Role of Development Engineer

To provide technological intervention having a broader impact in a social context

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This article describes three prime responsibilities of a development engineer as a professional solving some societal problems.

To separate problems that need technological intervention and non-technological intervention

Engineers are trained to solve problems having a wicked solution. They use their technical knowledge and skills to provide a solution or technological intervention. The majority of the developmental issues may have a technological solution. One of the development engineer's prime responsibilities is to separate the developmental issues that technology can solve and the problems needing non-technological interventions. For example, the problem of clean water can be solved using water purification techniques. But the caring of an orphan child and old-age people need non-technological solutions. Often psychological or behavioural problems need non-technological interventions, and physical problems can be solved through technological interventions.

Below I provide a list of such global problems and appropriate technologies to design solutions.

  1. Clean water: Water filtration systems, chemical, solar, distribution, etc.

  2. Sanitation: Infrastructure, chemical treatment, etc.

  3. Food/agriculture: Fertilizers, irrigation, etc.

  4. Energy: Solar, wind, biomass, lighting, heating, cooking, etc.

  5. Health/medical: Telemedicine, diagnostic equipment, etc.

  6. Education: Instructional technologies (e.g., computers and tablets), STEM projects for hands-on learning.

  7. Shelter/infrastructure: Houses, dams, buildings, roads, bridges, etc.

  8. Environment: Pollution management and remediation.

  9. Information systems Cell/mobile phones/devices, computers, internet, services support, market information, financial services, etc.

To understand the Societal context of a Problem.

The second and topmost responsibility of a development engineer is to understand the community members' needs and aspirations. Here, it is important not to presume or make any assumption about the needs of community members. As a development engineer, it is essential to understand the people's opinion or views on perceptions of life, environment, work and family, politics and society and National Identity. This is also referred to as the societal context.

For example, the Kokan region people, a division in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, often resist mega-developmental projects (e.g., Dabhol Power corporation, Jaitapur Project, Nanar project) because they are more conscious about environmental issues. But at the same time, people from Konkan welcome any infrastructure project which improves transport and tourism, such as the Kokan Railway project, New-Mumbai Airport construction, High-way (Mumbai-Goa Highway) widening etc.

To understand the difference between developmental impact and an engineering solution.

The third responsibility of a development engineer is to understand the difference between developmental impact and an engineering solution. The technological innovation designed by a development engineer may not be a technological breakthrough, but it may be an application of existing technology with a broader positive impact.

The exemplar products of the development engineer described in the previous article illustrate this point. For example, Jaipur foot and integrating QR codes in the book are not major technological breakthrough in the engineering sense, but their application has a broader impact.