Collaborative Innovation for the Development of Contextually Appropriate Water Treatment Technology in a Marginalized, Low-income South Asian Community

By Morgan C. MacDonald, Syed Imran Ali and Kevin Hall.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The appropriateness of any development technology depends on its suitability to meet the needs, circumstances and capacities of the people in a unique and challenging environment. This paper focuses on the importance of collaborative innovation that harmonizes technical ingenuity with user satisfaction while working within social and environmental constraints. The people of Mylai Balaji Nagar (MBN), a low-income, peri-urban community on the fringe of Chennai, India, were recruited to participate in the design of an alternative safe water system with researchers from the University of Guelph and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. The community obtains its drinking water from a nearby lake known to contain dangerously high concentrations of faecal indicator bacteria, implicated in diarrhoeal disease. This study employed a participatory design framework for the development of a safe water system capable of removing or rendering inactive bacterial pathogens and making the water safe for human consumption. Researchers undertook a five stage participatory design process modeled after participatory action research, to develop a household water filtration system. Following labo- ratory assessment to assess bacteriological and organics control efficacy, four treatment prototypes were presented to, and critiqued by, community representatives for their appropriateness to context.

Keywords: Participatory Action Research, Collaborative Innovation, Water Treatment, South Asia, Slum

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.105-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.202MB).

Morgan C. MacDonald

Project Coordinator, Alternative Water Systems Project, School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Morgan MacDonald is a Canadian researcher working on his doctoral degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He currently works as Project Coordinator for the Alternative Water Systems Project, a collaborative research effort between the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) and the Indian Institute of Technology (Chennai, India). The project, funded by the International Development Research Centre, aims to develop a sustainable method of decentralized water treatment in order to reduce the burden of diarrhoeal disease within the study community.

Syed Imran Ali

University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Kevin Hall

Vice President (Research), University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Kevin Hall is Vice President (Research)for the University of Guelph. Past experience includes Director of the Centre for Water and the Environment and the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Queen’s University Institute for Population and Public Health. Dr. Hall carries out trans-disciplinary research across a number of major themes including water quality modelling, development of environmental monitoring and pathogen detection systems, syndromic surveillance and water and health in marginalized communities. Dr. Hall sits as a board member on the Bioconversion Network, C4 Network, Sharcnet, Canadian Bovine Mastitis Network, Guelph-Waterloo Biotechnology Partnership, Guelph Partners in Innovation, The Accelerator Centre, Lifestyle Research Network, CANPOLIN, AFMnet and SENTINEL.


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