Why technology?

 

The technologies needed to feed the world and ensure everyone has access to the basic services required for a reasonable quality of life, largely already exist. Practical Action is working 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. Our definition of technology includes physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment, knowledge and skills and the capacity to organise and use all of these.

For example, almost half the world’s population still cook over open fires. Apart from the physical impact this imposes in terms of fuel collection, the wasted time, and the inefficient burning of wood as a fuel, there is a huge burden on health. A staggering 4 million people - mostly women and children - die each year from the effects of inhaling smoke from traditional cooking stoves in the home. That’s 50 per cent more than the number who die from malaria each year.

Nepalese woman in field with cabbage
 

Electricity may not be the answer to open fires. It may be that a clean, efficient wood burning stove or even one run on LPG, is the solution for a particular community. The important point is that there are many technological solutions to the world’s problems, but they are rarely accessible to the poor and marginalised people who need them the most.

Technology can lift people out of poverty

From working with small farmers, Practical Action recognises that quite simple improvements can often increase production many times over and even create surpluses. Examples of this abound within our projects, whether it’s working with small farmers on potatoes in Peru or maize in Zimbabwe.

We believe that technology has an important role in securing social justice, poverty eradication and the future of our planet. We value and rejoice in its potential for good and are passionate about the difference the right technology can make. We favour technologies that are small and simple over those which are large and complex, and those that are locally managed over those managed remotely or centrally.

At the same time, we welcome technologies, such as the mobile phone, that are developed for a mass, rich nation market but which also work effectively for poor people too. Mobile technology has managed to leapfrog unwieldy, expensive landline telecommunications and bring communication to the most remote parts of the world.

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