Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I finally figured it out in a way I can articulate. The above drawing shows the four elements that must be considered for any technology to be implemented sustainably in any society. You can safely ignore these principles if your chosen technology is entirely disposable, not requiring maintenance, because that is what it will be.
Local social infrastructure- The end users of the technology have to be involved and accepting.
Local technical infrastructure- There needs to be the technical expertise to operate, maintain and repair the technology locally. If there is no technical expertise close by, when the system fails, it will be quickly abandoned.
Local financial infrastructure- There has to be local availability of whatever finances are needed for parts, labor, consumables to keep the technology functioning.
Local consumable/energy infrastructure- If a technology requires consumables or power to operate, these must be locally and reliably available.
These factors can be used to evaluate whether or not a technology will function sustainably in a community. For instance, If a water treatment technology is planned for a remote community of hunter gatherers, if there is no financial support, no ability to maintain stocks of chemicals and no technical expertise available, it makes no sense to implement a technology that requires these things. If an affluent community in the US has the desire for a highly technical system, has local technicians, the financial reserves for maintenance and supplies, a constant energy source, then that community has many more possibilities for technology choice.
This doesn’t mean one technology is better or more effective than another, only that one technology that works well one place, can utterly fail somewhere else if the above conditions are not considered and resolved successfully.
If the choice is to simply supply a technology and walk away, as many development projects do, the project is assured of failure.