Technovation Empowers Kids to Fight Global Poverty
Technovation is a global tech education nonprofit dedicated to empowering underrepresented groups by giving them the opportunity to create, lead and problem solve. The organization does this through its programs called Technovation Girls and Technovation Families that allow children and families to solve problems within their own communities through technology and innovation. Through these programs, Technovation empowers kids to fight global poverty.

Technovation Families

The organization’s family program collaborates with schools, mentors and families to work on creative artificial intelligence projects. These projects address real-world issues in their communities. The program is open to everyone and is completely free to children and families. Since 2006, more than 80,000 families around the world have participated in the program’s design challenges.

Technovation Families includes 10 lessons that teach families how to solve a problem in their community using artificial intelligence (AI). At the end of the lessons, families have the opportunity to submit their idea to the AI World Championship. The program encourages the collaboration of children and their families to change the world through technology.

Technovation Girls

Along with its family program, Technovation empowers kids to fight global poverty through Technovation Girls. The program works with girls ages 10-18, influencing them to become leaders and entrepreneurs within the tech industry. Through volunteer mentorships, girls in the program form teams and create mobile apps that address issues in their communities. These apps have helped tackle issues such as domestic violence and climate change.

Technovation Girls has empowered over 130,000 girls, children and parents to improve their communities through coding and artificial intelligence. Since the organization’s start, 7,000 mobile apps and AI prototypes have emerged and over 14,000 mentors have supported underrepresented populations. Apps such as FD-Detector, Eedo and Handsout have significantly impacted local communities.

FD-Detector

In 2018, Team Save-A-Soul, a group of five teenage girls from Nigeria, won the Technovation Challenge with their app, FD-Detector, which can detect counterfeit medicine. Before working with Technovation, the teens had a limited amount of knowledge on technology. However, through mentorship and education, they were able to make their innovative app come to life. The app helps customers and health care workers verify a drug’s authenticity and expiration date, which could mean life or death for a patient. In Nigeria, the sale of counterfeit drugs is a widespread issue. Team Save-A-Soul is raising awareness for counterfeit drugs and protecting people from harm.

Eedo

Another 2018 winner in the senior division was Team Cantavits, with its app Eedo. Eedo is an app that reduces electronic waste in India by connecting e-waste producers to authorized recyclers. Electronic waste can have damaging effects on the environment. By providing a resource for waste management and highlighting the harmful effects it can have on the environment, Team Cantavits has positively impacted its community.

Handsout

Brain Squad, another team from Nigeria, created an app called Handsout that helps more children go to school. The app, winning the 2019 People’s Choice award at the Technovation competition, gives people from all over the world the opportunity to donate to Nigerian children and their families. The donations cover school fees, supplies and medication.

Technovation empowers kids to fight global poverty through innovation and creativity. Its programs not only combat global poverty through the apps and technology it has created but through the cultivation of learning and collaboration to create a better future for impoverished populations.

Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence is Helping Developing Countries
Developing countries often suffer from a lack of good teachers and schools. As a result, they frequently do not have very good academic standing and their people are less educated. With this lack of learning and cultivation comes a worse economy as well. The developing world needs to find a way to academically catch up with the developed world. Not only is it lacking in educational resources, but health care is a problem as well. Medical professionals are rarely available, especially in places further from the city. Individual appointments use up human resources fast, leaving others with no help. Even things like farming are getting to be more difficult. With the changing climate, farmers cannot use traditional farming cycles and predictions to determine the best time to plant their crops. Luckily, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries tackle some of their present challenges.

 Artificial Intelligence Can Make a Difference

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can solve many of the problems that developing countries face. Not only can it do more than a human, but it can also learn and adapt as it goes. AI takes the data it receives and uses it in the way it is told but also finds ways to optimize the process. The more that people use artificial intelligence, the more it improves.

Disaster Relief

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs used a system called Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) to gather all information about the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and its damage, emergency needs and disaster response. AIDR was able to pinpoint the location of actual and potential victims and determine which workers were available. Artificial intelligence can also create digital maps of the area to identify which places need the most assistance. It is able to identify humanitarian aid needs automatically and sort any given data into different categories, such as infrastructure damage, urgent needs and response efforts. Based on this categorization and captured data, available responders could quickly focus their efforts and supplies on the right places.

