It's not software development, but Lisa Hoover at Ostatic has a story about a project called the Open Source Washing Machine Project that's trying to provide eco-friendly washing machines to under-developed regions.
"What can you make with a bicycle tire, some bamboo, and an old electric motor from a photocopier? If you're three clever art students from France, you'll make a solar-powered clothes washer," Hoover said.
On the surface, she said that the project seemed pretty straightforward. Simply whip up some plans for a do-it-yourself washing machine and freely distribute them to anyone who needs them.
But things got complicated quickly.
"We had to rethink the economical, sociological and technical concepts of washing clothes in a consciousness of sustainable development and respect of the natural and human environment. We had to rethink the implication of technology in simple daylife, through the millenary painful activity of washing clothes," according to the project's Web site.