poverty alleviation through technologyAlthough breaking the cycle of poverty is difficult, poverty rates around the world have been improving. According to a report issued by the World Bank, 35 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty 1990. In 2013, that number was down to 10.7 percent, which means the U.N.’s first Millenium Development Goal, to cut poverty in half by 2015, has been accomplished.

However, while many have moved out of extreme poverty, statistics show that the end of poverty is far from over. As a potential way to help speed up the process even more, many companies are helping with poverty alleviation through technology programs.

Companies Tackling Poverty Alleviation Through Technology

  1. Microsoft 365: Microsoft teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme on Jan. 23, 2004, to help with poverty alleviation through technology in Africa. It strongly believes that technology is a crucial aspect that can bridge the gap between schools in urban and rural areas, eventually eliminating world hunger and poverty. Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates hopes to end poverty by 2030 by launching his software in more developing countries around the world.Microsoft set up a three-pillar model in order to make sure the technology was applied correctly in schools. The first pillar provided the appropriate service for the individual based on their technological ability or age group. The second pillar equipped more than 200,000 teachers with the software in order to make sure the teachers were trained and familiar with the technology before it was introduced to students. The third pillar encouraged participation and creativity. The students were introduced to programs such as Skype or OneNote.
  2. GeoPoll: GeoPoll is a company that is taking advantage of mobile phones becoming more common in developing countries. Since 2012, it has partnered with more than 85 mobile network operations and has had connectivity in 64 countries of the world. Its purpose is to send a survey text through those living in the developing countries. Once citizens fill out the survey, the results are sent to the government and NGOs, allowing them to help with poverty alleviation.An example of when a GeoPoll survey was used was during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. GeoPoll conducted food security surveys in countries that were affected and helped gather data on food prices and wages. From these results, it was able to decipher which areas needed more aid and which areas should continue to be monitored.
  3. Humanitarian Accelerators: Humanitarian Accelerators was launched in 2016 by the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It is meant to help with cultural, social and environmental issues in the region by connecting businesses all around the globe to United Arab Emirate’s humanitarian sector. Humanitarian Accelerators has set up its technology in over 116 different countries with the hopes of improving the lives of those in developing countries.In the past, the company has worked to provide educational technology to refugee students in order to ensure they receive the same level of education as other children. One of the company’s current initiatives is to employ technology in order to provide job opportunities to refugees.
  4. Poverty Spotlight: Poverty Spotlight is a program that is currently working in 18 countries and is most advanced in South Africa. It is meant to help with poverty alleviation through a mobile app that enables those in poverty to self-diagnose their own level of poverty. Its mission is to help individuals and families in poverty discover innovative solutions to lift themselves out of their situations.Individuals complete a survey about what they are in need of, then their neighbors fill out the same assessment and together they work on achieving them. The app allows individuals to become aware of their situation and build motivation and support from others to overcome it. The staff behind Poverty Spotlight also creates a personalized plan for every family.

Technology allows for many things today that were impossible in the past. The more technology advances, the more opportunities it gives us to learn, educate and help poverty alleviation through technology around the world.

– Negin Nia

Global Citizen: Success Stories of the Global Poverty ProjectThe Global Poverty Project, also known as Global Citizen, is an education and advocacy organization working to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action to see an end to extreme poverty. Global Citizen’s advocacy work focuses on eight issues: girls and women, food and hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, environment, finance and innovation and citizenship.

Global Citizen has had success stories in these areas: 

  1. Girls and Women
    At the 2017 Global Citizen Festival, Accenture, Citi, Ernst & Young and Procter and Gamble committed to sourcing $100 million each through their supply chains from women-owned businesses, a majority based in developing countries. 
  2. Food and Hunger
    In 2017, the Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, confirmed that $575 million of $990 million committed by Congress in May, helped by 49,291 actions taken by Global Citizen, was released to the WFP and others to immediately fight famine.
  3. Health
    Over the past seven years, Global Citizen has taken 1.47 million actions to increase access to global health services, including HIV/AIDS treatment. These actions have led to 48 commitments by governments and are set to affect 626 million people by 2030.
  4. Education
    In Feb. 2018, Global Citizen held the first Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference hosted jointly by a G7 leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the president of a developing country, Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal. The conference was held in Dakar, Senegal, to support $2.3 billion for education in developing countries. GPE’s global ambassador, Rihanna, was present and spoke as well.
  5. Water and Sanitation
    At the Global Citizen Festival, Nigeria committed to getting 5.5 million people out of open defecation by the end of 2018. 
  6. Environment
    In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the United Arab Emirates Minister of Climate Change and Environment committed $50 million on the Global Citizen Festival stage to fund renewable energy supplies and another $10 million toward humanitarian relief in Antigua and Barbuda. 
  7. Finance and Innovation
    Global Citizen partners with the private sector to further fight poverty. One of the biggest successes was at the Global Citizen Festival in 2015, where the European Commission committed to increase support for the refugee crisis by €500 million over the existing development aid budget of the European Commission.
  8. Citizenship
    In 2017, over three million Global Citizen supporters’ actions helped to drive $5.7 billion in 143 commitments by calling upon leaders as a collective power to step up for the world’s most vulnerable.

