Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan’s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan’s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit sfcg.org.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

AMAR_Foundation
The AMAR Foundation works to improve the conditions of approximately 3.4 million internally displaced Iraqis by utilizing local expertise to build long-term solutions.

The organization, founded in 1991 by Baroness Emma Nicholson, is a London-based charity with the goal of improving education, health care and emergency aid to some of the world’s most disenfranchised and impoverished people.

Their model is simple: AMAR works closely with on-the-ground experts, as well as local leaders, to implement entirely local programs that are tailored to the needs of the community.

In lieu of sending in volunteers from other countries, AMAR cooperates with existing services to locally source the materials and expertise needed to improve living conditions. Outside intervention is kept to a minimum and communities are encouraged to build themselves from the inside out.

Communication is the key to the success of this aid model. In a 2015 Jordan Times article reporting on AMAR’s efforts to stem an outbreak of cholera in Iraq, it is proffered that raising awareness about public health and common diseases is one of the most crucial pieces of improving the health of a community.

Communication is key not only in improving public health but also in ensuring the success of locally-based aid efforts like those the AMAR Foundation organizes.

Local collaboration is by no means a new idea, but the AMAR Foundation’s astonishing success utilizing this model within Iraq provides great hope for the future of foreign aid worldwide.

Without the help of major international funding, AMAR has managed to establish a clinic in northern Iraq that serves more than 600 patients a day, as well as multiple mobile health clinics that can be operated by locals. Since 2005, their clinics have helped over 4 million Iraqis.

Although today only a few organizations embrace a model that favors entirely local implementation, the AMAR foundation continues to provide an example of the great success that can come from on-the-ground solutions.

Sage Smiley

Photo: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

Small Farmers WeFarm InternetNowadays, it seems everything can go viral on the Internet in seconds, from a social justice movement to a funny cat video. But what do people in developing countries do to share ideas, ask questions and communicate with their peers who live in remote areas without the Internet as a permanent fixture in their lives?

For small-scale farmers in developing countries, the slightest challenges can quickly become insurmountable. Issues like climate change, access to profitable markets and below-average growing seasons hit small farmers much harder than their larger counterparts.

According to the Huffington Post, there are currently about 500 million smallholder farmers around the globe. On average, these agriculturists live on less than $1 a day.

In order to survive year after year, many small farmers have developed low-cost, effective solutions to the everyday problems they face. Until recently, these solutions could travel no farther than word-of-mouth could take them.

In 2014, WeFarm was founded with the mission of becoming “the internet for people without the internet.” The organization offers peer-to-peer communication amongst farmers in developing countries. Users can ask and answer questions using SMS or text messaging. The service is offered to smallholder farmers free of charge.

The service translates queries and advice so that small farmers from around the world can communicate and share the valuable information they have accumulated through their personal experiences. So far, over 100,000 answers have been provided to the 43,000 farmers registered to the program.

The founders of WeFarm thought strategically about how to make information available to all the small farmers who live without the Internet. Six billion of the world’s seven billion citizens have access to a mobile phone but only 25 percent of the global population has an Internet connection. SMS is a far more trafficked channel of communication for the world’s poor, compared to email or Internet messaging.

WeFarm has big plans for the data collected by the service. The organization sees the questions farmers are asking and answering as an opportunity to address some of the major issues inhibiting food production around the world.

The data gathered by WeFarm’s service is sold to major food producers to give them a sense of the daily struggles faced by small-scale farmers. The buyer companies can use this information to better analyze the issues and develop long-term strategies to address them.

According to Zoë Fairlamb, a spokesperson for WeFarm, “Small scale farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s food globally. Global brands rely on what small scale farmers are producing, yet they have next to no visibility on what is going on at the bottom of the supply chain. A lot of food is wasted in this way through very preventable diseases.”

Though WeFarm has already taken significant strides toward a more sustainable farming system, this is only the beginning for the organization. According to the Huffington Post, WeFarm is currently seeking investments in order to expand and reach one million farmers by the end of 2016.

As a connector of major players in the food industry and small farmers across the globe, WeFarm is in a unique position to change the way the world grows food and transfers information.

As Fairlamb put it, “WeFarm wants to be about changing [the] conversation and giving [farmers] a voice, showing their knowledge is valuable and giving them a way to share that information.”

Jennifer Diamond

Sources: Huffington Post, WeFarm, Global Citizen, Space Innovation Congress
Photo: National Geographic

caterpillar_foundation
The “Together.Stronger.” initiative, started by the Caterpillar Foundation works to alleviate poverty across the globe. “The world’s nations have united around the UN’s Global Goals that will guide international development for the next 15 years, and now it’s time for citizens in all communities to unite as well,” the organization says.

The “Together.Stronger.” approach is not one of competition, but one of collaboration towards a similar goal.

“No one individual, no one corporation, no one organization can do it themselves,” says Michele Sullivan, President of the Caterpillar Foundation. “But together, we are stronger.”

“Caterpillar has learned from its business and years of philanthropic work that the bigger the project, the better the team needs to be,” she says. “Together. Stronger is our effort to build the best team possible… because ending extreme poverty is something that will take all of us.”

