Assistive technologies in developing countries

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Helpdesk Query:

What is the existing literature on the availability of current and forthcoming assistive technologies, associated markets, business models, and innovative approaches that could help make these technologies more affordable and accessible in developing countries?


Assistive technologies enable people to live healthy, productive, independent and dignified lives, yet most people who need them are currently unable to access them. This rapid review looks at examples of existing literature on the availability of assistive technologies and efforts to make these technologies more affordable and accessible in developing countries.

A scoping review aimed at looking at the current evidence base on assistive technology in resource limited settings found that over 80% of the available papers focused on types of assistive technologies that address mobility (45.2%) and vision (35.5%) needs, with assistive technology types of spectacles and prosthetics comprising over 50% of all publications (Matter et al, 2016, p. 1).

Evidence on assistive technologies that addresses hearing, communication, and cognition needs were the most underrepresented within the existing evidence base (Matter et al, 2016, p. 1). They concluded that evidence on assistive technologies in resource limited settings was limited in quantity and quality, as well as not being evenly distributed across all types of assistive technologies (Matter et al, 2016, p. 1). Visagie et al (2016, p. 1) also found that there is a paucity of evidence on assistive technology provision in low and middle income countries.

Despite acknowledgement of the importance of assistive technologies that are affordable and accessible, within the existing literature there appears to be little focus on the specific ways in which this can be achieved, including in relation to market shaping. The available literature seemed to be largely gender blind, although some papers differentiated between the experiences of men and women in relation to assistive technologies.

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