Using Appropriate Technology for Sustainable Economic Development

The goal of Appropriate Technology (AT) is to increase the standard of living for the developing world without requiring excessive resources and to use sustainable materials appropriate to the cultural aspects of the local community. Appropriate Technology is one step beyond the basic concept of sustainable development because it is culturally sensitive and does not impose western technology ideology on developing nations; rather it works within the native concepts and resources to achieve economic development.

Some of the best examples of appropriate technology include addressing basic human needs such as access to clean drinking water and making daily tasks simpler to allow for time and energy to pursue other economic ventures.

A variety of new approaches have recently been developed to solve the problem of contaminated drinking water. One of the simplest inventions is the Life Straw which is a water filter designed to be used by one person and is easily transportable; it removes 99.9% of waterborne bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Another innovative invention is the Hippo Roller Water Project which helps solve the transportation problem of access to water; typically women and children ferry large jugs or barrels of water to their home but with the Hippo Roller large amounts of water can be easily transported by rolling the barrels.

The Hippo Roller is an example of appropriate technology for communities that need to transport water far distances.

Another time consuming labor, especially for women, is food preparation and storage. The Universal Nut Sheller (formerly called the Malian Peanut Sheller) is a simple hand operated tool that can increase the food security of an entire community. The sheller accepts a wide range of nut sizes without adjustment. It is estimated that one Universal Nut Sheller will serve the needs of a village of 2,000 people. The life expectancy of the machine is around 25 years.

The pot-in-pot refrigerator (also known as the zeer pot) is a refrigeration device that does not need electricity. It uses the concept of evaporative cooling that can prolong the shelf life of food, decrease food-related disease, and increase opportunities and profit from food sales due to longer preservation.

Technology, especially electronics, is important to economic development and competing in the modern world. Mobile phones and satellite internet access are appropriate technologies to include because it has a relatively smaller infrastructure footprint than traditional landlines. Low cost computer such as OLPC, Simputer, Asus EE, and others are appropriate for developing counties because of the durability and their use of the native language.

Finally, financial opportunities are a fundamental piece of sustainable development to encourage and maintain economic growth. Microfinance encourages small loans (as little as $20 USD) to small groups or the self-employed in poverty stricken communities to help grow businesses.

Sustainable economic development is a long-term endeavor. In order to keep developing communities from overusing natural resources the use of appropriate technology and those that are sustainable is vital. -KATHY FAIRCHILD

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