Who and what should we count?

February 25th, 2015

When any new technology comes into a society that deprives or exploits some groups where women are first and victims of this social transformation. It is not a new phenomenon but when we promote this initiative always we forget about human dimension rather attention for more profit making even though that for the high cost of social instability, exploitation, marginalization and cruel to some people mainly to poor, women and children.

In his recent blog Moklesur Rahman, Manager M& E, Practical Action Bangladesh illustrated some of his findings regarding how women are being exploited and humiliated through mobile technology penetration in rural Bangladesh. Concerns, challenges, opportunities and aspirations were elucidated by the technologists, civil society think tankers and government policy influential in a discussion on Technology Justice.

Our second dialogue on Technology Justice was held in Bangladesh on 13 January. It focused on urban services; energy; food, agriculture and markets and ICT as part of Practical Action’s global campaign. Representatives from universities, government departments, national and international NGOs and the private sector participated in the dialogue.

The dialogue was facilitated by five key questions

  1. Examples of technologies widely accessible, affordable and available to all and also inaccessible to people for basic standard of living
  2. Examples of technology impacting negatively on others (by area)
  3. Extent of funding channeled for research and innovation by areas towards addressing social and environmental needs with difference for public and private investment
  4. Good examples of organizations, people or governments contributing to technology justice
  5. Emerging technology trends in sectors associated by the representatives having potential to enhance human wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Widely accessible technologies

Tube well Bangladesh 1895298% people have access to sanitary latrines but there are some areas which are hard to reach because of geographical constraints like Char, riverine and hilly areas where sustainability of low cost ring slab latrines and shallow tube well are threatened. In the early sixties tube wells were promoted as fundamental source of safe drinking water but this has caused an arsenic problem as both shallow and deep tube wells have been indiscriminately expanded for drinking water as well as for irrigation of high yield rice production.  This has negatively affected ground water levels and raised levels of arsenic in water to intolerable levels in many areas (17% in rural and around 7% households in urban areas are live in arsenic contamination).


Energy supply is urban biased, less than 30% people live there but benefit from high public subsidies.  The majority (70%) of people live in rural areas and are unequal in development planning as they are covered by solar home systems for which they pay high prices comparatively.

Infrastructural development for broadband and high speed connectivity hinders the expansion of ICT employment creation.

Food and agriculture

Concerning markets for food and agriculture, technologies such as chemical inputs for production and preservation are often overused then and pose hazards for human health and the environment. Chemical fertilizers are popular as it is perceived that there is no alternative for high yield production among the farmers, which increases the cost of production, pollutes water and the environment pollution and results in loss of local crops varieties.

Research and development

Research and development are highly dependent on public funding yet private and other corporate financing for technology research and promotion for social transformation is challenging.

A range of institutions were mentioned by participants who promote Technology Justice such as the Bangladesh Rice Research institute, the World Fish Centre and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.


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