The Engineer’s role in addressing global poverty challenges has often been confined to village and community-scale interventions, product design and development, or large-scale infrastructure design and construction. Yet despite fifty years of these approaches, over half the world’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day, the global burden of disease in low-income countries is overwhelmingly attributable to environmental health contaminants, and climate change is already negatively affecting people in developing countries. The conventional community, product or infrastructure focuses of development engineering is insufficient to address these global drivers that perpetuate poverty. 

Engineers must become activists and advocates, leveraging our professional skills and capacity to generate evidence and positive impact toward rectifying inequalities. Engineers must reject the ahistorical, technocratic and neo-colonial conceit that poverty can be solved through products or projects, or on a community scale that requires the poorest people to overcome historical and structural inequalities and injustices.

The emerging field of Global Engineering can work to identify and address these structural injustices. Global Engineering should be concerned with the unequal and unjust distribution of access to basic services such as water, sanitation, energy, food, transportation and shelter, and place an emphasis on identifying the drivers, determinants and solutions favoring equitable access. Technology development and validation, data collection and impact evaluation can contribute to evidence-based influence on policies and practice. 

Global Engineering envisions a world in which everyone has safe water, sanitation, energy, food, shelter and infrastructure, and can live in health, dignity, and prosperity.

Read Toward a New Field of Global Engineering by Dr. Evan Thomas, Mortenson Center Director.