Available technologies, IT institutions and information networks


Material Information

Available technologies, IT institutions and information networks
Physical Description:
9 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Frost, Dennis H
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural industries -- Appropriate technology -- Honduras   ( lcsh )
Farms, Small -- Honduras   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:


The purpose of this paper is to provide background information for discussion of the types of technology which may be available and appropriate to Honduras, the information systems through which knowledge of these technologies can be obtained and the institutions which provide such information.
Statement of Responsibility:
Dennis H. Frost
General Note:
Caption title.
General Note:
General Note:
"Small Farmer Technology Seminar, Honduras ; 12th-13th May, 1978."
General Note:
"Dennis H. Frost, ITDG: April, 1978."--P.9.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 756840589
lcc - S494.5.A65 F7 1978
System ID:

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text

)O o00C

12th 15th May, 1978



The purpose of this paper is to provide background information for
discussion of the types of technology which may be available and
appropriate to Honduras, the information systems through which knowledge
of these technologies can be obtained and the institutions which provide
such information.

Information about modern, standard technologies tends to be readily
available for those who can afford to use them either in a general
form, through radio, the press, advertisements, etc.; or in a more specific
form, through manufacturer's literature and specifications, trade
directories, etc. By contrast, information about intermediate technologies
is hard to obtain, and becomes increasingly hard to find as the scale of
technology decreases from small-scale commercially available plant and
processes to those designed for local manufacture and use at the artisan
or household level. Even in highly industrialized countries it is not
unusual to find local industries at the small firm or artisanal levels
making products designed to meet local, specialised needs which could
have application elsewhere if only the information (and sometimes the
skills) were made available to other communities. It is for this reason
that the advocates of intermediate technology both the practitioners
in developing countries and resource organizations elsewhere place
information exchange high on their list of priorities.


Before examining information exchange systems and the associated
institutions, it is worthwhile to consider what is meant by the phrase
"intermediate technology" and how it might be applied in Honduras. The
critical role of technology in economic development was first brought
into perspective by E.F. Schumacher twelve years ago when he formulated
the concept of intermediate technology. Its essence is that the capital
intensive technologies of the highly industrialized countries, demanding
anything upwards of X10,000 to create one workplace in manufacturing
industry, are generally inappropriate for poor countries and especially
for rural communities, both in terms of the financial and technical
resources needed to install and operate them and in the terms of the
goods they produce. To meet their needs a new technology must be
discovered or devised: one that lies, so to speak, between the sickle
and the combine harvester, which is small, simple and cheap enough to
harmonise with local human and material resources and lends itself to
widespread reproduction with the minimum of outside help. In summary,

-2 -

he argued :

first, that the source and centre of poverty lies primarily
in the rural areas of poor countries and, secondly, that
the rural areas will continue to deteriorate, unemployment
to grow, and mass migration to the cities persist, unless
self-help technologies are made available to the poor -
and mainly the rural poor with some assistance in their

This approach focused attention on the absence of detailed, practical
knowledge about ways of producing goods and services that are geared to
saving capital rather than labour, and making maximum use of locally
available resources.

These new technologies, Schumacher argued, must have the following
characteristics :

They must provide new and improved workplaces as near
as possible to where people live now mainly in the
rural areas;

They should be cheap enough to be created in large
numbers, without making impossible demands on savings
or imports; that is, investment per workplace should
be related to income per head;

Production methods should be simple, placing the least
possible reliance on imported materials, skills and
organisation; and

Production should be directed mainly to meeting local
needs and using local and indigenous raw materials.

The phrase "intermediate technology" embraces a range of technologies
from the very local "self-help" technologies for use in the home, or
by the individual farmer or artisan, through the range of village and
cottage industries, to relatively sophisticated manufacturing industries
even at the national level, which provide the goods, equipment and
ancillary services required to benefit large numbers of people by providing
them with the means to make their labour more productive. This package
of technologies can be thought of in a number of ways :

i. village or homestead technologies as against
industrial technologies the difference being
that the former rely almost entirely on local
resources and human effort (the village carpenter
and blacksmith; the local grain store; local
building materials for self-help housing, well-
digging or irrigation furrows), whereas the
latter require greater inputs of power and
machinery and are concerned more directly with
commerce and trade (manufacture of agricultural
equipment for distribution and sale; small-
scale textile, clothing and footware industries;
food processing and packaging equipment, etc.) or


ii. infrastructure and services as against commercial
activities, i.e. roads, transport, water supplies,
power and building technologies as against
manufactured and processed goods and equipment
for sale.

Each technology will also have implications for management, training
and organisational systems in addition to product and process
implications relevant to the techniques involved.

