The Common Appropriate Technology PlatformTM is a conceptual framework, designed by eCubeH specifically for the multi-disciplinary needs of the global social development sector. The history of applications of technology for social development is rife with gigantic levels of resources wasted over inappropriate, non-functional or poorly designed and implemented solutions. The CATP is an effort to reverse that trend.
The eCubeH CATP is a social sector framework that allows for shared resources in solution creation, and a modularized approach to reuse of shared learnings. The framework has the following elements:
- COMMON: The CATP is a single common platform across the different domains of social development. The scope of development is vast. The CATP is the first platform to integrate information flow, analytics and innovation across products and services, at a multi-domain level. For example, it allows seamless cross-domain product or service design associated with multiple domains such as microfinance and nutrition services. This is a significant development considering that most development solutions at present don't talk to each other, even within the same domain. For example, many microfinance institutions deploy independent technology solutions from different vendors for credit, insurance and HR, and then struggle to integrate the whole, in the process dealing with redundancies, inaccuracies and inefficient business analytics.
- APPROPRIATE: Most social sector practitioners have limited knowledge of technology and its potential. The flip side is also true - most technology providers know little to nothing about social development environments. Yet the social sector domains are too deep and specialized for a generic provider to provide the necessary solutions. A multi-disciplinary, socially-oriented approach is fundamental to any successful solution deployment, but it is rare if not impossible to find the right combination, the perfect mix of knowledge of highly dynamic technologies, social sector specialities, and field level expertise. Lacking this combination, most technology solutions start seemingly with great promise but invariably end up as failures.
Many technology efforts in the development sector end up focusing on the latest and greatest technology, rather than the needed solution. We see companies building technology strategies around a single 'sexy' technology such as 'smart cards' or 'biometrics', thriving in the short term by serving 'easy' markets such as the government sector. Understandably, such efforts fail over the longer term, leaving a devastating trail of wasted funds, misused time and efforts, and a residual feeling that "technology is simply of no use for our special needs". Too often, we have seen expensive and complex electronic solutions recommended when a simple paper-based or process-based solution would have sufficed. We have seen solutions down-scaling higher-end products developed for very different contexts, such as complex and expensive banking solutions pushed to the microfinance sector, despite vast dissimilarities in their operational models and larger mission. We have seen technology solutions developed with no thought to impact on the environment. And so on.
What does the term 'Appropriate' mean for us?
Very simply, it refers to the right solution factoring in all the requirements, the circumstances and the environment. We list some desirable characteristics below -
- It is an optimal mix of space-age and traditional technologies.
- It is needs-driven and solution-oriented; it solves the problem at hand.
- It is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
- It is holistic; it ensures harmony with nature.
- It delivers the richest possible user experience, under the circumstances.
- It demands creativity & intelligence in its design & application.
- Simplicity and direct effectiveness are its natural outcomes.
- TECHNOLOGY: To us, technology is a broad term. It covers any system or technique that builds capability or efficiency. In our use of the term, we refer to three specific technologies - social, engineering and software - across the four application domains - economic, education, environment and health. Our social technologies revolve around innovative designs for social products and services, and effective field deployments. Our engineering technologies are geared around clean and efficient solutions for water, energy and broad-based ecology. Our software technologies revolve around enterprise, mobile and social-networking community solutions.
- PLATFORM: In the term CATP, we use platform to mean a foundation, a framework with guidelines for development of solutions that meet our requirements for seamless information sharing, analytics and product & service innovation across social intervention domains, organizations and technologies, and complying with all our requirements for appropriate solutions. Necessarily these are all standards based, with open and well-defined architectures and APIs. All applications utilize functionality from other domain applications through the standard domain APIs and associated tool sets.