Marrying the Capability Approach, Appropriate Technology and STS: The Case of Podcasting Devices in Zimbabwe

  • Ilse Oosterlaken
  • David J. Grimshaw
  • Pim Janssen
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 5)


How can our knowledge of technology, including its design, be used to enhance the capabilities of all people? What is an appropriate technology? Can the choices people make about technology be embedded into the design process? Can the capability approach contribute to sustainable, appropriate technological solutions for development challenges? These are just some of the key questions posed in this chapter. First we position ICT development interventions as a useful vehicle for exploring the added value of the capability approach. Second we introduce the case of podcasting in Zimbabwe to provide a practical example. We explain what a capability approach of such a case would entail. This is then rooted in the appropriate technology movement, to which the capability approach may contribute its theoretical framework. Next, it is discussed how insights and theories from science and technology studies may be helpful in better understanding the complex dynamics between technology and human capabilities. These discussions then lead to a section about technology choice, for which well-being and agency are important considerations. It is argued that deliberate technology choice is the key to answering the questions posed earlier.


Cattle Management Capability Approach Practical Action Technical Artefact Human Capability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research has been made possible by a grant from NWO (the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) and the kind collaboration of Practical Action, first and foremost in the person of Lawrence Gudza. We would also like to thank Dorothea Kleine and Sabine Roeser for their useful feedback on an earlier draft of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilse Oosterlaken
    • 1
  • David J. Grimshaw
    • 2
  • Pim Janssen
    • 3
  1. 1.Philosophy SectionDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.ICT for DevelopmentRoyal Holloway (University of London)Egham HillEngland
  3. 3.Department of InfrastructureARCADISAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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