Open-source-appropriate technology (OSAT) refers to appropriate technology designed in the same fashion as free and open-source software. OSAT refers to, on the one hand, technology designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of the community it is intended for. On the other hand, OSAT is developed in the open and licensed in such a way as to allow their designs to be used, modified and distributed freely.
Open source is a development method for appropriate technology that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. Appropedia is an example of open-source appropriate technology. There anyone can both learn how to make and use AT free of concerns about patents. At the same time anyone can also add to the collective open-source knowledge base by contributing ideas, observations, experimental data, deployment logs, etc. It has been claimed that the potential for open-source-appropriate technology to drive applied sustainability is enormous. 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 also obviously provides lower costs, particularly for those technologies that do not benefit to a large degree from scale of manufacture. Finally, OSAT also enables the end to predatory intellectual property lock-in. This is particularly important in the context of technology focused on relieving suffering and saving lives in the developing world.
- It enables production as well as consumption;
- It enables localization for communities that do not have the resources to tempt commercial developers to provide local versions of their products;
- It can be free as in "gratis" as well as free as in "libre", an important consideration for developing communities.
Although developing world problems are portioned remarkably low support for solutions, many researchers, companies, and academics do work on products meant to assist sustainable development. Vinay Gupta has suggested that those developers agree to three principles:
- I will not permit any human being to be deprived of life-giving technology by the profit motive.
- Any works that I patent I will make available to others who are engaged in humanitarian activity for free, except where this would breach other contractual responsibilities.
- I will not use patent law to slow the pace of innovation or service delivery to the needy under any circumstances.
Support in the literature
- It has been investigated how open sharing of designs, specifications, and technical information can enhance effectiveness, widespread use, and innovation of appropriate technology.
- OSAT has been proposed as a new model of enabling innovation for sustainable development.
- OSAT has been claimed to assist in development of medical technology particularly for the developing world.
- 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. 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.
OSAT in education
- 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: This approach has the potential to use university students' access to resources and testing equipment in furthering the development of appropriate technology. Similarly OSAT has been used as a tool for improving service learning. MIT has completed a study looking at the usefulness of using appropriate technology education and its relation to OSAT.
- It has been proposed that the evolution of the open-source 3D printers can enable a new method of development for OSAT
Open source scientific equipment
- Open source hardware for science can also be considered OSAT. Hundreds of scientific tools have already been developed and shared. Recently (2014) open source labs have been proposed.
Appropriate technology is designed to promote decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient and environmentally sound businesses. 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. Recently (2011), several barriers to OSAT deployment have been identified:
- 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.
- Applied sustainability
- Appropriate technology
- Engineering for Change
- Open design
- Sustainable development
- Joshua M. Pearce, "The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology", Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14, pp. 425-431 (2012)]
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- 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)
- 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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