Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Reality Check: Technology for whom by whom?

It is time for another reality check (I post these occasionally). I try to focus the blog on solutions, ideas, and how various sectors/disciplines are impacting the global health arena. I am not particularly fond of re-hashing intellectual and armchair debates, you can read plenty of that elsewhere. However, once in a while, a dose of cynicism and a reality check is needed.

In light of the NYC exhibit and NY Times coverage, Design for the OTHER 90%, I thought it would be good to post another perspective that I originally saw at Small Shift. It is great that this exhibit has been brought to the public and equally important it is necessary to discuss why some of these amazing technologies may never be used to their full potential (infrastructure problems, poor design, politics, disconnection from the end users, etc. etc.). Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainaina has written a scathing opinion about “pure products” that are meant to save the world and how they eventually fade from sight/use. The most relevant excerpts (reprinted in Harpers magazine) are below:

“Biogas. A windup radio. A magic laptop. These pure products are meant to solve everything. They almost always fail, but they satisfy the giver…I am sure the One Laptop per Child initiative will bring glory to its architects… To the recipients, the things have no context, no relationship to their ideas of themselves or their possibilities…”

“Freeplay Radios still exist. You will find them among new age fisherfolk in Oregon; neoblue collar sculptors working out of lofts in postindustrial cities; Social Forum activists and neoGrizzly Adams types everywhere. Angst-ridden victims, all…They are the only people who can find nobility in a product that communicates to its intended owner: you are f#@ked.”

Source: Small Shift on “Glory” by Binyavanga Wainaina


Written by Aman

May 31, 2007 at 8:05 am

Posted in Global Health

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