Role of Technology in Sustainable Development

Role of Technology in
Sustainable Development
Sustainable Futures
Unit 1 - Topics Covered
Technology and Economic Growth
Impact of Technology (positive and negative)
Barriers to Uptake of Technology
‘Appropriate’ Technology
Diffusion of Innovations
Emerging Technologies
Different Viewpoints
“Technology will get us out
of this mess”
“Technology got us into this
“It is our approach
technology that is
Discussion Points
• What are the positive and negative aspects of
technological development?
• Has technology had a net positive or negative
• An estimated 40 million
tonnes of electrical
waste is produced each
• Much of the waste
contains harmful
chemicals which are
damaging to the
environment and human
Discussion Points
• Why did technology develop differently on different
• What the barriers preventing new technologies
from reaching developing countries?
• Are people in developing countries less receptive
to innovation?
Appropriate Technology
Typically, appropriate technology:
• Is labour intensive and made from locally
available materials
• Utilises sustainable sources of energy
• Does not require access to centralised
infrastructure or materials or skills imported
from elsewhere.
water pump
Appropriate Technology
• How useful would they be in rural Kenya?
• Do they fit the definition of ‘appropriate
Mobile Phones
• An estimated 17.5 million
people out of Kenya's 38.5
million population own a mobile
handset (up from 200,000 in
• They have applications
including health, agriculture
and mobile banking.
Diffusion of innovations
The innovation
• Characteristics of an innovation determine its rate
of adoption:
Relative advantage
Diffusion of Innovations
• An innovation is not necessarily invariant during
• Re-invention is the degree to which an innovation
is modified during the process of adoption and
• Innovations diffuse more rapidly when they can be
modified easily.
Lake Bogoria Beehive Example
• Three types of hive are used in the area:
– Traditional Log Hives
– Langstroth Hive
– Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH)
Log Hive
• This is a traditional
hive that has been
used in African
countries for hundreds
of years.
• Made from the trunk of
a felled tree the hive is
simple to construct.
The hive when harvested causes the destruction of the
comb if this is not used to make beeswax products
then it is a waste as the bees have to rebuild the comb
before producing more honey.
• Widespread use in Europe and
• It includes a queen excluder
• The frames guide the bees to
build comb, and also strengthen
the combs allowing the hive to be
transported to a different location.
Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH)
• First developed by Professor G.F. Townsend in
Canada, for use in East Africa.
• The presence of the top bars allows for the
beekeeper to manage and inspect the hive much
easier than log hives
• However without a full frame like the Langstroth
hive the comb is weak and can break off, making it
very difficult to transport hives.
• The local community has shown initiative by the
development of a queen excluder in traditional log
Diffusion of innovations
• Innovativeness
and innovator
• What innovation(s) appear in the article?
• What factors have allowed the innovation to be adopted?
What factors have hindered the adoption?
• What benefits has the innovation had? What are the
possible negative impacts?
• Assess the characteristics of the innovation that will affect
its rate of adoption: relative advantage, compatibility,
complexity, trialability and observability.
Technology and Energy
• Developments in power generation technology
often lead to advances in other technologies
• Move towards low-carbon technology
• How does uptake of renewable energy compare in
developed and developing countries?
Pay-as-you-go solar power
Role of the Internet
• The internet has
decreased the
importance of
physical difference
between peoples.
• It has increased
the rate of
diffusion of
Role of ICT
• Developments in ICT such as writing, the printing
press, the internet and mobile phones have
lessoned barriers to communication and allowed
interaction at a global scale.
• Lack of access to electricity and other infrastructure
has blocked the uptake of ICT in some developing
Discussion Points
Emerging Technologies:
• E.g. solar photovoltaic cells, hydrogen powered
• Why has uptake of these technologies been
limited (so far)?
Lazy User Model
• If presented with a selection of options which all
fulfil the needs of the user, the user will select the
easiest option.
• Further reading: ‘New-year irresolution’, The
Economist (on blackboard)
– Discusses ways to incentivise people to adopt new
• Technology is needed which breaks the link between
economic growth and environmental damage/resource
• Technology is not a quick-fix solution but it can be part of
the answer.
• Understanding ‘diffusion’ can help us understand the
factors affecting rate at which new technologies are
• Concept of ‘appropriate technology’ is important for
sustainable development, but there are some exceptions.
Information for policy makers
• There are 2 main policy issues covered in this
– Domestic issues: uptake of green technology in the UK
– Investment in developing countries: what are the best
technologies to promote sustainable development and
how can they be encouraged?

similar documents