Appropriate technology is, according to Wikipedia, “technology that is designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economical aspects of the community it is intended for.”
For me, appropriate technology is about using the materials and human resources that are to hand to provide a technological solution. Basically, don’t over-engineer technological solutions.
My sister sent me this link to a Youtube video last week and it is a great example of appropriate technology. It features a slum community in the Philippines where they are using something as simple as a plastic bottle, water and a little bleach (to prevent algal growth) to bring light into the homes of people who cannot afford to use electrical lighting. The Youtube clip is approaching a million hits and the BBC have also been out there to see this in action.
What gets me excited about this sort of thing is not just the immediate consequences, in this case lighting someone’s home, but the greater potential that it has. Light in the home can lead to a better quality of life but also brings opportunities for increased productivity and education that can lift people out of poverty. Quite simply, the ability to read at home for me is the greatest value that this can bring.
If you are interested in finding out more about appropriate technology, there are some great charities out there, such as Practical Action, that work to promote development through promotion of appropriate technology.