Appropriate technology development involves co-creating innovative solutions that are sustainable, affordable and reliable. Towards that end, a set of five design principles is emerging based on the experiences of practitioners working on the ground with communities around the world.
These Design Principles can be found in the ASME Engineering for the BoP Report:
1. Develop appropriate solutions, not technologies
Design “in” developing countries, rather than designing “for” developing countries. Understand the social, political and cultural context of the specific need or problem through a needs assessment. Amy Smith, director of the MIT Development Lab requires all students taking her class to spend a week living on $2 a day to begin to understand the trade-offs that must be made when one has very limited resources.
2. Consider the context
Understanding user needs isn’t just about individuals but also the economic environment, infrastructure and culture in which products and services will be used. Ethan Zuckerman, founder of Global Voices suggests “Don’t fight culture; if people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it.” In addition, the best solutions innovate on existing platforms, rather than importing new systems and technologies.
3. Create transparent technology
Products should be simple to make, to use and to understand. Open source the design whenever possible to encourage continued re-purposing and innovation.
4. Embrace the market
Solutions should be designed for price, not created then priced at cost. For a technology or tool to be truly effective, it must be affordable relative to the local economy. For example, AIDFI, a Philippine non-profit, manufactures a water pump for local villages capable of pushing water from a concrete reservoir up a hill at a 40 degree slope. The basic pump technology isn’t new, but AIDFI enhanced the design by using inexpensive and locally available materials such as door hinges. The bottom line: to reduce costs, remove unnecessary materials and source locally.
5. Design for DIY (Do It Yourself)
The most successful products and designs are those that are co-created with the end users. Involving the community in the design process builds capacity, – not just products. Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Design Group notes “There are geniuses in every village ready to make significant changes to their environment; they just don’t have the access to tools, resources or time.” The end goal should be to build local capacity, skills, knowledge, experience and expertise that allow societies to meet their own needs.Note. In economics, the Bottom of the Pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. At global scale, this is the 2.5 billion people who live on less than US$2.50 per day. In the mountain region of Peru more than 60% of the population belongs to the BoP.
In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, recognizing that “…access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development, which would help to reduce poverty and to improve the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the world’s population.”
General Assembly’s Resolution 65/151 called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize and coordinate activities to be undertaken during the year in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues”, including access to – and sustainability of – affordable energy and energy efficiency at local, national, regional and international levels.
In response, the Secretary-General is undertaking action to support the Year, including his new global initiative – Sustainable Energy for All. Announced to the General Assembly in September 2011, and spearheaded by his High-level Group, the initiative will mobilize action from governments, the private sector, and civil society partners globally. The Secretary-General has set three inter-linked objectives, including universal access to modern energy services, improved rates of energy efficiency, and expanded use of renewable energy sources.
In July 2009, a team of faculty and students of Michigan State University (USA) carried out a series of projects aimed to contribute to overcome the poverty with a sustainable approach in Huamachuco, Peru. This voluntary, not-for-profit, contribution has been very much appreciated by the local people.
One of these projects was focused in the promotion of the solar thermal energy. The team composed by Professor Brian Thompson (Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering), Austin Melcher (Chemical Engineering student) and Matthew Rich (Mechanical Engineering student) designed three solar water heaters. They shared their knowledge with local university students, a mechanical technician and a member of PROANDES, so the heaters were cooperatively built.
PROANDES is a local NGO that promotes the solar energy taking into account the economic and environmental reasons for using this kind of energy in this region of Peru. From the economic point of view, in spite of the recent macroeconomic growth of our country, a large percentage of Peruvians live under the poverty line (less than 2 US$/person/family/day) mainly in the mountain region like Huamachuco and nearby districts, so that the use of a cheap energy source like the solar one is readily justified. Between the environmental considerations is the reduction of deforestation.
These pictures depict the work done:
STUDENTS AT WORK
PRESENTATION AT SAN JOSE SCHOOL
San Jose is a school for children with special needs, the only educational institution of its type in the Huamachuco region. The solar team built and donated one low-cost water heater to ease the hygiene tasks.
A presentation was given for poor people living in the surroundings, explaining them the benefits of using solar energy.
We made a survey to know people´s reaction
INSTALLATION AT THE HOSPITAL OF HUAMACHUCO
This system provides hot water for emergency care. It is working properly.