To accomplish this, the platform is based on three areas of focus:

• Stockholders: Delivering superior returns through the cycles.

• People: Attracting and developing the best talent.

• Customers: Taking pride in helping others succeed.

Caterpillar works to bring the world together to fix a problem that affects us all. With this in mind, the foundation works to create global citizens: a people that aren’t just citizens of a town or a country, but of the globe at large.

“The world is better when everyone stands together. Because together, we truly are stronger.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: Caterpillar, Global Citizen, ONE, Scene7

ShareTheMealThere are 795 million undernourished people in the world today. That’s one in nine people who are not getting enough food to lead a healthy life.

Those numbers make hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide. That makes malnutrition a greater threat than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Enter the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger today. Each year, the WFP reaches 80 million people with food assistance in around 80 countries.

As an initiative that relies completely on voluntary donations, two managers at WFP, Sebastian Stricker and Bernhard Kowatsh, have created a way to make donating even easier by using technology to fight global hunger.

In fact, thanks to them, donating is right at your fingertips.

That’s because they’ve created an app. It’s called ShareTheMeal.

Currently being hailed as the first of its kind, this free app allows iOS and Android users to fund food rations for as little as $0.50. While a small sum to most in the Western world, in other, poorer parts of the planet, the value can be life-saving. The sum is enough to provide the vital nutrition an individual needs a day.

“The simple act of sharing a meal is how people all over the world come together,” said Ertharin Cousin, the WFP’s executive director, “This digital version of sharing a meal is a tangible way that generation zero hunger can act to end hunger.”

Pilot tests for the app were performed in June 2015 across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Using the technology to fight global hunger, more than 120,000 users provided more than 1.7 million meals for schoolchildren in the southern African country of Lesotho.

The money coming from Thursday’s global launch of ShareTheMeal will initially be used to support 200,000 Syrian refugee children living in the Zaatari camp in Jordan who participate in the WFP’s school meals program.

“By Christmas, we hope to have gathered enough shared meals, to feed these children for one year,” ShareTheMeal’s head of growth Massimiliano Costa says.

Improvements to hunger and living conditions in refugee camps as well as among Syrian communities is widely viewed as crucial to encouraging Syrians not to embark on risky travel to Europe.

If the app does well, the project will expand to other countries and regions. The WFP is already looking at the numbers. With two billion smartphone users worldwide, that statistic outnumbers the hungry children in the world 20 to 1.

The United Nations’ has set the ambitious goal of ending world hunger by 2023. Perhaps ShareTheMeal is the answer.

Kara Buckley

Sources: ShareTheMeal, Forbes, Reuters, The Guardian                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo: Pixabay

Ending_Inequality
As the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit begins, the Third World Social Science Reform (WSSR) is meeting to find solutions addressing global poverty and ending inequality. For South Africa, this event will be particularly important as the country seeks to overcome issues of imbalance aross the nation.

The WSSR, which was held from September 13 through September 16, gathered over 850 delegates from 57 countries worldwide to bring social science knowledge to issues plaguing the world today including poverty and inequality, human rights, and the role of civil society action.

The four-day event was themed “Transforming Global Relations for a Just World” suggesting the collaboration from the world’s top researchers and stakeholders could bring about positive action to world problems.

South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor made clear that South African scientists and inventors must work harder to put the continent’s goals in line with the global standard.

“They [scientists and inventors] tend to be an indication of a worrying inequality. We don’t publish; we don’t have a significant numbers of PHDs and we are not innovative enough. We don’t even have new products and we also don’t introduce services. We come off rather dismally,” said Pandor.

This is exactly how Africa as a whole is viewed to the world: under-developed, poor and little-to-no education. Currently, 70 percent of the world’s poor resides in Africa.

This statistic can be changed with the collaboration from ambassadors and representatives to make Sub-Saharan Africa something to boast about. As problems continue to set the country back, there have been many success stories.

Local activist Desmond D’sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance believes money should be focused on science & technology projects that can create jobs and be less harmful to the environment.

“Right here in Durban, we have the Moses Mabhida stadium. How many jobs has it created? Is it sustainable? Lots of money is being diverted to Moses Mabhida stadium. We have seen mega projects causing hindrances to climate change. Scientists in this forum need to address this,” says D’sa.

While South Africa continues to find solutions, it will be interesting to see how they incorporate their scientific knowledge and discover new, inventive ways to solve global poverty.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: SABC News, Sunday Independent, World Social Science
Photo: allafrica

NGOs
Information and Communications Technology, or ICT for short, is the way of the future for non-government organizations (NGOs). By effectively using new ICT, all types of NGOs are becoming more efficient in how they track and record data, as well as plan for future projects.

This new technology breaks down the complexity of information that NGOs handle on a daily basis and helps format it in a way that makes it simpler for these groups to utilize in their future endeavors.

Information and Communications Technology encompasses all sorts of specific fields. It covers things such as radio, television, cellular phones, and computer technology.

By using ICT, NGOs can spread their messages more efficiently through a wider array of platforms, develop better on-site technologies in third-world countries, and establish long-term methods to record information on poverty levels around the world.