Tutoring

Artificial intelligence is helping developing countries because it has the power to bring education to those who formerly never dreamed of accessing it. With over 750 million adults unable to read and write, most of them in developing countries, AI could enact big change in their lives. Currently, there are two large learning platforms that utilize artificial intelligence in Africa: Daptio and Eneza Education. Daptio helps students to study remotely. It gathers data on the student, such as their strengths and weaknesses, and adjusts its curriculum accordingly. Eneza Education is a mobile learning platform that gives lessons and assessments to over 860,000 subscribers. Students receive these through web communication or SMS messages. It has quizzes, offline access to Wikipedia, a dictionary and its own feature where users can “Ask-A-Teacher” questions live.

Improving Crop Production

The AI Sowing App, made by Microsoft and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), pinpoints the best time to plant seeds, prepare land and use fertilizer. It also has a function that finds the moisture adequacy index, both in real-time and the future. The app works by gathering data from past climate trends, usually around a couple of decades, and applies it to the present. AI can also assist in weeding; Harvest CROO Robotics created a device that can analyze each plant individually and determine whether it needs pesticides or not, greatly saving on pesticides and their costs.

Improving Health Care and Hastening Economic Development

AI can perform accurate diagnoses, give treatment plans and predict disease outbreak. This saves on human resources and gives those that live farther from civilization the same access to medical care. It can also make basic health care cheaper for those who cannot afford to travel to an actual doctor for medical attention. As for economic development, with AI taking care of menial labor like factory work and educating the public, humans will be able to focus on doing more complicated jobs like working as entrepreneurs or engineers.

Although many developing nations suffer from poor education, lack of health care and economies, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries solve many of these problems. From disaster relief and education to improving crop production and providing medical assistance, artificial intelligence applications have the potential to greatly improve the lives of countless individuals within the developing world.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

How AI Could Reshape Education in India
India has the largest K-12 educational system in the world with 260 million students. However, it still ranks low globally on academic achievement and student performance. Nearly half of students lack basic literacy and math skills after studying in school for five years. However, the rise of new classroom technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), shows promising hope for rural communities seeking to improve student success. Here is how AI could reshape education in India.

The Challenges

Thirty-eight percent of government public school students in grade three are unable to read simple words. Only 27 percent of students could perform double-digit subtraction. Teacher preparedness and competency is also a reported issue. In one study, only 11 percent of government school teachers in the Indian state of Bihar could demonstrate the steps by which to solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem.

Surprisingly, a survey through the Center for Global Development has found no significant correlation between high teacher salaries and achievement in India. After evaluating per capita GDP and economic context, Indian teachers receive relatively good pay. Nevertheless, reports determined that low-cost private schools had similar learning levels where teachers received significantly less pay. The results highlight the need for more highly trained teachers and better professional preparedness programs.

Notwithstanding these educational challenges, early evidence shows a number of adaptive AI programs offer promise in mitigating the educational deficits in poor educational communities and schools. Oftentimes, these programs supplement the traditional curriculum and even absent teachers. This is how AI could reshape education in India.

How AI Could Reshape Education in India

  1. Mindspark: Mindspark is an adaptable Indian AI program that adjusts to a learner’s knowledge and skills. As the student progresses, it introduces more challenging concepts. The software includes text, video, games and interactive tutorials that people can access on multiple devices. Proponents of Mindspark have remarked that although AI may not be the best educational solution for countries that already have an effective education infrastructure, it has shown to raise scores for areas that experience teacher shortages or absenteeism. MIT’s randomized study in Delhi of 619 government school students found that students progressed significantly in math and Hindi after using the Mindspark software. Priced at approximately RS 1,000 per month ($14 per month), it is a cost-effective program for students.
  2. Byju’s: Named after its founder, Byju Raveendran, Byju’s is an Indian learning app. Similar to Mindspark, the program’s AI adapts to student users to create personal learning experiences, a mapped syllabus, interactive tests, recommended videos in response to mistakes, interactive questions, quizzes, games and interactive lessons. The program uses a bank of student data on learning patterns to personalize feedback and assessments. Although innovative and fun, the company currently only markets adaptive software to urban families looking to supplement their child’s education with a new delivery method. Forbes India recognizes that while the model receives good funding through venture capital, greater access to Byju’s AI for poorer communities through government and nonprofit investments would be advantageous to the country.
  3. Onebillion: Onebillion is a U.K. education nonprofit that created a modular course for children designed to improve their writing, reading and numeracy. It includes carefully structured courses with a huge bank of activities, games and stories adapted into many different languages. It includes a digital teacher who offers individualized, weekly diagnostic tests to ensure the addressing of learning gaps. Teachers can monitor student progress through the system as well. It is for students who have little or no access to formal schooling. The organization incorporates a localization process that keeps the content relevant by partnering with local communities and experts. Like Mindspark, the aim of the organization is to get the software directly into the hands of the student who lacks formal educational mentors. Onebillion has reached more than 100,000 students globally, including students in rural India in 2016.

