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 a 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 organizations 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 for 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

U-ReportOn 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 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: Wikimedia Commons

data_standardsSetting higher standards for data reporting and compatibility is essential to track and foster progress in initiatives all over the world. That’s why two networks, Development Initiatives and Publish What You Find, are heading a project to develop more universally applicable data standards and help organizations and projects transform their data to match the new standard.

Improving data standards for organizations, particularly those administering aid in countries abroad, will help elucidate the work being done and facilitate collaboration and communication between groups in different sectors. These standards also allow for interoperability, which is defined as the ability for technology and software systems to communicate, exchange data and use this data for researchers to draw conclusions about projects.

Needless to say, higher standards for information will improve the efficiency and speed with which organizations analyze and improve their efforts and also allow them to share their efforts with other groups who can replicate them. Doing so will not only improve the way information it is collected but it will also make it more widely available — improving access to and understanding of the latest projects organizations all over the world that they are engaging in.

In investments directly related to foreign aid, such as those in healthcare, education, agriculture and water access, higher data standards will allow organizations to share the outcomes of their projects with donors who can track the flow of their funding. They can also publicize their findings with other organizations that can then compare and collaborate to find more efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Something as seemingly small as transforming and improving the way with which organizations report their statistics can make drastic improvements to people’s health and way of life all over the world. Examples of this are logging administration and efficacy of immunizations, schools or communities with the highest risks, spread of disease and robustness of food resources. Interoperability allows organizations and donors to link up and improve the work they are doing.

Development Initiatives and Publish What You Find hope their data allows people to make more efficient use of data, whether by directing the flow of funding or improving aid projects. Efforts like these will improve access to information on development flows and therefore their efficiency. This project is ambitious in its design of overhauling sector-level systems, but the change it will bring about will be much broad, influencing the lives of people all over the world.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: Omidyar, Devinit
Photo: University of Mary Washington

Effects of Emerging Technologies on Geopolitics
Although the final episode aired in September of 2013, Futurama remains a popular TV series today as it appeals to a range of generations, from youths to adults. This series is an exaggerated representation of a prediction of 31st century life: exploration and the discovery of life in countless other galaxies, acknowledgement of robots as true life forms and an even greater reliance on up-and-coming technologies.

Although it is a satire, the show does address interesting points about this human-techno relationship that applies even in the 21st century. This is evident, for example, in today’s use of drones.

It is speculated that, in the future, artificial intelligence systems will take over most jobs currently held by humans. Amazon’s new drone delivery system promises faster, more efficient deliveries, thus lessening the need for other methods of package delivery. The drone could drop off a package on someone’s doorstep in approximately 30 minutes or less. While this system, overall, would be more convenient for the general public, it would take out a good number of jobs.

However, there is a bright side to this situation. More jobs relating to drones, such as drone operations and drone assembly, will open to the public, and newer technologies that make these drones easier to operate will open up jobs for those with fewer qualifications.

Another important aspect to address is the ease at which people communicate through technological mediums. According to Kristel van der Elst, head of Strategic Foresight of the World Economic Forum, “Technology will not only allow us to be constantly in contact in an increasingly close-to-reality manner, it will also soon enhance communication beyond what traditional face-to-face interaction could ever allow.” Van der Elst also said that “technology has the potential to redefine the relationships between civil society, government and business.” Communication technology improves the ease of communication in geopolitics around the world.

More often, in the media, there have been discussions about how technology helps and hinders communication. Also addressed is the fact that the more we communicate via this medium, the less private human interaction becomes. Criminals are now turning to new technologies to communicate, and governments have limited abilities to regulate threats of attack.

So, are we to regulate and respect human privacy? Or not to regulate and allow for more criminals to make the utmost use of technology? Authors have suggested that instead of trying to fight the evolution of technology, the government should find new methods of integrating technology into their everyday lives and into geopolitics, which would greatly improve internal operations in local governments as well as appeal to the public.

– Anna Brailow

Sources: Scientific American, GCN, Comedy Central, YouTube
Photo: CNN