Appropriate technology for neglected people

School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, College of Engineering, Seoul National University (SNU), Seoul, Korea / Jeyong Yoon

No everyday life can be imagined or started without being informed of many issues concerned with energy depletion, air, water and soil contamination, unsustainable climate change due to global warming, and so on. Now, we are really living in the age of Energy and Environment. Each issue appears to have somewhat different nature affecting environment where we live, but they are closely associated each other and largely man-made problems.

One of most critical issues among them will be water related crisis, considering the scope and depth of global society. Reportedly, every day, 3,900 children die and half of the population suffers from waterborne diseases in developing countries of Asia and Africa due to lack of safe water. Many scientists and engineers have been working hard to find a good solution for this issue and achieved a remarkable technological outcome in the area of membrane desalination technology, advanced water treatment, and bottle water technology.

No doubt about astounding achievements, considering the recent water technology combined with automation, sensing, and information technology. However, few satisfaction in delivering safe water was felt for people with urgently need. This reminds us the Pareto principle, saying "In business world, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients." In other words, the majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10-20% of the world’s customers, and nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 80-90%. This trend does not look good, however, it is reality.

In developing or poor countries, majority of people would not take advantage of them due to lack of proper infrastructure, capital, or information. Given expensive or sophisticated technology, it does not mean much to them. Therefore, the development and delivery of appropriate technology need to be facilitated by public sector supported by government in cooperation with many volunteering groups and scientist and engineers who have more concern for realizing their efforts shed to as many people as possible. This is one of my major reasons which I am concerned with developing the simple and cost effective water treatment device with solar energy, like others in such NGO, called Engineer without Border do.