It’s not an elegant word, but it’s an important idea. Techmanitarian initiatives are about holistic, green technology and sustainable development. They recognizes that conserving the environment means making sure it works for people, especially those in most need. Sometimes environmental strategies and green policies seem to put habitats, wildlife and middle c lass sensibilities over and above local peoples and the disadvantaged. Integrating human needs and green technology solutions that are directed towards helping marginalised, disempowered and poverty-stricken are clearly important green priorities.
Awards for eco tech innovations that also have a humanitarian impact have been on the go for a decade now. This year’s techmanitarian award winner is N. R Narayana Murthy, the Indian philanthropist and CEO of Infosys. You might not normally associate multinationals with eco tech and humanitarian work, but Infosys has a track record of responsible innovation and is in the top ten on Newsweek’s Green Rankings list of ecofriendly companies.
The 2012 techmanitarian awards give a snapshot of the kind of green technology developments and applications that are helping people around the world. There’s a cost effective device for removing arsenic from drinking water in parts of Asia. For farmers in Africa who live in oral cultures and can’t get the most out of computers, there’s an affordable, battery powered audio computer to provide education and resources. Green cooking stoves and a low cost infant warmer to prevent millions of deaths from hypothermia are other eco tech winners this year.
Humanitarian eco tech is about developing green solutions for some of the most urgent problems facing peoples around the world and making them accessible. From education and communications to health to green fuels and safer, more ecofriendly construction methods, these initiatives are making a difference to the lives of millions. Some are elegantly simple, such as heat-sensitive label for vaccine vials, which make sure that the vaccinations given against killer diseases are effective. (PATH, the organization that pioneered this, has won the award three times for innovative, ecofriendly health initiatives).
Techmanitarian award winners are based all around the world, and range from big companies to smaller NGOs and individual designers. What they have in common is a commitment to using green technology in ways that are beneficial to both people and environments. After all, we are ultimately also animals in the ecosystem, and people under threat are just as worthy of help as threatened wildlife.
The rise of green business has gone hand in hand with the recognition that passionate activism by greens doesn’t necessarily translate into meaningful change. The eco tech industry often has a profit motive driving it, but it’s not pursued relentlessly at the expense of people and environments. This is how we’d all like to see business working in the future.