Cover Image
close this book Appropriate Technology in Post - Modern Times
close this folder PART II Diversity is strength
View the document 8. Introduction to part II
View the document 9. A history of artefacts. Successes and failures of the AT movement
View the document 10. Different concepts, one movement?
View the document 11. AT as a cultural approach to development
View the document 12. Spreading the word: organizations, information dissemination, networking

PART II Diversity is strength

 

8. Introduction to part II

Have intermediate and appropriate technologies succeeded in their intentions? The answer, as in all the best reviews, is both Yes and No! (...) The ideas upon which the movement was based are as sound today as they were 25 years ago.

In times of dramatic and often irrational developments in economics, politics and culture, the survival of a sound concept may in itself be seen as a success. The "derailment" of values into ever more consumption-dominated lifestyles is perhaps the most damaging development.

The concept of Appropriate Technology would hardly have survived, had it not influenced other spheres of work and in turn received stimulating feedback. In looking back, while evaluating current progress and deficiencies, it becomes increasingly clear how important it is for the AT movement to understand the local context in the South and to influence policy makers, donors and the public in the North.

This includes the task of informing the Northern public as well as development practitioners about innovation as a process, not just as one-time interventions or applications of standard technologies. It also presents the challenge of appropriately shaping cooperation within the movement to include its Southern components as the principal structural elements. The more it is recognized that Appropriate Technology involves (1) making Technology Transfer successful through conscious selection-cum-adaptation, (2) genuine endogenous innovation, and (3) democratically influencing the direction of technological development, the more effective truly equitable cooperation structures will become.

Sound concepts survive because of their openness to new insights and further development. In this respect, AT seems to have achieved more than most other development concepts. The concept's durability has much to do with the ability to learn from mistakes without changing directions and labels too frequently or abruptly.

Often through the failure of hardware-dominated initiatives, it was realised that it was the context that was important in determining success or failure, and attention switched to examining the economic, social, cultural and policy environments within which the technology existed. (...) These wider perspectives certainly improved the quality and relevance of work done and multi-disciplinary approaches have undoubtedly been more successful in practice.

Propagating multi-disciplinarity in development cooperation is certainly not characteristic of AT alone. But its holistic approach and its attempts to maintain the delicate balance between people, the environment and technology, have exerted an important influence on the mainstream.

On the other hand, the growing awareness of socio-economic, cultural and political factors led in some cases to an over-reaction: questioning the importance of technology altogether. The response has been a healthy reassessment of the interrelationship of technical and social phenomena; and the reaffirmation that technology and the technicians must be fully aware of the context in which they operate and of the objectives they can achieve. AT's conceptual continuity has proven to be the best defense against the charge that technology issues were no longer relevant. Clearly, technology policy and practice cannot be neglected in favour of an exclusive concentration on socio-economic conditions, macro politics or "policy dialogue". Nor can the role of technology be declared as secondary in reasonably broad-based strategies for poverty alleviation.

Basic needs strategies were for quite some time propagated as a general paradigm, but they yielded few concrete approaches and results. Many more viable principles and methods have evolved from the work of AT. Much thought has been given to why this is so. Key elements certainly include the decisive role of the local actors and the participatory approaches that evolved from this perception. Participation has in turn ensured that the definition of objectives and the selection of techniques and methodologies is guided by the maxim that benefits must be perceived as such by the beneficiaries.

GATE's recent consultations with the German NGO sector identified the inherent compatibility between AT and participatory approaches as a major reason for the increasing NGO interest in AT. NGOs welcome AT and believe it will become more important in years to come. There seems to be a similar trend among international organizations, although not fully reflected in financial term. The importance of AT should not be underestimated. Perhaps one-third of all projects implemented by multilateral development agencies include an AT component. Only seven per cent, however, are primarily AT projects, and less than ten per cent of the total expenditure of the major international agencies is devoted directly to AT.

The growing acceptance of AT has apparently not (yet?) been translated into actual practice. This may mean that AT's growing recognition is due to a selective and pragmatic attitude within the major agencies: they use appropriate technical hardware when it is available and suits their purpose, but they do not shape programmes to develop situation-specific solutions. Or it may mean that, although AT does not yet profoundly influence the overall approach of those agencies, it is beginning to do so. It probably means both.

Many micro-level AT activities appear to be pilot work that has yet to achieve broad impact. Still, AT's success record, however incomplete and provisional, compares rather favourably with "mainstream" development assistance.

In country after country, and in project after project, appropriate technologies have shown themselves to be the key to grassroots economic development. The fact that something has succeeded is remarkable enough, given the spectacular and uniform failure of much official development assistance to make any impression on development indicators, especially in Africa. And in some cases, appropriate technologies have been successful in bringing benefits to very large numbers of poor people.

Yet the knowledge of these poor people is often ignored. The capacities of local artisans, farmers, and particularly women to innovate without external help is well known but often neglected or disregarded. The most promising and far-reaching initiatives to overcome this lamentable bias have so far emerged in the spheres of farmer-cantered agricultural research and resource conservation.

A critical appraisal reveals further weaknesses. Mot programmes and model solutions with great potential but limited impact must be acknowledged as one of AT's failures: "The area of most general disappointment has been the lack of success in attaining wide and spontaneous uptake." This amounts to failure on two levels: AT's potential has not been realized, and the high costs of technology development and pilot programmes has not (yet) been justified.

The challenge therefore is to scale up AT programmes and multiply their impact. "Scaling-up" impact should not be confused with scaling-up the technologies themselves (for example from micro-hydro to meso-hydro). The question of technology level and scale needs thorough consideration in each individual case. Though generalizations are dangerous, "scaling up" AT programmes is a justified general demand. AT can be applied in countless different contexts because the basic concept lends itself to autonomous uptake and multiple adaptation.

Part II attempts to synthesize the many views on these and further issues expressed during the workshop, and to do so within the context of the current discussion on Appropriate Technology. The workshop highlighted four topics: (1) the question of a common AT philosophy and identity as a movement, (2) the improvement of AT dissemination, (3) the impact of market forces on the success of AT, and (4) the relationship between lifestyles, technology choice, and the development process. The last three were subjects of working groups to which the following chapters 9, 11 and 12 owe much of their contents. The first topic is of a more general nature and is present in most written as well as oral contributions. This is reflected in the rather broad lay-out of chapter 10 and it numerous references to the recent literature on AT and overall development approaches.

After 25 years of practical experience it seemed appropriate to analyze failures and successes, and to draw conclusions from this body of experience. Chapter 9 offers some answers to the following questions: Why has the inclusion of AT in development projects succeeded in some cases and has not in others? What are the preconditions for successful and sustainable technology transfer?

The question of the diverse perceptions and philosophies of AT in a modern or post-modern world was raised in most workshop discussions. The demand was voiced repeatedly that AT should be defined and the identity of the movement clarified. There cannot be a definite and final solution to the continuous definition dilemma: appropriateness always refers to specific situations and thus implies constant search and re-adjustment. This has not always been fully recognized within the AT movement, but more frequently it was the source of false outside perceptions. Chapter 10 refers to a variety of different workshop inputs and dicussion statements, as the issue continued to be raised in various contexts. It also draws heavily on some recent works which have contributed significantly to a new understanding of AT as a concept and a movement. The critical but not uncompromising relationship between AT and the development mainstream is reviewed in an attempt to describe AT's actual position and influence, and some of the many features and concerns which qualify it as a social movement are outlined.

Giving priority to people rather than to economic or technical considerations is a cultural approach to development that meshes comfortably with AT principles. Concern over Western cultural hegemony was frequently expressed and the need to apply culturally sensitive approaches in AT practice was stressed. The need to conserve and stimulate cultural diversity was given great emphasis by two working groups during the workshop. Chapter 11 tries to catch the spirit of these discussions.

It is not enough to develop appropriate solutions at one place and simply transfer them elsewhere. Information on technical and social alternatives for autonomous problem solving must reach the people who need to improve their livelihoods. In a world in which the amount of information available is growing dramatically, means of dissemination have to be improved. The workshop participants put great emphasis on improving communication and dissemination methods. The results of these discussions are documented in chapter 12, accompanied by brief descriptions of some of the most important dissemination instruments and examples of actual information services.

 

9. A history of artefacts. Successes and failures of the AT movement

Holger Nanheimer

Tear down the walls around AT

A HISTORY OF SUCCESSES AND FAILURES

It is time to look back for a moment. The AT movement at the beginning of the Nineties is not the same as 20 years ago. The concepts and the philosophy of Appropriate Technology have changed, and so have the main activities of the AT movement. These changes resulted from changes in societies, in economies, and, not least, changes in policies in the North as well as in the South - but also from the lessons learned by those who see themselves as the avant-garde of technology transfer and development.

The concept of Appropriate Technology was always a practical approach - the shelves are full of artefacts and devices like solar cookers, wind-driven water pumps, oil presses, and oxcarts. Many of these devices were tested and introduced in developing countries, and many of them came back to their countries of origin to remain on the shelf.

We know now that the AT movement was too strongly oriented towards pure technology transfer. Many pilot projects have been buried in silence; a lot of energy saving cooking stoves were never purchased by the intended end-users. Many so-called appropriate devices got rusty - small white elephants of development assistance. However, the history of Appropriate Technology is by no means a history of failure. In many cases, the AT movement produced viable alternatives to classical technologies. The successes, as well as the lessons drawn from the failures, keep the movement alive.

In this chapter, examples will be given for both failures and successes, and the reasons for each will be analyzed.

Unless keys to widespread uptake or rejection of AT are found and understood, the potential of AT wilt never be realised. It is now a matter of common concern amongst development agencies that they find the means to scale up and multiply their impact. Single, isolated achievements are perhaps valuable but ultimately meaningless unless they repay their investment by providing as insights into how to multiply those successes a thousandfold or more.

The examples cited in this chapter are by no means blue-prints; success stories reflect the influence of the regional and situation-specific environment. Implements which have proven to be viable at location X, can be a total failure at place Y. Furthermore, the assessment of success and failure is subjective and depends entirely on the observer's or reporter's view.

