Adapting Technnologies

When we’re done with old equipment and other technological devices, we give them to third world countries, usually feeling proud of ourselves for having helped them. Often though we’re not helping them, we’re just being thoughtless. The lack of electricity, spare parts or trained operators often means that technology developed in the US or Europe is not suitable in Africa or certain parts of Asia. According to the World Health Organization some three quarters of the medical devices given by rich countries to developing nations remain unused. Such a fact makes the project of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers all the more noteworthy. At its London headquarters, it is calling for the development of technologies better suited to the developing world and showcasing some of the results. One example is a solar powered hearing aid that overcomes the need for expensive batteries, a stethoscope that can be connected to a mobile phone so that doctors can monitor hard to reach patients in remote areas, a nipple shield for mothers who are HIV positive so that those who breastfeed not transmit the virus. Many of the new innovations are still at the prototype stage and still need testing in the field and funding before they can reach the people they are to help. Nevertheless, it’s good to know there’s a group working on adapting technologies to the needs of countries which need them.