Open-source appropriate technology

Open-source appropriate technology (OSAT) is appropriate technology developed through the principles of the open-design movement. OSAT refers to, on the one hand, technology designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of the community it is intended for. On the other hand, OSAT is developed in the open and licensed in such a way as to allow their designs to be used, modified and distributed freely.[1][2]


Open source is a development method for appropriate technology that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. Appropedia is an example of open-source appropriate technology. There anyone can both learn how to make and use AT free of concerns about patents. At the same time anyone can also add to the collective open-source knowledge base by contributing ideas, observations, experimental data, deployment logs, etc. It has been claimed that the potential for open-source-appropriate technology to drive applied sustainability is enormous.[3] The built in continuous peer-review can result in better quality, higher reliability, and more flexibility than conventional design/patenting of technologies. The free nature of the knowledge also obviously provides lower costs, particularly for those technologies that do not benefit to a large degree from scale of manufacture. Finally, OSAT also enables the end to predatory intellectual property lock-in. This is particularly important in the context of technology focused on relieving suffering and saving lives in the developing world.

The "open-source" model can act as a driver of sustainable development. Reasons include:

  • It enables localization for communities that do not have the resources to tempt commercial developers to provide local versions of their products. It thus minimizes the need to ship materials over long distances and organizes material activities accordingly;[4]
  • Local manufacturing also makes maintenance easier and also encourages manufacturers to design products to last as long as possible;[4]
  • It can be free as in "gratis" as well as free as in "libre", an important consideration for developing communities.[5] following the lateral scaling concepts of Jeremy Rifkin.[6] It thus optimizes the sharing of knowledge and design as there are no patent costs to pay for.[4]

Ethical considerations

For solutions, many researchers, companies, and academics do work on products meant to assist sustainable development. Vinay Gupta has suggested that those developers agree to three principles:[7]

  1. I will not permit any human being to be deprived of life-giving technology by the profit motive.
  2. Any works that I patent I will make available to others who are engaged in humanitarian activity for free, except where this would breach other contractual responsibilities.
  3. I will not use patent law to slow the pace of innovation or service delivery to the needy under any circumstances.

The ethics of information sharing in this context has been explored in depth.[8][9]

Support in the literature

  • It has been investigated how open sharing of designs, specifications, and technical information can enhance effectiveness, widespread use, and innovation of appropriate technology.[3]
  • OSAT has been proposed as a new model of enabling innovation for sustainable development.[10]
  • OSAT has been claimed to assist in development of medical technology particularly for the developing world.[11][12][13]
  • It has been claimed that the sharing of design processes, appropriate tools, and technical information enables more effective and rapid development of appropriate technologies for both industrialized and non-industrialized regions.[14] In addition, it is claimed that this sharing will require the appropriate-technology community to adopt open standards/licenses, document knowledge, and build on previous work.[14]
  • OSAT can be used to generate renewable energy[15]
  • OSAT in ICT[16]
  • OSAT and peer production[17]

In education

  • At the university level, the use of open-source-appropriate technology classroom projects has been shown to be successful in forging the connection between physics and social benefit:[18] This approach has the potential to use university students' access to resources and testing equipment in furthering the development of appropriate technology. Similarly OSAT has been used as a tool for improving service learning.[19][20] MIT has completed a study looking at the usefulness of using appropriate technology education and its relation to OSAT.[21]
  • It has been proposed that the evolution of the open-source 3D printers can enable a new method of development for OSAT[22][23]

Open source scientific equipment


Appropriate technology is designed to promote decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient and environmentally sound businesses.[25] Carroll Pursell says that the movement declined from 1965 to 1985, due to an inability to counter advocates of agribusiness, large private utilities, and multinational construction companies.[26] Recently (2011), several barriers to OSAT deployment have been identified:[27]

  • AT seen as inferior or "poor person's" technology
  • Technical transferability and robustness of AT
  • Insufficient funding
  • Weak institutional support
  • The challenges of distance and time in tackling rural poverty.