The most comprehensive quantitative analysis of the activities of AT institutions was conducted at the beginning of the eighties. At that tune, ten years after Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, the number of AT organizations and associations worldwide had grown to over 1,000. The study, which surveyed hundreds of organizations by questionnaire, showed that solar energy was at that time the most important field of work for the AT movement, but that the subject was of far greater interest to organizations based in the industrialized countries than to those of developing countries. Solar energy at that time was something of a symbol of the AT movement.

Since then the emphasis has changed. Although no comparable figures are available for the beginning of the Nineties, it seems that additional fields have become important. Modern AT institutions are focusing on small business promotion, small credit schemes, integrated agriculture, sustainable cultivation techniques, agro-forestry, environmental management, sanitation, and domestic waste disposal.

Renewable energy technologies are becoming less fashionionable, mainly because their efficiency and competitiveness against fossil fuels is questioned. At the same time, major multilateral agencies are developing more interest in those technologies. In 1992, the World Bank created its first operative alternative unit for renewable energy and energy efficiency (ASTAE - Asia Alternative Energy Unit). The AT movement with its long-standing experience in alternative energy technology can provide advisory service to agencies interested in this field.

The idea of Appropriate Technology has recently been attracting new inputs which may change not only the concept of AT, but the entire technology discussion. There is talk about technology blending, a term which was coined in the think tanks of the ILO. The concept refers to the physical combination of new and traditional technologies. It is argued that new technologies, such as microelectronics, biotechnology, photovaltaics, and others may in some cases offer a feasible input for the improvement of traditional methods of production. Examples of technology blending drawn from pilot projects include the use of microcomputers to assist rubber smallholders in Malaysia, microelectronics in health and social services in several countries, photovoltaic lighting in Fiji, and the application of biotechnology to food production in Mexico and Cuba.

SUCCESSFUL APPLICATIONS OF THE AT CONCEPT

Success stories of Appropriate Technology had been recorded before the movement actually started, especially in India during and after the era of Gandhi. One of the most successful technologies in the rural areas of India was the hand-operated chaff-cutting machine for straw and other animal feeds. Compared to the previous technology, the hand chopper, it offered great improvement in quality, productivity and safety.

Another success story from India is that of transistor radios for communication and entertainment, a modern product which serves the rural population and connects them with the outside world. Of course this is not an example of a classical appropriate technology. But it seems to be appropriate, and it shows that viable technologies for the rural sector are not necessarily traditional in nature.

Several collections of case studies have been published showing how appropriate technical solutions to problems of developing countries were arrived at. What was perhaps most neglected in official development assistance (and is still neglected today) is the existing base of traditional - or indigenous - technology, and the capacity of local artisans and communities to innovate without outside help. In 17 case studies, the Intermediate Technology Development Group showed that skills and ideas are rarely the limiting factor in technology development. The Tinker, Tiller, Technical Change Project, together with another project demonstrating the technical and scientific role of women, Do-lt-Herself, showed that successful technology adaptation and development depends on people possessing the capacity to understand local situations: resources, skills, knowledge, and gaps. ITDG states that the North must be prepared to help fill the gaps for as long as needed, but the true Northern role lies in providing access to Northern policy makers, to donors, and to the media. Northern groups should act as brokers between the Southern NGOs and governmental development agencies. This is supported by recent developments in the agencies which try to improve NGO participation in the execution of their projects.

Maybe the most treasured artefact in the hearts of the movement's members as well as in the bureaus of the international development agencies is the fuel-efficient cooking stove. Unfortunately, it was not as successful in the field. The story started more than fifteen years ago, when development planners turned to the rescue of the last Sahelian shrubs. Stove programmes were copied and implemented in nearly every country of the Third World, from India to Burkina Faso, from Kenya to Peru. Their rate of success, measured in terms of numbers of disseminated stoves, varied considerably. In Sri Lanka, the fuel-efficient Anagi stove is being manufactured locally and sold without subsidy. 300,000 stoves are in use, benefiting 1.8 million people. The introduction of the improved Jiko in Kenya, which in the first two years after initial promotion has been sold more than 180,000 times, is another success story. Most analyses of successful improved stoves - and of the many failures - have demonstrated that positive achievements are not owed to the main project objective - the saving of firewood and charcoal. The primary reasons for large-scale adoption were the reduction of cooking time and the improvement of the children's health through reduced exposure to smoke.

During the workshop AT in Post-Modern Times further examples of successful dissemination of appropriate technologies were mentioned. The technology for producing cheap, durable roofing materials from fibre-reinforced concrete is in use in at least 30 countries. In Kenya alone there are between 20 and 30 businesses in operation. In Nepal, there is an entirely indigenous capacity for installing micro-hydro power systems, based on a number of small manufacturers. Some 700 installations bring benefits to around 200,000 people.

Another example for the successful implementation of appropriate technologies is the introduction of an improved Chinese brick kiln to Nepal. This is part of a GTZ ceramics promotion project, which is backstopped by GATE. The "new" brick kiln consumes only about half the energy required by traditional Nepalese kilos. In the Kathmandu region alone, some 250 brickworks switched to this new firing method in the first half of 1991. The success of the new kiln in Nepal gives an indication of the necessary preconditions for technology transfer. The demand for an improved technology paved the way for the innovation. The enormous firewood costs in the Kathmandu region created opportunities for high savings, which made investing in the new kiln feasible. In an environment that called for technological change, the project provided an appropriate solution at the right time and at the right price.

A good indicator of the general success of Appropriate Technology might be the fact that it is becoming institutionalized in many agencies of official development assistance. When GTZ was reorganized at the end of the Eighties, the Director General confirmed, that

GATE also did pioneering work in establishing another truth that will not only be fundamental for GTZ as a whole, but is gaining importance on an international scale, namely, when we concern ourselves intensively with technology and engineering, we encounter the human being. (...) After all, the reorganization is an attempt to achieve for the whole GTZ what GATE has achieved in practice: Priority to finding solutions which are related to target groups and executing agencies, resources for socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-organizational know-how on the one hand, and more time for appropriate technical solutions on the other.

One of the most successful AT programmes is the water and sanitation programme of UNICEF in India. Its planning and implementation approach is similar in a wide range of further countries, its execution is appropriate to the basic needs of the population. At the beginning of every programme, the situation is analyzed and a strategy to improve the sanitary situation is planned. The decision on technology choice is based on the findings of the analysis, hence the solution to the problem may be a simple hand pump, a diesel-engine pump or it may be backyard latrines. UNICEF puts a lot of emphasis on the demonstration of the technology, especially to governmental officials, who have to be convinced of the project's feasibility. The projects are planned and implemented with the participation of the rural community. Within one year, in a sanitation project of the Department of Public Health Engineering of Bangladesh, with the assistance of UNICEF, some 310,000 sanitary latrines were built. In India, UNICEF is promoting the dissemination of the Mark-II-Handpump which was developed in the country. The Mark-II-Handpump is a perfect example for the regional influence on success: The same programme failed to be sustainable in Ethiopia, for the maintenance of the pumps was not organized.

The African Development Bank, which in the past mainly focused on the promotion of large-scale technology like power generation and export-oriented agriculture, is gradually changing its technology policy. A sector policy paper on science and technology calls for the application of certain basic technology criteria in projects. The applied technology should

- be technically and economically viable; this means that the lowest cost technology may not necessarily be the most efficient and economical;

- have proven its worth in field testing under similar conditions (for example, neighbouring countries);

- be backed up by adequate service mechanisms.

FAILURES ON THE WAY

If AT has its successes, it has its failures, too. The area of most general disappointment has been the lack of success in attaining wide and spontaneous uptake of many appropriate technologies designed to help the rural poor. One reason for the rejection of these technologies is their price. "The costs of pilot or demonstration projects are always high because of the level of external inputs." Another reason for the failure of promotion campaigns for appropriate devices is a lack of understanding of the real socio-economic conditions of the end-users.

During the workshop, the example was given of the housing sector in India. Inadequate shelter remains one of the country's major and basic problems. According to recent Government statistics, the housing shortage in India has been estimated at about 24 million units, of which over 18 million are in the rural areas. The success of governmental programmes for overcoming these problems depends largely on the availability of low-cost housing materials.

Considerable work in this area has been carried out by various research and development agencies with little impact on the dissemination of these technologies. The major reasons that these efforts have not been able to successfully penetrate the market are:

- their piecemeal nature, concentrating only on a single aspect of housing without encompassing a shelter package;

- their ad-hoc nature, not being accompanied by systematic attempts to produce and market on a large scale and organized basis;

- their institutional limitations; most of the government institutes only cover a small segment of the shelter problem, e.g. research without links to production and marketing.

Success and failure are by no means static characteristics of the technology evolution process. Appropriate technologies, which have been successfully introduced and disseminated, can loose their comparative advantages. Whether a technology is appropriate at any given time depends on the relative importance given to competing objectives (e.g. capital, employment, output).

The history of biogas technology in the People's Republic of China is an illustrative example. Introduced in the Thirties, and pushed by mass campaigns after the Chinese revolution, more than five million small biogas plants for use by small groups of farmers were constructed by the Seventies. The dissemination was fostered by a supportive administrative environment. The building materials were mostly provided free by the local people's committees, and the cooperative members contributed their work. The biogas plants enhanced the quality of life of the rural population by providing lighting and cooking energy, thus reducing the necessity for firewood. Additionally, the plants provided manure for the fields.

In recent years, very few biogas plants have been constructed, and broken plants have remained unrepaired. An "appropriate" technology was replaced by other "more appropriate" technologies due to changing overall conditions. The main reason was a loss of competitiveness, through increased access to rural electrification and commercial cooking gas, accompanied by a growing reluctance on the part of farmers to do labour-intensive maintenance of the biogas plants. At the same time, with the growing market opportunities for vegetables, people could invest their labour in their gardens and purchase commercial energy and fertilizers with their earnings.

