Asuncion, Calanog, Maleval, Tabuena, Sison, Tan, Tiambeng
In a world of continuous innovation and discovery, technology is slowly integrating itself into humanity to the point that its absence is unacceptable and it disenfranchises the dignity and quality of human life. We will have to admit though that the kinds of modern technology that supplement life are expensive and generally inaccessible to a great number of people, especially those living in developing nations who constantly get left behind. It isn’t feasible, however, to simply provide everybody computers, cellphones, and Wi-Fi stations. That would be too expensive and most members of impoverished communities don’t even know how to utilize technology to empower themselves. What then must be done?
This is where appropriate technology comes in. Azelvandre defines appropriate technology as “technology that is tailored to fit the psychosocial and biophysical context prevailing in a particular location and period.” Appropriate technology is the sustainable way for third world countries so that they may be able to get back on track. In order for something to be classified as an appropriate technology, Azelvandre provides us with four criterion.
The first criterion is that it must be cheap. Since the focus of appropriate technology is the third world countries, people who will be using the technology must be able to buy the stuff that they need or else who will be able to use the appropriate technology?
The second criterion that Azelvandre presented is that it must be accessible. Materials that will be used in making/building the appropriate technology must be found easily in the target country/place. If the required materials are found outside the area of scope, then it will be difficult for the people to buy and replace the materials that they need since they have to travel in order to be able to buy the specific material.
The third criterion that Azelvandre presented is that there should be a room for creativity. The appropriate technology must be flexible so that when certain problems arise, people may be able to change a part of the technology to be able to sustain their needs.
The last criterion that Azelvandre presented is that it must be small scaled. It must be simple enough because the people onlylittle knowledge about technology or appropriate technology.
Here’s an Example:
The One Laptop Per Child Association (OLPC) tries to bridge the gap of difference by providing low-power, low-cost, and portable computers, called XO Laptops, to children in countries like Uruguay, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. It was created for those who do not have sufficient educational resources to use.
With the XO, children can be connected to the internet, and learn with easy-to-use software equipped with lessons, exercises and games. It is designed to be durableagainst harsh environments such as high temperatures and humidity and also has support for local languages. The XO laptop was made with the real world in mind to make sure that the laptop would bedurable, energy efficient and fun as well.
“Most of the more than one billion children in the emerging world don’t have access to adequate education. The XO laptop is our answer to this crisis—and after nearly two years, we know it’s working. Almost everywhere the XO goes, school attendance increases dramatically as the children begin to open their minds and explore their own potential. One by one, a new generation is emerging with the power to change the world.”
The laptop is around the size of a textbook and lighter than a lunchbox. In addition to that, the computer has no hazardous parts.
“XO is fully compliant with the European Union’s RoHS Directive. It contains no hazardous materials. Its LiFePO4 or NiMH batteries contain no toxic heavy metals, plus it features enhanced battery management for an extended recharge-cycle lifetime. It will also tolerate alternate power-charging sources, such as car batteries. Children may also have a second battery for group charging at school while they are using their laptop in class.”
It’s also quite amazing that OLCP was able to make a computer that adapted to the harsh realities of developing countries. It’s energy-efficient and durable.
With regards to the execution of the project,the OLPC’s original plan is to be able to build 150 million laptops for the kids by the end of 2008. Negroponte and his team was not able to consider all factors on support requirements. Clearly, Negroponte’s idea on XO laptop is very smart but it he must also consider other factors like time and budget. Kids having laptops is a great idea but it’s better if the teachers can have training on how to use the technology. In the case of Nigeria, they prefered Intel’s Classmate PC over the XO laptop even though it is cheaper because Intel provides support. Also, Negroponte demands other companies to stop producing laptops that are similar to the XO laptop. It may not be personally gratifying for him not to offer his idea to other companies but if his goal is to help the kids, then he should be willing to be able to accept the options offered to him.
As members of a privileged class of citizens, it is easy for us to overlook the problems and difficulties that could be addressed by this appropriate technology because it is also easy for us to overlook the technological benefits we experience on a daily basis. If you think about it, is it fair that children similar to us aren’t experiencing the benefits we experience just because of the lottery of birth? Computers, applications, and the internet make life so much easier to live. Information can be compressed and accessed with the click of a button. Learning becomes more enriching with images and user interaction. Fun is no longer something that has to be put on hold. These laptops connect children to an outside world, showing them that their lives weren’t so small after all.
This kind of technology is far from perfect, however. OPLC is an ambitious idea but it does not fully answer the educational problems that countries have. The XO laptop teaches basics, therefore only addressing education at a young and tender age. Moreover, XO is no longer made for the “real world” as it has become more centered around the western society. The software in the tablets and laptops mainly relate to western needs and less on the different poor environments they were supposedly made for. This just means though, that there are many other opportunities to better the product.
Technology has become such an important part of human life that it no longer acts as a privilege, but as a necessity. In the future, we can expect other similar forms of technology.