Technologies for the Vulnerable
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Anton Muhajir Read : 1095 Date : Sunday, July 10, 2016 - 21:03:10

    Photograph by Anton Muhajir

    Kopernik is the original Polish surname of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. He is considered one of the most famous scientific minds from Poland. Thus, when Polish expatriate Ewa Wojkowska was looking for a name for her nonprofit, she proposed the name to her co-founder and Japanese husband, Toshi Nakamura. “To honor my Polish background, we decided to name our venture Kopernik, the Polish name of this great scientist,” Ewa says.

    Kopernik was founded in 2010 in Bali by the couple, and like its namesake, tries to bring tech to bear on some of the problems of the poor and rural communities in Indonesia. “We want to bring new ideas to solve the poverty problem,” says Ewa. The venture is working on issues such as poverty reduction, education and environment. Prior to co-founding Kopernik, Ewa worked for international organizations including the U.N. and the World Bank. She worked in countries such as Timor Leste, Sierra Leone and Thailand. She met Toshi while both were working at the U.N. Toshi, who holds a masters in comparative politics, also worked for the U.N. in Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, and the U.S.

    This couple’s experience was focused on development issues particularly for rural and vulnerable communities. Inspired by the work of Kopernik, who convinced people that the world was round, they wanted to take a different approach in their philanthropy. “Why don’t we start with proven solutions and let the communities articulate how they want to use the technology to solve their existing problems?” Ewa asks.

    Kopernik has a complicated legal pedigree. First, Kopernik Global is registered in New York as a nonprofit organization. This outfit proves an overall strategic direction for Kopernik group and to mobilize funds for technology distribution worldwide including Indonesia. Second, Kopernik Japan is registered as a general incorporated association with a key role in raising philanthropic funds and raising awareness, and developing consulting and advisory services in Japan.

    The two legal entities in Indonesia are the Kopernik Foundation (as a yayasan) and PT Kopernik. They have different roles. The foundation is a nonprofit organization and the PT is established to support foundation programs. All profits from the PT Kopernik are invested in Yayasan Kopernik. Their combined offices are in Ubud.

    In Kopernik Global, Ewa is chief operating officer and Toshi is the chief executive. In the Kopernik foundation, both are advisors with some prominent board members including Rezal Kusumaatmadja, Tri Mumpuni, Andy Pradjaputra, and Aji Hermawan. They manage 75 staff who work in three provinces in Indonesia: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, East Java and East Nusa Tenggara.

    Kopernik is providing technology for rural people in those three provinces to solve their problems in energy, environment, and water. “Technology is very effective because its impact is tangible,” says Ewa. They started with simple technologies such as water filter called Nazava, a transparent plastic bucket with a water filter. Using this technology, users can pour rainwater, well water or tap water into the water filter and they will have ready to drink water. The price of the water filter is about Rp 260,000 to Rp 350,000—relatively affordable given the savings in water costs. “Using this technology, they do not need to buy drinking water or boil it for their daily consumption,” Ewa says.