Whereas the operating requirements of capital-intensive and complicated
technologies tend to be predetermined and less easily adapted to local
conditions because of their complexity and cost, successful intermediate
technologies can be, by definition, more closely related to prevailing
social and economic circumstances. There is both a need and a greater
opportunity to adapt such technologies to local conditions and, for
this reason, there is less likelihood of importing them from "off-the-

However, within the range of intermediate technologies, there is room
for greater or less adaption, innovation or local manufacture according
to the scale and characteristics of the technology employed. This has
a bearing upon the extent to which information about small-scale
technologies from other countries can be applied to Honduran conditions.
Thus, for example, the successful development of agricultural tools and
household implements for use by campesinos will depend heavily upon
their cost, how they will fit into local farming patterns or patterns
of domestic life and, even, upon the physical characteristics of the
people who will employ them. In such circumstances good ideas can be
imported but there must be a greater reliance on local research and
development to adapt them to local conditions. The establishment of
small factories, however, will depend more heavily upon the available
range of machinery components, specialist items and some materials
which may need to be imported. In these cases, the choice of technology
is often governed as much by the commercial availability, at home or
overseas, of the component parts of the process and the extent to which
they can be packaged to achieve locally identified input/output
requirements as by cost factors and social circumstances.

Another approach to the acquisition of intermediate technologies from
overseas is to consider the process by which the technology has been
developed. In general, development and adaptation takes one of two
paths :

i. the first, where modern knowledge has been applied
to the upgrading of traditional technologies, for
example in building materials and methods, water
lifting, animal traction, spinning and weaving,

ii. the second, where modern, large-scale technologies
have been scaled down to produce relatively
sophisticated but smaller, simpler, cheaper and
more labour-intensive production processes. These
might include such technologies as sugar and soap
processing, white ware pottery, packaging machinery

- 4 -

or assembly systems.

The first, by its nature, requires a local capacity within Honduras -
social, economic and technical to identify traditional technologies,
assess their significance to the rural economy, define the constraints
to their development and institute the necessary R and D. Access to
similar developments another countries and to the technologies which
have emerged are valuable and obtainable in some cases but the
emphasis is on the local scene. In the second instance, perhaps greater
reliance can be placed upon the acquisition of products and processes
developed elsewhere, even if these need some adaptation to local

These factors need to be borne in mind when considering the extent to
which technologies from outside Honduras can be brought in for local


For our purpose, information by itself is of no use unless it meets a
need. In general, the need falls into one of two categories; one function
of an information system is to create and stimulate demand; the other is
to be able to respond to specific requests for information arising out of
identified needs. It is important to recognize these two separate functions
because they give rise to different systems of information exchange. It may
be of value to review some of these before considering the organizations
which provide them.

Technical Enquiry Services

These aim to link the enquirer with the information he needs. Broadly
speaking, enquiry services fall into two categories; the data bank service
and the "knowledge centre" service. The data bank service collects and
categories all available information on various technologies and stores
it usually on a computer so that it can be easily retrieved and passed
on to the enquirer. The "knowledge centre" service is more concerned with
directing enquirers to (or obtaining information for him from) the
appropriate resource base, than with storing information for direct

Some international organizations (e.g. UNIDO) operate information data
banks. Protagonists of this system believe that they can provide a more
efficient and comprehensive service because they can respond quickly and
expose to the enquirer a variety of alternative choices of technology. In
contrast, those operating a "knowledge centre" service claim that data bank
information is often indiscriminate and sometimes out of date. They believe
that specific problems deserve specific solutions even if these take longer
to provide and that more accurate, helpful and discriminating solutions can
be offered by going to the expert sources of latest information and
relating the answer to the specific need. It may be that both systems have
a part to play, but the enquirer needs to know what information he is
likely to get if he approaches one type of organisation or the other. In
recent years, there have been a number of moves to create international



information data banks by such organizations as the World Bank or by
co-operative programmes organised by (e.g.) GRET, Paris and TOOL,
Holland. These are not yet well developed.

A real problem which relates to all technical enquiry services, and
especially those provided by overseas organizations where communication
is by correspondence, lies in the difficulty of establishing precisely
the nature of the problem, on the one hand and, on the other, the
usefulness of the answer given to the enquirer how serious the
enquiry is, whether the answer is appropriate, if the client has been
able to apply the answer and if not, why not. In an endeavour to
overcome this problem some organizations seek increasingly to provide
back-up services of one sort or another,

Personal Advisory Services

These back-up services usually take the form of personal visits and on-site
consultancies, advice or practical help. For example, ITDG is building
up a technical advisory service on a regional basis which will follow up
contacts, evaluate the usefulness of the response and provide additional
guidance if needed. Clearly, such a service is expensive to run and can
only be operated on a selective basis. This sort of follow-up to enquiries
can lead to on-going assistance from experts or technical volunteers on a
project basis. A good example of this is the assistance given by VITA to
the Talanga lime production project in Honduras.

