design human rights

Why the world needs fairer electronics

Earlier this year I wrote about Fairphone, an experiment in producing a fairly traded phone handset. The project includes fair prices paid to those assembling the phone, but also those mining the resources. That latter category is easily overlooked. When the electronics companies are in trouble over their ethics, it is almost always over worker conditions.

A photo series in the National Geographic highlights why we need to pay more attention to the materials behind out electronics too. The Congo has some of the world’s biggest reserves of metals like cobalt and tantalum. Mines are often small scale, unregulated, and sometimes under the control of warlords. Health and safety is non existent, and children work alongside adults.

The photo essay is from photographer Marcus Bleasdale, and is well worth checking out.

congo mine

5 comments

    1. Agreed, and it would help if they were designed with that in mind. I think they will be. If metals prices keep rising they way they have, it will make business sense to recover them from the waste stream and electronics companies will start factoring that in.

      1. Some electronic equipment is designed for long service but it tends to be higher first cost. There are plenty of ten year old Nokia 3310 phones in service still. I have just had to retire Thinkpad X31 computers, also from around 2003, as the software can no longer be updated as the processer is non-PAE. My HP 5100 printer is also still going strong after ten years and has never had to have a service. The trick is never to use paper which has been printed on the other side ie no double-sided, as this gums up the pick-up mechanism.

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