The Future for India’s Education

What is evident thus far, especially from the implementation of Mindspark, is that AI has the potential to address gaps in education in India for poor, rural communities that lack high-quality teachers and programs. Access to effective tools is currently in favor of wealthier communities in India. Forbes India opines that more investment from the government, nonprofits and companies is necessary to expand the influence of these new technologies into the communities that need them. India, which already has one of the world’s largest software industries and telecommunications systems, may prove how AI could reshape education in India with investments in education technology.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Unconventional Education ProvidersPoor infrastructure contributes to the fact that one in five children around the world lacks access to quality basic education. In general, supporting basic education in specific regions requires a massive increase in basic infrastructure, teaching staff and educational supplies. In Turkey, the gap between the demand for education funding for Syrian refugee children and the actual amount received reached 43 percent. Due to conflict in the region, 70 percent of children are out of school. With so much content created and shared online, the internet now is a reservoir of knowledge. These unconventional education providers are trying to bring education to struggling areas through technology.

Unconventional Education Providers

Internet companies dominate online resources and access. Companies such as Microsoft and Google frequently cooperate with non-profit organizations for philanthropic purposes. The primary goal for many of these organizations is to offer accessible education through innovative solutions. Google, for example, made a five-year, $1 billion commitment to improve access to education through partnerships. In particular, Google contributed $5 million to Learning Equality and its offline educational platform Kolibri as a way to promote an innovative way of providing primary education.

Funded by Google, Kolibri is a free education solution that includes both device and content for users who have limited internet access. Content like KA Lite has been installed in 200 countries and reached 4.5 million learners. Besides the widely spreading installations, training personnel in these regions is another major objective for this unconventional education provider. Kolibri project inspired the implementation of a similar platform in Jordan where 10 learning hubs trained 40 Syrian refugees to be Kolibri coaches or coordinators within 10 days.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence provides internet companies with a distinct method in their mission to reduce poverty. In 2018, Microsoft initiated AI for Humanitarian Action, a five-year program funded with $40 million that applies artificial intelligence in poverty-related issues. Artificial intelligence can help NGOs in disaster response, childcare and education, the livelihoods of refugees and human rights.

Companies are working on ways to make AI even more efficient. In many impoverished areas, there is a shortage of qualified teachers. As AI continues to develop and improve, it will be able to perform more complex grading tasks. Companies are already working on translation software to offer more content to children in a variety of languages.

Women in Coding

Women suffer from gender inequality all around the world, but more so in impoverished regions. One of the ways to combat this is through acquiring an education. Some unconventional education providers are giving these women a way out of poverty through learning how to code. The nonprofit STEMbees is giving women and girls in Africa the chance to learn to code. In Lagos, Nairobi and Kampala, women engineers make up 30 percent of their total employment.

In short, via funding or technological support to other non-profit organizations, internet companies have become unconventional education providers. The technology they are developing gives impoverished people access to more knowledge at a lower cost. With so many connected online, it may be a good time to start thinking about how to use the internet to help to fight poverty.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Prlog.org

AI Improves FarmingOnce a far-fetched, abstract idea, artificial intelligence is now proving to be a valuable asset in solving world hunger. Although AI is still in its earlier stage of development, progress is being made by corporations and university programs such as Google and Stanford University’s Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Lab. No longer merely science fiction, now AI improves farming, helps identify disease, predicts crop yields and locates areas prone to scarcity.

