Blogs tagged as technology justice

  • Knowledge for Life


    October 13th, 2015

    An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory” EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

    IDDR2015 sm

    Today is the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) a celebration of efforts to reduce disaster risk worldwide. The theme selected by UNISDR is “Knowledge for Life”, to celebrate the contribution of local knowledge to building resilience within communities. But we must not forget that 2015 is a critical year for several other reasons.

    2015 has been a landmark year for global negotiations aimed at placing planetary wellbeing on a sustainable trajectory. In Japan in March, governments met to discuss Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and agreed the Sendai Framework for DRR[1]. In September in New York, the member states of the United Nations (UN) met to agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)[2]. The final mile of the marathon 2015 negotiations will take place in December, when the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to deliver a global climate agreement.

    SDGs

    These processes must recognise the value that local knowledge can make to solve global problems. This is in spite of the fact that many indigenous communities are not responsible for these problems. In a recent special report[3] the causal links between climate change and extreme weather events such as heat waves, record high temperatures and heavy precipitation were documented. Inaction to tackle climate change has resulted in the greatest impact being felt by the poorest and most vulnerable.

    Today, as we examine the potential for indigenous knowledge, it is a good time to recognise the wealth of information often overlooked by established science and especially policy makers. Local indigenous knowledge has taken generations to evolve, respects local carrying capacities and is strongly linked to local culture. As a result it is seldom written down and therefore rarely interfaced with scientific based enquiry. We need to make more of the potential to link indigenous with scientific knowledge and the development of technologies is one crucial area.

    Blog IK diagram

    Transferring existing technologies will not be enough. More systemic, locally designed technologies will be required that respond to local challenges. These must integrate local knowledge and build on traditional skills. Transposing technology from elsewhere can lock in risk. For example infrastructure designed in temperate climates may not work in the tropics, materials will vary and local skills to maintain will differ. Practical Action has worked for 50 years with communities in South America, Africa and South Asia to better understand the development challenges they face, central to this work has been valuing indigenous knowledge through the evolving concept of technology justice.

    • More than 226 million people are affected by disasters every year. Over the last 40 years, most of the 3.3 million deaths caused by disasters occurred in poorer nations.
    • In 2000-2010, over 680,000 people died in earthquakes. Most of these deaths, due to poorly-built buildings, could have been prevented.
    • Only about 4% of official development assistance was invested into pre-event risk management, for every dollar spent on preparedness the returns are considerable.
    • Between 2002 and 2011, there were 4,130 recorded natural hazards, in which more than 1.117 million people perished and a minimum of US$1,195 billion was recorded in losses.

    [1] http://www.preventionweb.net/files/43291_sendaiframeworkfordrren.pdf

    [2] http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/L.1&Lang=E

    [3] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_Full_Report.pdf

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  • Technology Justice reaches Poland


    July 3rd, 2015

    ‘We invited experts on land fill into our school to talk to them about technology justice’

    So said one student from Poland when asked what the action was they took following a science project they did in school.  The project was inspired by their teacher who had been on a teacher training programme Polish 'Make the Link' students run in Poland by the NGO CEO as part of an EC project Practical Action is leading on called Make the Link.  The teacher had used the materials provided as part of the training and given pupils aa starting point of looking at how science can be used to improve lives in the developing as well as the developed world.  Students were encouraged to pursue their own interests and work on a project, a novel approach in Poland. They got very keen on biogas, loved our #techjustice marvellous microbes video

    Projects varied from designing solar phone chargers to drying herbs and building a wind turbine.  Pupils had clearly got really engaged with the project, had taken ownership of it and at the same time learnt a lot about the lives of others. One teachers said ‘ I like that the students really understood the problem.  We saw compassion, empathy, and a side of character of pupils we wouldn’t normally see.’ This was echoed by another teachers who said,  ‘ I think students really changed their approach, we noticed a difference in their way of thinking…that science is about real people’.

