TinkerCAD, Forno solar da Pleno Sol, GNU Image Manipulation Program,Programa Territórios Sustentáveis. These are some initiatives that in an innovative way, and with the use of different systems and tools, contribute to the process of emancipation and transformation of precarious realities. They are conceptually called social technologies. This term is the product of a cumulative construction originating from the expression “Appropriate Technology” and which is commonly contrasted with “Conventional Technology”.
The use of traditional technologies as a tool for struggle and survival ensured a new perspective from the 19th century in India when efforts – including Gandhi’s leading role – were brought together for the popularization of Charka, a spinning instrument considered the first technologically appropriate equipment, and the function and meaning of this tool go beyond the individual need, contributing to the self-determination and revitalization of the Hindu native industry.
The concept of Appropriate Technology (AT) is widespread in the West by economist Ernest F. Schumacher who in 1973 published the book Small is beautiful: economics as if people mattered. Considering the idea of AT – whose meaning is broad and includes, as provided by the Brazilian Institute of Science and Technology Information, “the systematic application of knowledge (…) to solve problems identified by the community itself, in order to avoid negative effects on society “- Schumacher also shapes the concept of Intermediate Technology, which should be applied by peripheral countries, with a regional approach to development, observed low cost, small scale, simplicity and respect to the environmental dimension.
As explained by Ivete Rodrigues and José Barbieiri, the mainly difference brought about by Social Technology is that it is not only about the application of “solutions imported or produced by specialist teams”, but “it turns first and foremost to the emancipation of the actors involved , having in the center the producers and users of these technologies “. Thus, ST is distinct and individually designed for each region, taking into account the natural, social, historical, economic and cultural aspects, arising from this dialogue an innovation appropriate to local values and also emancipatory.
Counterpoint to Conventional Technology
Several other terms were coined from this turning point in the twentieth century, however, the similarity between them was the finding of the inadequacy of Conventional Technology to the global socioeconomic situation and its contribution even to the aggravation of already worrying scenarios. According to Flávio Curvinel Brandão, CTs are considered “capital intensive and labor-saving” technologies, objecting to the massive transfer of large-scale technology, characteristic of developed countries, to developing countries “.
The dominance of financial capital and large corporations over the processes and products available on the market is recognized, however, the prevailing dichotomy between large company interest and social interest is not necessarily fixed. An example of this is the initiative of Google, a multinational whose market value in September of this year was US $ 141,703 billion, which launched in 2016 the second edition of the Challenge of Social Impact of Brazil, seeking to “empower Brazilian NGOs and foster the creative use of technology to promote social impact, “as mentioned on the Challenge website.
Consolidated and developing initiatives
We highlight some projects or products that respectively promote and are considered as Social Technology.
- Aid to enterprises
Incubadora Tecnológica de Cooperativas Populares (ITCP): University Extension Program of UFRJ, which operates in the incubation of economic enterprises in solidarity, with interdisciplinary team (Engineering, Social Service, Law, Psychology, Mathematics etc).
ECOSOL SP: Developed by the Municipal Department of Labor and Entrepreneurship of São Paulo with UNISOL, promotes the entrepreneurship environment, for example, providing training courses in self-management and business plan, as well as incubating ventures.
CIRANDAS: Related to the Brazilian Solidarity Economy Forum, it provides online content to promote Solidarity Economy, counting on a platform to register entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, dissemination of events in the area and compiled articles and news on the topic.
Jayaashree Industries: Low-cost menstrual absorbent fabrication machines were developed by an Indian seeking a solution to the problem that afflicts thousands of Indian women every day. The taboo on menstruation in India is responsible for 70% of reproductive and maternal deaths. Through the machine developed by Arunachalam Muruganantham it is possible to produce hygienic absorbents for 1/3 of the market value.
Epitrack:: Startup responsible for creating applications such as the Health Guardians, developed for the Ministry of Health, which optimizes the work of health workers in poor communities by collecting the information provided by the citizens themselves to detect epidemic outbreaks and also map outbreaks of infectious diseases, in addition to providing information on prevention and identification of disease symptoms.
Mete a Colher: An application created by a feminist collective to help women in abusive relationships, victims of harassment or any violence. The tool offers a safe and exclusive space for the female – through the registration through verified social network, encryption and password of access. The app works based on the users’ participation, there are several categories in which they can offer or request help.
If directed to provide solutions to the sensitive issues of society, taking into account the real needs of the population and with the active participation of the segments to be benefited, the techniques and knowledge developed for the development of a given system or tool may actually constitute technology precisely because it produces the main expected result of all technology: change.