FarmView Increases Sorghum Yields

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University created FarmView to help solve the issue of a rapidly increasing population. By 2050, over 9.8 billion people will live on the planet, making food scarcity a topic of increasing importance. Additionally, CMU wants to help current farmers grow more food using the same amount of crops. And as AI improves farming methods, CMU believes it’s a possibility.

CMU is working with plant scientists and agricultural leaders to develop and deploy a system of AI, sensing and robotics technologies to improve plant breeding and crop management. One aim is to increase yields of drought and heat resistant sorghum–a crop that can thrive in famine-stricken countries. Researchers first collect data with drones, robots and stationary sensors. Then, machine learning technologies analyze the data to determine what factors yield more sorghum.

Agricultural Improvement with Google’s TensorFlow

Another AI technology created to help the agriculture industry is PlantMD. Created by high school students Shaza Mehdi and Nile Ravanell, PlantMD is an app that allows a farmer to detect plant diseases.  Mehdi and Ravanell built the app using Google’s TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning library.

Inspiration for PlantMD came from Nuru, an app built by a research team at Penn State University called PlantVillage in tandem with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Nuru was created as a solution to disease and pest susceptibility in cassava, a crop that feeds half a billion Africans daily. Because it is difficult for farmers to inspect and manage every crop, machine learning is being used to increase efficiency. First, a machine learning model was trained using thousands of classified cassava images. The model was then turned into an app where farmers can send images of their crop and receive information not only identifying diseases but also giving options to manage them. With this information, vital African agriculture can be better sustained to feed people.

Stanford University’s Research

Similar to PlantVillage and the IITA, Stanford University is utilizing machine learning in order to understand and predict crop yields in soybeans. But these models may be expanded to help underdeveloped countries.

Marshall Burke, an assistant professor of earth system science at Stanford, said: “If we have a model that works for U.S. soybeans, maybe we can train that model for areas with less data.”

Machine learning can also identify areas in underdeveloped countries suffering from food scarcity. Because these countries often lack reliable agricultural data, machine learning technology is extracting information from satellite images to discover areas where agriculture is suffering.

Solving the World’s Problems with AI

Google’s open-source TensorFlow allows machine learning technologies to be applied to agriculture. Moustapha Cisse, lead of the new Google AI center in Accra, Ghana, mentioned how farmers use TensorFlow-based apps like PlantMD and Nuru to diagnose plant diseases. Cisse said: “This wasn’t done by us but by people who use the tools we built.” Although not everyone owns a phone, it’s an excellent step in demonstrating the possibilities of AI in reducing poverty. And as AI improves farming, it brings us another step closer to reducing world hunger.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

diagnose birth asphyxiaBirth asphyxia is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It occurs when a child does not get enough oxygen before, during or after birth. However, an app under development could detect asphyxia in as little as 10 seconds. As such, this app has the potential to diagnose birth asphyxia and save the lives of children.

Causes and Symptoms of Asphyxia

Some causes of perinatal asphyxia include low blood pressure in the mother, placental abruption wherein the placenta separates from the uterus wall and the compression or entanglement of the umbilical cord. Additionally, birth asphyxia can be caused if the uterus does not fully relax. This is because it can impede blood flow to the placenta and thus the child.

As a result, the symptoms of children suffering from asphyxia include a weak or irregular heart rate, weak reflexes, being blue in color, lethargy and/or a soft cry.

This last symptom, a soft cry, is important. It is what Ubenwe, a Nigerian AI company, relies on to diagnose birth asphyxia. Moreover, Ubenwe plans to save children from debilitating illnesses resulting from brain damage caused by asphyxia, like blindness or deafness.

What is Ubenwe?

Ubenwe is a mobile app that uses proprietary AI technology to detect weak crying that can be a sign of asphyxia. In their words, the app can “analyze the amplitude and frequency patterns in the cry to provide a diagnosis of birth asphyxia.”

Ubenwe is an Igbo word that means “cry of a child.” In clinical trials, where the app tested 1,400 recordings of children crying, the app can diagnose birth asphyxia with a 95 percent accuracy rate. By recognizing this key symptom of asphyxia immediately and accurately, Ubenwe can save many lives.

