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Intermediate Technology in Planning

Technology infrastructure did not advance as much as necessary for supporting urban

industries. Industries were dominated by monopolies that extracted resources without developing

in-country capacity. There are many poor little countries whose geographical endowments have

been developed into paradise for tourist. Monuments of grandeur and wealth stand majestically in

full view of the poor masses. These are the elegant high rise hotels, beautiful beaches, luxuries

airports, and other special facilities for foreign visitors. But these symbols of affluence and

progress are owned and managed by foreigners. The locals become waiters, bellboys, souvenir

sellers, hotel clerks and entertains. We cannot say that poverty will be eliminated by job creation,

because we still need a healthcare system, access to markets, and so forth. Bish reminds us that we

need institutions for development, but while government is important, it cannot do everything on

its own. Likewise, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play an important role, but are also not

as effective if working alone. Organization is important, but it is more complicated than that

In 1973, a very influential collection of essays was published by E. F. Schumacher called

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered which challenged the idea that

larger scale and increased productivity are paramount to development. Schumacher argues that it

is important for people to feel like they are doing meaningful work and take pride in it, rather than

only push for automation and higher throughput. This set the stage for moving in a direction that

takes into account the human aspect, and not simply financial success. For example, there has been

increasing attention on concepts such as the triple bottom line, which looks at the impact on people,

planet and prosperity

There are several ways in which technologies are considered to be intermediate: 1) in price,

and 2) in time, as some technologies are meant to be transitional and support people in moving
from manual labor using hand tools to large-scale mechanized technology. German-born British

economist E.F. Schumacher first conceived of the concept after a visit to Burma (now Myanmar)

in 1955. He concluded that poor countries might realize progress in productivity by adopting

advanced technologies but that those advances would do little to increase employment. What was

needed, he maintained, was an intermediate technology adapted to the unique needs of each

developing country. Moreover, he questioned the presumed necessity of ever-increasing growth,

urging instead the development of a non-capital-intensive, non-energy-intensive society. In his

book Small Is Beautiful (1973), he argued that capitalism brought higher living standards at the

cost of deteriorating culture. His belief that natural resources should be conserved led him to

conclude that bigness—in particular, large industries and large cities—would lead to the depletion

of those resources. The term Intermediate Technology first came into general use following the

writings of E. F. Schumacher, and particularly after the setting up by him of the Intermediate

Technology Development Group in 1965. ‘Intermediate Technology’ is now part of the literature

of development. Intermediate Technology as conceived by Schumacher was in the context of an

economist, that is, he saw I.T. as the stage between the subsistence £1 per work-place economy

and the developed, several thousand pound per work-place economy. ‘Intermediate ’unfortunately

has connotations of the inferior or the second rate and also implies that it is a stage to something

more desirable. For these reasons ‘appropriate’ may be a more suitable choice and in fact the

I.T.D.G. journal has the title ‘Appropriate Technology’ ‘Technology’ too could be criticised as

implying ‘engineering machinery’ whereas in fact the Appropriate Technologist is engaged with

total development which includes social and cultural factors, and in practice may be concerned

with management, accountancy and marketing rather than engineering or technology. ‘Socially

Appropriate Technology’ is one attempt to meet some of these objections.

Another example of intermediate technology is the treadle pump, which enables farmers to

provide a greater amount of water to their plants more easily compared to watering by bucket,

while requiring much less infrastructure than constructing irrigation dams and pipes

Intermediate technology, simple and practical tools, basic machines, and engineering

systems that economically disadvantaged farmers and other rural people can purchase or construct

from resources that are available locally to improve their well-being. Designed to focus on people

rather than machines, intermediate technology is considered to be more harmonious with the

environment and with traditional ways of life. There is an interesting niche here, as intermediate

technologies work when it is too expensive for mass manufacturers to get their larger-scale

technologies to certain communities because of diminishing economies of scale. Intermediate

technologies are more affordable and can be more decentralized, helping to bridge that last mile

of distribution. Additionally, where specific skilled labor is required, intermediate technologies

may have an important place. For example, you can imagine that it may not make sense to use a

mechanical combine for flower picking.

Schumacher’s propositions

1. Projects or factories have to be set up in rural areas where people live. These reduce urban


2. Projects must be simple and cheap so that more projects can be created

3. Projects must be shorter in order to minimize the need for technical skills not only in

production but also in organization, financing, marketing and management.

4. Productions should mainly use local materials for local consumption.

The aforementioned strategies for economic development can only be achieved, according to

Schumacher, if there is a regional approach to development and if there is a conscious effort to

develop and apply intermediate technology. He gave symbols of the technology of the developing

countries and that of the developed ones, like P1- technology for the primitive technology of the

developing countries and P1000- technology for the modern technology of the developed

countries. The less developed countries should not adopt the P1000-technology because this is

expensive and inappropriate. Rather, they should apply the intermediate technology which is the

P100-technology and cheaper than the P1000-technology.

However, not a few economist claimed that such technology tends to slow down the rate of

economic growth in contrast to the use of modern technology. Usually, these view comes from

highly trained social-scientists without actual exposure to poverty and misery. They are inclined

to stress productivity or technical efficiency. Their lack of primary observation of and association

with the poor masses has made them insensitive to more urgent and more important economic

programs. There is no question that efficiency of production id good. But if it benefits only few

groups and neglects the unemployed masses, then such efficient production is not good.


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