Developing science and advancing engineering present opportunities to solve global health and education problems and to meet the basic water, food, and shelter needs of the world’s population. Human-centered technologies can promote better health, better education, improved access to clean water, necessary shelter, and safe food, as well as transportation and energy solutions that do not cause ecological imbalance.
Today’s world governments focus a disproportionate amount of our resources on war technology, policing, and security. Such control of the planet’s natural and developed resources stands in the way of forwarding science, engineering and resource distribution to end poverty and human suffering.
“Appropriate Technology” (AT) is the technology to empower people. The more the world population is empowered, the more the world’s human resources can be utilized, and the better equipped the mass of human society is to exercise democracy. Appropriate Technology is culturally sensitive yet ecologically sound and economically sustainable. It requires:
(a) compassion for humankind and Mother Earth,
(b) belief that humanism, collectivism and egalitarianism are abiding human characteristics, and
(c) commitment to replace unproductive and war-centered technologies with technology that focuses on human needs.
Public education on “what is appropriate technology” is central to the mission of the International Network on Appropriate Technology (INAT). Our ongoing work is to bring Appropriate Technology to the forefront of discussion and practice regarding science and technology—in education, policy, research, development, and deployment. The INAT is the work of a small group of academics and practitioners promoting technology to empower people. During the past decade, we have conducted six international conferences, three Howard University symposia, various projects and presentations. These events have generated a climate of curriculum and technology innovation conducive to further expansion of our network. The Howard University College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences (CEACS) has consistently supported both faculty and student involvement in this effort.
During spring break in 2003, a group of Howard University students and faculty took a historic trip to Cuba. We visited universities, community centers and industrial sites, and attended lectures on Cuba’s use of appropriate technology to assist in human development.
First ICAT: The first International Conference on Appropriate Technology (1st ICAT) was held in July 2004 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. This effort was made possible largely through the support of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo. The theme, “A Knowledge Management Approach to the Development of Appropriate Technology: Sustainable Land-based Projects,” was timely, as Zimbabwe was concerned with projects to assist new land-owning farmers following land reclamation.
Second ICAT: We expanded our network of organizers for the 2nd ICAT, held in July 2006 and hosted again by NUST in Bulawayo. The role of Howard University increased and the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers (NCCBPE) became an active co-sponsor. The issue of health in underdeveloped countries was addressed with the theme “Sharing the Knowledge from Research and Practice in Appropriate Technology: Health-related Projects.”
Third ICAT: The 3rd ICAT, “Promoting Research and Practice in Appropriate Technology: Energy Solutions in the Era of Climate Change,” took place in November 2008 in Kigali, Rwanda. We involved multiple universities in the host country: Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST); National University of Rwanda (NUR); Umutara Polytechnic University; Universite Libre de Kigali (ULK); and Kigali Health Institute (KHI). Much of the success of this conference was due to support from Professor Romain Murenzi, Minister of Science and Technology in Rwanda. The conference generated intense interest in an international network on Appropriate Technology.
First Two Annual National Symposia on Appropriate Technology at Howard University
At Howard University, we initiated an Annual National Symposium on Appropriate Technology with a one-day event in 2009. In Spring 2010, we expanded the symposium to two days. With funding support from Howard, we brought Bunker Roy from Barefoot College in India as the featured speaker. We also issued our first declaration on Appropriate Technology.
Fourth ICAT: With the success of our work came increased support from Howard University. In 2010, the Offices of President and Provost of Howard University provided principal funding for the 4th ICAT. Our theme that year, “Appropriate Technology for Water and Sanitation: Solutions for a Thirsty Planet,” extended our efforts to relate Appropriate Technology to basic needs.
Third Annual National Symposium on Appropriate Technology at Howard
In September 2011, Howard University hosted our third annual Appropriate Technology Symposium. The symposium featured posters and presenters from Howard University, the Washington DC community, and Morehouse College. Dr. Gada Kadoda traveled from Khartoum, Sudan to present on solar deployment in rural Sudan. Dr. Kadoda’s insightful yet critical presentation raised many issues and elicited support for a workshop on “Knowledge Management Capacity in Africa: Harnessing Tools for Development and Innovation.”
Subsequently, the workshop was co-sponsored by INAT and hosted by Garden City College for Science and Technology and the University of Khartoum, and held in January 2012 in Khartoum. Academics and practitioners focused on the role that computer-based knowledge management plays in facilitating appropriate technologies for development.
Fifth ICAT: In November 2012, INAT held the 5th ICAT in Pretoria, South Africa. The main sponsors were Howard University and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of South Africa. University sponsors from South Africa included the University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), and the University of Johannesburg. In addition to workshops, panels, posters, and paper presentations, the ICAT included a technology fair and a two-day Hackathon. The Hackathon involved the design and development of mobile application software focusing on developing countries.
Next ICAT and Symposium: The participants in the 5th ICAT decided to host the 6th ICAT in 2014 at Kenyatta University in Nairobi Kenya, and to organize an international symposium in the Americas in Havana Cuba. Several participants in Howard University’s 2003 visit to Cuba agreed to organize the symposium in Cuba during spring break 2014. It will be organized in conjunction with the University of Puerto Rico and several minority technical organizations in the U.S.
The educational aspect of the Appropriate Technology goal is centered in our global network of higher education institutions. These institutions are direct and indirect sources for leading research and development of technology practice and deployment as well as investigation and promotion. In addition to encouraging higher education to focus on Appropriate Technology, we must implore civic, worker and professional organizations across society to redirect science and technology to meet the needs of the masses of humankind and an ecologically balanced planet. A series of documents researching science and technology development and its impacts will be developed. This effort will be accompanied by a series of declarations that can be examined and embraced by educational institutions, worker and professional organizations, and civil society organizations.