In an analysis of unsuccessful FAO projects, some general observations on the problem of technology transfer to small-scale farmers were made. It is not uncommon that the objectives of development planners and their perception of farmer's technological needs do not correspond with those of the farmer's family. The social and economic criteria applied by the farmers are often different from those employed by the planners. Furthermore, it is sometimes misunderstood which member of the family is responsible for the area targeted for intervention. Disregarding women's roles has frequently been among the main failures of agricultural projects, as is demonstrated by an example from West Africa. The goal of an FAO project was to introduce simple and appropriate devices and techniques for reducing of post-harvest losses in rice. Although investigations about the nature and extent of the losses were carried out before designing technical solutions, the project failed. The planners did not realize that women bear the sole responsibility for post-harvest processing and storage of the grain. They consulted only men in their research. The new technology was not introduced directly to women, but to their husbands. When the project finally discovered that the technology was not adopted, it turned out that the women did not perceive post-harvest losses as a major problem. They were not ready to purchase a technology which was m their view an unnecessary expense.

Another example was provided by a workshop participant from Thailand. The traditional technique of sowing soybeans was once identified by the national extension service to be time-consuming and inefficient as the single beans were planted by hand. The extension officers proposed the introduction of simple sowing machines to be pulled by hand, which were welcomed and accepted by the fanners. At the end of the of the cropping season it turned out that the machines had not been used at all. The reason was that women traditionally do the sowing, but only men attended the training courses. The devices simply were too heavy to be pulled by the women.27

PRECONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS: THE ROLE OF THE MARKET

In its earlier phases, the AT movement often did not adequately consider the economic feasibility (marketability) of 'appropriate' technologies. "It is the users, the purchasers, who determine whether the technology is appropriate". Some preconditions for successful transfer of technology were mentioned curing the workshop AT in Post-Modern Times:

- People need to see an economic benefit of the technology through increased productivity or improved design of the product.

- People can gain prestige with the new technology.

- Quality of life is enhanced through the technology.

- The new technology is affordable.

- The design of the technology is assisted through active participation of the people who are to use it.

- Transfer of technology is built on local capabilities and local needs.

Although it is generally agreed that in the past the importance of the market for technology choice was not adequately considered, AT must not be seen from only a commercial perspective. One motive for the development of the AT concept was the desire to create alternative technologies which do not simply satisfy the demands of modern consumer society but support the growth of environmental and social consciousness. AT can never respond to market demands only. One justification for the AT movement is to develop new markets and new consumption patterns."Appropriate Technology is conditioned not only by economic imperatives but also by cultural and ideological values, and the innovative capabilities of the society generating the technology."

In a broader sense, the same applies to marketing. In industrialized countries, alternative trading organizations (ATO) try to promote trade with agricultural commodities and handicrafts from developing countries on an ethical basis (Fair Trade). The ATOs work mainly with small producer groups and self-help organizations. ATOs try to set certain production criteria, e.g. application of appropriate technology, humane working conditions, use of local material, and avoidance of negative impacts on the environment. The target of the trade is to leave as much as possible of the added value with the producer. Fair Trade can not be judged under economic criteria only. For marketing to be feasible, the buyers have to pay higher prices in the World Shops than in the supermarket. Therefore, Fair Trade requires an alternative economic and ethical attitude on the side of the consumers.

 

10. Different concepts, one movement?

Klaus Schmitt

Small is Beautiful is the slogan which has identified the AT movement since Fritz Schumacher's seminal book was published in 1974. The slogan indeed summed up the basic philosophy of a vast and growing worldwide movement for more than a decade, and it still persists in public as something of a trademark. But as in all publicity work, expressing a complex state of affairs in a single slogan is not free of dangers. In the Seventies and Eighties, the AT movement became so preoccupied with developing or revitalizing small-scale technologies that the numerous other connotations of Appropriate Technology were nearly forgotten. No wonder, then, that in public opinion AT became identified with technical inferiority and backwardness.

Not long ago the AT movement, learning from the failure to achieve widespread dissemination of its pet technologies, began to adopt a more flexible and multi-dimensional approach. In a way, this development represents a return to the roots. Schumacher had not coined the phrase Small is Beautiful (it was suggested by his publisher). His main concern is more adequately expressed in the book's sub-title, Development -As If People Mattered. This is worth remembering because

it underlines that development is about people - it is a process that is for, by and about people. Development is the improvement of the lives of individuals in the way that they want, it is about giving them control and economic freedom, and it is a process that is best controlled and undertaken by the people concerned themselves.

TOWARDS A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY

Simple as it may be, such basic truth is not always easy to live with. It requires clear concepts and priorities. During the workshop AT in Post-Modern Times this was expressed in repeated demands that the AT movement develop a clear identity. Most attempts to define this identity showed more concern about methodical and conceptual requirements of working with people than about specific features of particular technologies. While many "outsiders" still expect definitions that will tell them which technical artefacts are constituents of Appropriate Technology and which are not, most "insiders" have left this narrow technical focus behind. Although several "typical" appropriate technologies were frequently referred to in keynote speeches and discussions, many workshop participants would no longer agree that AT is identified with biogas plants, small hydropower, or handpumps.

Appropriateness and inappropriateness are by no means given features of a technology or a certain set of technologies. Being highly situation-specific, Appropriate Technology encompasses a very wide range of technological solutions and technology levels, modes of technology transfer and adaptation, and criteria for technology assessment and development. The concept of technology choice emerged as an attempt to get beyond the simplistic option of either uncritical acceptance or uncritical rejection of technology. The permanent challenge for the AT movement is to accept and apply a holistic approach rather than concentrate on technical artefacts. This approach

points to the need for knowledge of a diversify of technical options for given purposes, careful analysis of the local human and natural environment, normative evaluation of alternative options, and the exercise of political and technological choice. Conscious human effort is required to ensure that technology is appropriate.

After long and intense debates about the meaning of AT, two contrasting approaches have emerged: the "specific-characteristics approach" and the "general-principles approach". Specific characteristics for the appropriateness of distinct technologies may be derived from practical experience gained in applying them under certain conditions. This approach contains more definite "signposts" for technical planning and decision-making. But it unnecessarily confines AT to certain "typical" contexts, thereby reducing its value as a policy-making tool and its openness for further conceptual development: the more the definition of AT focuses on certain characteristics, the more static and the less responsive it becomes. In recent years, the general-principles approach seems to have gained greater acceptance. Being less specific on distinct technologies, it allows a much wider range of technology choice and technology development while emphasizing the universal importance of appropriateness in each set of circumstances.

As a practice-oriented concept, AT stands to gain from Willoughby's pragmatic solution to the definitional dilemma:

The theory, policy and implementation of Appropriate Technology would be enhanced by employing only the general-principles approach for general definitions and by restricting the use of a specific-characteristics definition to specific contexts for which the circumstances have been clearly defined.

This pragmatic approach is slowly adopted by the AT movement' which spent much of its early years in perfecting the hardware of appropriate technology. Three aspects will remain important in handling the question of 'defining' AT:

- There will always be a certain need for an identity as a movement attempting to play a critical vanguard role vis-a-vis mainstream technology practice.

- The definition should not be so strict as to unnecessarily limit the multiple impact arising from diversity,

- Against all 'fashionable' changes in the development discourse, it must be made clear that technology, seen in its complex interrelation with society and nature, will remain a determining factor in influencing the direction of development and in shaping South-North relations.

After much controversy over the primacy of political, social or technical factors, the growing maturity of the AT movement is now reflected in a more balanced and experience-based consensus. Technology and society are viewed as overlapping and mutually determining phenomena: society becomes "technologized" and technology reflects the structures and interests of society. Positive impetus for change may come from either end - but will hardly be successful unless the whole is considered. This consensus has emerged less from intense theoretical debate than from the striking inappropriateness of "modern" technology practice in light of the worldwide social, environmental and political crises.

This state of affairs and its implications is still being repressed from their consciousness by the majority of people in the industrial societies. It can be characterized as the essential lie of the industrial system, the pretence that the material prosperity won through plundering and the transfer of costs (to nature) was 'created' by industrial production, by science and technology. On the basis of this lie, the additional belief arises that the problems of the ever more apparent destruction of nature can be eliminated without a sacrifice of prosperity solely by technological means (...). The critical technology debate in the industrial countries has led to the conclusion that the only future for a series of once celebrated triumphs of scientific-technological progress lies in renunciation.

AT has significantly contributed to as well as gained from the critical technology debate. Different from many more 'fundamentalist' positions, however, AT's contribution has always been oriented towards practical change. The strength and appeal of the AT concept lies in its humanitarian and pragmatic common sense, which is manifested in its balanced approach to critical issues:

- Overcoming ideological pro-technology vs. anti-technology debates through recognizing technology's heterogeneous and diverse nature.

- Acknowledging the practical value and responding to the actual shortcomings of technology, not simply praising or criticizing it from an ideological perspective.

- Fostering exchange rather than unidirectional transfer of technologies through intercultural dialogue.

- Dealing flexibly with conflicting issues and objectives through various types and levels of intervention.

- Propagating AT as a mode of technology practice rather than as a collection of particular technologies.

AT AND THE MAINSTREAM

The failure of both conventional as well as alternative strategies to solve problems like inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction calls for new alliances of people and institutions. Conscious technology practice will be a vital element of those alliances. In this context it is instructive to review the technology concepts presented in publications of leading official agencies.

APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY (ILO)

The term "technology" is used to denote a given combination of machinery, raw materials and labour, as well as organisation of production, aspects of supervision, the necessary information, etc. So defined, "technology" encompasses everything pertaining to the transforming of inputs to outputs. Technologies which are particularly appropriate for achieving the social objectives of a country have ususally been defined in two ways. According to the first, a technology is appropriate if it makes optimum use of available resources in given environment: "for each process or project, it is the technology which maximises social welfare if factors and products are shadow-priced " The second way of defining appropriate technology is an indicative one, in the sense that the emphasis is on one or more characteristics of a technology, in particular characteristics which are compatible with one or more development objectives. Over the years the lLO has come to consider a technology (or a product) appropriate if it is more suitable to local circumstances and development objectives than any available alternative. In other words, local circumstances such as the availability of certain resources, and socio-economic objectives such as alleviating poverty, should be reflected in a mix of appropriate goods and services to be produced in such a way that economic as well as social benefits are maximised. Thus, in ILO activities, emphasis has been placed on the adaptation and improvement of traditional technologies which are still widely used in most developing countries.

