The Science and Development Network news site has produced an excellent series of articles Innovation at the Grassroots examining how creative folks in the developing world are solving their own problems.
As SciDev.net editor David Dickson says in the introductory article:
Efforts to promote sustainable development must tap into technologies developed locally, driven by community needs and priorities.
The products of modern science and technology (S&T), from chemical pesticides to carbon-emitting combustion engines, are frequently blamed — with some justification — for the unsustainable use of the planet’s resources.
At the same time S&T offers a variety of tools for sustainable development — from forms of pest control that work with, rather than against, natural ecosystems, to cost-effective devices for producing renewable energy.
This creates a dilemma. We cannot reject technological tools in the quest for a sustainable future. But equally, without a radical transformation of how society defines and uses S&T, current patterns of growth and use of resources are unlikely to change.
I’m not a big fan of the word “innovation,” in that it has come to mean almost anything. But this series has a fairly focused definition and is making a good point — that all kinds of efforts in development, including innovation and invention, do best when they are nurtured from within the community rather than imported.