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Appropriate Technology, an Idea for a Better World

Have you heard of Happy Basin which recently drew lots of attention on SNS? Happy Basin was created by two Korean designers, Woo-Sik Kim and Duck-Soo Choi, for kids in Africa who drink unpurified water. This has won the Seoul Design Olympiad in 2009. It inspired many on SNS with its ‘design for the other 90%’.

Today, I’d like to introduce appropriate technology which is enhancing human lives through various technologies and designs.


Happy Basin (Source: yankodesign.com)

The Beginning of Appropriate Technology

Appropriate technology is a technology for people, not capital, and it’s going through continuous global changes and innovation. It was started in the 1960s by the economist Schumacher from Germany. He has created the concept of ‘intermediate technology’ as a result of deep thoughts about the deepening economic gap in the Third World caused by mechanization and automation. This was the beginning of appropriate technology.

Appropriate technology keeps on advancing in diverse fields such as technologies to aid the Third World and alternative technologies for sustainable development. How is appropriate technology helping people’s lives in the Third World, then? Let’s take a look at some cases where this happens.

Q-Drums,making people smile again

A Trifilm Story: The Q-Drum (Source: youtube.com)

As you see from the video clip above, Q-Drum is a drum shaped like the letter ‘Q’. It was devised for kids in the less developed countries who carry water in buckets each and every day. Hans Hendrix, the inventor, says he created Q-Drum after seeing people in Africa walk for dozens of miles to find water.

The biggest strength of the Q-Drum is that you can carry up to 13 gallons of water by rolling it on the ground, and this is a much easier way to carry a large amount of water at once.

Q-Drum, which has high durability, is one of the best examples that shows the principle of appropriate technology: enhancing the quality of people’s lives and aiding for continued production and consumption. Q-Drum is also quite practical in that it’s made of a simple combination of a doughnut shaped drum and a rope. Like this, appropriate technology can make people smile again and change their lives with the simplest and the easiest ideas.

Embrace Infant Warmer, an incubator to save lives
20 million premature babies are born in developing countries each year and they have a very small chance of survival. Hospitals are barely equipped with incubators, and don’t have enough resources to maintain them even if they have them. The designers who were inspired by this fact created the portable incubator with a thermostat for premature babies called Embrace Infant Warmer under six basic principles: portability, low power consumption, intuitive design, hygiene, cultural familiarity, and affordable price.


Embrace Infant Warmer (Source: http://embraceglobal.org/)

As you see from the image above, it works by putting a rechargeable warm pack into the sleeping pack. The PCM (Phase-Change Material) in the warm pack has a substance which minimizes thermal losses and controls heating according to the baby’s body temperature and physical condition. The cheap price (as low as $25) also makes it another great example of appropriate technology with the designers’ noteworthy development philosophy.

As much as their motives matter in the development of these items, their hard work to find the best technology for the given environment is also important. They’re also making an effort to make this new technology blend into people’s lives by creating a distribution and education program to help babies’ healthy emotional development.

PermaNet, a mosquito net to keep healthy
The company called Vestergaard Frandsen which developed Lifestraw, a straw-shaped water purifier, also created PermaNet. PermaNet is a mosquito net for the people in Africa who die of malaria due to the lack of vaccines and proper treatment. It is considered one of the greatest appropriate technologies for the people in need.


PermaNet with top-notch technology applied(Source: www.vestergaard.com)

PermaNet is a more evolved and practical mosquito net since it keeps not only children’s safety from mosquitoes but the fiber itself also kills insects. This insecticide function lasts for four years and over twenty washings, which qualifies it as an appropriate technology for its durability.

Disease control textile company Vestergaard Frandsen's PermaNet mosquito net.

PermaNet (Source: http://www.georginagoodwin.com)

PermaNet is now being used in many countries suffering from malaria such as North Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Haiti, and Ecuador. They’re working on creating a new technology to replace the current insecticide on the fiber, as this not so eco-friendly substance may cause harm to children when they touch it. As long as this problem is taken care of, it may be the key to solving one of the most critical health issues in less developed countries. It already seems quite attractive and appropriate for its ideas and technology.

How are these technologies and designs helping the less developed countries? There’s one person who’s changing the world only with ideas and not any specific technology. Let me introduce Scott Harrison to you, who accomplished his dreams by trying different ways to help.

‘Charity: Water’, The Original Water Marketing ‘Charity: Water’, a Dream Comes True

Scott Harrison used to live in a fancy apartment, working as a marketing expert for night clubs and fashion shows in Manhattan. One day, he felt that he needed to leave where he learned selfishness and miserableness, so he headed to Africa to change his life. Two years later, he came back to New York, and decided to use his talents to help the lives of the poor in the country. This is how he founded the organization, ‘Charity: Water’ and started his campaign.

Charity: Water’s Water Changes Everything (Resource: youtube.com)

This campaign was created to help kids in Africa get clean water by donating the profits from selling water. $20 per one bottle of water you buy will build a well from which one person can drink for 15 years in Africa. The impact of this campaign was substantial, and they raised over $10 million in three years. It also gained magnificent response on SNS, and Scott Harrison became one of the most important people in aiding Africa.

Although it isn’t a more traditional form of appropriate technology, this case still follows its general goal: aiding the less developed countries. Changing the world with an idea and pursuing the goal of coexistence are the core message of his campaign.

We can easily see that these businesses related to appropriate technologies and marketing strategies will keep developing in the future through changes. For these projects to be commercialized, they have to figure out how to combine technologies and designs for better durability and adaptability. Once it’s done, appropriate technology will be utilized in a much broader spectrum based on their new ideas and technologies.

Appropriate Technology toward the Future with Convergence IT

Now that we’ve looked at some cases of appropriate technologies, let’s talk about its future. Appropriate technology is getting ready for the future by converging with IT.


Peek Vision website (Source: www.peekvision.org/index.html#vision)

Although we live in a world filled with edgy technology advancing every day, there are still people who lose their eye sight due to a lack of basic care.

Peak Vision recently created a medical technology in the form of an app which helps people test their eye sight easily using smartphones. This is an appropriate technology for people in poorer regions who end up losing their eye sight because they cannot get proper treatment in time. Once smartphones and the basic education on eye care spread, they’ll be able to provide more extensive care using this technology.

Today, we learned about what appropriate technology means and how it’s used, as well as its purpose and convergence with IT. Appropriate technology is a part of human efforts to reduce the economic gap between the rich and the poor, as Schumacher said for the intermediate technology. If developing appropriate technology means solving the economic gap, the level of this technology can be considered an index which shows the gap between the rich and poor.

Appropriate technologies, even though they have different ways and forms, will keep developing and growing in the future with the advancement of IT. I hope you have a chance to think about the real meaning of appropriate technology.

Written by Ji-In Jung, University reporter for LG CNS

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  • Mariana Nichols

    Great Blog. I think very useful for all people. keep up the great posts! You can also log on Holocube for 3D Advertising.

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