Technology justice

A sustainable world free of poverty and injustice in which technology is used for the benefit of all

We believe that technology justice is essential to achieving development and sustainable wellbeing for all. That’s why Technology Justice is at the heart of all our work.

Technologies that can ensure everyone has access to the basic services needed for a reasonable quality of life already exist. Yet access to these technologies and services is far from universal, particularly in developing countries. For example 1.3 billion people still have no access to safe water; and 2.5 billion people live without sanitation. These shocking statistics represent a massive failure to disseminate technologies to those that can most benefit from them.  They also represent a massive failure to focus technological research and innovation on things that really matter.

Today’s technological innovation is far more likely to be aimed at enhancing the lifestyles of the populations of Europe and North America and wealthy consumers in developing countries, than it is at meeting the needs of those living in poverty. For example, although 70 per cent of the world is fed by small-scale farmers, agricultural research and development predominantly focuses on the needs of large-scale input-intensive commercial farmers that produce just 30 per cent of our food.

Technology innovation and dissemination also overwhelmingly prioritises the aspirations of today’s generation over those of future generations. Our addiction to fossil fuel based technologies will leave a very difficult legacy of climate change to our children and grandchildren, which may well limit their ability to live the lives they aspire to.

Practical Action wants to lead a change in the way the world approaches and governs technologies, to overcome the injustices to create a world with Technology Justice.

Technology justice

Technology enables people to achieve well-being with less effort and drudgery, or at lower cost and with fewer resources. Yet, millions of people can’t access the technologies they need to meet their basic need.

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We work directly with communities to help them achieve technology justice.

Accessing existing technology

We work with communities to install renewable energy technologies, using natural resources such as water, wind, sun and waste, which are available in even the smallest or remote communities.

Innovation to meet basic needs

People in informal settlements in Bangladesh can now also enjoy basic sanitation technology. We developed a small pump to empty pit latrines and carry waste around the tiny streets.

Ensuring sustainability

Small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe can now access technological information by podcast. This helps them increase crop production with minimal chemical inputs, preserving the soil for future generations.

Our approach improves people’s well-being, respects indigenous knowledge, ensures peoples’ involvement in decision-making; builds technological skills and is sustainable.

We share knowledge to help poor people, practitioners and policy makers act in the interests of technology justice.

Our Practical Answers team works to get technical information, learned from our decades of programme experience, as well as the experience of others, to as many people as possible through our website, call centres, resource centres and knowledge nodes in the countries in which we work. This information is a vital tool in the fight for technology justice as it enables people to assess the best technical options to meet their needs.

Practical Action Publishing also contributes to overcoming technology injustice by sharing knowledge. The books and journals we publish build the skills and capabilities of researchers and practitioners in developing countries.

We are engaging in national and international debates to embed technology justice in technology and development policy and practice.

In the countries where we work: We build the skills and confidence of poor people to participate in local and national policy making and planning. Using evidence from our programmes and experiences we help poor people to advocate for changes to policy that will help them, and others, access or innovate the technologies they need.

Influencing international development and technology debates: We use the evidence from our programme experiences to inform development and technology debates.  We work to raise the profile of technology in development debates (particularly in our core areas of agriculture, energy, Disaster Risk Reduction and urban services) and to broaden the focus of technology debates to consider the needs of the developing world. We are advocating for an enhanced role for science and technology in the UN sustainable development goals, in order to drive different and more sustainable development pathways.

Creating public dialogue about technology justice: We are developing new alliances with others who share our vision of technology justice, and seeking to influence key actors in national and international technology systems.  Our strategic media work and public engagement aims to create public debate and challenge perceptions and use of technology. Our work with schools and universities is challenging future scientists, innovators, development practitioners and technology consumers to consider the impact of their technology choices, needs and wants.

Find out the latest on our Technology Justice work

Practical Action is facilitating a year-long initiative to collaboratively explore technology justice. We are convening a global series of expert discussions to build a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities for dissemination, innovation and use of technologies for social and environmental good.

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Beyond the Millennium Development Goals

Discussions around the post-2015 agenda present a unique opportunity to create a new paradigm that harnesses the growing political will and civil society support for sustainable and inclusive development. If the Sustainable Development Goals are approached with voices of the poor at their core then they can create pathways out of poverty that will bring about material and relational wellbeing for everyone. In this document, Practical Action outlines some of the key areas that we believe should inform this change.

or view Beyond the Millennium Development Goals as a web page

Technology Justice

This paper describes our policy work on technology justice. It explains why we are working on this issue, outlines our aims and approaches, and sets out our recommendations.

Justicia Tecnológica

Este documento describe nuestro trabajo en el tema de justicia tecnológica y explica por qué trabajamos en este tema. Asimismo, define nuestros objetivos y enfoques, y establece nuestras recomendaciones. (Spanish version of our paper describing our policy work on technology justice.)

Read more about technology justice and how it informs our work in Practical Action's "narrative" - what we do, why we do it and the values we believe in.


Practical Action: our story

This is a story of two billion people living in poverty - and what we can do to help change their lives forever. This is the 20 page version of Practical Action's "narrative" - who we are and the values that inform our work.

  • English,
  • policy

Practical Action: our story (2 page version)

This is a story of 2 billion people living in poverty - and what we can do to help change their lives forever. This is the two-page version of Practical Action's "narrative" - who we are and the values that inform our work. A longer 20-page version is also available.

  • English,
  • introductory leaflet

Video: Practical Action's former chief executive Simon Trace explains what technology justice means | Transcript of Simon Trace's talk

Scaling up, technology justice and wellbeing: Simon Trace continues this theme in his talk at Supporters Day 2012

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