How do you make technology appropriate?

Appropriate technology stemmed from the work of our founder EF Schumacher and Practical Action continues to use appropriate technology for practical answers to poverty. To celebrate our founder's centenary I wanted to open this discussion, especially after a visit to Kenya where I came across examples of technologies that had been implemented to help poor people but had failed because they were not 'appropriate'.

Comments

1 | 2 | 3 Most Recent
  • Reply

    Gemma Hume said:

    said:
    How do you make technology appropriate? Appropriate technology stemmed from the work of our founder EF Schumacher and Practical Action continues to use appropriate technology for practical answers to poverty. To celebrate our founder's centenary I wanted to open this discussion, especially after a visit to Kenya where I came across examples of technologies that had been implemented to help poor people but had failed because they were not 'appropriate'.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Ewan Bloomfield said:

    said:
    I think maybe the most appropriate technology is something that people can make themselves, cheaply, and which they can then use to improve their lives. If this is not possible then they should be able to buy it locally, providing it's affordable, and then be able to get it repaired locally if it breaks. It should be safe to use and not damaging to the environment and fit into the local context where it's being used.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Ellie Hopkins said:

    said:
    Via LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/ouOa3K) Margaret G says: Key to appropriate technology are local systems that allow for maintenance, community engagement and ownership. For example a couple of years ago Practical Action was asked to rehabilitate bore holes and water pumps in Zimbabwe in response to the terrible cholera epidemic. We asked the donor to include in the contract training for local communities on maintenance so that the bore holes and pumps didn’t again fall into disrepair. The donor refused their impetus was just to get as many out as possible in response to the crisis. You can understand where they were coming from but even so the approach was wrong. Practical Action put what we could of our own money in to provide this training and community engagement alongside the work paid for by the donor. If solution are to be truly sustainable and if people are to feel empowered rather than receiving a ‘gift from the heavens’ they need to be involved and have ownership. People cannot and should not be passive subjects of development they need to be actively engaged. People participating in decisions and taking control of their own development is a thread that weaves through all of Practical Actions work.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    David Grimshaw said:

    said:
    Appropriate technology is best developed in a collaborative process of adaptation to local needs. In this way it can enhance human capabilities and lead to a better life.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Eddie Matos said:

    said:
    Following on from Ewan Bloomfield, in my opinion a piece of technology takes a good step towards becoming "appropriate" if the beneficiaries it is intended for can *afford* it, without subsidies and without external help of any sort; except maybe a micro-loan (a technology with high capital cost is not necessarily unaffordable). From there, whether the technology is appropriate of not can be determined by the beneficiaries (consumers?) themselves. Yes, its rapidly becoming a bit of a cliché to talk about the invisible hand of capitalism in a development context, and it has many fair criticisms - particularly in the current economic climate - but I still feel that the main criteria for appropriate technology design should be *affordability*. The rest can be determined through iterations between the consumers and the designers/investors. I feel this particularly strongly for all technologies unrelated to health and education, which have a far more difficult business case!
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Sara-Jane Brown said:

    said:
    I remember that following the Sri Lankan Sunami boats were donated to the thousands of fishermen who lost their livelihoods. Those boats were barely used because they required gas to run and the fisherman didn't have access to the gas or the money to pay for it. In addition the fisherman didn't have the tools to fix the boats. Practical Action talked to the fishermen, found out about their needs and what they wanted, then enabled them to rebuild their lives. Helping to repair and refit boat yards, and train and equip local people to rebuild the boats: http://practicalaction.org/post-tsunami-reconstruction. This is how I think you make technology appropriate - talk directly to the people who will benefit, give them help they need in terms of equipment, training and expertise and then support them to lever themselves out of poverty through the technology.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Ellie Hopkins said:

    said:
    I think it's also about learning from mistakes. The crisis we're currently seeing in East Africa for example, isn't new, so what went wrong the first time around? For example, on a recent visit to some of the worst hit areas of Kenya, Practical Action staff found people feeding the food aid to their cattle to keep them alive (http://bit.ly/qA0Yss). If we don't learn lessons from the past we'll never make technology appropriate.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Matt Williams said:

    said:
    Via LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/oPjVqQ) Simon Ewing says: I've lived in Malawi for a few years- this is a country littered by "good intentions". When I first moved here from the UK I thought , as a engineer, that gadgets could save Africa. I have been slapped in the face by reality. Failed cash-injections, Junk-for-Jesus warehouses filled with inappropriate broken donations, half built schools with no-one using them, perfectly good water pumps removed and replaced by gadgets that the community doesn't want, need and cannot maintain. Appropriate technology is something the average person can obtain and maintain on their own or within a cooperative. Future costs need to be internalised- solar donations are great in rural off-grid areas but in 3 years (or earlier due to no maintenance) who will pay the $800 for new batteries? I doubt the rural poor will be able to= a system is stripped down and sold off for petty cash. Soft Technology (education and organisation) are the priority. Hard technology (machines, gadgets, methods) are to be given with caution, and always in partnership with the Soft tools. Income generation tools and training are very appropriate. Labour saving devices (hippo rollers, solar water pumps(no battery= little maintenance for many years)) are ideal, if prices are manageable. Microfinance tools are invaluable to allow the poor to afford bigger items and technology. The cellphone is very appropriate- cheap, long lasting and revolutionising farming and social communities. The best ideas are not found in a forum like this (which is great for us to bounce ideas around in) but they come from the farmer in the field, the kid who's failed their exams again, the Pastor who cannot read his bible etc. It is these we should debate with. I'm excited by this discussion!
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Sam Williamson said:

    said:
    Appropriate technology surely depends on the situation. If you live in an area with good supply chain, cash economy and skilled people then the solution in this location will be completely different to an inaccessible area on a subsistence lifestyle. There are many examples, such as Margaret's and Sara's, where needs of the situation are not thought about and so the most appropriate solution is not chosen.
    on 7/9/11
  • Reply

    Tim Parkinson said:

    said:
    Quote from Schumacher's 1961 paper to the Gandhian Institute of Studies defining his concept of Intermediate Technology : "Find out what they are doing and help them do it better. Study their needs and help them help themselves." While this extract may be suitable for today's Twitter style communication Schumacher placed IT squarely in the arena of interactions between Poverty, Maldevelopment and Political Conflict. Discussion around Appropriate Technology needs to include an acknowledgement of this
    on 7/9/11

Post a Comment