[EAS]Developing World IT

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Thu Jul 12 00:11:28 EDT 2001

Subject:   Developing World IT

Dear Colleagues -

Here is a conscientious development effort to bridge the "digital
divide" in the developing world. 


Perhaps it will really become "appropriate" information technology
(IT) in the spirit of the "appropriate technology" movement founded
by E.F. Schumacher (see his book "Small is Beautiful" originally
published in 1973 and reprinted often since). Schumacher died in
1977. Design in that spirit was pursued by Victor Papanek and his
students at the University of Kansas (see Papanek's book "Design
for the Real World", revised and reprinted 1985). Papanek died in
1998. I sent out an EAS-INFO mailing about him at the time

The giddy technological period from which we are emerging was not a
good time for socially conscious design. Still, there were
benefits. Even without a social consciousness, advances in cell
phone technology brought communications access to many developing
parts of the world that would never have gotten wired. Still,
according to The Guardian article,
- 80% of the world's population has never made a phone call, let
    alone used the internet;
- The internet connects 100m computers but less than 2% of the
    world's population.

The need for appropriate IT strikes me as very real indeed, _if_
the develping world can retrieve information it can act on locally,
in areas of agriculture, medicine, government. Without a balance
between IT and other appropriate technologies (e.g. small-scale
local manufacture to add value to raw materials, and transportation
to local markets) the IT progress would be "empty calories." 

Engineering, in the educational and practicing sense, has far too
little involvement in these causes.


More information about the EAS-INFO mailing list