Employing appropriate technology

Using intermediate technology
Procuring appropriate technological support
Establishing case for intermediate technology
Building consensus on appropriate technology

Employing industrial methods which are suited and beneficial to the economic and cultural life of the society in which they are applied.


The concept of appropriate technology, which was originally referred to as intermediate technology, gained popularity in the 1970s. There are some problems of definition, as at times the concept is couched in general terms which stress the examination of economic, social and cultural appropriateness in each individual situation, while another approach relies on specific characteristics as definitional guidelines. The emphasis is on low-income, labour-surplus societies in which production is normally performed by small-scale units, so that appropriate technology, compared to conventional technology, exhibits all or most of the following characteristics: (a) low investment cost per work-place; (b) the employment of a relatively labour-intensive technique; (c) the need for low to moderate skill levels and entrepreneurial capabilities; (d) a usual mode of operation that is ecologically sound; (e) the use of a high proportion of locally available inputs; (f) efficient operation on a small-scale basis. To be a viable option, appropriate or intermediate technology would have to be superior to traditional technology. A similar approach is technology blending, when advanced technology is combined with rather than replaces indigenous techniques. However, it is distinct from appropriate technology in that, compared to the latter, blending is likely to: (a) require greater investment per workplace created; (b) involve a larger leap in terms of skills; (c) require more importing of the technology. While some successful cases of blending have been reported, it is apparent that not all technology blends work well and those that do depend on a specific set of circumstances.


A 1994 expert workshop on water pollution declared that central and East European countries should in most cases avoid imitating expensive, high technology Western solutions to problems of water quality management. It found that there is a strong need in many regions, both urban and rural, for less expensive, innovative, low technology solutions. A focus on less expensive technologies is considered appropriate for industrial and municipal as well as agricultural sources of pollutants or, in a broader sense, to watershed management.

The Intermediate Technology Development Group enables impoverished people to develop and use productive technologies and methods which give them greater control over their lives and which contribute to the long-term development of their communities. It reaches communities through its Country Offices and through its work in India, Malawi and Nepal In each country, the focus is on a number of programme activities which span a wide technological range and encompass a number of different types of partnership.


High-technology-intensive industries with low manpower requirements do not answer the employment needs of developing countries. More appropriate industrial methods include some labour-intensive processes and less costly and less sophisticated equipment.

Counter Claim:

Appropriate technology substitutes low initial investment for quality in automated production, keeping developing economies out of the export market.

Practical Action
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production