EFFICENCY OF PRODUCTION (ILO)

The use of labour-intensive technologies in developing countries may he cost-efficient for reasons other than the inherent qualities of alternatives. The efficiency of technologies also depends on the available skills, infrastructure, and price ratios, and in general, on the circumstances of application which vary across countries. Thus the efficiency with which a specific technology is operated is likely to vary across and within countries, and indeed among different persons using the same technology in a given place.

AT AND BASIC NEEDS (ILO)

We argue that a basic needs approach is in fact a more comprehensive view of development, as it calls for greater emphasis on indigenous technology generation within developing countries, a larger capacity of the production system to absorb the benefits of growth through decentralised production and consumption planning.

Referring to technology in general, ILO's definition gives high emphasis to social, organizational and information aspects. This is crucial for proceeding towards an AT concept that is not too heavily biased by either purely technical or conventional economic perceptions. Of the big international agencies, the ILO is among those with the greatest commitment to AT as well as the widest understanding, including some interesting new perspectives on technology development such as the concept of technology blending. Even if there is a degree of focus on technical hardware, the LO's approach is not primarily technicist. It does not ignore the social and cultural aspects of technology and it demonstrates comparatively great respect for traditonal technologies.

In the ILO's understanding, the basic criteria for applying technology in a given situation depend strongly on the social objectives the technology is supposed to achieve. Consequently, any once-and-for-all definition of appropriateness is rejected. But the agency's own focus on a certain set of social objectives, such as employment generation and social equity (its "labour tradition"), lead in practice to a certain preference for the "low technologies" that are usually associated with the classic AT concept: small, simple, labour-intensive.

APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY (OECD)

Appropriate Technology (AT) is now recognized as the generic name for a wide range of technologies characterized by any one or several of the following features: low investment per workplace, low capital investment per unit of output, organisational simplicity, high adaptability to a particular social or cultural environment, sparing use of natural resources, low cost of final product or high potential for employment.

The OECD definition of 1983 offers another example for an almost complete identification of AT with small and low-tech. The more the focus is on low-cost, labour-intensive and simple, the stronger the indication that social or cultural adaptability is meant only for "a particular environment", not for a multitude of different contexts. This is an undue simplification of the conditions in the South. The possibilities for a meaningful use of more complex ("high-tech") solutions are unnecessarily neglected. And finally, the application of AT criteria in the North is largely excluded.

5. As the economy's technological capabilities increase, the technological challenges to the economy also change in ways that demand increasing organizational flexibility inside the economy, including the development of technological networks among cooperating fines.

Although considerably younger than the ILO and OECD conceptual statements, the World Bank's is the most conventional:

(1) The technologies from among which developing countries are supposed to choose are limited to existing blueprints. Technology choice and acquisition appears in this understanding as another form of Western predominance. Little consideration is given to the possibility that Western technology practice may become increasingly inappropriate in the West itself and of course more so in the rest of the world.

(2) The advantages of an independent scientific base are denied to developing countries until they have made sufficient progress on the way defined for them from outside. How, then, are these countries to develop the recommended capacity to evaluate and choose the technologies they need? Apart from this inherent contradiction, any lack of national scientific capacity further restricts the chances of developing suitable solutions with (instead of for) the users and of building on their own tradition and understanding. Postponing this task to later development stages will render any change of direction in favour of local autonomy more difficult.

(3) Declaring the criterion of scale as the most important one for technology choice stands for a technology concept in the tradition of neo-conservative economic thinking. Apart from being largely ignorant of other, eventually more essential spheres like culture and environment, the notion of "economies of scale" can even be challenged in economic terms: The key to prosperity i Japan and elsewhere lies in unorthodox responses to changing economic conditions and markets.

The question expressed in the title of this chapter, whether AT is one movement, obviously must be answered negatively at least with respect to those agencies that are strongly influenced by Western "fundamentalism". The World Bank statement exhibits a very selective and instrumental reference to AT. If treating technology as an endogenous factor in their models at all, mainstream economists have until recently "tended to reduce the process of technological change to something which is largely 'determined' by economic processes." Even though institutions like the World Bank now share environmental and social concerns (as indicated by recent publications like the 1991 World Development Report), they do not go so far as to recognize AT as a holistic concept and a technology practice geared towards human control and empowerment at the grassroot level.

These three positions may suffice here to illustrate how vast the span of "official" perceptions of AT can be, ranging from genuine identification with its objectives and normative judgments, through watered-down reception and half-hearted application (often because of institutional constraints), to mere instrumentalization of the concept for different objectives. However, outright rejection of the concept has become rare and its overall conceptual influence on the mainstream has increased.

Initially, Schumacher's Intermediate Technology was taken seriously only by a small network of friends and colleagues. The ideas he developed during his work in 1961 as an advisor to the Indian Government under Nehru were not appreciated by the majority in the Indian Planning Cornmission. The concept of Intermediate- Technology demanded too much reorientation to appeal to professional development planners. Among the first in the North to recognize the value of the concept was the British Minister of Overseas Development, Barbara Castle. Her Ministry was, however, not prepared to support the concept until demand could be demonstrated in the South. This led Schumacher to realize that he did not have to wait for official backing.

The earliest slogan he had coined held the answer: 'Find out what the people are doing and help them to do it better.' Action would result not from government intervention but from people themselves.

One of the main concerns of the Appropriate Technology movement has been to point out that technical progress did not solve basic problems like poverty, inequity, or environmental degration. The more the principles of AT appealed to common sense and basic humanity, the less they appear to be have been applied to mainstream technology practice.

"Remaining at the fringe of mainstream development thinking" is to remain sensitive to appreciate the small achievements (such as increased self-help capacity among poor people) that make big impact possible. The AT movement does not need to strive to maximize influence on the mainstream at all costs. Rather, it should focus with its humanitarian-based technology practice on direct involvement in emancipatory efforts in the South and in the North. Broader political impact will follow.

THE MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS OF THE AT MOVEMENT

North-South, South-South, One World?

The AT movement has evolved in two distinct but interrelated streams: The Southern stream is mainly concerned with attaining increased economic development while the Northern stream is rather disenchanted with mainstream industrial culture and the prevailing paradigm of economic and technological growth. It is increasingly recognized, however, that categorizing the world according to a strict North-South dichotomy disregards each country's unique natural, geographic, social and political features.

The areas of common interest and activity for the AT agencies in the North and the South are becoming clearer and more organized. The two different streams of AT may cooperate more closely and even converge due to increasing ecological awareness and the indivisibility of environmental effects. Continued unabated propagation of Western civilization and consumption patterns will have disastrous effects for the world as a whole. The political role of "the misfits" in the hard core of the AT movement consists of nothing less than extending the critique of wasteful lifestyles and technology practices from small aid playgrounds to much vaster segments of society in the South and, above all, to the political and cultural arena in the North.

This task places the AT movement in touch with environmental and socio-political movements. But, though a growing number of common issues have been identified in recent years, no strong organizational links have been developed. Northern environmental agencies have pushed environmental issues onto the development agenda, but the reverse has hardly occurred; poverty reduction is a minor theme for most environmentalists. More and better strategic alliances between the two types of agencies are urgently needed to gain more influence on trade, aid and environmental policies. Among the major insights such alliances stand to gain from the experience of the AT movement is the need to respect the genuine interests of the South. The history of Technology Transfer provides ample evidence of how attempts at cooperation are bound to fail if pre-conceived solutions are imposed. The multiple initiatives towards Participatory Technology Development, on the other hand, demonstrate what is needed for more equitable alliances: genuine grassroot work that follows the people's own agendas.

Another precondition is to overcome the traditional economic and political obstacles to an alternative technology practice:

Despite the growing economic rationality of ATs, they will not develop and diffuse autonomously. There are too many vested interests in the old form of production, and markets are imperfect carriers of technological change, particularly of new ways of thinking. Consequently, there remains an important role for policy intervention.

The demand for Southern participation in determining AT agendas is expressed in two major issues which figure prominently in the literature and surfaced in the discussions during the workshop: local expertise and traditional knowledge, and South-South exchange and cooperation.

The first issue, incorporating local expertise and traditional knowledge, is clearly a high priority with AT groups worldwide:

Local cultivating, manufacturing, and marketing skills should be drawn upon from the first stages of technology development, not just the latter stages of testing. The R & D process for AT should maximize the participation of local artisans, farmers, distributors, and particularly local women, who are the main users of the technologies.

Similarly, almost everybody involved in AT work agrees on the need for more South-South exchange and cooperation. The experiences of the LO and UN/TCDC show that under certain conditions technologies can be picked from the rich stock of alternatives and made available with minor modifications to vast numbers of users. Apart from focusing on structural similarities between countries, it is most important in South-South exchange to work through participatory organizations at the grassroot level. Together both aspects can greatly enhance the chances that technologies will be truly appropriate and achieve widespread dissemination.

Theoretical and Practical Diversity

Since Schumacher's original work, the AT movement has spread into numerous branches and activities without much caring about a coherent theory. Still, there is a sufficient degree of consensus to qualify AT as a social movement.

This tension between consensus and diversity is typical of social movements, as opposed to dogmatic or tightly proscribed academic schools of thought, and need not be seen as reflecting fundamental flaws in the theory (...) The confluence of a huge variety of people dealing with different problems in different contexts, in different parts of the world, inevitably leads to a diversity of concerns and perspectives.

Far from being a criticism of AT, this statement helps to clarify what can be expected from the movement by pointing out one of its great strengths: being able to influence and bring together many diverse people and currents.