Nigerian student Charles Onu and his research team invented the app at McGill University in Canada. Additionally, Onu is an associate fellow at the Royal Commonwealth Society. He is one of 12 fellows from around the world chosen to take part in the Jeanne Suave’ Leadership Program. This program brings together the world’s brightest young leaders to end global problems.

In 2017, Ubenwe was one of 141 teams from around the world to make it into the X Prize competition. This competition encourages inventors to apply AI technology when solving global problems. Subsequently, Ubenwe began research and development in 2012. In 2014, Ubenwe began pilot testing.

The Importance of Ubenwe

Currently, the main method to diagnose birth asphyxia requires drawing blood from the umbilical cord or the baby. However, this method is not suitable because 60 percent of women worldwide do not give birth in a hospital. Half of all deaths that occur in middle- to low-income nations could be prevented if the afflicted had had access to a hospital. Often, by the time the parents of a child are able to reach a hospital, the harm has already been done.

However, 95 percent of the developing world has a mobile phone. Ultimately, every one of those 95 percent could have access to Ubenwe and potentially diagnose birth asphyxia. With the majority of developing countries having access to mobile phones, they have increasing access to apps with the power to save lives.

– Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

artificial intelligence for global developmentThe human brain is limited when it comes to computing power and pattern recognition. Luckily, using recent technology, we are able to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) for global development purposes, can gain insight on a variety of problems and attempt to make predictions about the future. Computers can analyze massive datasets and learn from them more efficiently than humans can. Around the world, people are taking advantage of AI to do valuable work and improve people’s standard of living. Here are four examples of how people and organizations are using artificial intelligence for global development.

4 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence for Global Development

  1. Based on patterns of past events, AI can make predictions about the occurrences and effects of disasters. In these situations, knowledge is everything; when people are informed, they can make plans to evacuate or reinforce infrastructure as needed. Google is using AI to predict flood locations during storms in India, and is then able to alert residents. Similarly, IBM is using AI to predict the location and intensity of volcanic eruptions based on past data. Another program by the World Bank is using AI to predict famines, and is arranging for funds to be provided to people in areas affected by famine.
  2. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to advise people on best practices for farming efficiency. Microsoft has worked with farmers in India to help them monitor crop health, identify diseased plants and recommend certain crops based on weather patterns, soil conditions and economic patterns. In another case, Trinchero Family Estates in California partnered with Ceres Imaging, using AI to analyze their watering patterns. This technology, which uses drone images to optimize crop watering, could be useful for water conservation in areas where water is scarce.
  3. AI can help monitor human rights violations. Microsoft has partnered with the Clooney Foundation for Justice to create the TrialWatch app. The project, which is part of Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action program, aims to monitor potentially unjust trials. The app uses AI to record, transcribe and translate courtroom audio, which can be used to determine whether a defendant has a fair trial. It will also form a database so that trial practices from various nations can be observed and compared.
  4. AI helps make analyzing medical data easier. Making decisions about medical diagnoses is often complicated and not entirely clear-cut. AI can analyze patient information and alert doctors to certain issues, often identifying problems more accurately than human medical professionals. A 2017 project from Andre Esteva at Stanford University used AI to classify skin cancer images, and the AI system performed on par with dermatologists. In addition, Professor Rima Arnaut of UC San Francisco has developed a system that uses AI to analyze an echocardiogram, a heart test. So far, the technology has not been used to make judgements about the content of the images, but in early tests in which the system was asked to detect the “type of view” of various echocardiograms, the AI system outperformed trained cardiologists in the task. Certainly many aspects of medical analysis require human analysis, but these programs can accelerate analyses and assist medical professionals in providing the best possible care for their patients.

These impressive uses of AI will save lives and will assist citizens of many countries in achieving a better standard of living. As experts continue to work on machine learning and artificial intelligence, and as computers become smarter and more capable, the use of artificial intelligence for global development will likely continue to improve conditions for people around the globe.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in Africa
With many of the world’s fastest-growing economies and tech markets, Africa’s next logical step of developing artificial intelligence (AI) and assimilating it into various industries is quickly becoming reality. Despite fears of worsening unemployment rates and widening wealth distribution disparity, many tech companies and governments are finding ways of using artificial intelligence in Africa to improve lives.