Because of its advocacy and supporters, Global Citizen will continue to reduce poverty significantly in the coming years. 

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

4 Amazing People Showing How to End World Hunger from the GroundWhenever people debate how to end world hunger or global poverty, individuals often resign themselves to the fact that the problem is too big for a single person to actually affect much change. While global food insecurity is a daunting task, people still are fighting to address it. Below are three people (and one group) who started with only a plan and determination and are now making the world a better place.

Elijah Amoo Addo (Food For All Africa)

In 2011, Elijah Amoo Addo, a Ghanian chef, saw a homeless man rummaging through his restaurant’s trash. When asked, the man told Elijah he was collecting leftovers for his friends. From that point forward, Elijah swore no food from the restaurant he worked at would go to waste.

Around 30 percent of children growing up in Ghana are malnourished, a statistic with a strong correlation to being impoverished, according to the Ghanian government. The high number of starving children in Ghana surprised Elijah and caused him to quit his job to start Ghana’s first food bank and the organization Food For All Africa.

Now, Food For All Africa recovers $5,700 in wasted food every month with the hopes of scaling up to other parts of Africa and feeding one million impoverished Africans by 2020.

Cindy Levin (Charity Miles & RESULTS)

Cindy Levin, a mother of two in her 40s, defeats the myth that there is not enough time in a day to help the less fortunate. In fact, the anti-poverty advocate dedicates her time to dispelling that very idea with her position at RESULTS. There, Cindy coaches people on how to organize fundraising activities themselves, with a focus on getting stay-at-home mothers and children involved and educating them on how to end world hunger.

But Cindy keeps going. In 2013, Cindy ran a 5K with her 9-year-old daughter; two days later, she ran a half marathon. In the process, she raised enough money to vaccinate 100 children against polio, measles, rotavirus and pneumococcal virus through [email protected], a cause she felt passionate about after traveling to Uganda and meeting with impoverished mothers.

Bill Ayres (Why Hunger)

In 1975, musician Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres wondered why, in a world with so much, so many people were still lacking. These two friends believed that access to nutritious food was a human right and that the problem of how to end world hunger was solvable. As a result, they committed themselves to changing the policies and institutions that perpetuate world hunger.

Their organization, Why Hunger, leads by funding grassroots organizations. In 2016, the organization funded and provided resources for over 100 grassroots organizations to the tune of $485,000, with a focus on community solutions. These solutions range from agroecological training to leadership development for women and youths.

Bill Ayres and his organization believe that social justice is an integral part of how to end world hunger. A major step taken in the past year was the establishment of a national alliance of emergency food providers that hopes to shift the conversation about how to end world hunger from a charitable cause to a push for social justice.

Istanbul&I

In February 2016, 11 international students got together in Istanbul, where they envisioned creating a storytelling program to bring different cultures together and help displaced people from Syria and Iraq talk through some of their trauma.

When Ramadan came around that year, the group gathered donations to provide iftar (the traditional sunset meal) to people in Istanbul’s vulnerable Tarlabasi neighborhood. Now, 11 friends have become over 300 from 50 different countries. While cultural exchanges and soup kitchens are still an integral part of Istanbul&I, the group does so much more now. They provide digital literacy programs to refugees, give Turkish and English language lessons, landscaped a neighborhood retirement center, run comedy fundraisers and raise money to support an orphanage for boy refugees so they can continue their education.

You: How to End World Hunger

All these people began with a desire, a wish. They did not start out with money, but they believed in themselves and now others do too. So, next time someone says poverty is here to stay and nothing can be done about it, remember these four groups who asked, “how can I alleviate global poverty? How to end world hunger?” and took their brains and their hands and started working.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

worst consequences of povertyThe causes and effects of poverty are often deeply interrelated. However, some consequences of poverty are so troubling that they stand out and need to be studied individually. Focusing on some of the worst consequences of poverty can unravel the causes of poverty and provide insight into how to eradicate poverty.

