Design Thinking with Appropriate Technology for Improving Social Sustainability: Critical and Comprehensive Criteria

Hyun Kyung Lee, Sue Yeon Chae, Seung Yeon Choi, Dong Hwan Hong, Sang Gu Kang, Gyomin Koo, Seo Hyeon Lee, Sun Woo Lee, Young Seo Lee, Myung Woo Oh, Geena Park, Ji Hyun Park, Sangha Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Current appropriate technology promoting social sustainability for rural, underprivileged populations is often plagued by lack of affordability, maintenance, and personal training, and is also empathetically disconnected from local people and culture. This study proposes criteria for balancing design thinking processes and appropriate technology for social sustainability. In this study, we concretized five assumptions for design thinking processes: user-oriented design with mass productivity; reiterative nature through user satisfaction surveys; affordability for purchase, maintenance, and repair services; local appropriateness; and eco-friendliness with environmental sustainability. Next, we applied the criteria to 28 representative cases from the water, energy, health, shelter, and transportation fields. The cases were evaluated using qualitative content analysis. Findings show that the criteria are necessary for setting economic, social, and environmental development goals for underprivileged regions after considering local contexts. Cultural empathy and collaboration with locals are key for finding practical solutions and co-creating options iteratively. Further, the cases were compared quantitatively using radar diagrams, histograms, and graphs showing average values and standard deviations, providing an objective measure for appropriate technology. Notably, both qualitative and quantitative approaches can serve as useful guidelines for designers, developers, and local users when developing appropriate technology for social sustainability in underprivileged regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Integrated Design and Process Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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© 2020 - IOS Press. All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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