An Era of Appropriate Technology: Evolutions, Oversights and Opportunities

Jessie Lissenden, Siri Maley, and Khanjan Mehta

Journal of Humanitarian Engineering

Lissenden, J., Maley, S., Mehta, K., Journal of Humanitarian Engineering, Vol. 3, No. 1., pp. 8 – 16, “An Era of Appropriate Technology: Evolutions, Oversights and Opportunities,”  2015


As we develop practical, innovative and sustainable technology solutions for resource-constrained settings, what can we learn from the Appropriate Technology (AT) movement? Based on a review of academic literature over the past 35 years, this article identifies, and chronologically maps, the defining tenets and metrics of success advocated by scholars. The literature has gradually evolved from general musings into concrete lessons learned, while the definitions of “success” have transitioned from laboratory success into practical application and long-term usefulness. Nonetheless, juxtaposing this scholastic history with actual projects reveals three major gaps in AT philosophy related to a lack of 1) bilateral knowledge exchange, 2) emphasis on venture scalability, and 3) integration of implementation strategy through the project lifecycle. This article argues that rethinking and repositioning AT with a human-centric narrative emphasizing sustainability and scalability is imperative in order to revitalize and accelerate the AT movement and to achieve the large-scale impact it was expected to deliver.




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