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Technology and sustainable development


L'édition 2005: pertinente et utile

Le second cours postgrade sur la technologie et le développent s'est terminé le vendredi 15 avril 2005 à Chennai (Madras) en Inde. 18 participants provenant de 10 pays répartis sur 4 continents ont reçu leur certificat après avoir suivi 3 mois de cours intensifs, ponctués par des exercices, discussions et analyse de cas, et réalisé durant 6 semaines sur le terrain un projet spécifique.

A l'instar du premier cours organisé en 2001, cette postformation fut mise sur pied par l'EPFL et son partenaire privilégié, l'Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM). Elle a bénéficié de l'environnement extraordinaire et des grandes facilités du campus de cette institution indienne sise au sud de la ville de Chennai. Malgré la proximité des régions sérieusement affectées par le cataclysme qui s'est produit fin décembre 2004, ce cours s'est déroulé sans problème particulier, à la satisfaction de toutes les parties en cause.

Les résultats de l'évaluation de cette postformation auprès des participants et des enseignants tout comme les discussions que j'ai eues avec de nombreuses personnes à ce propos m'autorisent à conclure non seulement à la pleine réussite de ce cours mais également à sa pertinence et à son utilité. Les témoignages ci-après de 2 bénéficiaires de cet enseignement confirment cette appréciation et m'incitent à promouvoir encore cette postformation. Nos autorités se doivent, à mon sens, de lancer la 3ème édition d'un tel cours qui répond à un réel besoin et qui suscite un vif intérêt. Celui-ci pourrait avoir lieu dans un an et, au vu du succès constaté, dans la même sous-région et avec le même partenaire institutionnel.
Des informations complémentaires et les résumés des projets sont disponibles sur le web..

"Where South and North Met for Joint Endeavours"
by Ms. Birgit Buergi

In the early morning of the last day of 2004, I arrived in Chennai (Madras). The people and the city were under the shock of the Tsunami that had affected so many countries and caused indescribable grief and sorrow amongst the people of many nations from far and near. The opening ceremony of the Postgraduate Certificate Course on Technology and Sustainable Development 2005 (TSD '05), organized jointly by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) started with an invocation and a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of this extensive tragedy.

The 18 course participants had come from four Continents and eight countries, namely, Cameroon, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Mongolia and Switzerland and their diversity was not just reflected in their different geographical provenience and cultural diversity, but also in their different professional and educational backgrounds. The uniting factor of that outmost heterogeneous group was the determination, will and readiness to acquire knowledge, skills and expertise in how to address the most pressing problems in emerging countries, like India.

In order to overcome the manifold and complex hurdles towards a more sustainable social and economic development in newly industrializing economies of the South East Asian region, it was evident that innovative ideas, interdisciplinary and holistic approaches as well as farsighted perspectives are needed. Analogue to the heterogeneity of the course participants were the lecturers, coming from the South and North, different academic and professional backgrounds, both experienced and brilliant in their specific domain.

The objective of the course was to provide the participants with valid tools to frame problems within the conceptual framework of technology and sustainable development. The course itinerary was divided into four modules, whereas the first was of introductory character and outlined the linkages between technology and engineering on one side and society, economy and environment on the other. The second module, focused on a wide spectrum of technologies, reaching from indigenous to state-of-the-art technologies and emerging technological innovations. The assessment and valuation of these enabled the participants to understand their potential applications and limits as the purpose was in fact not to study in depth the technologies per se but their implications and impact on the development process. The third module was entirely dedicated to project management and its related techniques and therefore was of propedeutic character to the fourth module, which comprised a one-month project work in the field and a presentation of the final report.

The intent of having multicultural and interdisciplinary groups for the project assignments failed to some extent because some of the projects were carried out individually. However, the field project had undoubtedly given the chance to all participants to put into practice what they learned during the previous modules and to use their own professional backgrounds better. Me for instance, as I am a sociologist and interested in gender issues, I went to one of the least developed regions of India for understanding the gender factors in drinking water management and to elaborate sustainability indicators for drinking water development projects using gravity flow in Adivasi villages. The final presentation of the field projects revealed what the participants had learned during the course itinerary and how they were able to put theory into practice.

During the first three modules, several field trips had been organized and so the participants had a chance to combine what they learned during the lectures with the reality outside the campus. Further, the field trips had given the opportunity to know each other better, to enjoy the beauty of Southern India's landscape and its extraordinary cultural heritage. The course ended with an official valedictory ceremony and a farewell dinner at one of Chennai's finest hotels.

I personally believe that the course, in particular the field project, was a unique platform to widen one's personal, educational and professional horizons. It gave an opportunity to understand people belonging to different social and cultural backgrounds better and to share and learn from each other. Together we crossed boundaries and tried to break down barriers for a better mutual understanding while realising our differences.
"Bridging the gap between technical education and career in development sector"
by Sujata Mashruwala

Selected for the course on Technology for Sustainable Development conducted by IIT Madras, India, and EPFL, Switzerland, I decided to grab this opportunity, and today, after completing the course, I feel it was really worthwhile. I am a Civil Engineer with post graduation in Construction and Project Management, but I am deploying my skills working not for the construction industry but for the development sector. I was witness to the catastrophic earthquake in Gujarat which, in a way, motivated me to train for disasters and emergencies. For me, the course has bridged the gap between my technical education and my career in the development sector.

The course helped participants from seven countries across the globe to come together on a common platform and learn from each other. Three-and-a-half-months of intensive lectures, field visits, group work, presentations, exercises: it would be very untrue if I say that's how the course went, although we kept cribbing about the tight schedule. The time that we found for ourselves in exploring areas in and around Chennai after digesting this power packed capsule of learning (that's how we used to call it), was in itself a separate course with a lot of learning thrown in! The learning process went beyond the course curriculum and broke the barrier between nationalities, economic status, culture and personalities. This time spent outside the course curriculum helped me in developing sensitivity and understanding to different cultures and individuals.

The learning from the course is definitely going to reflect in my future endeavors. I feel that pioneering centre of learning like IIT-Madras and EPFL can play a leading role in training a new breed of professionals who can effectively combine their individual expertise to tackle challenges and problems faced by both the developed and emerging countries in the world, by evolving innovative strategies and implementing holistic solutions.

It was not easy taking time out for a three -and-a-half-month course, that too when you are having demanding personal and professional responsibilities like I did. But today I am glad that I made the right choice and benefited from a multidisciplinary pedagogy, which widened my window of perception. For international participants, the course was like a window to India with its rich cultural and social heritage, offering thus the perfect background to a multicultural and multidisciplinary academic pursuit.

I traveled back from IIT-Madras with memories of the friends I made, the beautiful campus of IIT Madras complete with deer and monkeys, the interaction with people who are masters in their own area of study, and, most importantly, I learned how easy it is to speak of sustainable development and how difficult it is to practice it in practical life.

auteur: Professeur André Musy, Co-directeur du cours