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Technology within poverty


This paper is about the opportunity to work on the problem of poverty and environment from the concept of technology. The usual point of view on the role of technology within poverty and the environment are expected to be well known. The foundation Demotech supports in this issue in general the policy paper of mister G. Pronk, minister of development cooperation: "A world of difference".

Modern technology as a solution for poverty
A solution based on the contemporary modern technology seems possible, but is not. The cost of introducing and establishing modern technology is so gigantic, that it is not to be realized under the denominator: "Development and/or environmental policy". This is dramatically demonstrated by a rich country as Germany that it finds it hard to integrate eastern Germany, relatively well developed, into her economy.
What is economically feasible – and for that reason actually happens – is economic growth in some regions (f.e. in South East Asia and Latin America). However, is this case, the accelerated detioriation of the environment, is accepted just as well the existance of an "underclass". This is now a normal part of the modern economy, even though it relates to the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people. How they have to survive is well known from TV broadcasts about street kids and ghetto riots.

Surprisingly there is a consensus between the rich and the poor on what has to be strived after for the near future: more of what the rich already have obtained and the mechanism of the free market will serve this purpose.

A political/economical alternative for the mechanism of the free market has proved to be unworkable. Totalitarian concepts, religiously or nationalistically based, aim at the same economic target as the mechanism of the free market.

Green concepts turn out to be unworkable. By now almost everybody has green views but acts in accordance to impulses of the free market.

The free market proves to be far more than an economic principle. It is the backbone of the modern culture, it is a cultural principle. It guides direction of what is expected and what is strived after.

Preferring global survival, it is urgent to add to this analyses of the present situation, a method of research to find a alternative.

UNTHINKABLE AND UNEXPECTED
From the inside our present culture seems to embrace all that is thinkable. But when studying older or foreign cultures, it becomes imaginable that a culture only is a narrow path in the sphere of what is thinkable and possible. Then and there, so most probably our own culture as well.

While our cultural set-up dictates that is thinkable and what is to be expected, this set-up very much also dictates what is NOT thinkable and NOT to be expected. This thesis implies the probability of the existence of practical knowledge and methods, that are now not researched on from the buyers within present cultural point of view, in which they don't fit. The area where this practical knowledge and method are most probably to be found on the antipole from what is generally strived after: progress and welfare. This antipole also is the area of poverty and decline.
As the area of poverty and decline embraces more than half of humanity, it is crucial to take up this research.
The application of practical knowledge and methods seems to be static, but has the potential to become exceedingly dynamic. On any moment from now until the far future this area of knowledge and methods can be mixed with any other area of knowledge and methods and this will lead to totally new and unexpected, now unthinkable, results.

FRAMEWORK FOR A BETTER POINT OF DEPARTURE
The research should not try to improve on the present situation but simply finds its place between the poles of fear and comfort ........

DEMOTECH, DESIGN FOR SELF-RELIANCE
The foundation Demotech aims at research on the conditions for technology that support democracy based process of development. Activities shaped in action–research include innovation, design and transfer of knowledge. These are directed at:

  1. to promote self–reliance in developing countries,
  2. raising awareness regarding this issue in the Netherlands,
  3. newly developed technology–within–poverty used as a point of departure for a sustainable technology in countries like the Netherlands.

A salient result of the work of Demotech is the design, the further development and the support for the introduction of a new type of hand pump: the Demotech Rope pump. Special feature of the rope pump is, that it can be made with locally available materials and tools, without external support, other than a short introduction. Specially in Indonesia and Nicaragua the rope pump is applied successfully on very many locations and during a considerable number of years.
In another project, organizations working in the same field are supported in their extension work with display materials. This display material makes a smart use of locally available materials such as bamboo sticks and thin metal wire.
Based on the above mentioned and similar projects Demotech develops guidelines for the integrated process of innovation, development and introduction of a technology–within–poverty and a technology for durable development.

OBJECTIVES, STRATEGY AND PROJECT RESULTS OF DEMOTECH
The design activities are imbedded in (non–profit/small) foundation Demotech and aim at technical innovation to improve the potential for self-help.\\ The new to introduce techniques are one hundred percent adjusted to local possibilities and restrictions of the future users and can be applied without external help other than previous training.

A project in Indonesia (1979) to introduce the ropepump designed by Demotech, had the good result as it should be attained in general: thousands of these hand pumps were made and installed on the own initiative and cost of the users. The introduction of the Demotech ropepump in Nicaragua by others (1982) was followed by a similar good result. Reports on the above results are available at Demotech.

Right now Demotech is involved in the set up of the project Stepping Stones. Collaboration is sought with a few ongoing developing projects who work exclusively accordingly to the idea of self-reliance. There are contacts with a project in Ghana, in Tanzania, in India and in Mexico.
In the Netherlands Demotech's Stepping Stone is her workshop in Dieren. At this place projects are prepared for other locations. But also there is a feed–back of technical information of third world countries, for example a project for the building of "small foot print" houses. The cost of construction of the "small footprint" houses should be less than one quarter of the normal, but with a level of comfort at least as high as the usual nowadays.

IDEAS BEHIND THE PROJECT "MOBILITY SUPPORT (MOSU)"
Contacts in the USA and Mexico resulted in the challenge to overcome some of the shortcomings of the usual wheelchair through the research approach of Demotech.

  • The concept "wheelchair" should be replaced by the concept of a more extended support of the mobility of people with a handicap, for example, people with a paraplegia.
  • Aids within this concept should be made available within the informal economy of poor regions. Local production for local prices makes these aids more widely available.

What the MOSU could offer to its user

  1. The user of the MOSU is offered an improved horizontal mobility. Climbing and descending running over soft and uneven surfaces and taking small obstacles, such as thresholds, is fasilitated by a indirect driving mechanism in the front wheels.
  2. The user of the MOSU is offered also vertical mobility. There is a mechanical support from standing through sitting and sitting on the floor. In effect a vertical mobility from floor level to eighty centimeters height of the centre of gravity of the user of the MOSU.
  3. The user of the MOSU should not be restricted in the use of a normal toilet, either with a toilet slap or a toilet seat.
  4. The user of the MOSU can independently change the position of the upper and lower body.
  5. The user of the MOSU is provided with provisions to insure blood circulation through all parts of the body.
  6. The user of the MOSU can eventually propel itself a speed higher than that of walking speed.
  7. The MOSU can eventually be constructed in a way that it is light in weight and compactly foldable.

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Page last modified on November 21, 2006, at 12:44 PM