The numerous thematic and practical foci of the AT movement are not all conceptually equivalent. Some represent sub-movements while others will only be understood properly in a wider environmental or socio-political context. Several themes and activities are found across many sub-movements: basic needs, small enterprise promotion, village technology, indigenous knowledge systems, concepts of participation and empowerment, equity and self-reliance, and political and cultural freedom. Many of those issues are translated into action in various sectors such as small-scale industries and agriculture, food processing, traditional health systems, decentralized energy supply, transport, and building.

Recognizing the Importance of People's Creativity

Unorganized, disorganized, clandestine and usually illegal, the informal sector has been neglected by aid agencies, denigrated by economists and harrassed by of oficialdom. And yet an increasing number of studies are revealing how widespread and important it is. In most Third World cities, it represents as much as half the workforce; in Bombay it occupies a full 55 per cent of the labour force. In Peru it covers 47 per cent of the population on a permanent basis, accounts for 61 per cent of the person-hoars worked, and contributes 38 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.

Overcoming bureaucratic hindrances to establish a small garment factory in Peru took the equivalent in cash and time of 32 month's wages. Using state-owned land required 207 bureaucratic steps in 48 government offices. The same result was achieved in New York in four hours. This comparison is mentioned here not to demonstrate Western administrative efficiency but to point to the enormous gap between two co-existing spheres of life in the South: "modern" administration and social reality. This fundamental gap has negative implications for the administration and for the society. First, bureaucracies and with them large parts of the "formal" economy become dysfunctional if they are not built on a meaningful relationship with society. Second, almost the entire social and economic sphere of the majority tends to be classified as primitive and opposed to progress.

Development agencies are not immune to fee dangers of such superficial generalizations. A category such as "the informal sector" suggests a tendency to disregard people's creativity and the diversity of their productive efforts. Surviving under very adverse conditions is a capacity built on autonomous social organization and knowledge. Economically biased perceptions tend to ignore both the achievements and the preconditions of self-reliance.

AT can be credited with having directed attention towards the relevance, the diversity and the problems of the "informal economy", and for devoting much energy to promoting small and informal enterprises. Considerable more political efforts against bureaucratic regulations and in favour of decentralization will be required to overcome governmental bias in favour of the formal economy and large enterprises. AT takes on this task in conceptual terms as well as through a practical case-by-case approach. With its emphasis on diverse and highly situation-specific solutions, it often seems more promising than abstract "policy dialogues" or uni-directional structural adjustment programmes. And above all, if understood as a concept for technical as well as political empowerment, it frees the notion of "participation" from any paternalistic connotation:

It is not the people who should participate in anything. It is we who have to participate in the popular processes, in their concerns and struggles.

Overcoming Conventional Economic Thinking

In view of the universality of the 'economic aspect' it is not surprising, neither is it abnormal, that a 'science', a systematic 'body of thought should have grown up, commonly called Economics. But one thing is surprising, and is indeed abnormal, namely, that there should only be one 'science', only one body of thought called Economics. (...) What today is looked upon as the science of economics is based upon one particular outlook on life, one only, the outlook of the Materialist. (...) The essence of Materialism is not its concern with material wants, but the total absence of any idea of Limit or Measure.

The effects of governmental policies on the development and application of appropriate technologies were worked out in great detail by Frances Stewart and others in a series of conferences and case studies in the late Eighties. Among the major conclusions was that in most developing countries policies on the macro and the meso level do not encourage the majority of users to choose appropriate technologies but rather lead to inappropriate decisions. Isolated intervention to promote AT at the micro level is unlikely to have positive effects without corresponding policy changes. Influencing national policies to create a more conducive environment for AT is particularly difficult in periods of economic neo-liberalism.

However, the neo-liberal counterrevolution lost much of its impetus towards the end of the Eighties. Today, even prominent proponents of neo-liberalism accept that market forces alone can have a devastating effect and that there are certain roles for the state to play.

AT can provide policy guidelines towards democratization, poverty alleviation, and environmental conservation. Policies to achieve those objectives must focus on popular participation, human resource development, the creation of structural conditions that allow small enterprises to be competitive, and allocation of R&D funds in favour of those processes. Many, if not all, of those policies would have to challenge the dictates of structural adjustment programmes, the prevailing imbalances in economic policies (import-dependence, pricing and allocation of production factors, excessive export-orientation), and the concentration of funds on "modern" technologies.

Resisting Modernization Pressures

The appropriateness of using the latest state-of-the-art technologies for different development strategies and in certain contexts has always been an intensely debated issue in the AT movement.

Due to radical technical change, future economic development will rely to an ever lesser extent on low-wage, low-qualified workers and natural endowments (i.e. static comparative advantages). Industrial competitiveness is increasingly teased on flexible specialization with skilled labour. Natural resources will successively be substituted by new products based on biotechnology, genetic engineering and new materials technology.

In this perspective, a promising development model comprises the following features: environmental soundness, human-cantered rationalization, a high degree of worker participation, and smaller and more flexible business units. Organization and qualification, the "soft factors" of technology, will in the future be most decisive. If AT gives particular emphasis to those factors in its approach towards technology, it should have a bright future.

This model draws from the experience of the Newly Industrialized Countries in East Asia, and criticizes the anti-innovative effects of protectionist import substitution policies that had been followed for decades in Latin America. However, as the participants of the working group pointed out, its applicability is limited to relatively few countries which occupy certain niches in the world market. Successful specialization-based world market integration is hardly within reach of countries at the lower end of the global wealth-versus-poverty scale. There, the main issue is to prevent further destitution, and the only available option is for the poor majority to mobilize their own means and capacities. The poor stand to gain little from "flexible specialization" because it is based on mastering technologies they cannot acquire.

Flexible specialization may emerge as the coming form of organizing production in highly industrialized economies. It may help overcome some of the absurdities of over-industrialization. It may lead the "most developed" countries one step away from the socio-politically, culturally and environmentally harmful forms of large-scale production. Through contributing to human-cantered economic behaviour and technology practice in the North, the principle of flexible specialization may improve the chances of the economic world system becoming more rational. Promoting advances in that direction is an important objective for AT in industrial countries; one which may also generate indirect positive effects for the South. But as a new general development paradigm for the South it is no more appropriate than the simplistic assumptions of neo-liberalism.

AT in the North

The main reason for advocating AT in the North is a humanitarian and political concern with the negative Western influence on the South:

All the most decisive problems of development may be summed up, it seems to me, in the question: 'How can the impact of the West be canalized in such a way that it does not continue to throw the people into apathy and paralysis?'

Western impact has many dimensions. Among the most serious is the global economic predominance of Western capitalism, almost entirely unchallenged since the economic breakdown and political disintegration of the socialist world. Unlike one or two decades ago, the mechanisms of this hegemony, such as the protracted round of negotiations over the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in the early Nineties, nowadays attract little attention.

The uncompromising way the economically strong countries defend their interests has made the GATT negotiations a symbol of national protectionism. There are many negative consequences to be expected if this attitude should not change. First, the position of export producers in the South will be undermined further. Second, the danger of trade wars and economic nationalism (similar to those preceding the Second World War) will increase and may even lead to attempts at recolonization to secure economic advantages. Third, industrial pollution is likely to increase with intensified pressure to produce everything domestically. An appropriate reaction to the present crisis in international trade regulations cannot be sought in rejecting international regulations altogether. If neither a completely free world market nor national autarchy hold suitable overall solutions, the only reasonable approach lies in working for a gradual incorporation of social, developmental and environmental criteria into the international trade regime.

A more philosophical motive to emphasize the role of AT in the North is the growing concern about the "technological society" in which the dynamics and imperatives of technological change erode human control over the development process. Once again, it is not technology alone that must be addressed, but its complex interrelationship with society. Technology is but one of three major "deculturizing" factors, the other two being economy and politics. All three are to an ever lesser extent at the service of man and seem to follow a logic that is no longer understandable. The way Western societies react to environmental problems demonstrates how urgent a change in the development paradigms has become. Environmental policies offer little more than ad-hoc crisis management. Technology policy seems to aim at optimizing resource consumption near the ecologically tolerable limits. It is not only far from reaching this objective but also far from developing alternatives which are not based on naive assumptions about the benefits of technological progress.

There are many attitudes to the problems of the "technological society", ranging from optimistic belief in technological progress to anti-technological counter-reactions. Most AT proponents lean towards the qualitatively oriented middle, in focusing on the direction of technology practice and the nature of specific technologies. The majority in the AT movement are well aware of the problem without over-reacting to it. The relevance and necessity of technology does not allow neglecting the subject as the two above extremes tend to do.

One prominent AT issue in the North is the search for soft and efficient energy options. But there are also problems of a more socio-economic or political nature among the prime concerns: the widening structural gap between those two-thirds of society who participate in its wealth and those who are excluded, the inability of governments to implement anti-poverty welfare programs when they are most needed, and the need for a technology that allows economic and workplace democracy. Substantial market forces are pressing for appropriate technological solutions. Monetary and environmental costs of energy generation exert a continuous pressure to develop affordable alternatives.

The more Western civilization drifts into crisis, the greater the motivation to turn towards AT for cultural reasons. Cultural alienation and the deterioration of individual and group identities are not exclusive to the South. It is from the North that most cultural distortions have spread around the globe through the mechanisms of enforcement and seduction, and it is here where the pan-economic and the pan-technological civilization originate. Consequently, the North has a particular role to play in curing the disease.

Applying AT as a human-cantered technology concept and practice in the North is but a logical consequence of its holistic approach. It should help to transcend uncritical modernism through post-modern principles of decentralization and plurality. It should also help toovercome the narrow-minded euro-centrism that is underlying most approaches towards North-South relations, be it in the form of political and aid paternalism or "revolutionary" projections. And it should help to clarify the multiple causes and dimensions of the global ecological crisis: excessive growth, affluence and pollution in the North versus stagnation and grinding poverty in the South. Though appearing very different, those phenomena are interlinked by political relations, cultural domination, and economic exploitation. The importance of equity, autonomy and self-reliance will be realized much more clearly if AT is seriously applied in the North.

