Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Can Technology End Poverty?

Can Technology End Poverty?

by Susan Davis | 10:00 AM March 22, 2013

If you believe the hype, technology is going to help us end global poverty. Advances have indeed made a huge difference in the lives of the poor, but there's also a healthy amount of skepticism out there. Berkeley researcher Kentaro Toyama has a blog dedicated to calling out naïve or inappropriate uses of information and communication technologies (ICT).

The organization I'm part of, BRAC, is known for going to scale with solutions that are often radically low-tech. We're more likely to scale up birthing kits that cost less than 50 cents apiece than mobile apps that might diagnose disease; more likely to open one-room schools in rented spaces or evenboats, where children sit on the floor and learn to think creatively, than insist that every pupil have Internet access.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments

Yes. Technology can end poverty. Technology advancement should be centered around common man. The technology should be coupled with social justice.

The Challenge today is to harness science to the chariot wheels of progress and to press science as a deliberate tool to serve the basic needs of the common man and contribute to the economic, social, and cultural transformation of the country.

If the benefits of science and technology are to reach the vast majority of our people who live in country side, some serious thinking is called for to develop science to serve the needs of these people. Science must be relevant and percolate to reach these people and involve the people in the process of development. This calls for organisation and management of science and developing science to suit the development of these people.

Innovative Technology

The new awareness – culminating in quest for Innovative Technology has three components : the realization that man’s inner needs are as great as, if not greater than, his outer requirements ; the appreciation of the inadequacy of our institutions for rethinking and the acceptance of the fact that the world is evolving not towards a plurality of civilizations.
The Innovative Technology arises from the new awareness. A prior commitment to enlightened cosmologies is a necessary pre-condition for the development of the Innovative Technology. As such, the Innovative Technology :

