Technology is a product of an R&D centre outfit or establishment. However, different R&D centres produce different technologies for achieving the same or similar goals. This is because of differing environments and surroundings and other conditions, viz., population, resources, economic, technological, environmental, socio-cultural, and politico-legal systems. The objective functions used in the development of technology could also be different at different places.
Figure 1: Appropriate and inappropriate technologies
Source: Technology for Development UN-ESCAP
Figure-1 illustrate the concept of appropriate and inappropriate technologies. Any technology is ‘appropriate’ at the time of development, with respect to the surroundings for which it has been developed, and in accordance with the objective function used for development. It may or may not be appropriate at the same place at a different time, because the surroundings and/or objective functions may have changed. Similarly it may or may not be appropriate at a different place at the same time, or at different times, because the surroundings and objective function may be different. Thus, technological appropriateness is not an intrinsic quality of any technology, but it is derived from the surroundings in which it is to be utilised and also from the objective function used for evaluation. It is, in addition, a value judgement of those involved.
The surroundings differ not only from place to place but also over time. With the passage of time and application of technologies almost all elements of the surroundings change for better or worse. Although in general two surroundings are unlikely to be identical, for any particular technology many apparently different surroundings may in fact be considered similar.
The following examples will illustrate the concept of appropriateness of technologies:
1) DDT was an appropriate pesticide at the place and time of original application. However, after sometime it became inappropriate even at the place of origin and the pesticide is banned in industrialized countries. DDT is still considered to be appropriate in many developing countries as the specific surroundings and objectives are collectively judged to be similar to those of the place and time of original application.
2) Coal based technology for power generation was very appropriate at one time, but became inappropriate due to technological substitution process. Now with further change in the surroundings (with respect to resource aspect particularly) the coal-based technology has become appropriate again. Because of the changes in the surroundings, technologies once labelled inappropriate can become appropriate technologies in the future.
3) Technologies such as electric tooth blush, cable cars etc. are appropriate only in a few places and inappropriate in many other places because of the surroundings.
4) Technologies embodied in drugs, such as, antibiotics, vaccines, contraceptive pills are appropriate all through the world because the specific surroundings include mostly human body and, therefore, are somewhat similar.
Some of the accepted criteria for selecting appropriate technologies in the contemporary situation are considered below:
− It should primarily aim at meeting the basic needs of rural people; it should be capable, of absorbing large labour force, preserve existing traditional jobs, low cost and require low levels of skills;
− It should provide viable means for small-scale production operations.
− It should consume lesser energy;
− It should be capable of using indigenous raw materials and services;
− It should provide for waste recycling and should be non-polluting;
− It should be consistent with local culture;
− It should be compatible with social system,
− It should be acceptable to the political system.