    Teachers really felt that the global approach was a huge benefit in helping pupils make connections between their own actions and what happens in the developing world.???????????????????????????????

    ‘Raising global awareness makes students realise some complicated interdependences and know that what we do here has impact on other people in developing countries’

    When asked what feeling they had during the project the students said things like:

    ‘We were surprised in the beginning that our lives are so different to people in Africa.  By doing this project we not only learnt how to make solar power but found out what life is like in another place’. Hubert (15 year old boy)

    ‘We were surprised that some people don’t have basic things like toilets.  We complain a lot about a lot of things but really we don’t have a lot to complain about. It has made us want to find solutions’ Justyna (14 year old girl)

    The students had all come together to share their projects with each other.  First at a small gathering organised by our Polish partners CEO to gain information for a publication on good practice, then to attend a much bigger event where over 200 schools in Poland set up stands to share their work with pupils , teachers and people from industry.

    The ‘killer’ quote for me that showed the real impact of the great work in Poland was from Patryja, 15.  When an evaluator asked him ‘what does technology justice mean to you?, he replied:

    ‘Technology justice means that in other countries people don’t have the  technology we have that they still need.  This made us ask…why?  It bothered us as in our opinion is not fair. The conclusion was that we respect more what we have, and want to try and help others get what they need.’

    If that doesn’t demonstrate the impact of our work on the future generation I don’t know what does!!

    To view materials ( but in English) that inspired these students go to www.practicalaction.org/schools

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  • Will agroecology, smallholder farmers and technology justice be adequately considered in Bonn?


    June 5th, 2015

    Climate Change is a recognised threat to global agriculture and places in jeopardy the wellbeing of the poorest people whose fragile livelihoods are primarily dependent on agricultural production. Millions of farmers own less than one hectare of land, live on less than $1 a day and struggle to produce enough to feed their families, these are the people on the frontline when famine strikes. The fragility of their livelihoods will increase if serious climate action isn’t taken.

    farmer

    Pramila Bote age 28 making organic pesticide

    At the Bonn climate change talks the UNFCCC secretariat must be congratulated for dedicating time to discuss the climate change threat to global agriculture. The secretariat organised a series of workshops at which parties were asked to present on a number of critical agricultural issues, this blog reports on the first of these workshops, which explored forecasting and early warning systems highlighting progress and outstanding challenges.

    Overall the workshop reflected the current state of play, with developed countries presenting fairly coherent approaches that linked meteorological services, with extension advisors, policymakers and most importantly farmers and others whose livelihoods are dependent on primary production.  Unfortunately the developing countries struggled to report on more than a few isolated pilot projects[1].

    The workshop clearly recognised the immense benefits that forecasting and early warning systems can deliver, unfortunately very few farmers in the developing world are receiving these benefits and their productivity is therefore compromised. These countries recognised a number of almost universally barriers to these systems, which included issues of compatibility of existing software and hardware designed for a developed country context and the need for technology transfer and supportive financing.  They recognised their huge limitations in technical capacity, especially human capacities to install, maintain and manage these systems. They also highlighted the need for systems that deliver useful and meaningful information for local farmers. This will require an interface that can support local languages and indigenous knowledge, linking science to local systems and making forecast and early warning information usable for local people.

    Interestingly at the same time on the other side of the world the ICT for Agriculture community (#ICTforAg and #ICT4Ag) were discussing the role of technology.  It was reported that agricultural yields can be boosted by access to up to date information, about markets price, short term weather information and longer term seasonal forecasts, with a 11% increase reported for text messaging[2], however when this information was provided as recorded messages the productivity benefits jumped to 26%[3].  This clearly demonstrates the need not only for information but for information in a form that can be acted upon.