Some of the worst consequences of poverty include:

Increased Crime

At first glance, it might be easy to conclude that crime is a cause of poverty and not the other way around. However, poverty can render people hopeless and desperate enough to engage in criminal activities. For instance, a study done by the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime found that, even after controlling for the effects of a range of other factors such as substance misuse and poor family functioning that can influence violent behavior, “poverty had a significant and direct effect on young people’s likelihood to engage in violence at age 15.” Individuals growing up in communities with high levels of deprivation were significantly more likely to engage in violent activities.

Notably, this study found that those from low socioeconomic backgrounds had a greater likelihood of engaging in violence even if they also belonged to a “low risk” background.

Limited Access to Education

Poor children typically attend schools with inadequate facilities and receive the kind of education that hardly provides them with the tools to further their studies or seek employment, thereby restricting them and their children to poverty, which becomes a vicious cycle of poverty across generations. Additionally, geography can dictate if they even get to attend school. For instance, while a poor child in the U.S. can still attend school, a poor child in a rural area of Bangladesh might not have that opportunity. Distance, lack of transportation and financial resources often make it very difficult for poor children in developing nations to get an education.

There are stark differences between children from poor and wealthy backgrounds even in first world countries. For instance, a study done in the U.K. found that by the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from wealthy households.

Health Issues

Health is perhaps the one area where poor people suffer the most. For instance, a disproportionately large percentage of diseases in low-income countries are caused by the consequences of poverty such as poor nutrition, indoor air pollution and lack of access to proper sanitation and health education. According to World Health Organization estimates, poverty-related diseases account for 45 percent of the disease burden in the poorest countries. Nearly all of these deaths are either preventable or treatable with existing medicines. For example, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS make up nearly 18 percent of the disease burden in the poorest nations. Tuberculosis and malaria can both be prevented and treated, and education is crucial for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Extremism

A recent study done by the United Nations Development Programme found that deprivation and marginalization along with weak governance contribute to violent extremism in young Africans. The study was based on interviews with 495 voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab and suggests that few economic prospects and little trust in the state to provide services and uphold human rights can lead an individual to partake in violent extremism. The conclusion was derived from the fact that most of the recruits reportedly came from marginalized communities, expressed frustration regarding their economic conditions, and felt an “acute sense of grievance towards the government.”

These are some of the worst consequences of poverty. These effects of poverty prove that, in order to achieve peace and safety in the world, poverty alleviation must be a focus.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Pixabay

PEER Research
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research is a competitive, international grants program that offers scientists researching funds in developing countries to address global development challenges.

PEER Research is designed to leverage federal science agency funding from NASA, NIH, NSF, Smithsonian Institution, USDA and USGS by supporting scientists from impoverished countries in areas including water resource management, climate change, agriculture, nutrition and maternal and child health.

Since its launch in 2011, PEER has supported more than 200 projects in over 45 countries, with a total investment of more than $50 million. These projects address gaps in scientific knowledge to combat global poverty.

PEER not only catalyzes collaborative research between scientists in developing countries and their U.S.-funded counterparts but also elevates the use of science and technology to further USAID’s development objectives.

“Collaboration is key for accelerating the impact of scientific research on development,” said Ann Mei Chang, USAID’s chief innovation officer and executive director of the U.S. Global Development Lab.

Besides scientific collaboration, PEER Research also hopes to see scientists from developing countries improve their negotiating skills, innovation and commercialization as well as different methods of communicating research to policymakers in their home countries. In this approach, PEER strives to strengthen the research ecosystem in developing countries and enable partners to become better collaborators in development.

PEER significantly helps strengthen the global scientific research community by providing opportunities for the best scientists to collaborate on crucial development issues. The following are PEER’s past successful stories:

Climate Change
In Southeast Asia, researchers successfully built emissions models for predicting air quality scenarios. The findings have effectively informed policies in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia to reduce emissions.

Education
In Morocco, researchers have developed a computer-based instructional tool that helps translate Modern Standard Arabic into Moroccan Sign Language in real time, aiding hearing-impaired students in learning and accessing to education.

Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
In Malawi, researchers work together to evaluate the effectiveness of Option B+, a promising antiretroviral treatment to mother-to-child HIV transmission and inform the public and the government of the results of their work.