LEARNING TO LIVE WITH DIFFERENCES

A fairly definite answer can only be given to the first pert of the question "Different ConceptsMovement?". There are certainly many different perceptions, indeed concepts, involve in what is somewhat uncertainly called "the AT movement". To what extent it is seen as "one movement" greatly depends on the observer's standpoint. Conceptual rigidity and organizational homogenization are unlikely to enhance AT's influence on societies in the South or the North, or on the cooperation between them. As a philosophy and a technology practice that values cultural and environmental diversity, AT thrives on the differences. This central theme of the workshop AT in Post-Modern Times will be further illustrated in the following chapter and taken up again in the action in part III.

"Post-modern" signifies times of change and uncertainty in which we must learn to live with inconsistencies. More than 2000 years of European philosophy have taught the West that development is the result of overcoming contradictions. Undemocratic thinking and behaviour stems from the fact that philosophy has not taught the West to accept contradictions. Western democracy is determined by the predominance of delegating over participating. The danger that the delegation principle may breed increasingly bureaucratic and dictatorial politics grows with the worldwide escalation of environmental, social and political problems. Environment and technology experts formulate guidelines for the political system derived from 'tolerable' pollution and resource consumption limits. 'Policy experts' implement these 'ecological imperatives' through taxation, legislation, licenses and bargaining. Avoiding the 'expertocracy' looming in this scenario requires widespread capacity and action towards autonomous technology development and control.

Contrary to this realization, most representatives of institutions and governments (the 'mainstream') still seem to believe in the transfer of ready-made solutions and technical blueprints. During UNCED, demands were directed towards "arming" the South as soon as possible with environmental technologies (the military terminology corresponds with a felt need for security among the wealthy). Participants in the economic and technological development race firmly believe in technology as the solution to human and environmental problems. The result is a fatal restriction of options for conscious technology choice: whatever appears possible in technical terms has to be done (before somebody else does it anyway). In view of this growing irrationality, theoretical critiques of the development paradigm become increasingly fundamental. This moves their proponents to peripheral positions in society and to a corresponding lack of practical involvement. This, in turn, leads to a lack of (technical) competence and thus to a further loss of ground from where to influence the direction of development.

The two spheres of economy/technology and culture/civilization are thus constantly drifting further apart. The political sphere is increasingly unable to mediate between the two other spheres, as it suffers itself from a loss of culture and allows that technological means are used almost exclusively for economic ends. AT is not in the least an attempt to free technology practice from its economic biases.

The demand to "think globally" is primarily directed to the North: those participating in the accumulation of wealth must acknowledge the interrelations between wealth, poverty, and social and environmental destruction. The second half of the slogan, "act locally", reflects the different types of action required at both ends of the North-South spectrum. In the North: deliberate economic confinement, cultural re-orientation, and political lobbying in favour of the most underprivileged. In the South: working on sound autonomous development alternatives and struggling for the political freedom required for their realisation.

Different fields of action must not divide the movement. There are not many examples of cooperation between diverse parts of worldwide social movements, and AT is not an exception to this rule. But there are promising initiatives: activities in education, awareness raising and lobbying by AT groups in the North, based on multiple inputs and perceptions of partners from the South. Appropriate organizational forms for such partnerships must necessarily be different from the standard pattern of Northern predominance. The working units must be composed equally of members from both ends who will be able to integrate the different fields of activity.

 

11. AT as a cultural approach to development

Klaus Schmitt

Schumacher's and the AT movement's insistence that all analysis and activities be centered on people is a cultural approach to development. Culture embraces all aspects of life: know-how, technical knowledge, clothing and eating habits, religion, mentalities, values, language, symbols, socio-political and economic behaviour, ways of reaching decisions and yielding power, modes of production, and more. Contrary to most development strategies, which focus on material and quantifiable aspects or on socio-political features, the cultural approach addresses reality in a holistic and dynamic way. Holistic, because culture embraces all aspects of life; and dynamic because culture changes in accordance with people's needs and external influences.

The most far-reaching form of Western dominance is not that of transnational corporations, governments, capitalist or socialist ideologies - it is cultural hegemony. Never before has one culture dominated over all others as comprehensively, intensively and monolithically as today. Never before have processes of acculturation been forced on people with the same speed and universality: the evolution of Jazz as a blend of different musical traditions took ages if compared to the time in which Disco Music conquered the world - not to mention the very different musical and communicative qualities of those phenomena, which seem to be inversely proportional to their aggressiveness.

Development strategies may unilaterally propagate material growth and modernization; or they may aim at a global liberation process. The first type dominates in big agencies and bureaucracies; the second is the somewhat vague common ground of progressive governments, agencies and NGOs. But even this second version largely adheres to a mono-cultural development concept. In neither of the dominant development concepts has culture been assigned its proper place; most probably so because it has usually been perceived far too narrowly as a collection of objects, as 'background', or as a secondary pastime. Cultural aspects cannot and should not replace economic, social and political aspects, but neither can they be ignored. Culture is needed to complement, complete, and indeed often correct the economic, social and political analyses. It can certainly not be disconnected from politics: distinctions will eventually have to be made between the dominant culture and the dominated ones.

'Developers' of all kinds have caused extensive destruction by imposing the mainstream monoculture: 'civilizing' missions have wiped out oral traditions; economic development strategies have destroyed non-monetary cultures; national sovereignty and nationalism have tilted the balance between societies and states in favour of the latter. Even "progressive" interventions in favour of democracy and human rights have produced negative effects by undermining principles of consensus-oriented politics and replacing traditional non-individualistic systems of justice and law.

'Development' is a very ambiguous concept. On one hand it contains the West's positive achievements; a wealth of knowledge that can be used for a variety of purposes, in many societes and with many humanitarian applications. On the other hand, it carries with it the bias of Western materialism and threatens to undermine cultural diversity and self-determination. Numerous examples from the present development discourse demonstrate that this threat is real. The term 'informal sector' portrays little appreciation of local autonomy and diversity but suggests further "economic colonization" of the spheres in which large numbers of people survive. 'Sustainable development' refers more often to the reconciliation of economic growth with 'environmental security' than to sustaining poor people's own development. This comes along with a trend towards a "global ecocracy" of capital, bureaucracy and science; which means continued predominance of Western economic interests, but with more central control.

The development paradigm is often criticized as the ideological core of Western economic, political and cultural predominance.

Delusion and disappointment, failures and crimes have been steady con,panions of development and they tell a common story: it did not work. Moreover, the historical conditions which catapulted the idea into prominence have vanished: development has become outdated. But above all, the hopes and desires which made the idea fly, are now exhausted: development has grown obsolete.

The rejection of the very idea of development usually shares with the AT approach a preference for diversity and local autonomy. The practical conclusions are, however, quite different: the proponents of AT do not agree to abstain from all further aid interventions, as implied or demanded by the critics of the 'aid industry'. There is an important difference between development and aid - the difference between ideology and practice. To what extent aid promotes or retards development and allows alternative options, could be debated endlessly. But the early Nineties are not an appropriate period to suggest abandoning humanitarian-motivated aid, or better cooperation. While the "belief in the powers of the market to solve the world's development problems is fading away, the development idea is increasingly replaced by strong trends towards political, economic and environmental crisis management. This implies in practice more forceful and authoritarian interventions, including military action as a regular means of safeguarding Western interests. Economic domination, political paternalism and cultural imperialism will not cease to exist, but will cause greater damage, if not counterbalanced in practice.

However sceptical they are towards the development paradigm, the critics agree that non-Western, non-economic and non-technicist alternatives need to be developed, based on cultural diversity.

Any viable alternative to our current market developmentalism should be based on a drastic reconsideration of our cultural values. Traditionally, in all societies, trading and technological activities were both strictly regulated and subjected to symbolic constraints. With development, all of these religious and spiritual limits are progressively removed. The end result, as is well demonstrated by contemporary Western societies, is a hypertrophic economic order, a subordinated political domain, and an indefinable social sphere of only residual significance.

The challenge is to develop culturally and environmentally sensitive forms of cooperation. Development must be made to respect cultural diversity; to allow people to choose and define their own objectives. It is culture that gives human activity and technology its direction and meaning development is tbroughout a cultural process.

Culture is an optimistic option. The failure of countless projects due to people's culturally motivated resistance is not easily accepted as a "success story". Nonetheless, it does demonstrate that Westernization is not the inevitable fate of the South. Traditional value systems persist under the surface of "modernization" and are often the cause of its failure. But when destruction reaches the inner core of a culture, the result is loss of identity and apathy - damage rather than development. Cultural identity is the base of all self-reliance. Preserving this identity will in many cases call for supporting rather than overcoming cultural resistance to "modernization".

Stressing positive aspects of traditional societies such as non-materialistic value systems does not mean idealizing poverty. It means recognizing the reality of those societies as complex, different, and often full of wisdom the West is desperately lacking. Knowing how to live with poverty is a strength of many traditional societies; one upon which their survival and their capacity for autonomous development is built. This strength is easily ignored by those with an economically conditioned perception: "Poverty is a concept which one learns". If external interventions are based on the assumption that poverty equals passivity, they will undermine rather than strengthen self-reliance. The only way to avoid this danger is to insist that people determine their own affairs.

Some Working Group Results

The working group on Lifestyles, Resources and Environment compiled a variety of examples of living cultures that are very different from Western consumption-oriented civilization. Many statements expressed great concern over the damage that is done to family and community structures at the social micro-level in non-Western societies. "In Thailand we live three generations together, we learn about life together, we learn how to learn, we learn how to deal with ourselves and nature. What happens when this breaks up?"

On the other hand, the negative implications of traditional cultures and social structures for social equity were also mentioned: "In India family tradition can hamper wealth sharing.''15 Furthermore, it was well recognized that existing structures are changed by external influence, often through the "subversive" effects of foreign technologies, consumer goods and cultural messages imported into traditional settings.