An article by the Dhaka Tribune delved into the many benefits that ICT brings with it for non-government organizations. An excerpt from this article, published on July 31, 2015, reads, “Using ICT for social development helps NGOs to have accessible, timely, relevant, and updated information to make on-time decisions and improve social policy.”

The article goes on to pose a scenario in which an NGO makes monthly visits to an area to provide villagers with resources and other aid.

The scenario focuses on two children who received inadequate amounts of milk based on their growth in between visits from the NGO. When ICT is instituted into this scenario, the NGO workers can enter into their phones the exact height, weight, and age of the children each visit in order to chart growth and provide the necessary amount of food and aid.

Today’s society is all about maximizing efficiency. Technology has evolved faster in this period of time than at any other point in history. With this evolution comes the betterment of all mankind. By using technology as a means to maximize the eradication of poverty, people all over the world can begin to feel hopeful that their lives are about to change.

Diego Catala

Sources: Dhaka Tribune, Tech Target
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Farmerline
Africa has a large amount of untapped potential in the agricultural market. If resources were utilized correctly, it could feed itself as well as parts of other continents.

Today, Africa still relies on food imports from abroad to feed its rising population. The UN has warned that if African farming continues at its current rate, by 2050 the continent will only be fulfilling 13 percent of its food needs.

Farmers continuously fail to take advantage of the land’s natural advantages due to their lack of access to information on finance and marketing.

In Ghana, there is only one agricultural extension officer for 2,000 farmers. These officers provide farmers with training and information, but are unable to communicate with each of them enough to help farmers improve due to lack of time and resources.

Alloysius Attah, a 26 year old Ghanaian entrepreneur, has invented an innovative solution to farmers’ lack of access to information that will increase yields and profits of local farmers.

In 2013, he founded the company Farmerline, a phone app that provides smallholder farmers with information in the form of voicemails and text messages.

“Farmers receive important updates on market prices, weather forecasts, financing, input dealers, and farming tips. It also links them to agribusinesses and organisations who have previously struggled to access them” explains How We Made it In Africa.

Farmerline has been successful— in only two years, it is helping 200,000 farmers across Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Nigeria. The company plans to expand across Eastern Africa at the end of 2015.

When Attah initially started his application, he discovered that many of the farmers are illiterate. They could not read text message notifications. “So we moved to voice messages. Now our application sends information to farmers in any language – such as Swahili or any of the local languages in Ghana,” said Attah to African business publication How we Made it in Africa.

The application is engineered specifically to individual farmers. Weather forecasts are reported based on the GPS coordinates of where a farmer’s farm is located. Agronomic this are based around the season of the year as well as the type of crop the farmer is growing.

Attah’s passion for agricultural improvement in Africa began when he was five. He lived with his aunt who was a small-scale, rural farmer in Ghana. He witnessed the problems she and so many others like her faced daily.

In college, Attah stumbled upon an agricultural class. “I actually thought the course was going to be about oil, gas and all that. But I soon realized it was about wildlife, forestry and agriculture. It is like fate somehow placed me in the path of agriculture” he told How We Made It in Africa.

“Coming from a normal rural Ghanaian background of limited resources, to becoming someone who can overcome challenges and use those limited resources to solve problems in society, makes my family and community proud,” said Attah.

The Organization has also received various international awards. Attah won the World Bank and InfoDev mAgri Challenge and World Summit Youth Award, and was a 2014 Global Echoing Green Fellow.

Margaret Anderson

Sources: Farmer Line, How We Made It In Africa
Photo: Techmoran

ureport
On July 16th, UNICEF’s U-Report, a groundbreaking text-message based innovation that amplifies the voices and views of young people in developing countries, reached over one million active users.

This has allowed many young people in developing countries, who would otherwise not have a voice, to share opinions on everything from skills they think would be the most beneficial in the working world to the best way to deal with country policy.

This information is recorded as documentation of the real-time insights of people living with the current problems of the world. Local governments of these developing countries can view U-Report statistics and information to ascertain the perspective of the future generations.

Once a person joins U-Report, they can receive weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of U-Reporters, regular radio programs that will broadcast relevant stories, and newspaper articles that will publish news from the local community.

“U-Report is an entirely new model for engaging young people, empowering communities, and holding governments more accountable,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, where the platform is helping UNICEF workers share critical information about Ebola, polio, and newborn care with families living in remote areas that health workers cannot easily reach.

U-Report has become so popular and influential within Africa that Airtel Nigeria, a telecommunications company, has partnered with UNICEF to make U-Report more accessible. Through this improved connectivity, more Nigerians will have free access to the mobile applications and services developed by UNICEF. The partnership increases the information and provides more opportunities for participation by allowing UNICEF to tap into Airtel’s mobile services to make health, education, child protection and community-focused content readily available to all Airtel Nigeria customers.

These strides by UNICEF to make global awareness readily accessible to young people have improved the chances in the future for a better, more connected global society.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, Ureport, Telecom Paper, Airtel
Photo: Uganda Scouts Association