“The research partnerships nurtured through this program are crucial to building capacity among local scientists and research institutions, strengthening linkages with international research institutions and finding solutions to global development challenges,” said USAID Vietnam Mission Director Mike Greene.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New Zealand
Child poverty in New Zealand remains a major issue, with over 300,000 children affected. This is an increase of 45,000 from last year and is double the number of impoverished children in 1984.

A recent study conducted by Auckland University found similarly troubling information that 20 percent of the country’s high school students live in poverty. Looking at ethnic groups, one third of Maori students and nearly half of Pacific students struggle with poverty.

To rectify this situation, New Zealand’s government has announced the foundation of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. As the name might imply, this organization hopes to give the government concrete responsibility for the welfare of these students.

The study’s definition of poverty was obtained by looking at various indicators in students’ lives, such as concerns about and lack of food, technology and stable living situations. If students reported two or more of the indicators, they were defined as experiencing poverty.

Unsurprisingly, higher rates of poverty correlated with higher rates of depression and smoking. This is due to growing up in families who face the stress of poverty, then having to face those stresses themselves.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children hopes to combat these issues. Yet despite its positive mission, there has already been some controversy surrounding the ministry’s announcement. Some people believe that the government should be concerned with all children, not just vulnerable children as the ministry’s name implies.

However, the Ministry of Vulnerable Children may still be poised for success. This is because the most recent report on income and poverty in New Zealand shows that there have been no increases in either. In fact, incomes have risen by nearly 12 percent overall since 2011.

This increase in income is sure to help offset the very high cost of housing that much of New Zealand faces. For some families, 60 to 70 percent of income is spent on housing and there is little money left to cover other expenses.

Hopefully, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children can take advantage of rising incomes and improve quality of life for all those affected by child poverty in New Zealand.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Charity Law
China is now home to more billionaires than the United States and has experienced an annual economic growth rate of seven percent since 2010. Despite this, the country is still ranked second to last in a list of 145 most charitable countries, according to the 2015 U.K.-based Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index.

However, China’s new Charity Law seeks to promote a model for greater domestic charitable giving within the country.

The law will also prospectively support the country’s sustainability in disaster relief, environmental protection, public health and anti-poverty efforts to lift rural residents out of poverty by 2020.

As of 2015, 55.75 million of China’s rural residents were still considered impoverished.

What will China’s new Charity Law assist?

While China’s annual donations to charities have soared from 10 billion to 100 billion yuan in the last ten years, growth has remained stagnant within the last five years paradoxically alongside economic prosperity.

According to the Boston Globe, the China Philanthropy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center identified three reasons.

First, giving in China remains localized and focused on a single cause — six out of 10 renminbi was donated to the same province where the donor’s corporate headquarters was situated, leaving the poorest rural areas without financial support.

Second, three-quarters of the donors gave to a single cause: education, leaving out other realms needing support.

Third, the majority of donors gave through their corporations, a pattern “reflecting the range of legal, regulatory, and political challenges facing the development of a vibrant giving environment on a national level.”

China’s new Charity Law will encourage a more sturdy model of contemporary giving, allowing for more charities to raise funds from the public without a complex registration system or a need for approval from the supervisory board and China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The law will also allow for tax incentives for charities and make it easier for the wealthy to establish charitable trusts on their own. Moreover, with a track record of scandals in the past which have deterred success in charitable giving, transparency as well as tighter management will be incorporated.

“From the philanthropy side and public policy side, it’s very well written,” Edward Cunningham, a scholar at Harvard University said.

The global community looks forward to the results from the Charity Law, not just in better services and poverty alleviation for Chinese citizens but a transparent and confident government charity program.

Priscilla Son

Educating WomenGender parity in education around the globe has not yet been achieved but great strides are being made toward that goal.

Regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia remain challenges, as boys in these regions are still more than one-and-a-half times more likely to complete their secondary education than girls. Organizations such as UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank keep track of statistics like these in their quest to provide education to girls and women in need.

Data from these types of organizations also illustrates the greater benefits of educating women. Here are five major reasons that educating women benefits everyone:

1. Educated women tend to have smaller, healthier families. Women who stay in school longer are likely to be older when they marry and when they have their first child. Education provides more access to information about family planning and educated women are more likely to have fewer children. Additionally, women learn about immunizations and general medical care for their children. They may also learn how to treat preventable diseases and learn hygiene practices to keep their children healthy.

