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< prev - next > Social and economic development what is appropriate technology (Printable PDF)
What is appropriate technology?
Practical Action
because they are appropriate to a society's needs and are compatible with its capacities and
resources, but they do not indicate that a society is 'backward'; neither do they hinder economic
development. Development is hindered by external circumstances. Established patterns of power
and control mean that resource-poor people are denied opportunities to build on their skills and
resources, to extend their knowledge, to gain access to alternative, advanced technologies and so
to enhance their economic status and improve their quality of life.
The bulk of development assistance is aimed at achieving large- scale, macro-economic
development, with decisions being made by governments and development agencies on
behalf of, rather than in consultation with, the intended beneficiaries. 'Development' cannot
be imposed, however. If a society is to develop in a manner which is beneficial and
sustainable, it must do so on its own terms, at its own pace.
The people who are the intended beneficiaries of
development programmes must be actively involved in
“If a society is to
defining problems, exploring and understanding ways of
develop in a manner
addressing these, assessing options and identifying
appropriate solutions. This requires that traditional
technologies be treated as the starting point of any
which is beneficial
and sustainable, it
development effort, rather than being viewed as an obstacle, must do so on its
and that development be geared towards building on
indigenous skills, techniques, knowledge and resources,
own terms”
rather than attempting to replace them.
The role of development agencies -national and international, governmental and non-
governmental -must be to facilitate this process by enabling people to make choices which
are appropriate for their own development, rather than imposing choice upon them. This can
be achieved through providing information about alternative technologies, access to
resources, and training in the particular skills required to use and benefit from a technology:
in short, empowering people by making it possible for them to participate in the development
process, rather than remaining excluded from it.
In the debate on technology choice, the key issue is that of
choice rather than technology. When people are involved in
decisions which directly affect their lives they will choose the
course of action which appears most rational: that path which
best suited to their particular needs and most appropriate to
their circumstances. Choice necessitates involvement,
information and access, and is a vital step on the road to
sustainable development. Development results from choice,
choice stems from empowerment, and empowerment arises
through participation.
“The key issue is
that of choice rather
than technology”
References and further reading
Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher, 1973, Vintage Classics
Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy? by Peter Drahos & John
Braithwaite, 2002, Earthscan
Enabling Innovation: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Fostering Technological Change
by Boru Douthwaite, 2002, Zed Books