Asee peer logo

Using Appropriate Technology And Social Entrepreneurship To Help Transform Poor Communities

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics III

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1330.1 - 13.1330.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


William Jordan Baylor University

visit author page

WILLIAM JORDAN is the Mechanical Engineering Department Chair at Baylor University. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Metallurgical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an M.A. degree in Theology from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in mechanics and materials from Texas A & M University. He teaches materials related courses and does research concerning appropriate technology in developing countries. He also writes and does research in the areas of engineering ethics and engineering education.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using Appropriate Technology and Social Entrepreneurship to Help Transform Poor Communities


Many approaches to poverty issues are from a top-down perspective using governmental policies and spending to try to make changes. This paper examines a bottom-up approach using technology and social entrepreneurship as tools to make a difference in the economies of developing nations. As local people are equipped with the knowledge and skills of appropriate technology and social entrepreneurship they can improve their lives. By social entrepreneurship we mean the development of companies that have as part of their purpose the improvement of the local society in which they are created. In order to do this they also have to make a product that people want at a price that will allow them to make a profit and stay in business.

Engineers play a critical role in this process. The technological advances of the past century have brought a dramatic improvement in the standard of living for the most fortunate one billion people in the world. However, too little attention has been given to developing technology that can significantly improve the quality of life of the poorest two billion people who struggle just to survive. This technology needs to be simple, cheap, manufactured in country, easily maintained by nationals in rural villages, and culturally acceptable. Basic human needs for clean water, a small source of clean energy (e.g., electricity rather than kerosene lanterns for lighting, for example), and sanitation are seldom met.

With a focus on service, technology can be an instrument of peace, community development, restoration of human dignity, and the alleviation of hunger and suffering. This happens as these endeavors and their practitioners orient their craft toward an end that has meaning as well as economic profit.

We will illustrate our approach by discussing engineering service projects that students in our university have completed. They have implemented projects in East Africa and Central America. We are currently working on other projects in the Pacific Rim. These case studies will be analyzed to show how student engineering service projects can transform lives. The students who participate also have their own lives changed as they gain a new vision on how to practice engineering.

Jordan, W. (2008, June), Using Appropriate Technology And Social Entrepreneurship To Help Transform Poor Communities Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3887

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015