The Current State of Technology

In countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, whose steadily growing economies are due in part to the rise and success of tech industry growth, local startups are addressing issues unique to the areas in which they operate. Despite the technology growth and development, many people are afraid that the implementation of artificial intelligence in Africa will take jobs away from workers, leading to increased unemployment rates that have long troubled various African countries.

Understanding that many Africans do not currently have access to the level of education needed to qualify for loftier jobs, governments of the African countries have set out to make education more attainable and more specialized, and global tech giants have made it clear that they see potential in Africa in the tech industry, specifically in artificial intelligence in Africa, and are looking to take advantage of this potential.

Unlocking Potential

Artificial intelligence in Africa has already yielded substantial results, promising a bright future as the industry grows so long as it receives proper support from government and tech organizations. For example, governments must change the school curriculums to meet the demands of the modern workforce, cultivating analytical thinkers with the ability to identify and solve everyday problems.

Tech companies including Facebook and Google have already established a respective presence in Africa, acknowledging both the capable minds the continent already has to offer as well as the increasing need for reform in education. Google has opened an AI research center in Ghana, where it has also begun construction of a fiber-optic line that will strengthen the internet for the country. It will draw students from local universities that have already made headway in specializing in computer sciences and other fields of study crucial to the growth of AI and the tech industry as a whole.

In areas such as health care, insurance and manufacturing, AI has already yielded significant beneficial results for Africa. As issues in these and other fields accumulate naturally with growth, tech professionals see AI as the key to maintaining and improving the lives of many people in Africa and around the world.

Looking Forward

While AI still has a stigma and is consider a luxury, other people see the tech industry as vital to solving practical problems whose solutions may not be realized quickly enough by human efforts alone. The fear that artificial intelligence in Africa will take away jobs is legitimate in that the very objective of AI is to accomplish the work of humans more quickly and efficiently.

Governments of African countries can improve and adapt education and if global tech leaders continue to see potential in Africa and support its growth, the tech industry will demand increasing numbers of educated Africans to match the industry’s rapid growth.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Pixabay

Using ‘evil’ technology in the fight against poverty
Technology is neither inherently good or bad; it is, rather, humanity’s use of technology that can be considered as evil or virtuous. Certain modern tools have the reputation for being capable of carrying out despicable deeds and are, therefore, surrounded by controversy. Artificial intelligence and drones are two of the most widely commentated on and feared applications of modern science. Despite this prevailing negative perception, combatting poverty is happens to be one of the good uses of AI and drones.

Drones Revealing Inequalities

Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, but they, along with their human operators, are also doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cities and show the line dividing the rich and the poor.

He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. You can see giant mansions with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings squished into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality, which would be impossible without drone photography.

Drones Mapping Land

Another way that drones are helping alleviate poverty is through land mapping. More than half the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove they own their land. This is especially problematic in Kosovo where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars in the late 90s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and their communities. One enormous roadblock is their inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically.

These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business, but she was repeatedly turned down because she lacked “property documents to put down as a guarantee.” These communities do not have the means to hire the land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation for their land.

However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatch drones to map out land plots for a fraction of the cost of traditional land surveyors, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

AI for Safety and Health

Artificial intelligence (AI), also referred to as “machine learning,” is the “capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” It’s often associated with movies about robots destroying humanity that are based on the real fear that one day these machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this destructive potential of AI, in the real world, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing businesses in Africa.

One article argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is the Moroccan company Casky that uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This has been improving riding habits and providing more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders.

One Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The AI creates models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save many lives of those who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

AI Helping Businesses

Another instance showing the advantages of AI is the reduction of consumer costs from companies like Niotek in Egypt. This company used AI to improve service quality and reduce the likelihood of human error. AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India where RFID tags are being used in dairy cows to provide important information about the cows’ diets and overall health. The information is then stored in a “cow cloud” where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues or if a cow requires their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just a few of the many examples of good uses of AI and drones.  They have been especially useful in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses of AI and drones. While some individuals may want to use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of people looking to use the same tools to improve the world.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Famine Action Mechanism
The World Bank has discovered a new approach to helping the 124 million people currently affected by crisis-levels of food insecurity: artificial intelligence.

