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WHAT IS APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY?

Appropriate technology is being mindful of what we're doing and aware of the consequences. Appropriate technology works from the bottom up; it is not an overlay to the situation; it is a genuine grassroots solution to economic needs. In the Industrial World small businesses account for more technological advances in their areas of expertise than government supported researchers or research departments in massive corporations. Third World craftspeople, farmers and other villagers invent, create, and contribute to the technological process of their area much more than outside "experts" do.

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. Not only that, local people can prioritize solutions to save precious funding and labor. Planners and those who want to help others grapple with food and energy problems are wise to include local people in the early stages of project vision. The result is consistency in the carry-through of the work by locals and continued maintenance and interest in the well-being of the project over the long haul.

While grassroots activity is vital in developing appropriate technology, a larger view is definitely called for in understanding how organizations can combine funds and human resources to develop and market technologies. Communication among international aid agencies can greatly enhance efficient use of funds for appropriate technology and a reduction of the "reinventing the wheel" syndrome.

The definition of "Appropriate Technology" changes with each situation. It's not appropriate to install solar modules in a place with very little sun, a wind generator in a place with little or no wind. What's appropriate in a large urban location is very different from what's appropriate in a remote, isolated environment. One quality that remains the same, however, is taking care of things. In each situaton, the essence of AT remains appreciating, helping, caring. Planned obsolescence, throw-away products, poor quality all go against intelligent decision-making and the true spirit of appropriate technology.


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