Not a tech addict… but when is a tool a technology – or are they the same thing?

I have to confess that, a bit like Adam Hart-Davis, I didn’t find giving up my gadgets too much of a strain – especially at the weekend. I dutifully put my mobile phone away and ignored my laptop. I don’t own a games console. Perhaps I was cheating slightly because I still stuck the radio on and used my electric toothbrush.

The day did make me think about tools and technology. If we gave up all technology for the day, we won’t get out of bed. And maybe we won’t be in bed in the first place (think of the technology in the sprung mattress and micro-fibre, hypo-allergenic duvet!). By mid-morning I was peeling a potato to make lunch, using the fab new peeler I recently bought. The other one used to just take huge chunks out of the veg and then get clogged. As a vegetarian, a decent peeler seemed like a fairly essential tool. But turning this peeler round in my hand I was thinking about the technology and design employed in this simple piece of equipment: the comfortable handle, the super-sharp blade made of the right sort of metal and set at just the right angle to smoothly peel thin strips off my potato.

It’s good to give up our gadgets, but of course, Practical Action’s view of technology is much broader than that. It is about having the right tools for the job: tools which are designed and used in ways which make people’s lives easier, and lift them out of poverty.

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