(This presentation discusses the “car-parts neonatal incubator” in more detail, which the NY Times profiled recently. This is an example of appropriate technology. It would make a good takeoff point for projects in several of my courses.)
Many multinational companies manufacturing medical devices for developing countries focus their efforts on high-end products too expensive to be used in most healthcare settings. Unable to afford their own equipment, healthcare providers in areas with few resources often receive donated equipment from international organizations. Unfortunately, while this donated equipment is usually state-of-the-art, it often ends up falling into disrepair and eventually disuse. Donors with the best of intentions fall into the trap of donating equipment that the recipient cannot afford to maintain. Just as most of us would like to own a Ferrari but would be unable to pay for its upkeep, most clinics in resource-poor areas cannot afford to maintain expensive devices, such as incubators, designed for use in developed countries.