    So let’s hope the Paris Climate agreement to be signed at COP21 recognises the potential of forecasting and early warning systems and puts in place effective mechanisms for technology transfer, not just handing out bespoke systems, but also how to work with developing country partners to develop appropriate systems that meet local needs. Technology transfer will also require financing, it’s not fair to only hand out technology, it is vital to support countries to develop and adapt systems which meet their particular needs.  In the spirit of technology justice, sharing knowledge and finance will empower developing countries to design systems that build on their existing skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions that reduce the fragility of the poorest and most vulnerable, those on the frontline when natural hazards strike.

    [1]http://unfccc.int/land_use_and_climate_change/agriculture/workshop/8935.php

    [2] https://twitter.com/wayan_vota/status/606105520966148096

    [3] https://twitter.com/wayan_vota/status/606105990652674048

    The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

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  • Turning cow poo into electricity


    April 6th, 2015

    It was drizzling when we drove to the biogas electrification project site. Going through the maze of roads, it took us 45 minutes from Narayanghat, the main market in the Chitwan district, to reach there.

    Chitwan, in the southern plains in Nepal, is home not only to the magnificent royal Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceroses but also a happening trade hub. Regarded as the country’s poultry capital, with the establishment of Nepal’s largest milk industry, Chitwan is seeing a wave of innovation in agriculture sector.

    Adding to the list of innovations is the biogas electrification project being run at the Livestock Development Resource Centre of the Annapurna Dairy Producers’ Cooperative (ADPC). The project, supported by Practical Action, boasts of being the first in Nepal to generate electricity for commercial use from biogas.

    A small scale study on bio-electrification through agricultural and livestock waste was carried out by students of Kathmandu University earlier, producing electricity to light 9 LED lights, each of 5 W.

    When I reached the site, Bodh Raj Pathak, the vice-president of the cooperative, drenched in the rain, was waiting for me to show the centre.

    The first thing he did was to switch on the system. He then one by one switched on the bulbs and fans. For a technology loving person like me, it was a real pleasure – all were working as if they were running from regular electricity.

    The gas generated from the dung of 85 cows is enough to generate electricity that can run a generator of 5kW load continuously for 8-9 hours, according to Pathak. Few months ago the centre had more than 100 cows. Some of the cows were sold to the community people on demand.

    The cows at the Dairy produce a trailer of cow dung daily that goes into the digester for biogas generation. There are two inlets and two outlets.

    “Currently, only one inlet is being used and it works for 8-9 hours,” said Pathak. “If both the inlets operate, it will produce electricity for 16 hours.”

    The process is simple – the dung, urine and water are mixed into a concoction. The mixture is then fed through the inlet to the chamber. The gas generated is passed through a filter to get rid of the precipitates and then to the generator that produces electricity.

    Right now the Dairy is using the electricity for light bulbs, fans, water pump and a chaff cutter. The gas is also being used to cook food for six staff at the Dairy.

    The Dairy has plans to utilise the biogas for pasteurisation of milk. Right now it is saving Rs. 30,000 – 35,000 rupees per month in fuelwood. After the full utilisation, the Dairy will save around Rs 100,000 (USD 1000) per month.

    However, the slurry, a precious fertiliser has not been well managed. It was left to dry in the open. Pathak told me that they have plans to dry the slurry and package it as organic fertiliser.

    Looking at the outputs of the pilot project, the prospects are promising in spite of the dismal data of electricity contributing to the total energy consumption and use of biogas in Nepal.

    According to the Water Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) Energy Sector Report 2010, electricity contributes only 2% to the total energy consumption by fuel types in Nepal. As per Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, the government apex body for the development and promotion of renewable energy, there are more than 300,000 biogas plants in Nepal.

    In Nepal, cooking and lighting are the main purposes biogas has been mainly used for, amounting to 80% and 20% respectively. The successful biogas electrification in Chitwan has opened doors for using biogas to produce electricity and scaling up the technology at the cooperatives throughout Nepal.

    While 1.3 billion people are still living in darkness with no access to electricity and 2.7 billion still cook over open fires, replication of innovations like biogas electrification will help us move from a state of technology injustice, to find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the technologies they need for the most basic of services.

