Poverty reduction and technology

Technology and women and men living in poverty

In the era of globalization, new technologies are rapidly reshaping the livelihoods and lifestyles of people throughout the world. The pace of technological change is increasing, and is beyond the capacity of society to understand and manage its impacts.

Yet, technical change has the potential to help millions of people in their daily battle to survive. New and improved technologies, which women and men living in poverty can use in ways which are appropriate to their context and needs, can:

  • Expand and improve their livelihood options
  • Increase their productivity and incomes
  • Improve the quality of the goods and services that they use, and
  • Enhance the quality of their lives.

To achieve that potential, women and men living in poverty require improved access to appropriate technologies, and to information and knowledge about technical options. Building on their existing knowledge and skills, they need to be further empowered to develop, adapt, select and use technology to improve their lives.

Practical Action's definition of technology

Practical Action's sees technology as a vital contributor to people's livelihoods. Crucially, our definition of 'technology' includes the physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment, and the associated knowledge and skills, and the capacity to organize and use all of these.

Practical Action's approach

Practical Action works in partnerships at all levels to enable women and men to access new and improved technologies and to make informed choices from the range of technical options available to them. It seeks further to empower women and men to change in their favour the institutions, policy processes, legal standards and development decisions that affect their lives - building from the local to the national and international levels.

Practical Action gains knowledge and experience through practical projects with local partners. We combine our learning with partners with research and best practice around the world. While our practical work is at a local level we aim to maximise our impact on poverty reduction by informing and influencing the national and international practices and policies that affect the lives of women and men living in poverty.

The four key elements to Practical Action's approach are therefore:

  • Working in local and international partnerships
  • Demonstrating practical answers to poverty
  • Increasing the impact of our work by scaling up success
  • Raising awareness and pushing for change

Technology democracy
The 21st century will be dominated by technology - it affects everyone, changes economies and impacts on the environment. Yet, most people have no say in what technologies are developed and for whose benefit. Practical Action is working to involve people more in technology decisions and improve their technology capabilities.

Technology, Poverty and the future of the Developing World, Practical Action seminar September 2001
In a progressive response to the UNDP Human Development Report, "Making new technologies work for human development", Practical Action (then ITDG) held a seminar at Imperial College, London, to debate and explore the critical questions of technology and its implications for development policy.

Technology Transfer and Development August 2002, Johannesburg
Practical Action (then ITDG) presented a session at the Peoples' Global Forum Commission on Science and Technology, which formed part of the formal NGO report to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

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