There is a growing consensus that AT has to be a very broad concept; its objective of working with and for the poor implies the need to face environmental challenges as well as those of human welfare. It is the socio-cultural and the environmental context that ultimately determines 'appropriateness'. And it is the process of human-cantered cooperation that leads AT to change and grow during application.

Knowledge receives particular emphasis in the AT philosophy. One working group described AT as the science of the particular. While strengthening the general scientific base, it also has to accept the sceptical and the non-glamorous. It must focus on the extreme and on the common. This is reflected in its respect for traditional knowledge; it combines formal scientific with non-formal popular knowledge.

Respecting the knowledge and autonomous action of the people as the subjects (not "target groups") of development has important practical implications: "People's development has its own rhythm, hence AT shall oppose any tendency to be locked into the scopes, objectives and time-frarnes of projects." Ways must be found to blend these rhythms with the urgent need for efficient resource utilization in the face of looming worldwide ecological threats. Included among AT's response to the ecological challenge is the concept of technology mix, allowing to blend the most "modern" technologies with traditional ones.

AT's notion of highly environment-specific technological learning is in some ways opposed to the acquisition of technology from outside sources. The demand that "we must learn to see our Sociotechnical-ecological system in a wider perspective, the perspective of politics", combined with the realization that "small farmers do not easily see the effect of outside forces on their life and work we must help them to become more resilient to destructive outside forces", reflects great caution towards technology transfer because of concerns that the users may not be able to assess and control the effects of an alien technology.

At the other end of the spectrum, proponents of technology transfer argued that "technology can be acquired, developing it from scratch is not needed in most cases - AT groups must increasingly use one another's skills and experience." Insofar as this statement points to the advantages of South-South exchange and of cooperation within the AT movement, its pragmatic content (don't re-invent the wheel!) is well appreciated. Pragmatism should, however, not go so far as to draw the attention away from the dangers of implanting alien technologies.

A similar difference in basic philosophies is evident in the various approaches to technology assessment. It was generally agreed that technology assessment is a necessary and natural component of AT. But while some participants stressed that AT needs to use scientific instruments like simulation programs to forecast the effects of technology applications, others rejected the belief in complete information as a myth, a trap into which Western science often falls. The great gap between those two attitudes towards technology assessment systems is due to very different ideas of the role of science in human life. Once again, as in many other ideology-loaded controversies, AT's genuine position seems to be the practice-oriented and experience-based middle: "The more we know about the impact of technology the better we are equipped to promote the beneficial. Technology assessment is a necessary skill for every community on earth - AT can help to develop this capacity." Knowing about the impact of technology is the very essence of AT. This knowledge results from experience gained in applying science while accomodating cultural biases and limits.

"Development" as a term and an ideology incorporates Western cultural biases which often lead to negative economic, cultural and ecological outcomes. "Development - the social experiment of the 20tb century - cannot go on, nor can the world population ever join this experiment. Development has increasingly become Westernization - that period should and will come to an end." The new Western religion and missionary message has not yet succeeded in eradicating the world's social and cultural diversity. But the impact of the last 50 years has become progressively more intense because the message has been carried by an ever tighter network of mass media. What people do or don't do in remote villages or urban slums is increasingly influenced by alien concepts.

But rejecting the notion of development altogether would mean turning a blind eye to reality. What AT can do is to work for and with a pluralistic development concept that meets a wide range of needs, requirements, and values in different communities. "Every country will have to find its own way to produce according to its capacities and resources" and according to its people's values, needs, and visions of the future. This requires that AT must emphasize innovative and flexible approaches to technology development and dissemination and overcome internal biases such as its gender blindness.

The working group on Cultural Issues, "Development" and AT Philosophy summed up its deliberations in a core statement:

In emphasizing 'learning to live with differences', AT is a post-modern concept. The question 'interfere or not interfere' and the type and depth of outside intervention will always have to be faced very consciously. While being based on solid science, AT shall also respect non-formalized popular knowledge and create links between the two spheres which strengthen rather than impair 'the cultural immune system' of societies. It includes an aesthetic dimension and a dimension of freedom. Depending on the totality of circumstances under which communities live, AT needs to walk on many legs: technological, economic, political, educational, environmental.

The working group pointed out that "paradoxes and contradictions are a fact of life in the postmodern world". Rather than looking at them, and on culture in general, as barriers to smooth progress, the AT movement should derive strength from learning to live with diversity as the basis for development and human survival.

 

12. Spreading the word: organizations, information dissemination, networking

Holger Nauheimer

Of course we know what 'Appropriate Technology' is!

We just do not know what we should do!

 

A NEED FOR INFORMATION EXCHANGE

AT is no longer a single set of ideas, it is now embodied in individuals, in parts of larger organizations and indeed in whole organizations around the world. "Individuals range from the lone peasant farmer firmly believing in the value of his skills and methods to improve his lot and that of his fellows, to the eager modern scientist seeking to contribute his knowledge towards creating a new, kinder world order."

But the scientist and the farmer need to talk to each other. Many barriers exist which hinder contact. They may be separated by long distances or by insufficient transport facilities; they may be separated by language, class, gender, experience and values. Contact may be stifled because neither of them can bear the cost for their information exchange. But in most cases the reason for the lack of contact is quite simple: they do not know each other. "The main issue of concern is no longer technology, but adequate methods of dissemination of technology and information". This chapter addresses the limits of information exchange and how to overcome those limits. Some of the mechanisms created to assist people in exchanging information will be discussed.

The contribution of TOOL to the workshop (chapter 5) deals with the role of information in development processes. The main statements were:

- Information is one of the main limiting factors of technology transfer in the modern world.

- Information is an inexhaustible input, which can be used again and again and by many parties.

- Information leads to innovation in production, products, and markets.

- Developing countries generally lack infrastructure geared to information transfer, which in industrialized countries is subsidized by the state.

- Development assistance can opt to either hand out selected units of information, or to facilitate the free flow of information.

INSTRUMENTS OF AT DISSEMINATION

In the past, the process of technology transfer was mainly a matter of "know-how". This proved to be insufficient with regard to alternative technologies and their many diverse applications. Though during the last two decades the need for appropriate technological solutions has increasingly been recognized, much less has been done to secure appropriate information flows. Besides "know-how", mechanisms of "let-know" need to be understood as well. A working group of the workshop AT in Post-Modern Times analyzed the process of AT dissemination and identified the following instruments:

x

written technical information: product manuals, books, advertisement' flyers, etc.;

x

new media: radio, TV, electronic mailing;

x

databases;

x

mediators, facilitators, consultants;

x

business promotion: material support, subcontracting, licensing, marketing, trade fairs and exhibitions, catalogues;

x

human resource development: awareness raising workshops, action research, school curricula, vocational training;

x

technology policy and management: financial support, "appropriate" technology policy, technical standards.

WRITTEN INFORMATION

Written information is one of the main instruments of technology dissemination, widely used by commercial firms and adapted by most institutions in the AT movement. It consists of printed documents, local publishing, flyers, product information, and so on.

Technical information sheets, which may be valuable in many cases, also have disadvantages. They do not take into account the context in which technologies emerged and they are not adapted to specific application conditions. "The accumulation of sheets that contain more general and abstract than context-specific information produces some sort of a 'bazaar effect', encouraging ideas and creativity but at the same time hardly serving AT's credibility."

Technical sheets are expensive. In their classical, commercial application they are either pure advertising material or operating instructions. For AT organizations, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to earn an income by selling technical sheets to partners and state grants are difficult to obtain for this kind of service." However, regular exchange of ideas and experience between people in different countries and continents is facilitated by and depends on publications. The value of AT magazines and newsletters transcends their technical contents: they help to link people working on similar problems in different locations.

DATABASES

In post-modern times, the provision of information cannot be by written it alone. No library is big enough to hold all product information, catalogues and other printed matter. Already, bibliographies are published which only list other bibliographies. Modern microelectronics have become a cheap and appropriate instrument for collecting and disseminating information. It is much cheaper to copy a diskette, which can store a quantity of information equal to a book of more than 500 pages! A standard hard disk of 120 MB can store information equal to 200 books. And this is not the upper end. Mass storage media with a capacity of 2 Gigabyte, which is equivalent to 2,000,000,000 characters, were available for less than US$ 3,000 at the time of publishing this book.

The rapid increase of information requires new kinds of infrastructure for handling it. A question-and-answer service, up to now a use-r-friendly instrument, may no longer be viable if its information sources are too limited. To keep pace with the rapid developments in the information market and meet the specific requirements of the respective clients, question-and-answer services will increasingly have to be integrated into network structures.

Many computerized technology databases are already in operation. Most are commercialized; some are subsidized by public institutions such as the ILO and the UNIDO, which provide access to electronic media for users in the South.

ILO has actively promoted the development, dissemination and application of appropriate technologies in developing countries for many years. In 1986 the organization established a technological information system called Information Service on Technological Alternatives for

Development (INSTEAD) which was recently expanded to include areas such as credit systems, management, and marketing.

UNIDO has initiated a comprehensive computerized information network called Industrial and Technological Information Bank (INTIB). INTIB processes and distributes databases on industry, technology and environment issues. UNIDO has established national and regional focal points, which collect data and distribute information. Most of INTIB's 70 national focal points are in developing countries. The target is to answer most inquiries at the national level. When this is not possible, the question is referred to UNIDO headquarters, which has access to various international databases. INTIB recognizes that information systems have to be commercialized to be viable and efficient. While part of the demand for information may be satisfied without cost, most information must be paid for. Several of UNIDO's further databases, such as those on recycling methods and environmental management, are operated on a commercial basis.

INTIB and INSTEAD are only two examples of innumerable public, private and commercial information systems.