This last example also demonstrates the value of local organizations in
following up enquiries and providing additional information, advice and
help either to the enquirer or to the overseas enquiry service by helping
to define the problem and identify the factors leading to a solution.
The need to improve production techniques first came to the notice of VITA,
USA through its national counterpart VITA, Honduras; the subsequent
project involved co-operation between these two organizations and the
Cooperativa Los Pinos, Limitada, the lime owners co-operative, together
with the Centro Cooperative Technico Industrial (CCTI).

VITA has encouraged the establishment of a number of national counterpart
organizations such as VITA, Honduras mainly in South and Central America;
just as ITDG has encouraged the establishment of IT Centres, mainly in
Africa and Asia as one means of getting closer to the problems, relating
foreign (i.e. European or North American) resources to real rather than
assumed needs and, in return, receiving valuable advice, guidance and
technical information from the national organizations. For example,
whereas ITDG has mobilised technical advice and support for its counter-
part organisation in India, the Appropriate Technology Development
Association (ATDA) or Lucknow, on spinning, small-scale cement and other
local problems it has made use of Indian experts supplied by the ATDA on
sugar and soap technology problems in Africa. Expert exchange schemes
similar to this can form a very real, but often unconsidered, part of the
process of information exchange.

Demonstration and pilot projects

Whereas technical advisory services are mainly directed to giving specific
information ahd help in response to specific enquiries, demonstrations and



pilot projects often provide the sort of information which creates and
stimulates demand for new technologies. This is particularly so in the
case of peasant communities where the literacy level is low and the people
do not have ready access to new ideas from books, films and the like.
Even for extension workers, the ability to make and/or demonstrate the
use of a new technology is many times more valuable than to be able to
talk about it. To the entrepreneur, the co-operative or the individual
producer the adoption of new technology represents a risk and entails
investment decisions which are just as crucial to them as are those faced
by large organizations. Demonstrations can create interest; pilot projects
help to translate that interest into go/no-go decisions.

On-site demonstrations at the workplace or on the farmers land are, of
course, most valuable because new technologies can be seen and tested
out in relation to actual working conditions. But this is not always
possible, particularly in the case of heavy plant or manufacturing
processes. An important part of the information exchange process,
therefore, is to enable would-be recipients of new technology to visit
other areas even other countries to get new ideas or to examine specific
operations. For example, the British Government, through ITDG, will now
help to finance seminars and arrange attachments and exchange schemes
between developing country personnel working in IT Centres or on IT
programmes. It will also consider financial assistance to accredited
representatives of local firms or government organizations to visit
production processes elsewhere and assess their appropriateness to local


There is a growing volume of IT publications mostly in English from a
variety of external sources including international development agencies
such as UNIDO, ILO, etc,; universities and research institutes such as
the Brace Research Institute, Canada; or the Tropical Products Institute,
UK; specialist organizations in industrialized countries such as ITDG,
UK; VITA, USA: TOOL, Holland and, to a lesser extent in developing
countries such as ATDA, India, the Liklik Buk Information Centre, Papua
New Guinea; and from private individuals.

Broadly speaking these publications are aimed at three categories of
readership; those for policy makers and decision takers; those for
extension workers, project officers and IT practitioners in general; and
a much smaller volume of publications for indigenous workers artisans,
farmers, small businessmen, co-operatives, etc. This categoriation
excludes the vast amount of technical literature for professional engineers
and the like, most of which is produced by universities, research institutes
and professional bodies.

Publications can also be divided into categories according to content and
format :

general reading: books on the philosophy, policy issues
and economics of intermediate technology;

case studies: either in the form of bibliographies of
cases of appropriate and inappropriate
technology application or individual studies

- 7

of local application.

-industrial profiles: short manuals describing the
essential features of an industrial process;
different levels of intermediate operation
between the traditional and the conventionally
"modern" technology together with basic input/
output data for each level; and supplementary
information on e.g. training, further reading,

directories and buyers guides: giving information on
commercially available tools, equipment and
processes where to obtain them, etc,

technical drawings: for local manufacture or assembly
of tools and equipment.

periodicals and newsletters: for the general reader or
practitioner, giving information on new
developments and who is doing what, e.g. the
AT Journal (ITDG); the Quarterly Newsletter
(Georgia Institute of Technology), etc.

Publications as a means of information dissemination and exchange suffer
from a number of disadvantages. These are :

costs: of preparation, printing and distribution to
developing countries with relatively small
markets all off which affect the sales

foreign exchange: to enable local purchasarsto buy
books from abroad;

availability: the lack of local retail outlets and
distribution systems;

vernacular translations: much of the information is
in English. Translations and local
publishing arrangements, even into major
.languages such as Spanish, Portugese and
French add to the costs and are difficult
to arrange.