2. Educated women are more likely to contribute to the economy. The more women participate in a country’s workforce, the healthier its GDP becomes — and every year of additional education increases a person’s capacity to be productive in the workforce. Families also increase their income when both parents contribute, which leads to more families rising out of poverty. UNESCO data shows that if girls enjoyed the same access to education that boys do, per capita income would increase by 23 percent over 40 years.

3. Education combats the problem of hunger. Women who receive more education are older and have more access to life-saving information by the time they begin having children. They are more likely to recognize the signs of malnutrition and to recognize proper nutrition that will prevent their children from becoming malnourished or stunted.

4. Educating women counters the threat of violence and terrorism. If lacking education, both women and men are more likely to be less tolerant of those who look different, who speak a different language or practice a different religion. Increasing tolerance in communities that were previously under-educated serves to spread that tolerance around the world and women are in a prime position to promote this in further generations as caretakers of their own children.

5. Educated women are more likely to have educated children. Once they have experienced the benefits of education for themselves, women are likely to want their children to have the same benefits. This perpetuates the trends of smaller, healthier families, healthier economies and better-informed world citizens.

Not only is educating women one of the most efficient ways for aid organizations to make an impact on gender equality, it also benefits the greater community in terms of prosperity, health and peace.

Katie Curlee Hamblen

Sources: Bloomberg, UNGEI, UNESCO, World Bank

Electrify AfricaPresident Obama has signed into law the Electrify Africa Act of 2015, which will bring electricity to millions in Africa.

About two-thirds of people in Africa do not have access to reliable power, according to BBC News. The Electrify Africa Act will establish a strategy to help sub-Saharan countries implement power solutions to promote economic growth and reduce poverty.

For people without electricity, simple tasks such as cooking or reading are complicated without a light source at night. Many people in Africa are also unable to use modern technologies, like cell phones or computers, or do basic tasks such as refrigerating food and medicine.

The lack of electricity causes some families in Africa to use fossil fuels or charcoal, which has a negative effect on the environment and health.

According to BBC News, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce stated that this initiative will “improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/Aids and malaria combined.”

Electrify AfricaPower Africa was launched by President Obama in 2013. It took nearly two years for it to pass through the Senate and House of Representatives and become the Electrify Africa Act of 2015.

The U.S. initially invested $7 billion in the project but that number has since risen to nearly $43 billion. According to Voice of America, the high cost of energy in sub-Saharan Africa makes producing exports impossible, so it would be beneficial to the U.S. to help Africa become a major trading partner.

In addition to the U.S. government, African governments and private companies are involved in the development of the Power Africa initiative. The Electrify Africa Act provides a framework for companies to invest in African energy solutions.

The long-term goal is to double the amount of electricity available to people in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing electricity to 50 million people in the region by 2020.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: BBC, Christian Science Monitor, Voice of America

World Council of Credit UnionsThe World Council of Credit Unions has a simple mission: to improve lives through credit unions.

Credit unions give people in developing communities the opportunity to expand their horizons through microfinance, smart money practices and local businesses. The World Council of Credit Unions works to increase the number of credit unions around the world to give everyone their best chance at a healthy, prosperous life.

A credit union is defined as a member-owned and not-for-profit financial institution. This institution provides financial services, such as savings and credit accounts, to their members, although their formal name changes based on their location and people they serve. Credit unions serve their members based on a common linkage, like religion or occupation. Increasing the population of credit unions worldwide can help end poverty epidemics while improving the economic situations of countries.

The World Council of Credit Unions is a nonprofit organization that has been spreading the importance of credit unions worldwide since 2006. The international credit union system has more than doubled since its inauguration and continues to serve more than 200 million members to this day. The organization has credit unions in 105 countries as of 2014, including nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Financial inclusion programs assist credit unions and their members in areas affected by serious conflict, helping them during and after the conflict has struck a country. These programs focus on bringing innovative technology solutions and providing resources to those in need. In total, the World Council of Credit Unions has 275 long-term and short-term programs that assist credit unions in more than 70 countries.

In 2014, the organization put forth its efforts to the project Vision 2020. Vision 2020 is a global membership growth project initiated by the World Council of Credit Unions to expand credit union services to at least 50 million new people by the year 2020. It is expected to solve the issue of having more than two billion people remain without banking services, with the majority comprising of women, young adults and those in extreme poverty.

The organization hopes to eventually raise the number of credit union members from 208 million to 260 million worldwide.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: WOCCU 1, CUInsight , WOCCU 2
Photo: Google Images