WomEng Kenya: Appropriate Technology
Appropriate technology refers to technology that is suitable to the social and economic conditions of the geographic area in which it is to be applied, is environmentally sound, and promotes self-sufficiency on the part of those using it.
It also refers to being mindful of what we are doing and aware of the consequences. The idea of appropriate technology is that local people, struggling on a daily basis with their needs, understand those needs better than anyone and can therefore suggest or in fact, invent the technological innovations necessary to meet those needs. It is designed to be "appropriate" or suitable to the context of its use.
The definition of "Appropriate Technology" changes with each situation. For example, it is not fitting to install solar modules in a place with very little sun or a wind generator in a place with little or no wind. What is suitable in a large urban location is very different from what would be suitable in a remote and isolated environment. One quality that remains the same, however, is taking care of things. In each situaton, the essence of Appropriate Technology remains appreciating, helping,caring and improving.
It's principal aims include to:
- Improve the quality of life;
- Maximize use of renewable resources; and
- Create job opportunities for the people in that society and/or country.
The solution chosen should employ local skills, materials and resources, be compatible with local culture and practices, and satisfy local wishes and needs.
To be effective in practice, an appropriate technology needs to :
- Be easy to maintain,
- Be effective for many people,
- Have a wide impact,
- Be affordable and
- Be environmentally friendly.
Appropriate technology emphasizes the use of renewable resources, like the energy from the sun, wind, or water. These energy sources are available almost everywhere and need only the right technology to capture them. Unlike burning coal and oil, these local energy sources do not contribute to air and water pollution and they do not need to be transported over long distances. Food, energy, water, and waste disposal are also handled locally by ecological systems. These are systems that conserve resources by recycling organic nutrients back into the soil and re-using manufactured goods in innovative ways. Thus, appropriate technology makes it possible to satisfy our basic human needs while minimizing our impact on the environment.
The term appropriate technology is typically used in two contexts:
- The most effective technology to address the needs of developing areas,
- Socially and environmentally acceptable technologies in industrialized nations.
Appropriate Technology reflects an approach to technological development,characterized by creative and sound engineering, that recognizes the social,environmental, political, economic, and technical aspects of a proposed technological solution to a problem facing a society.
Generally, appropriate technologies are smaller-scale technologies that are ecologically and socially benign, affordable, and often powered by renewable energy. The field is an interdisciplinary one drawing from the physical and social sciences as well as from engineering, architecture, and technology.
Areas of interest include energy conversion systems, waste and water management, community and shelter design, technology assessment, small-scale production systems, and technology transfer.
Appropriate technology is small-scale technology. It is simple enough that people can manage it directly and on a local level. Appropriate technology makes use of skills and technology that are available in a local community to supply basic human needs, such as gas and electricity, water, food, and waste disposal.
The goal of appropriate technology is to increase the standard of living for the developing world without any , condescension, complication, or environmental damage. Typical appropriate technology inventions are more labor intensive,require fewer resources, and use low cost or readily available materials wherever possible. Special attention is paid to the social, cultural, and ethical aspects of the communities the technology is intended for.