The Role of Engineers in Poverty Reduction: Challenges and Opportunities
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In the next two decades, almost two billion additional people are expected to populate the Earth, ninety-five percent of them in developing or underdeveloped countries. This growth will create unprecedented demands for energy, food, land, water, transportation, materials, waste disposal, earth moving, health care, environmental cleanup, telecommunications, and infrastructure. The role of engineers will be critical in fulfilling those demands at various scales, ranging from remote small communities to large urban areas, mostly in the developing world. As we enter the first half of the 21st century, the engineering profession must embrace a new mission statement—to contribute to the building of a more sustainable, stable, and equitable world. In particular, we need to train a new generation of engineers who can better meet the challenges of the developing world and address the needs of the most destitute people on our planet. Today, an estimated twenty percent of the world’s population lacks clean water, forty percent lacks adequate sanitation, and twenty percent lacks adequate housing. This lecture will present the challenges and opportunities associated with practicing engineering in the developing world and the education of engineers through organizations such as Engineers Without Borders. The lecture will also discuss the importance of integrating engineering with nonengineering disciplines when addressing the needs of developing communities.