Nevertheless, publications are an important means of information exchange
and they could be made more relevant if the problems outlined above
are tackled realistically. Publications can help to make readers aware
of technological choices of which they may previously have been ignorant.


Any attempt to compile a comprehensive and accurate list of external
institutions capable of providing assistance to Honduras in locating and



introducing appropriate intermediate technologies is doomed to failure for
a number of reasons. First, there is a rapid growth of newly formed
institutions whose principal aim it is to promote IT, either in their own
country or abroad. In the industrialized countries VITA can probably claim
to be the oldest, having been in operation, providing advice on simple
technologies, before the concept of "intermediate technology" was
formalised and ennunciated by Dr. E.F. Schumacher in the early 1960s.
ITDG, which was formed by Schumacher to give effect to his ideas, is
only twelve years old. In developing countries the two oldest
organizations were formed only in 1972 (the Appropriate Technology
Development Unit, Varanasi, India now the ATDA, Lucknow and the
Technology Consultancy Centre, University of Science and Technology,
Kumasi, Ghana), although in India these had been preceded by organizations
like the Khadi and Village Institutes Commission and the Planning
Research and Action Institute of the Department of Industries, Uttar
Pradesh. Many of these organizations are very recent and they have not
yet had time to gain any experience of value to others. Most are action-
oriented, being mainly concerned with their own technology problems and
without the time or resources to engage in writing up their work to
disseminate it beyond their borders.

Second, there is a large and growing number of well-established academic
and research institutes all over the world who are developing small-scale,
intermediate technologies as part of their overall programmes. These
include institutes in the industrialized countries such as the Georgia
Institute of Technology, U.S.A. or the Brace Research Institute, Canada.
There are, also, a growing number of technology development and transfer
institutions which form part of bi-lateral aid programmes such as the
Tropical Products Institute, UK, SAREC in Sweden or GT2J in West Germany.

In developing countries most such organizations, with a few exceptions,
are regional and specialist in character; they include the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, the International
Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria (which has a special section
dealing with intermediate technology) or the Asian Institute of Technology
in Thailand. Of direct relevance to Honduras is the Institute
Centroamericano de Investigacion y Technologia Industrial (ICAITI) in
Guatamala. A number of the academic and research institutions in
developing countries are giving increasing emphasis to IT in their
programmes. Apart from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi,
Ghana already mentioned, these include institutions as widely separated
as the Universities at Port Moresby and Lae in Papua New Guinea, the
Technology Development and Advisory Unit, University of Zambia and the
University of Los Andes in Colombia. Sore, but not all of those research
institutes and universities, are concerned with longer term research and
they are generally ill-equipped to deal with the more immediate problems
of information exchange and technology transfer. It is often difficult
to get an overview of who is doing what at any point in time or to assess
the extent to which the work being done is truly "intermediate". Specific
enquiries to work being done are often unanswered.

Finally, there are very large numbers of organizations and individuals
(many of them voluntary) who do not fall into the above categories but
who are in the field (or working as individuals in institutions) doing
very valuable work on specific items of technology development at all


levels. Most are in touch with one IT organisation or another but it is
difficult to evaluate their work or to assess its transferability from
one area to another.

A few directories of IT institutions exist. In 1976, USAID compiled a
list of known organizations and in 1977 the Commonwealth Secretariat
published a directory of "Appropriate Technology in the Commonwealth",
based upon material originally supplied by ITDG. This directory gives
useful notes on the activities of each organisation listed (including
some international organizations) as well as an index of equipment and

By and large, where it is necessary to supplement local resources in the
development of solutions to local problems, it is best to concentrate on
using those organizations with a specific responsibility for information
dissemination and to rely on them to suggest solutions or to direct the
enquirer to sources from which he can get further information. These
organizations are :

i. the special UN agencies: e.g. especially UNIDO
and ILO (industrial and artisanal technology),
FAO (agricultural, forestry and water), UNICEF
(village technology), WHO (health and sanitation).

ii. some specialist international or regional research
institutions e.g. IRRI: Tropical Products
Institute; Brace Research Institute (especially
windpower, solar heating and water/sanitation);
Engineering Experimentation Station, Georgia
Institute of Technology.

iii. IT type organizations operating technical enquiry
and other information services e.g. ITDG: VITA:
GRET, Paris; TOOL, Amsterdam.

In addition, those few IT Centres in developing countries which have built
up a body of local experience and expertise can be of use to IT
practitioners from elsewhere in showing them how to set about planning
and operating technology development programmes and in demonstrating the
use of some specific technologies provided that they can cope with the
increasing demands being made upon their time and resources without
detriment to their own work.

Dennis H. Frost,
ITDG: April, 1978

Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
REPORT xmlns http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitss xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitssdaitssReport.xsd
INGEST IEID E11P85IE7_JBJIUX INGEST_TIME 2012-03-28T16:51:53Z PACKAGE AA00008195_00001