such as corporations or foundations
  • Revenue from our Last Mile Consulting service
  • Revenue from technology sales to Kopernik supporters through our online K-Store and our flagship Tech Kiosk in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

Where do Kopernik’s funds go?

Our funding supports projects that connect life-changing technology with people in the last mile, including the upfront cost of the technology and the cost of distributing technology and implementing the project. We are completely transparent about how we spend donor funds and publish an itemised budget on each project page. We are proud to carry the highest Guidestar acknowledgement for transparency - the Guidestar Exchange Gold seal.

How do I partner with Kopernik?

It’s quite a journey to reach the last mile and we need partners to helps us get there:

  • Become a funding or in-kind partner - We partner with corporations, organisations and people who share our passion for serving the last mile.
  • Become a local partner - Local partners know what last mile communities want. We work together to make the right technology available to them.
  • Become a technology producer - We source the best technology designed for the developing world, helping innovative technology producers reach more places.
  • Become a network partner - Our network partners connect us with contacts, resources and new opportunities, in Indonesia and around the world.
  • Become a research partner - We partner with world-class universities and research institutes to assess technology impact and explore new opportunities for reaching the last mile.
  • Engage our consultants - Our experienced consulting team provides professional advisory services to corporations, aid agencies and foundations.

Where can I get technical support for your website?

If you have any problems using our website or making a donation, or would just like to send us feedback, please email us via Contact us form.