Three international organizations: the World Bank, the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have partnered with three of the world’s largest tech giants: Microsoft, Google and Amazon, in a joint initiative to preemptively address world hunger. The result? It’s called the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM).

What is Famine Action Mechanism?

Launched by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on September 23, 2018, in New York, the Famine Action Mechanism seeks to improve international food aid through famine prevention, preparedness and early action. FAM is being created to augment the capability of existing warning systems to effectively distribute aid prior to the emergence of famine. This is being done through the establishment of official procedures that connect early warnings with financing and implementation.

With the cooperation of humanitarian development organizations, tech companies, academia, the insurance sector and, of course, international organizations, this collaborative effort hopes to see success through the investment of a wide variety of stakeholders.

While other forms of famine prediction, like Famine Early Warning Systems Network started by USAID in 1985, already exist, it lacks the ability to give real-time data and requires the hard work of hundreds of employees.

If successful, the Famine Action Mechanism will be the first quantitative modeling process using an algorithm to calculate food security in real time.

Hope is high for executives at Google and Microsoft who have seen the humanitarian power of technology firsthand. Advanced technologies have already proven effective in helping farmers to identify the disease in cassava plants as well as keeping cows healthier and more productive. President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, has expressed that artificial intelligence holds huge promise in forecasting early signs of food shortages.

How is FAM going to be implemented?

Famine Action will be implemented through four steps:

  1. Early warning systems. Microsoft, Google and Amazon web services are coming together to develop a set of analytical models known as “Artemis” to predict cases of famine using artificial intelligence and machine learning that detect correlations between different risks. With more powerful early warnings and information in real time, this will allow aid agencies to create a faster response and preemptively halt escalating insecurity.
  2. Pre-arranged financing. Syncing the early warning system with pre-determined finances helps to prevent food insecurity because it secures funding before a situation devolves into a crisis. The financing for this program is not only set to tackle the immediate symptoms of poverty and famine but also help the community to build safety nets and coping skills to encourage local development in hopes of preventing repetition in the future.
  3. Increasing resource efficiency. The Famine Action Mechanism plans to partner its resources with existing systems to reinforce the most effective and efficient efforts that are already working on the ground. This way, it will be producing a joint response system with the organizations involved with the program.
  4. Stressing preventative and preparedness approach to global famine crises. International Organizations like the U.N. and World Bank are redefining their approach to food insecurity, poverty and famine, making a proactive system of action rather than reactive aid a top priority of their efforts.

Isn’t Famine Pretty Easy to Predict?

While seemingly slow to take place, the cause of famine, defined as a daily hunger-related death rate that exceeds 2 per 10,000 people, is extremely complex.

The usual suspects of food insecurity like drought and crop production aren’t always the forces that bring a community to famine. Other factors like political instability, inflation or a natural disaster have the potential to significantly alter a community’s food supply. Additionally, nine of the last 10 major famines were triggered by conflict and war.

The uncertainty around when and how an undernourished community shifts into a crisis of famine adds to the importance of preemptive action for food insecurity and the demonstrated need for the Famine Action Mechanism.

Hunger in the World Today

After years of progress on decreasing hunger in the world, we have backtracked on those advancements with more than 820 million undernourished people in 2017. Approximately 155 million children will see the effects of stunting for their entire lives due to chronic malnourishment as well as a reduction of up to 13 percent of their lifetime income. Additionally, last year in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan, more than 20 million people faced famine or near crisis levels of food insecurity.

One in nine people in the world today do not have enough to eat, but that does not mean we cannot get back on track. Not only can early response to famine result in saved lives and decreased suffering, but it is also cost effective. The World Bank predicts that an earlier response rate can reduce humanitarian costs up to 30 percent.

In 2017, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged to have zero tolerance toward famine, and in the declaration of this program that pledge has been renewed. In the eyes of the United Nations, the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means ending hunger everywhere for everyone.

To conclude, in the words of Mr. Guterres: “Crisis prevention saves lives. We need to put cutting-edge technology to full use, in the service of all humankind in order to feed everyone in our world and to leave no one behind.”

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr