Open-source appropriate technology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Open-source appropriate technology (OSAT) is appropriate technology developed through the principles of the open-design movement. Appropriate technology is technology designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of the community it is intended for. Open design is public and licensed to allow it to be used, modified and distributed freely.[1][2]


Open source is a development method for appropriate technology that utilizes distributed peer review and transparency of process.

Open-source-appropriate technology has potential to drive applied sustainability.[3] The built-in continuous peer-review can result in better quality, higher reliability, and more flexibility than conventional design/patenting of technologies. The free nature of the knowledge provides lower costs, particularly for those technologies that benefit little from scale of manufacture. Finally, OSAT enables the end to predatory intellectual property lock-in. This is particularly important for relieving suffering and saving lives in the developing world.

In an article published on Harvard Business Review, Vasilis Kostakis and Andreas Roos argue that the "open-source" model can act as a driver of sustainable development, since it enables localization for communities that do not have the resources to tempt commercial developers to provide local versions of their products, thus minimizing the need to ship materials over long distances and organizing material activities accordingly.[4] Local manufacturing would also make maintenance easier and encourage manufacturers to design products to last as long as possible.[4] The technology can be both "gratis" and "libre", i.e., free of both the monetary cost and contractual restrictions often associated with commercial technologies and patents. That freedom can be an important consideration for developing communities.[5] According to the lateral scaling concepts of Jeremy Rifkin,[6] it thus optimizes the sharing of knowledge and design as there are no patent costs to pay for.[4]

Ethical considerations[edit]

For solutions, many researchers, companies, and academics work on products meant to assist sustainable development. The ethics of information sharing in this context has been explored in depth.[7][8]

Support in the literature[edit]

  • It has been investigated how open sharing of designs, specifications, and technical information can enhance effectiveness, widespread use, and innovation of appropriate technology.[3]
  • OSAT has been proposed as a new model of enabling innovation for sustainable development.[9][10]
  • OSAT has been claimed to assist in development of medical technology particularly for the developing world.[11][12][13]
  • It has been claimed that the sharing of design processes, appropriate tools, and technical information enables more effective and rapid development of appropriate technologies for both industrialized and non-industrialized regions.[14] In addition, it is claimed that this sharing will require the appropriate-technology community to adopt open standards/licenses, document knowledge, and build on previous work.[14]
  • OSAT can be used to generate renewable energy[15]
  • OSAT in ICT[16]
  • OSAT and peer production[17]

In education[edit]

The Appropedia Foundation is a non-profit organization running Appropedia, the largest wiki documenting schematics, ideas, observations, experimental data, deployment logs etc. about patent-free appropriate technology, permaculture and related subjects.[18]

At the university level, the use of open-source-appropriate technology classroom projects has been shown to be successful in forging the connection between physics and social benefit.[19] This approach has the potential to use students' access to resources and testing equipment in furthering the development of appropriate technology. Similarly, OSAT has been used for improving service learning.[20][21] MIT studied the usefulness of appropriate technology in education and its relation to OSAT.[22]

It has been proposed that the evolution of the open-source 3D printers can enable a new method of development for OSAT.[23][24]

Fracture mechanics, ergonomics/ user friendly design, and user centred design; All factor in to create a high quality, new and improved product not to mention the use of smart materials like graphene.


Appropriate technology is designed to promote decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient and environmentally sound businesses.[25] Carroll Pursell says that the movement declined from 1965 to 1985, due to an inability to counter advocates of agribusiness, large private utilities, and multinational construction companies.[26] Recently (2011), several barriers to OSAT deployment have been identified:[27]

  • AT seen as inferior or "poor person's" technology
  • Technical transferability and robustness of AT
  • Insufficient funding
  • Weak institutional support
  • The challenges of distance and time in tackling rural poverty

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology", Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14, pp. 425-431 (2012)
  2. ^ Pearce, J. M. (2014). Free and open source appropriate technology. in The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization, 308. ISBN 9780415782265
  3. ^ a b A. J. Buitenhuis, I. Zelenika and J. M. Pearce, Open Design-Based Strategies to Enhance Appropriate Technology Development", Proceedings of the 14th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference : Open, March 25–27th 2010, pp. 1–12
  4. ^ a b c Kostakis, Vasilis. Roos, Andreas. New Technologies Won’t Reduce Scarcity, but Here’s Something That Might. Harvard Business Review, 2018.
  5. ^ Zelenika and J.M. Pearce, Innovation Through Collaboration: Scaling up Technological Solutions for Sustainable Development, Environment, Development and Sustainability 16(6): 1299-1316 (2014). doi:10.1007/s10668-014-9528-7
  6. ^ Rifkin, Jeremy. The zero marginal cost society: The internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism. Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 978-1137278463
  7. ^ Shea, P. (2014). Community arts and appropriate internet technology: participation, materiality, and the ethics of sustainability in the digitally networked era.
  8. ^ Bentley, C. M. (2014). Exploring information ethics for inclusive open development. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. Archived 2015-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Pearce J., Albritton S., Grant G., Steed G., & Zelenika I. 2012. A new model for enabling innovation in appropriate technology for sustainable development Archived 2012-11-22 at the Wayback Machine. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 8(2), pp. 42-53, 2012
  10. ^ Signorini, Giorgio F. (2019). "Open Source and Sustainability: the Role of Universities". arXiv:1910.06073 [cs.CY].
  11. ^ Amy Kapczynski et al., "Addressing Global Health Inequities: An Open Licensing Approach for University Innovations", Berkley Technology Law Journal 20 (2005): 1031–1114.
  12. ^ Stephen M. Maurer, Arti Rai, and Andrej Sali, "Finding Cures for Tropical Diseases: Is Open Source an Answer?", PLoS Medicine 1, no. 3 (December 2004): 183–186.
  13. ^ Sinha, S.R. and Barry, M., 2011. Health technologies and innovation in the global health arena. New England Journal of Medicine, 365(9), pp.779-782.
  14. ^ a b Joshua M. Pearce and Usman Mushtaq, "Overcoming Technical Constraints for Obtaining Sustainable Development with Open Source Appropriate Technology", Science and Technology for Humanity (TIC-STH), 2009 IEEE Toronto International Conference, pp. 814–820, 26–27 September 2009
  15. ^ Louie H. Experiences in the construction of open source low technology off-grid wind turbines. In2011 IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting 2011 Jul 24 (pp. 1-7). IEEE.
  16. ^ Pscheidt, M. and van der Weide, T.P., 2010. Bridging the Digital Divide by Open Source: A Theoretical Model of Best Practice.
  17. ^ Rocco, Grant (October 2015). Developing Maker Economies in Post-Industrial Cities: Applying Commons Based Peer Production to Mycelium Biomaterials (M.Arch thesis). University of Massachusetts Amherst. doi:10.7275/7047367.
  18. ^ "Appropedia Foundation". United Nations Volunteers. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  19. ^ J. M. Pearce, "Teaching Physics Using Appropriate Technology Projects", The Physics Teacher, 45, pp. 164–167, 2007
  20. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "Appropedia as a Tool for Service Learning in Sustainable Development", Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 3(1), pp.45–53, 2009
  21. ^ S. Murphy and N. Saleh, "Information literacy in CEAB's accreditation criteria: the hidden attribute", In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Innovation and Practices in Engineering Design and Engineering Education, 2009. Hamilton, ON July 27–29, 2009
  22. ^ Grue, Amanda J. An investigation into and recommendations for appropriate technology education. MIT. 2011
  23. ^ Kentzer, J.; Koch, B. ; Thiim, M. ; Jones, R.W. ; Villumsen, E. An open source hardware-based mechatronics project: The replicating rapid 3-D printer, Mechatronics (ICOM), 2011 4th International Conference, 17–19 May 2011. doi:10.1109/ICOM.2011.5937174
  24. ^ J. M Pearce, C. Morris Blair, K. J. Laciak, R. Andrews, A. Nosrat and I. Zelenika-Zovko, "3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development", Journal of Sustainable Development 3(4), pp. 17-29 (2010)
  25. ^ Hazeltine, B.; Bull, C. (1999). Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices, and Implications. New York: Academic Press. pp. 3, 270. ISBN 0-12-335190-1.
  26. ^ Pursell, Carroll. "The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965–1985". Technology and Culture, Vol 34, No. 3: 629–637 (July 1993)
  27. ^ I. Zelenika and J.M. Pearce, "Barriers to Appropriate Technology Growth in Sustainable Development", Journal of Sustainable Development 4(6), 12-22 (2011)


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