3S Methodology: Sustainability

Summary of Week 5 of Technology Evaluation for Global Development(edX – MITx)

CITE considers a product or intervention to be sustainable when it continues to have a positive impact (to people living in poverty) over it lifecycle considering technical (focus on maintainability), social, economic, institutional (strength of organisation promoting the technology) and environmental factors. CITE breaks the definition of sustainability into 3 key areas: user sustainability, implementation model sustainability and environmental sustainability. They also use a complex systems approach with 5 layers (nano, micro, meso, macro and mega).

CITE typically surveys users on their demographic data, decision-making process, cost, and user experience with the product. Implementation models describes how the end user receives the product and how organisations facilitate its adoption and continued used over time. There are 3 types of implementation models: commercial, grant-based and hybrid. The type of model can have a significant impact on the product’s adoption and scale over time.

3S Methodology: Scalability

Summary of Week 4 of Technology Evaluation for Global Development(edX – MITx)

CITE defines scalability as a firm’s capability to expand and meet customer demand, taking into account its supply chain configuration, costs, constraints, context and risks. Scalability is important because it creates a supply of goods, provides returns to investors, and grows the economy. Evaluation findings can provide insights into novel ideas for processes and business models.


The unit of analysis is the product distinguished by the brand and/or model, while the scalability unit of analysis are the processes which span all the parties involved in fulfilling a customer’s request (the supply chain). The supply chain can be characterised as follows:

  • Parties: Supplies, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. Brand owners are typically manufacturers, but can be retailers and sometimes distributors.
  • Stages: Procurement (e.g. sourcing, procurement management), production (facilities, production planning), distribution (e.g. inventory echelon, warehouse management, transportation management), sales (sales channels, manufacturer representative, commercial, mission, distributor, broker), and after sales (warranty duration and type)
  • Flows: Material flow, financial flow and information flow

The scalability criteria for evaluating supply chains are:

  • Affordability (including landed cost, retail price, total cost of ownership, financing)
  • Accessibility (i.e. customer reach)
  • Availability (i.e. throughput capacity and inventory)
  • After sales service


3S Methodology: Suitability

Summary of Week 3 of Technology Evaluation for Global Development(edX – MITx)

CITE considers technology evaluation through the lenses of suitability (how well a product performs), scalability (how well a product reaches a customer) and sustainability (how a user and a product interact over time).

Developing a set of evaluation metrics

Metrics guides decision-making and focuses the evaluation effort. Good metrics are measurable, relevant, apply broadly across the product family, understandable, and reliable. It is recommended to have 7-12 metrics.

Lab or field?


Lab tests are usually more precise and repeatable, and more objective. The lecture recommends using lab tests when fine discrimination among alternatives are needed, and using field tests is unbiased estimates of actual performance in a particular setting are needed.


Low-cost sensors, such as thermometers, can provide valuable information. Sensors are beneficial because of its persistence and long duration of observation, allowing for high sampling frequencies. Ethical considerations include privacy and possible harm to the user. The user might also alter their behaviour if they are aware of the presence of the sensor. Note that sensors may not always be appropriate depending on the circumstances.

CITE’s approach to product evaluation

Summary of Week 2 of Technology Evaluation for Global Development (edX – MITx)

Evaluation is needed due to an oversupply of products.

History of evaluation

Emerging trends in evaluation within global development include: an emphasis on quality and standards to ensure that research and monitoring evaluation is being done effectively; capacity building of developing country governments and entities to be able to evaluate, and; a focus on impact as well as process evaluations. More experimental and non-experimental approaches are being developed.

Criteria, Metrics, Weightings

To make an informed decision, consider who needs the information, which criteria are needed to make the decision, and how performance will be measured? The criteria (and sub-criteria) should be brought together in an easy-to-understand format that helps facilitate a decision.

The products chosen for evaluation are critical. Not everything has to be included but market leaders and some emerging technologies should not be left out. Design of experiments , a discipline concerned with planning experiments and analysing data, can inform the choice of products.

Scoping studies

A scoping study aims to quickly ramp up knowledge of the product family and context, narrow the scope of the evaluation, identify products that are available in the evaluation study area, identify the products that are available in the evaluation study area, and define the metrics that will be tested in the evaluation. It has 7 components: detailed product description, research questions, target users, major stakeholders, context study, use cases and criteria and metrics.

A scoping study can have a desk-based and field-based component.

International development and appropriate technology

Summary of Week 1 of Technology Evaluation for Global Development (edX – MITx)

It is important to think historically because it allows us to understand how we defined problems and solutions, and the underlying assumptions of economic development, poverty alleviation and technological change.

Throughout the years, there has been a shift from macro to micro.

After the end of World War II, the 3 modernisation goals of rapid industrialisation, democracy and  education of the poor – the big push model – led by a large public sector was seen as necessary for generating economic growth. The poor was seen as neither innovative nor entrepreneurial. During this time, evaluation methodology was based on cost-benefit analysis.

Modernisation did not work as planned. Instead, there were negative changes in the economic, political and social environment, with government seen as the problem, not the solution. There was rising pessimism about the negative consequences of technology. Cost-benefit analysis was criticised for prioritising economic growth. The study of institutional constraints emerged as a new evaluation methodology.

The alternative that emerged was a bottom up approach to meet the basic needs of the poor through small-scale appropriate technology (AT) delivered by grassroots organisations.

AT declined as an idea as its political and economic impacts were insignificant. But it re-emerged in the shift towards micro-level poverty alleviation accompanied by incentives for technological innovation. The poor were seen as credit-worthy and savvy consumers.

This has led to an oversupply of appropriate technologies for which there was very little information on product performance. Hence there is a need for the rigorous evaluation of products.