Posts in Pro-Poor Technology
My biggest realization on our trip to South Africa was the idealism associated with participating in a cutting edge science like nanoscience. I found that by and large, the scientists, in particular South African nationals and other Africans, seemed inspired by the idea that they were contributing to the emergence of a new South Africa that could become globally relevant.
This summer I presented the results of my study about the potential contributions of nanotechnology to the agricultural sector. One of my classmates from Ghana made a very intriguing comment: he said that nanotechnology seems like a promising technology for the ag sector, but was concerned that farmers in Africa have enough problems to worry about without transferring new technologies and that nanotechnology could even aggravate their current problems of food security. I did not have, at that moment, a convincing answer to give him.
Towards the end of our field work, Team H2O (the subset of our delegation focusing on water applications of nanotechnology) got a look at rural poverty in South Africa. I have already blogged on urban poverty in South Africa and the need for redesigning innovation to engage with it. Rural poverty appears to have some similarities and some differences.
Learning about nanotechnology here in South Africa has meant learning a lot of new acronyms. I was surprised the other day when a scientist mentioned two familiar acronyms that, at first, seemed somewhat out of context in a discussion about nano in South Africa. But it turns out that FIFA and NIH are extremely important abbreviations when it comes to what influences this scientist's research, and how South African research funds can leave the country.
The CNS Thematic Research Cluster on Equity, Equality, and Responsibility spent the first two weeks of July conducting fieldwork on how nanotechnology research and development in South Africa can benefit the poor, including people like Pastor Julius, his wife, and the 22 orphans for whom they care in township of Barcelona.
We know that nanotechnology can build a golf club that will extend your drive by a few feet, but will it help the poor in South Africa? The CNS Thematic Research Cluster on Equity, Equality, and Responsibility is conducting fieldwork in South Africa, interviewing scientists, researchers, policy officials, NGOs, corporations, funders, government employees, and local people to find out how nanotechnology is being researched, developed, and used and possibilities for the future of nanotechnology as a transformative technology the way cell phones seem to have become.
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