The Washing Machine- The Equality of Technology

Perusing Ted.com, I came across a Hans Rosling video that touches on many contemporary issues in public health. In the video, Hans Rosling makes the argument that the washing machine is one of, if not the, greatest inventions during the industrial revolution. Essentially, pre-washing machine, families, usually the women in the household, were required to go to great lengths to clean clothes. Finding water, mixing with soap, and then washing hand-by-hand each piece of clothing was the common practice. Once the washing machine came around, that time was, Rosling argues, spent reading and educating the childern of the household. This ‘revolution’ leads to one of the greatest attributes to any society: a young, educated population. The washing machine also empowered women. Instead of doing the tedious task of hand washing clothes, they could dedicate that time to more progressive tasks, like learning to read or write. As we live in 2011, however, billions of our fellow world peers still do not have washing machines. This is a justice issue. How can we allocate technology so that all can reap the most basic benefits we use every day? How is such a basic invention to us still not made a reality in many societies? Are we socially responsible to change this?

In order to argue that we should care that our fellow global peers do not have basic technology, I think it is best to step away from the moral argument and point to a more pragmatic solution. Allowing basic technology in lower-income communities would create a stronger, and more educated, world. This benefits us all. Giving each household the access to a washing machine is a preventative issue. One cannot put a price tag on a mother that can read and educate her children. The empowerment and long-term effects outweigh the price of electricity and a washing machine. So why isn’t there a global push? As we are discussing in class lately, is someone benefiting from injustices? Do those in higher-income nations feel more worthy of technology?

To begin, we do not have the most basic mindset to create global change: the idea that someone benefiting halfway around the world would benefit me. For many, in our day-to-day lives, it is very difficult to imagine what a washing machine would do for those whom we will never meet. I, as with Hans Rosling, would argue that this boost in technology would help us all. It would decrease inequity and would, as I mentioned earlier, create a more efficient and educated world.

Another touching issue within this presentation is the basic idea what attractive use of statistics can do. Hans Rosling is revolutionizing how we view basic global realities with his work. His movement will be a great benefit to us all as we move forward in public health. We have many issues to tackle, but as Hans Rosling would argue, maybe one goal should be to get washing machines in each household.

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One response to “The Washing Machine- The Equality of Technology

  1. Ellen Albritton

    I think it is hard for many Americans who enjoy the luxury of having something like a washing machine to even imagine the way that technology like that benefits them. I had to do my own laundry this past summer when I lived in Kenya without a washing machine, and I remember being utterly shocked at just how long it takes and how labor-intensive it is–and I was just washing my own clothes and was not responsible for the clothes of an entire family, like many women are. There are many other similar chores that primarily women are responsible for around the world are responsible for and that also prevent them from having time for education. These include having to go get water each and every day, not only for washing clothes, but also for cooking, washing, and drinking. I was also shocked this summer at how much longer it took to prepare a meal–each day one would have to go around to several different vendors to get all of the necessary food, and the preparation and cooking of the meal took much longer without all of the technology we have the luxury of being able to use. We would need to be careful though in how we would implement giving access to technologies such as the washing machine. For example–making sure that those who would benefit are the most in need. Drawing again from my personal experience in Kenya, many of the wealthier families in Kenya would often hire poorer women to do things, like washing clothes, that are so time-consuming. If these wealthier individuals were able to have these washing machines more than the poorer families, many poor women could stand to lose a vital source of income, and still not personally benefit from the technology. Also, I think it is important to think about what people living in these situations think will help them the most. Many may say that they could quite well without a washing machine, if only their source of water was closer to where they lived–an investment that would help with washing clothes, but also cooking, drinking water, and hygiene. After all, a small load of laundry uses approximately 35 gallons of water, an already very scarce resource for many of these people.

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