• integrates values with knowledge
• replaces linear thinking of old science by the multi-dimensional systems approach ;
• is multi-cultural, that is, it carries different hopes and aspirations for different groups of people ; and
• gives rise to alternative Innovative Technologies.
The Innovative Technology is based on a new concept and is intended for the well-being of men and his habitat. It encourages direct innovation with human needs and environmental imperatives in view. It is unique to people and their culture, it is their technology and will meet only their needs and their requirements.
Three essential ingredients to evolve such Innovative Technology are :
• Mass scientific network: This is basically an extension network covering agriculture and related activities, public health and industry.
• Local problem-solving capability: Formalized groups within rural industries and other production units:
(a) to articulate its demand for additional inputs ;
(b) to establish outward linkages into the national S&T system ; and
© to extend inward linkages into the extension network serving the locality.
Content and Scope of Innovative Technologies
In this field several terms have sprung up and have been indiscriminately used like (a) Intermediate technology or low technology, (b) appropriate technology, and © Innovative Technologies.
(a) Intermediate or Low Technology
Intermediate technology has meant many things to many people as a type of technology which lies in between the primitive technology and sophisticated technology. The concept of intermediate technology comes very near the one propagated by Mahatma Gandhi the Father of our Nation – but this would hardly satisfy our scientists in these countries, who, by training and temperament, are keen on undertaking internationally fashion oriented sophisticated research. Development of intermediate technologies, by and large, has thus remained a programme to be worked at technician’s level.
(b) Appropriate Technology
Appropriate technology is a priori a normative concept which implies that its delimitation can take place only after the norms are decided. These norms change with every shift in time and place. At the advent of Industrial Revolution, technological innovations aimed at diversifying product design and cheapening the production cost for meeting the needs of rapidly expanding consumer market. Appropriateness of technology was considered in terms of profit, with or without a concern for social goals.
© Innovative Technologies
Innovative Technology is defined as development of technologies or production systems, which are not only appropriate to a social situation at a particular point of time, but also is free from the deleterious effects such as alienation or environmental imbalances. It considers the possible social and environmental changes, and this has built-in flexibility to adjust changing needs. Since such technologies would have to be essentially based on the integrated development of the total region, the concept becomes more wide in its economic, social and political perspective. At the scientific level it poses new challenges for the scientists to devise new technologies that are not available anywhere. It compels the scientists to come out to the people and try to understand them, their needs, their environment, their traditional technologies and skills, understand the science behind such skills based on experience and observation, and then evolve new techniques of production to suit their resources and native genius and meet their needs.
The quest for Innovative Technology means many things to many people and they are summarised as below:
To people it may mean
- gainful employment ;
- self-help, and competence to utilize their skills and other resources;
- inculcation of scientific temper : with the association of cultural change, they may turn for help to science rather than to quackery;
- acceleration of development with multiplier effects ; and
- a feeling of adventure and pride in achievement
To the Planners and Policy Makers, it may mean
- a different approach to grass-root planning
- science is used deliberately as a tool for growth and selective changes;
- better utilisation of resources (including wastes);
- more and better distributed employment opportunities with less movement of people ;
- an integrated approach with flexibility of adjustment as per available resources ; and
- maintenance of ecological balances.
Human Resources – Traditional Knowledge and Methods – Great Assets to Developing Countries
Ideas float around in bewildering numbers, and scores of designs, ranging from windmills to the spinning wheel, are available ; papers are circulated stating the wonders of intermediate (not innovative) technology what could be done, why it should be done, what must be done, and how the rural countryside can be changed if intermediate technology is implemented. Experts are called from abroad to tell people this.
In all this talk, there seems to be no place for the ideas generated by farmers, rural artisans. A stand seems to have been taken that this transfer of technology for the socio-economic regeneration of the rural areas is a novelty for country-folk. But rural communities have survived for generations without any help in ideas and materials from outside. They have developed a low-cost technology of their own, suited to their own particular areas. It would be foolish to overlook and take for granted methods used by farmers and artisans. When a ploughshare develops trouble on the field, when a bullock cart breaks down on the road to market, when a house collapses in a storm, the villager uses materials available in the immediate vicinity to solve his problem. It is the scientist who must see these problems as challenges that must be met if there is to be development in rural areas. It is clear that the villagers and scientists will see the problems of the villages quite differently, and it will not always be true that the projects proposed by the scientists will be meaningful to the villages. If projects are imposed on the villagers, they are likely to be skeptical and may well resist rather than co-operate with the programme. Rural Development Schemes, in the broadest sense, requires first a good sociological approach, and as much psychology as scientific knowledge. After all ‘country means people and not soil’.
Problems – People – Solutions
Research, Development and Demonstration projects in developing countries have generated a variety of devices and systems for exploitation – for example, solar cookers, wind battery charges etc. In Innovation theory, this is a classic case of technology push, that is, technical solutions looking for a social application. Technology push innovations might of course be adopted if they happen to satisfy a real demand, or are heavily promoted. Success is much more likely, however if the needs, priorities and demands are studied before attempting to introduce a new technology or system. This is the demand pull approach to innovation.
Often identifying the right problem is difficult rather than finding a possible solution. People are better judges to identify the problems and since they benefit most by the solutions, they can contribute for finding the best solutions.
A novel and innovative scheme is suggested to achieve the above goal.
In developing countries the Government can advertise in the media seeking problems from the people in different disciplines like education, health, energy, industry etc. The problems received can be screened, studied and short-listed by a committee comprising government officials, experts, representatives from N.G.O’s etc. The short-listed problems can be re-advertised seeking solutions from people. The solutions received can be studied in detail and the best solutions given awards. To catch a fish the bait should be attractive enough. As such there should be sizeable incentive so that people can devote their talent and energies for finding solutions. As the saying goes ‘Anything can be done for a Dollar’. In this way the creative potential of the people can be tapped to the full and a thought process will be set in motion in the country. In India a general knowledge programme conducted by a Super Star on TV is a roaring success and children, youth and old-all alike have become addicted to get equipped with general knowledge so that they can try their luck for winning fabulous cash prizes.
The Author has developed Novel solutions and sustainable technologies for the benefits of bottoms billions like Everybody’s Solar Water Heater, Simple Solar Drier, Safe Drinking Water from Solar Disinfection,Energy Conservation in Irrigation pumpsets,Hand operated Battery charger, Multiple Uses of Gas Stove,Pedal operated Washing machine etc.,
Innovation, Invention and creativity are the pillars of progress of any Society / Nation. The greater the participation of people in the developmental activities, the quicker will be the progress. A new approach “Innovative Technology (IT)” deliberately involving people from all walks of life is the need of the hour in identifying the felt needs in the developing countries and finding solutions. Such a technology will contribute to Integrated Development (ID).
It is not the KNOW HOW but SHOW HOW will help the technology promotion and propagation quickly in developing countries.While Science is Universal,Technology is culture specific.
Modernise the Traditional – Traditionalise the Modern. (Commented on March 27, 2013)

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