Data referral and information management systems should facilitate reasonable use of the increased availability of information. Applying commercial principles may be the only way to keep pace with the dramatic expansion in this sphere. Though the hardware becomes cheaper, the cost of providing appropriate information to the user may increase. With the growing amount of information available in databases, inquiries must become more specific and quality control becomes more difficult. The personnel requirements of information management - collection, entry, retrieval, and qualitative assessment of data - add to the cost. Whenever possible, users should pay appropriate prices for the information they request. This should help the operating agencies to improve and expand their services. But it will not free the industrialized countries from the need to subsidize information management systems - especially those focusing on a diverse spectrum of users, including the poor.

MEDIATORS, FACILITATORS AND CONSULTANTS

Mediators and facilitators play an important role in technology dissemination.12 They bridge the gap between end-users and resources and provide information about alternative technical solutions, processes and methodologies. With the increasing use of participatory planning methods, "solution assessment" skills are becoming more important than mere technical advice. Stimulating the search for appropriate solutions requires good understanding of the respective socio-cultural and environmental context and a solid background of inter-cultural communication skills. Whether communication barriers are overcome or heightened depends to a high degree on the moderation techniques applied in the cooperation process. If participation is meant to be more than a hollow phrase, mediators must create equal opportunities for everybody to make his or her perceptions and priorities understood. This is particularly relevant in situation analysis and problem identification, when the basic assumptions and the direction of projects and programmes are determined.

Consultants can accelerate the application of technical, economic and managerial skills to the solution of practical problems. In particular, they can reduce the time required to get new undertakings into operation by providing the information necessary for rapid implementation. Consultants from Southern or Northern countries provide additional skills and fresh insights; they may see the problems to which clients have become inured. Moreover, an external consultant can usually give unbiased opinions and provide objective evaluations since she/he is not hampered by internal politics and loyalties. However, 'external' does not mean 'foreign'- and the involvement of consultants from the North should be limited to those cases in which experienced and unbiased national specialists are not available.

BUSINESS PROMOTION AND LOCAL TECHNOLOGICAL CAPACITY

Successful alternative technologies must be proven and tested in practice. Mass dissemination will be achieved if technologies are appropriate solutions to common problems of vast numbers of people. Spontaneous uptake and multiplication will occur if people can observe the benefits of new technologies and if a dissemination mechanism is available. Their vast number qualifies small enterprises in the 'informal sector' as dissemination agents; being rooted in their societies' traditional knowledge ensures genuine adaptation of technological innovation. Every society has a large body of technical knowledge based on careful observation and use of its natural resources.

Local industry must develop the capacity to manipulate and modify technology and eventually replace it with local innovation. This ability cannot be substituted for in critical technologies, nor can it be sub-divided and delegated. This is not meant to imply that developing countries must master the complexities of each and every component their societies and economies demand. Even the World 's most technically sophisticated economies are not averse to 'sourcing' components and techniques externally. However, they are masters of the machines that incorporate the external components.

Small enterprise development is a low cost, widely dispersed, culturally acceptable, socially and economically responsive marketing mechanism. Many technologies adapted to the local needs have been developed in the small business sector without any support from AT institutions.

Although the potential for AT in the small enterprise sector is high, the links between them are still weak. This is due to the poor information infrastructure of AT organizations; most entrepreneurs are not aware of alternative technical solutions. In the past, the AT movement has focused too much on invention and neglected marketing. Although many AT organizations are increasingly directing their attention to small enterprise promotion, they do not yet know the needs of that sector sufficiently. Therefore, market research in this sector should be conducted and instruments should be created to encourage integration and a process of two-way technology transfer.

TECHNOLOGY CENTRES

Views concerning the viability of technology centres vary considerably within the AT movement. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Africa and the Pacific supports the idea of national centres for transfer of technology. Such centres should provide assistance for

x

active technology information (e.g. database systems);

x

technology forecasting competence at the national level;

x

active technology syndication;

x

human resource development.

The ILO found that in the past technology centres were not self-sustainable. They were supposed to function as focal points for innovation, reference and extension, but were not able to provide their services on an economic basis. The demand did not grow as originally anticipated and governments were not able to subsidize the centres.

In future, technology centres may focus more on producing groups of products (Khosla's "clusters"). The process of market-oriented innovation should be based on small networks of producers. Potters and brickmakers could, for example, work together with technology centres to develop and test new methods for the production of bricks, stoves, and other devices made of clay. This type of technology centre can provide technical expertise and consultants for appropriate technologies. The demand for experts coming from developing countries is expected to grow enormously in the Nineties.

Technology centres help to meet a portion of the tremendous demand for low-cost shelter in developing countries. A successful example from India is the "franchised network" for low-cost housing supported by Technology and Action for Rural Development (T.A.RA.). Based on a well-defined allocation of responsibilities between network partners, T.A.R.A. brings autonomous production and marketing units under the umbrella of a common strategy and brand image. It helps local enterprises to meet local needs in an economically viable and self-reliant manner through decentralized production and marketing. Similar enterprises would have many purposes. They create public awareness of appropriate technologies; they produce, store and market improved building materials; they develop, market and repair construction tools; they train local artisans and - not least - they construct houses.

NETWORKING

AT development is never done; it has to be continuously adapted to the needs, potentials and culture of the users and relies heavily on their experience. Networking provides a channel for sharing experience and knowledge on various levels: it fosters exchange among technology users, improves communication between technology developers and users, and stresses coordination among supporting agencies.21 As a tool for organizational cooperation, networking assists resource mobilization through pooling and joint evaluation of activities and experiences.

Networking is an efficient instrument for NGOs to achieve their goals. Donor agencies have moreover found greater ease in engaging networks to develop and assist programmes of wider scope and outreach to beneficiaries, at the national, regional and international levels.

Networks can create synergy: the total effect of things done together can be greater than the sum of individual activities. "Synergy is built through connections, commitments and collaboration." Environmental networks have gone far in this respect in the recent years, but AT networks have also produced substantial results through technology centres, information systems, and enterprise promotion.

The purpose of each network must be clearly defined and the programme agreed by all members. Reviewing the efficiency of a network is indispensable, although difficult, to assess its usefulness in a specific field of work. A viable network must be directly linked with the people involved in the production and distribution of products and technologies. Only then can innovations spread among the members.

TOWARDS A GLOBAL AT NETWORK?

During the workshop, many participants proposed forming a global or supra-national AT network to link and coordinate the variety of existing or planned networking activities. There are, however, several problems which led a minority to reject the proposal. The main objections arose from anticipated institutional and financial problems.

The proposed network should coordinate existing networks. It would not implement projects, but invite North and South groups and donor agencies to conceptualize AT programmes. Its further tasks would consist of conducting a survey of member activities, preparing a directory, and generally promoting the idea of AT through the use of mass media.

In order to limit the danger of bureaucratization and alienation from the grassroots, no separate infrastructure should be created. The network should have very simple and flexible working rules and a participatory approach towards all its duties. Cost-effectiveness must guide all operations. Preferably, the network should be implemented within the office of one of its members, and should be guided by an advisory group of members.

Problems, Advantages and Tasks of a Global AT Network

 

Dangers and Problems Global Networks of

Advantages of a Global AT Network

Tasks of a Global AT Network

External relations of the AT movement

Lobbying is not successful.

Network could lobby more powerfully and at international level.

Provide more visibility and international representation for AT.

 

Lack of outside perspectives (AT as an isolated insider exercise).

Network could participate in public debate

Promote linkages between AT groups and other institutions. Defend qualitative aspects (cultural and ecological diversity, equity, etc.) against powerful economic and political interests Improve policy-making at international level.

Access to funds and external information

Not enough funds available to operate another network.

Network could improve access of AT groups to multilateral donors.

Help members in applications, presentations, etc

 

Competition for funds with individual agencies.

Network could present a common position of AT groups to funding agencies.

Represent AT positions in international development debate, lobby for new funding and fund-raising concepts.

Internal linkage within the AT movement

The importance of a network is not seen by all groups.

A successful network could convince sceptics of the advantages of more cooperation.

Keep all members informed about new developments and issues they should refer to in their "small" daily work.

 

Global networking may contradict the "small is beautiful" ideology.

Small" is not enough - it should be "small, good and many".

Multiply "small and good". Serve as a platform for exchange, mediate cooperator.

 

Smaller networks may not be consolidated enough to proceed towards upwards integration.

Network may help its members to consolidate through intensified S-S and N-S cooperation.

 
 

The expected synergy may get lost in procedural problems and conflicts of interests

Network may reduce duplication of efforts and waste of resources.

Keep and update inventory of AT groups and activities.

Functions and performance of the AT movement

Too much time and money spent for too few results.

Network could learn from the mistakes and failure of their networks.

Increase efficiency of operations

 

Too much paperwork.

Network could improve practical efficiency through" better assessment methods, databases etc

Work on improvement and practical relevance of methods.

 

The purpose of the network is not clear, tackling issues that are too big leads to collapse of the whole venture.

Network could start from collective evaluation of experiences and proceed to defining purposes and issues.

Respond to technical inquiries, operate database on technologies & expertise, assist institution building.

Successful networking requires active participation. More than 20 per cent of the workshop participants who opted for the creation of a global AT network were ready to contribute actively to its realization. Most of them have substantial experience in networking on a smaller scale and some even on a quite large scale. These local and regional networks will continue to exist. The problem of differing interests is less likely to occur with the proposed AT network if it is properly understood as an upward integration of strong national organizations and regional networking structures.

The Information and Advisory Service on Appropriate Technology (ISAT) of GTZ has over the last ten years established a network with 22 AT organizations in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Oceania. In 1991, ISAT provided its partner organizations with funds to finance about 50 different activities. Besides promoting specific projects, ISAT helped its partners in setting up their own regional information services. The partner organizations of ISAT became increasingly involved in projects of German technical assistance, through the executing agency GTZ.26 In the future, ISAT will move away from supporting only one partner per country. Local and regional networks will be encouraged and supported with the aim of broadening the base of local know-how generation and dissemination. The partner spectrum is expected to widen considerably, following the recent establishment of an AT Forum as a joint venture between ISAT and the major German development NGOs.