More than $20 billion dollars is spent on humanitarian relief each year to reach people affected by crisis with basic needs. Humanitarian agencies import items (such as water and sanitation supplies, medical devices and shelter components) through international supply chains rather than sourcing them from local markets. Local businesses are traditionally left out of these trade opportunities, exacerbating the negative impacts of the crisis as they are excluded from the markets they need to recover.
‘Networked local manufacturing’ addresses this challenge by engaging local manufacturing capabilities to make critical relief supplies when and where they are needed. Items made locally can be cheaper, faster and better than imports through expensive and fragile supply chains, helping more people more quickly and more effectively. The Internet of Production is a set of online tools designed to facilitate international aid agencies to source products from local manufacturers through open product design, quality assurance and smart contracting.
In developing countries enveloped in protracted crises and conflicts, the aid market represents a significant share of the economy. If local private sector actors are excluded from accessing this market opportunity it can have a huge negative impact on their ability to sustain through and recover from crises. Alternately, by enabling local makers to engage with this market, the negative impacts of a crisis on businesses can be turned into opportunities for local jobs, growth and recovery.
The opportunity for local businesses extends well beyond humanitarian relief. With the rapid spread of digital manufacturing technologies, localised manufacturing is increasingly able to complement globalised manufacturing and match its level of complexity, while meeting local demand with local supply. The Internet of Production is helping to transform the paradigm for manufacturing, bringing communities who have traditionally been left out of globalisation into the global economy.