In 1944 the notion of development was used for the first time with regard to poverty in one of the sub-committees that drew up the constitution of the United Nations. The concept gained official status in the Inaugural Address of President Harry Truman on 20 January 1949 when he stated that the United States “… must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available to the improvement and growth of the underdeveloped nations”.
This connection between production and development has led to the two simple categories, “developed” and “underdeveloped” with which the thousands of cultures in the world have been placed on a single progressive track. Those who are “underdeveloped” should catch up with those who are “developed” by producing more. The “under-developed” must merely learn to do what the “developed” are doing so successfully (Rasmussen, Larry L. 1996. Earth community, earth ethics. Geneva: WCC Publications, p 135).
This paradigm has run into several complications.
The realisation that the modern global economy is unsustainable has led to efforts to transform it, e.g. replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. However, not all problems of modernism can be solved by technology. The problem remains that continuous growth on a limited planet is logically impossible.
The recent strong surge of post-colonialism in South Africa “…is directly challenging the very foundations of Euro-North American-centric modernity and western civilisation… we must speak of a crisis of civilisation and modernity. This civilisational crisis was predicted in 1955 by Aime Cesaire taking the form of incapability of a civilisation to solve ‘the problems it creates’ rendering it ‘decadent;’ turning its focus away from ‘its most crucial problems’ making it ‘sick;’ and playing ‘fast and loose with its principles’ opening itself to death” (Prof. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni: Why are South African Universities sites of struggle today? Posted on 21 OCTOBER 2016, http://www.joburgpost.co.za/2016/10/21/why-are-south-african-universities-sites-of-struggle-today/).
However, the post-colonial movement does not know with what they should replace the massive technological system of the present global system that they reject.
That is what Nova is doing on a small scale: together with the people that Ndlovu-Gatsheni describes as the victims of colonialism, we search for solutions, also technological solutions, that are functionally integrated into their daily lives and that they regard as making their lives better.
Where the development industry in Africa since 1948 tried to make people’s lives beter by training and educating them to become part of modern civilization and use modern technology, Nova engages with households in a process where they are able to choose the solution or technology that complies with their needs, wishes, and capacity to use and maintain, and where we also communicate our ideas, requirements and values, where we co-design and evaluate possible solutions until a solution appears that satisfies both the residents and the researchers from outside the context.