Technology success stories

From New Internationalist Easier English Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Technology success stories

by Dinyar Godrej

If we want technology, low and high, to make a difference, it needs to be appropriate, and cheap enough.


© Srdjan Zivulovic/ Reuters

Only connect

Many families of refugees lose contact because they cannot find, or communicate with, each other. REFUNITE is a new online platform that offers help. It mainly works with mobile texts. People looking for others can register for free. They have a database of 400,000 people. It is easy to use, and people can use Amharic, English, French, Somali, Sudanese, Arabic and Swahili languages. It has helped some people meet already.

Fruits of the forest

Picking coffee, protecting the forest. Peruvian farmers grow cash crops eg. bananas, coffee and yucca, together with local trees. This helps protect the plants and stops soil erosion. This is very different from the ‘slash-and-burn’ farming they used before for coffee – this destroyed some of the mountainsides. They use organic manure and pest management. And the farmers increased production by 33 per cent in one year.

Hole in the wall


Alfred Birkegaard/

The idea behind this Indian organization is ‘Minimally Invasive Education’. They put computer terminals with internet access in a hole in a specially constructed wall in areas of poorer children. The children have not been to school much. They discover how to use the computer, and help each other. And they are very proud of teaching themselves and their new skills.

New life for very old technology

A lot of India depends on monsoon rains for water. If the rain does not come, there are very big problems. So Indian organizations eg. Tarun Bharat Sangh, are bringing back very old structures to collect rainwater. This brings communities together. They usually build reservoirs on higher ground. The reservoirs collect rain when it falls and then the water goes down slowly into the water table, so that wells don’t get dry. Other structures store rainwater and have a cover over the top to stop evaporation.

To market – using gravity

The monsoon season used to be very difficult for hill farmers in Nepal. The hills get very dangerous and slippery. People have to choose: they can take goods to market and they could die as it is so dangerous, or they could watch the food as it rots and goes to waste. Then they started using a very clever trolley on steel wires. This has made a big difference. The full trolley goes down - the weight of what is in it pulls it down. At the same time, the empty one is pulled up ready to put more goods in. It’s simply mechanical, and does not need any electricity.


Practical Action

Citizen monitors

South Africa is suffering the worst drought in 23 years. They have started a citizen science project to check the quality of its water resources. The miniSASS (South African Scoring System) relies on citizens, young and old, to measure everything that shows the health of the rivers eg. sediments and pollutants. The citizens do not need to know anything about science.

Solar for water

In northern Kenya, they now have clean water because of pumps that run on solar power. Before, families had to get dirty water from deep holes dug into dry river beds; now they can get water from the very big underground reservoirs. Clean water cuts child sickness and death, and saves time for women. It also means they can use old farm land again and animals can get water easily.

Growing power

In Himalaya, a village in the Zimbabwean Highlands, an 80-kilowatt micro-hydro generator provides electricity for 100 homes and two energy centres. At the centres, people can charge lanterns and mobile phones. Also, the plant produces power for the local health clinic so it can store vaccines and always have light at night, water-pumps to irrigate farmland, cold storage for crops, a saw mill and a grinding mill.

For more information:

Practical Action

Tarun Bharat Sangh


South African Water Research Commission


NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).