    With technical details from Ganesh R Sinkemana

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  • Communities live with dignity after ODF declaration


    March 26th, 2015

    It sounds simple to people who have access to basic sanitation facilities. But a technology as simple as a pit latrine is a subject of luxury for a lot of people. It is an alarming fact that even today, more than half of Nepal’s population defecate in open. The trends are changing gradually and the people living in urban areas have fancy bathrooms in their homes, but there still are a huge number of people who do not have access to this very basic facility.

    Only six months ago, people from 197 households in Balapur in Gulariya Municipality-6, Bardiya District of Nepal defecated in open. In a community comprising of total 274 households, only 50 had biogas toilets. Kali Prasad Chaudhary, the Chair of Ward Citizen Forum, recalls the situation caused by regular floods sweeping away limited temporary toilets, lack of awareness and habit of open defecation.

    There were a number of organisations implementing different projects in this community but sanitation was given the least priority. Chaudhary shares, “When a guest would arrive in the community, it used to be an embarrassing situation if they were not used to defecating in open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children and elderly people. Instead of getting to know the actual reason behind people would blame God if somebody died.”

    But things have changed for better for this community. At this stage, five communities of Balapur have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 247 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing toilets at their homes.

    Indira Chaudhary (34) one of the community member says, “I learned about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of environment and exposing other people to risks. I find it very convenient to use a toilet instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity.” Her five member family is very happy to have a bio-gas toilet installed at their home.

    This change became possible in the community after, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya municipality including other INGOs with an objective to declare an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with an innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.

    Indira Chaudhary  cleaning up her toilet

    Indira Chaudhary cleaning up her toilet

    According to Kali Prasad Chaudhary, “Among all these initiatives, the video documentary and street drama shows on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) were found to be effective in touching the hearts of community people.”

    Likewise, Ram Prasad Chaudhary from Gulariya Municipality opines, “In accordance with the national target on sanitation, Gulariya Municipality has committed to achieve ODF in the municipality by 2015. To make this mission a success, we have started provision of sanitation card.” He claimed that the success of ODF declaration in Balapur was due to the sanitation card.

    The understanding of Sabitra Gautam, President of W WASH CC (Ward WASH Coordination Committee) is different than that others. She claimed that bal hath and stri hath (recurring pressure from children and female respectively) played crucial role to success the mission. From her statement, it is clear that there was repeated effort of children and female to construct toilets.

    “Now, we are living with pride and dignity due to improved sanitation facilities in the community,” said Kali Prasad Chaudhary. “It is not easy for poor families from indigenous groups to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be done for free in the fields. Balapur people thank Gulariya Municipality, Practical Action, UN Habitat, ENPHO, W WASH CC and all involved TLOs for their tireless effort to make this happen and succeeding in declaring entire Balapur community Open Defecation Free (ODF).”

    UK AIDIt was not possible from a little effort to construct all the toilets (197) within a short period of time. The joint effort of community people, local institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF target made the mission possible and thus, the people from Balapur could have access to this basic sanitation facility. The importance of such thing a lot of times gets overlooked, but access to technologies like a simple toilet helps people to build a life pride and dignity.

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  • A step towards a JUST world


    March 22nd, 2015

    A proper toilet, water supply and electricity – these are some basic necessities of our lives. What can be more inconvenient than not having a toilet around when you need it? Imagine waking up every day not knowing how you would manage to collect the water required for the day! It might be hard for us to even imagine, but it is a reality that too many people are living every day. While the technologies have advanced to the level where we have self-cleaning high-tech toilets; it is estimated that worldwide 2.6 billion have no access to sanitation and 1.3 billion to safe water. The world sure in an unjust place.

    Compost-toilet-in-NepalThe people of Shreeramnagar, a slum settlement at Butwal – 4, Rupendehi district of Nepal are a part of that 1.3 Billion. Water crisis is a part of their lives. They have to go to the neighbouring localities to collect water, which is a time consuming and tiring work. The settlement is not recognised by the government which does not support any development of infrastructures in the community so the people have nowhere to turn to seek help. But the people of the community – had had enough of this injustice and took charge to solve their own problem.

