A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. we can talk to industry and ask them how one can bring this to the prototype stage. Our Industry and university liaison units are in touch with a score of research institutions in Britain, and we have launched about two hundred such student projects, some of them absolutely fascinating. We are left with a problem. After working up this knowledge, how do we get it across? We cannot communicate with lots of different people in each developing countrywe are not working in two dozen such countries. They need a focal point. We have been trying to get each of them to set up an intermediate technology group. So far, eight developing countries have such groups. We have also urged similar groups to start up in developed countries. An intermediate technology group was founded in Switzerland last year at the Duttweiler Institute. Others have started in Sweden and the Netherlands. This means that in our search for suitable equipment or techniques, we are not restricted to Britain. The Germans wanted to set up an institute, but they started out too big, and so they were shot down; but they are trying again. In the United States our main link is with VITA, the Volunteers for International Technical Assistance. We have less organized connections with other countries, but the units in the developing countries are the most important. In any case, gradually an international network has come into being, through which the knowledge can flow. To promote this flow, we have started ,an international journal called Appropriate Technology. It does not simply report on the splendors of our own work. Its pages are open. We want to provide information of what is being done, by whom, where, and in what line. .We are not primarily interested in disquisitions on how difficult a problem is, but rather instructions on what one can actually do for oneself. We are trying to answer this most difficult question: How do you get knowledge that has been worked out in London to the two million villages that might need it? Another large problem is how to finance something like this. It is not difficult to finance our overseas projects, which are launched not primarily to help these particular people, but to verify the knowledge, train the people, and to prove that it is both meaningful and socially acceptable. That is easy to finance. What is extremely hard to finance is the thinking work at headquarters. To do that, we have created four subsidiaries to our main organization, the Intermediate Technology Development Group, Limited, which is registered as a charity. The four wholly owned subsidiaries are commercial organizations. The first is a consultancy bureau. When a request comes from Tanzania, if they will pay my expenses, I will go to Tanzania free of charge. But when a request comes from an oil-rich country, it would be stupid and, from an over-all economic view, not even very helpful, to refuse to make them pay for the help. They don’t miss the money, and it helps to solve certain balance-of-payment problems. The second subsidiary is a trading company which sells our designs, machines, implements like the metal-bending machine, and also more ambitious machines; and that is also profitable. The third subsidiary is a retail shop in London. People in developing countries produce all sorts of things for sale in the advanced countries, but they know very little about marketing. The 136st way to help is to have a shop where they can learn it by doing. This shop is called Afro Arts, Limited. It is very attractive. The shop sells their products at horrifying prices to people who have too much money. The profits flow into research work. The fourth subsidiary in Intermediate Technology Publications, Limited. We now have a long publications list with a high commercial turnover. Currently, we sell about five hundred pounds worth of our literature a week. This is chicken feed in big-business terms. But it is very specialized material and very inexpensively produced and _is designed for the poor. This has to be commercially managed, so we turned our publications department into a company, the same company that has launched our journal. That means that some of the sharp edge of commercial discipline is introduced into it. The profits of these subsidiaries help to run the headquarters organization. A concluding note: when one says that people in developing countries are not stupid, one does not imply that people in developed societies are stupid. Everybody is intelligent in the things he knows and has experienced. All I say is, “Let us take the people in developing countries more seriously, and let us not imagine that our experience fits their case.” Those people are intelligent. They know how to live on virtually . nothing. We are intelligent and know how to live in a society where all the high-technology presuppositions are fulfilled. But it takes a mighty effort to jump out of our own experience and put ourselves inside the experience of these people. There we may be very stupid, as stupid as a most intelligent farmer might turn out to be the moment he has to cope with our technology.
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