Collaborative design strategies for community technology

Organizations designing for marginalized populations have many design approaches to inform their efforts to enact lasting change. Some are adapted from first-world commercial processes, and others were actively developed in the field by teams directly involved in empowering communities lacking access to many modern technologies. A few of the approaches born from particularly successful or educational projects have influenced wide movements and inform many successful projects.

This comparison focuses on three “brand-name” approaches to designing for communities lacking access to first-world commercial technology solutions. Human-centered design is an approach the business world has used for decades to inform their design process. Appropriate technology focuses on a set of guidelines for technological innovation that holds paramount the need for solutions to be relevant to and affordably produced and maintained wholly by the local population. Participatory technology design is a specific application of the participatory design philosophy, which emphasizes the active involvement of all stakeholders in the design process of technological solutions.

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