    “We didn’t know how to tackle this problem,” says Narayan Lal Ghimere, a local resident. “But now, we are able to come up with a solution after we got training from ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ project. After the training, we have formed a committee to address different kinds of problems existing in our community. With the involvement of community people, we decided that we need to construct a water tank with a huge storage capacity for the equal and uninterrupted water supply in our locality,” he further adds.

    They have formed a committee for the construction of the water tank to carry forward the work effectively and make the whole process participatory. The initiation was led by the community themselves with little support from the project. Everything from the planning stage was discussed and decided by the community.

    A member of the working committee, Sabitra Devi Panthi says, “We were able to learn a lot of things and got inspired to take the initiatives ourselves, after the training provided by the project. So, we made a collective decision to construct the water tank. We were motivated because we received 75 per cent of the construction cost from the project and the rest we collected amongst ourselves. Those who couldn’t pay the required amount, volunteered for the labour work to make up for it.”

    Now, the construction is complete, and people of this community have for the first time in their lives, access to clean water. “We did a grand inauguration of the water tank and water supply lines. It was such a proud movement for the whole community. The regular water supply has made our lives so much easier and our locality is cleaner now. It more beneficial to housewives like us, who had to spend a lot of time fetching water, now we are able to use the saved time in other productive activities,” adds Sabitra.

    She further says, “I did not know that having a water supply could change our lives so much. It has improved our health as well as economic activities. It feels like a privilege to have water supply in our own homes; construction of the water tank is such a huge achievement for us!”

    It sure is a happy moment for the people of Shreeramnagar community; but having a water supply should not be a matter of privilege and so much of hard work – it should be available and accessible to all; irrespective of their location and economic background. But of course, it is not so. Hence, when we talk about these simple basic technologies, it never is as simple as it sounds. A simple thing as a water supply can change people’s lives in too many ways. It saves time for the women who can invest it in income generating activities or in taking proper care of their children. It helps to stay cleaner and healthier. It helps to make human life dignified. It helps to fill the gap of technology injustice and make this world a bit more just place.

    So a water tank is not JUST a water tank but a step ahead towards a JUST world.

     

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  • Mobiles for Development: Virtual Reality, or Reality?


    March 10th, 2015
    women-in-bolivia-using-mobile-phones

    Women in Bolivia use feature phones to access market information

    Mobile phones, smartphone apps, mobile internet connectivity and mobile payments are frequently touted as silver bullets in the fight against poverty. Through a combination of frugal innovation and disruptive business models, mobile phones have become increasingly affordable and accessible to an ever-widening customer base. They are often considered ubiquitous among even very poor communities by designers and development practitioners, with statistics suggesting access to mobile phones across developing countries to be at 51%. (more…)

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  • Bill & Melinda open the Gates to data


    January 7th, 2015

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a new Open Access policy for all material published from work it has funded, as of January 2015. This is a huge step by one of the largest development funders in the world and it could pave the way for others to follow suit. (more…)

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  • The Injustice of Research and Development


    November 5th, 2014

    There are many great challenges facing the world in the coming years, from climate change to feeding and housing a rapidly growing population. Yet the direction of the research, innovation and development efforts globally are acutely failing to meet the needs of billions of poor and disadvantaged people. Even worse is that even the research which is specifically targeted towards addressing these global challenges is based on a flawed system of ‘technology transfer’, rather than locally developed appropriate solutions. (more…)

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  • Technology Justice Global Dialogue @ Small Is…


    October 7th, 2014

    Open source approaches to research, development and design are becoming increasingly popular, whether it is crowd-sourcing designs for rainwater storage systems or creating bespoke software for the Raspberry Pi. These more open approaches to technological innovation could help create more equitable Technology Justice for the poorest and most marginalised societies worldwide, working to meet the needs of these communities. (more…)

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