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Three Models of Development: Community Ophthalmology NGOs and the Appropriate Technology Movement

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Abstract This paper describes a new shift in the appropriate technology movement in less economically developed countries as seen in a multi-sited ethnography of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the scientific field of ophthalmology. This research reveals how Aravind Eye Care System in southern India and Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Nepal are addressing “undone science” for avoidable blindness. They are creating the requisite local hospital and personnel infrastructure while conducting “civil society research.” They are also providing high quality modern care to low-income patients of the global south while charging reduced or no fees. This paper argues that they represent a third model in the appropriate technology movement—contextually appropriate local production of high technology. This third model focuses on socially responsible innovation for purposes of social improvement; it is rooted in nonprofit, social enterprise organizations to include the following four aspects: (1) scientific innovation or the “appropriation” of new science; (2) organizational innovation, including changes in operations management for self-sufficiency through multiple revenue streams; (3) technological innovation or the creation of new products and artifacts; and (4) an underlying ideological orientation that is based on local philosophy (and challenges hegemonic understandings of postcolonial dependency or neoliberalism).

Affiliations: 1: Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 110 8th Street, Sage Lab 5th Floor Troy, NY 12180-3590


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