See also


  1. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology", Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14, pp. 425-431 (2012)
  2. ^ Pearce, J. M. (2014). Free and open source appropriate technology. in The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization, 308. ISBN 9780415782265
  3. ^ a b A. J. Buitenhuis, I. Zelenika and J. M. Pearce, Open Design-Based Strategies to Enhance Appropriate Technology Development", Proceedings of the 14th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference : Open, March 25–27th 2010, pp. 1–12
  4. ^ a b c Kostakis, Vasilis. Roos, Andreas. New Technologies Won’t Reduce Scarcity, but Here’s Something That Might. Harvard Business Review, 2018.
  5. ^ Zelenika and J.M. Pearce, Innovation Through Collaboration: Scaling up Technological Solutions for Sustainable Development, Environment, Development and Sustainability 16(6): 1299-1316 (2014). doi:10.1007/s10668-014-9528-7
  6. ^ Rifkin, Jeremy. The zero marginal cost society: The internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism. Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 978-1137278463
  7. ^ Vinay Gupta, "Starting an anti-patent-abuse appropriate technology political bloc?"
  8. ^ Shea, P. (2014). Community arts and appropriate internet technology: participation, materiality, and the ethics of sustainability in the digitally networked era.
  9. ^ Bentley, C. M. (2014). Exploring information ethics for inclusive open development. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.
  10. ^ Pearce J., Albritton S., Grant G., Steed G., & Zelenika I. 2012. A new model for enabling innovation in appropriate technology for sustainable development Archived 2012-11-22 at the Wayback Machine. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 8(2), pp. 42-53, 2012
  11. ^ Amy Kapczynski et al., "Addressing Global Health Inequities: An Open Licensing Approach for University Innovations", Berkley Technology Law Journal 20 (2005): 1031–1114.
  12. ^ Stephen M. Maurer, Arti Rai, and Andrej Sali, "Finding Cures for Tropical Diseases: Is Open Source an Answer?", PLoS Medicine 1, no. 3 (December 2004): 183–186.
  13. ^ Sinha, S.R. and Barry, M., 2011. Health technologies and innovation in the global health arena. New England Journal of Medicine, 365(9), pp.779-782.
  14. ^ a b Joshua M. Pearce and Usman Mushtaq, "Overcoming Technical Constraints for Obtaining Sustainable Development with Open Source Appropriate Technology", Science and Technology for Humanity (TIC-STH), 2009 IEEE Toronto International Conference, pp. 814–820, 26–27 September 2009
  15. ^ Louie H. Experiences in the construction of open source low technology off-grid wind turbines. In2011 IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting 2011 Jul 24 (pp. 1-7). IEEE.
  16. ^ Pscheidt, M. and van der Weide, T.P., 2010. Bridging the Digital Divide by Open Source: A Theoretical Model of Best Practice.
  17. ^ Rocco, G.R., 2015. Developing Maker Economies in Post-Industrial Cities: Applying Commons Based Peer Production to Mycelium Biomaterials.
  18. ^ J. M. Pearce, "Teaching Physics Using Appropriate Technology Projects", The Physics Teacher, 45, pp. 164–167, 2007
  19. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "Appropedia as a Tool for Service Learning in Sustainable Development", Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 3(1), pp.45–53, 2009
  20. ^ S. Murphy and N. Saleh, "Information literacy in CEAB's accreditation criteria: the hidden attribute", In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Innovation and Practices in Engineering Design and Engineering Education, 2009. Hamilton, ON July 27–29, 2009
  21. ^ Grue, Amanda J. An investigation into and recommendations for appropriate technology education. MIT. 2011
  22. ^ Kentzer, J.; Koch, B. ; Thiim, M. ; Jones, R.W. ; Villumsen, E. An open source hardware-based mechatronics project: The replicating rapid 3-D printer, Mechatronics (ICOM), 2011 4th International Conference, 17–19 May 2011. doi:10.1109/ICOM.2011.5937174
  23. ^ J. M Pearce, C. Morris Blair, K. J. Laciak, R. Andrews, A. Nosrat and I. Zelenika-Zovko, "3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development", Journal of Sustainable Development 3(4), pp. 17-29 (2010)
  24. ^ J.M. Pearce, Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs, Elsevier, 2014.
  25. ^ Hazeltine, B.; Bull, C. (1999). Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices, and Implications. New York: Academic Press. pp. 3, 270. ISBN 0-12-335190-1.
  26. ^ Pursell, Carroll. "The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965–1985". Technology and Culture, Vol 34, No. 3: 629–637 (July 1993)
  27. ^ I. Zelenika and J.M. Pearce, "Barriers to Appropriate Technology Growth in Sustainable Development", Journal of Sustainable Development 4(6), 12-22 (2011)


