Other Side of Appropriate Technology
Other Side of Appropriate Technology
  • Reporter Kang Min-seok
  • 승인 2016.09.07 17:24
  • 댓글 0
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Technology allows us to live a comfortable and valuable life. Everything surrounding us including foods, clothings, and shelters cannot function without technology. Technologies surround us, but not every technology helps out our life. Tribes living in Amazon jungle do not need smartphones because they cannot utilize it, as people living in city do not feel the necessity to hunt and slaughter animals. “Appropriate” technology needs to be applied on appropriate situation to improve the quality of life.
Appropriate technology is the technology that considers political, cultural, and environmental condition of a community. It has been first proposed by an economist named Ernst Friedrich Schumacher in 1960s. He argued that “super technologies” from advanced countries are not appropriate for developing countries, and mentioned that developing countries need technologies for a smaller scale of production.
Appropriate technology has been utilized on various fields since it has been introduced. Not only technologies such as Life Straw or Pot Cooler which help the poor strata, but also sustainable development which benefits advanced countries have been researched and developed. However, there also have been crisis and criticisms on the effectiveness and value of appropriate technology.
In 1970s, people started to think that appropriate technology is not as effective as large scale of manufacturing industry for developing countries. Two representative countries that achieved economic progress with rapid pace were South Korea and Taiwan, while appropriate technology was not able to make any successful cases in developing countries including Africa and Southeast Asia.
Also, there were criticisms about the approach to appropriate technology. At the early times of appropriate technology, most of the technologies were focused on humanitarian aspects. Appropriate technology has been recognized as an aid for “poor, deprived” people from “rich, affordable” countries at early times. Appropriate technology was not able to achieve visible progress on neither the society nor the economy of developing countries. Most of the technologies were not highly related to economic growth, and unilaterally provided technology was researched without enough understandings on the conditions of developing countries.
Since these criticisms have been made, appropriate technology started to change its point of view. Researchers started to focus on the effect to market that appropriate technology can create. Paul Polak, the founder of International Development Enterprises (IDE), is one of the people who first started to change the perspective on appropriate technology. He argued that businessmen and researchers need to consider the poor strata as their customers, not pitiful people desperate for help. Socialists including Paul Polak made a huge turn around in appropriate technology in aspects of both the human rights and economy.
These days, social enterprises such as IDE or KickStart and advanced countries including United Kingdom, Germany, and Netherlands are leading the trend of appropriate technology. In 2009, South Korea also became a member of OECD Development Assistance Committee starting to support appropriate technologies. It will be interesting to keep track on the outcomes that appropriate technologies will achieve.