  • As of this edit, this article uses content from "Open Source Appropriate Technology", which is licensed in a way that permits reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, but not under the GFDL. All relevant terms must be followed.
Alternative technology

Alternative technology is a term used to refer to technologies that are more environmentally friendly than the functionally equivalent technologies dominant in current practice.

The term was coined by Peter Harper, one of the founders of the Centre for Alternative Technology, North Wales (a.k.a. The Quarry), in Undercurrents (magazine) in the 1970s.

Some "alternative technologies" have in the past or may in the future become widely adopted, after which they might no longer be considered "alternative." For example, the use of wind turbines to produce electricity.

Appropriate technology

Appropriate technology is a movement (and its manifestations) encompassing technological choice and application that is small-scale, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally autonomous. It was originally articulated as intermediate technology by the economist Dr. Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher in his work Small is Beautiful. Both Schumacher and many modern-day proponents of appropriate technology also emphasize the technology as people-centered.Appropriate technology has been used to address issues in a wide range of fields. Well-known examples of appropriate technology applications include: bike- and hand-powered water pumps (and other self-powered equipment), the universal nut sheller, self-contained solar lamps and streetlights, and passive solar building designs. Today appropriate technology is often developed using open source principles, which have led to open-source appropriate technology (OSAT) and thus many of the plans of the technology can be freely found on the Internet. OSAT has been proposed as a new model of enabling innovation for sustainable development.Appropriate technology is most commonly discussed in its relationship to economic development and as an alternative to technology transfer of more capital-intensive technology from industrialized nations to developing countries. However, appropriate technology movements can be found in both developing and developed countries. In developed countries, the appropriate technology movement grew out of the energy crisis of the 1970s and focuses mainly on environmental and sustainability issues. Today the idea is multifaceted; in some contexts, appropriate technology can be described as the simplest level of technology that can achieve the intended purpose, whereas in others, it can refer to engineering that takes adequate consideration of social and environmental ramifications. The facets are connected through robustness and sustainable living.

Campus Center for Appropriate Technology

The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) is a student-run sustainability organization located at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. CCAT has partnered with Appropedia to bring over 30 years of student-based open-source appropriate technology solutions to the world.

The organization is housed in a 70-year-old house and contains scores of resource-saving devices such as solar roof panels, a gravity-based rainwater collection system to water the gardens, and an electrical generator which runs on biodiesel made from cooking oil from the school's cafeteria.

Engineering for Change

Engineering for Change (E4C) is an online platform and international community of engineers, scientists, non-governmental organizations, local community advocates and other innovators working to solve global development problems. The organization's founders are the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders USA. E4C facilitates the development of affordable, locally appropriate and sustainable solutions to the most pressing humanitarian challenges and shares them freely online as a form of open source appropriate technology.

Members of the E4C community use the platform's online tools to share knowledge and collaborate. They work together to design and apply technical solutions wherever they see the need. Solutions fall into seven categories on the organization's Web site, and they can include big infrastructural projects such as community water purification and bridge building, or smaller, personal technologies such as bicycle-powered electricity generators and cellphone applications for healthcare.

Free-culture movement

The free-culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify the creative works of others in the form of free content or open content without compensation to, or the consent of, the work's original creators, by using the Internet and other forms of media.

The movement objects to what they consider over-restrictive copyright laws. Many members of the movement argue that such laws hinder creativity. They call this system "permission culture."Creative Commons is an organization started by Lawrence Lessig which provides licenses that permit sharing and remixing under various conditions, and also offers an online search of various Creative Commons-licensed works.

The free-culture movement, with its ethos of free exchange of ideas, is aligned with the free and open-source-software movement.

Today, the term stands for many other movements, including open access (OA), the remix culture, the hacker culture, the access to knowledge movement, the Open Source Learning, the copyleft movement and the public domain movement.

Joshua Pearce

Joshua M. Pearce is an academic engineer at Michigan Tech known for his work on protocrystallinity, photovoltaic technology, open-source-appropriate technology, and open-source hardware including RepRap 3D printers.

Dr. Pearce received his Ph.D. at The Pennsylvania State University, where his work on protocrystallinity helped develop low-cost amorphous silicon solar photovoltaic technology. His solar research continues. For example, his research group published a levelized cost of electricity study on solar energy showed solar electricity was economically competitive with fossil fuels over wide geographic regions. His research into BDRF modeling of reflectors showed potential solar systems output increases of 30%.However, he is also a vocal advocate of an open-source approach to technical development. For his work related to open-source nanotechnology, Ars Technica compared him to American software freedom activist Richard Stallman. He applied open-source 3-D printing and electronics to scientific equipment design, where he has claimed both superior innovation and lower costs. Reviewing his book Open-Source Lab, 3-D Printing Industry wrote, "This is a manual that every scientist should read and it holds a message so powerful and disruptive that the Anarchist Cookbook is a fairy tale in comparison."His research has shown that printing household items with a RepRap is less costly and better for the environment than purchasing conventionally manufactured goods. Similarly, his group developed the recyclebot, a waste plastic extruder, which drops the cost of 3D printing filament from $35/kg to ten cents per kg while making recycling even more environmentally beneficial.In 2013 his group released an open-source 3D printer capable of printing in steel, which cost less than US$1,200. in order to encourage more rapid technological development according to Scientific American. This cost reduction was significant as the New York Times reported commercial metal printers at the time cost over US$500,000.He further developed inexpensive methods such as SODIS to disinfect drinking water in the developing world, using sunlight, water bottles, and salt. Recently, the MIT Sloan Management Review reported that Dr. Pearce has combined many of his research areas developing solar powered 3-D printers to drive sustainable development.

Knowledge commons

The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible; that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.


OSAT may refer to:

Open-source appropriate technology

Online Schooling and Training

Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test, see Category:Assembly and Test semiconductor companies

Open-design movement

The open-design movement involves the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. This includes the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy of the movement are identical to that of the open-source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.

Open-source hardware

Open-source hardware (OSH) consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered by the open-design movement . Both free and open-source software (FOSS) and open-source hardware are created by this open-source culture movement and apply a like concept to a variety of components. It is sometimes, thus, referred to as FOSH (free and open-source hardware). The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it – coupling it closely to the maker movement. Hardware design (i.e. mechanical drawings, schematics, bills of material, PCB layout data, HDL source code and integrated circuit layout data), in addition to the software that drives the hardware, are all released under free/libre terms. The original sharer gains feedback and potentially improvements on the design from the FOSH community. There is now significant evidence that such sharing can drive a high return on investment for the scientific community.Since the rise of reconfigurable programmable logic devices, sharing of logic designs has been a form of open-source hardware. Instead of the schematics, hardware description language (HDL) code is shared. HDL descriptions are commonly used to set up system-on-a-chip systems either in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) or directly in application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designs. HDL modules, when distributed, are called semiconductor intellectual property cores, also known as IP cores.

Open-source model

The open-source model is a decentralized software development model that encourages open collaboration.

A main principle of open-source software development is peer production, with products such as source code, blueprints, and documentation freely available to the public. The open-source movement in software began as a response to the limitations of proprietary code. The model is used for projects such as in open-source appropriate technology, and open-source drug discovery.Open source promotes universal access via an open-source or free license to a product's design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint. Before the phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of other terms. Open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet. The open-source software movement arose to clarify copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues.

Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use or modification from its original design. Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community. Code is released under the terms of a software license. Depending on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their version (fork) back to the community.

Many large formal institutions have sprung up to support the development of the open-source movement, including the Apache Software Foundation, which supports community projects such as the open-source framework Apache Hadoop and the open-source HTTP server Apache HTTP.

Open-source robotics

Open-source robotics (OSR) is where the physical artifacts of the subject are offered by the open design movement. This branch of robotics makes use of open-source hardware and free and open-source software providing blueprints, schematics, and source code. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it from standard commodity components and tools—coupling it closely to the maker movement and open science.

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology (OSE) is a network of farmers, engineers, architects and supporters, whose main goal is the eventual manufacturing of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). As described by Open Source Ecology "the GVCS is an open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts." Groups in Oberlin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and California are developing blueprints, and building prototypes in order to pass them on to Missouri. The devices are built and tested on the Factor e Farm in rural Missouri. Recently, 3D-Print reports OSE has been experimenting with RepRap 3-D printers as suggested by academics for sustainable development.

Open manufacturing

Open Manufacturing or "Open Production" or "Design Global, Manufacture Local" is a new model of socioeconomic production in which physical objects are produced in an open, collaborative and distributed manner and based on open design and open source principles.

Open manufacturing combines the following elements of a production process: new open production tools and methods (such as 3D printers), new value-based movements (such as the maker movement), new institutions and networks for manufacturing and production (such as FabLabs), and open source methods, software and protocols. Open manufacturing may also include digital modeling and fabrication and computer numeric control (CNC) of the machines used for production through open source software and open source hardware.

The philosophy of open manufacturing is close to the open-source movement, but aims at the development of physical products rather than software. The term is linked to the notion of democratizing technology as embodied in the Maker culture, the DIY ethic, the open source appropriate technology movement, the Fablab-network and other rooms for grassroot innovation such as hackerspaces.

According to scholar Michel Bauwens, Open Manufacturing is "the expansion of peer production to the world of physical production".Redlich and Bruns define "Open Production" as "a new form of coordination for production systems that implies a superior broker system coordinating the information and material flows between the stakeholders of production", and which will encompass the entire value creation process for physical goods: development, manufacturing, sales, support etc.A policy paper commissioned by the European Commission uses the term "maker manufacturing" and positions it between social innovation, open source ICT and manufacturing.

Open research

Open research is research conducted in the spirit of free and open-source software. Much like open-source schemes that are built around a source code that is made public, the central theme of open research is to make clear accounts of the methodology freely available via the internet, along with any data or results extracted or derived from them. This permits a massively distributed collaboration, and one in which anyone may participate at any level of the project.

Especially if the research is scientific in nature, it is frequently referred to as open science. Open research can also include social sciences, the humanities, mathematics, engineering and medicine.

Open source

Open source is a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content. It most commonly refers to the open-source model, in which open-source software or other products are released under an open-source license as part of the open-source-software movement. Use of the term originated with software, but has expanded beyond the software sector to cover other open content and forms of open collaboration.

Open source (disambiguation)

Open source is the concept of the information allowing the replication or modification of something being open to the public.

Open source may also refer to:

Open-source license

Open-source model

Open-source software

Peer production

Peer production (also known as mass collaboration) is a way of producing goods and services that relies on self-organizing communities of individuals. In such communities, the labor of a large number of people is coordinated towards a shared outcome.

Whirlwind wheelchair

The Whirlwind wheelchair is a wheelchair designed to be made in developing countries using local resources, in a sustainable development effort.

It was co-designed by Ralf Hotchkiss of Whirlwind Wheelchair International. Hotchkiss, a paraplegic, has traveled extensively, designing wheelchairs that could be built in developing countries.

Whirlwind Wheelchair International uses the principle of open source design, and offers construction classes and consulting services.

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