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

Unlocking Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Paraguay
Through improving labor access, Paraguay has made recent advancements to become a more inclusive and equal society. Although only 15% of people worldwide have disabilities, an estimated 80% of them are out of work. Fundacion Saraki is at the forefront of finding employment and thus improving the lives of people with disabilities in Paraguay. Its first step was to work toward compliance with a congressional law providing labor inclusion in public institutions.

Congress agreed to grant the foundation an agreement for the “Effective Labor Inclusion” of those with disabilities in both the private and public sectors. Through this, Fundacion Saraki has begun to work toward increasing access to jobs with companies such as McDonald’s and Supermercados España, a Paraguayan supermarket chain. Both companies recently hired interns with disabilities who were later offered jobs with the companies in Capiata and San Lorenzo, two cities near the capital, Asunción.

The foundation has also worked to improve building access. Working with architecture students from local universities, the foundation is working toward raising building standards in the country. Students inspect the buildings and make recommendations to the companies housed there on how to improve their construction to accommodate disabled workers and customers. Thus, this solution is an improvement for both those with disabilities who can enjoy increased services and the companies who serve them in increasing their consumer base. They have also worked toward improving bus conditions to increase the ease of riding for everyone.

Through cooperation with USAID and the National Democratic Institute, the foundation has reached an agreement with Paraguay’s Superior National Electoral Tribunal to ensure improved participation of those with disabilities in the country’s upcoming election in November 2015. These organizations have recently published a manual titled “Equal Access: How To Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes.” Through this publication and continuing efforts on the part of all involved organizations, previous obstacles that prevented disabled people from voting in elections will be removed. Because those who are disabled are often also poor and marginalized, their voices in the political process are crucial.

“We are trying to work the government because in Paraguay disabilities have not been a priority, and we hope to have a greater impact on the private industry as well,” said Fundacion Saraki’s Executive Director Maria Jose Cabezudo Cuevas. Indeed, improving the quality of life and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities supports success and creates a more inclusive, fairer society for everyone.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: USAID, National Democratic Institute
Photo: USAID

Poverty in ShenyangThe urbanized city of Shenyang is currently the fourth largest city in the nation of China, and consists of a population of over 7 million people. Contrary to many other areas throughout the region of North Eastern China, Shenyang only records an incidence of urban poverty at an estimated 2.2%.

Serving as one of the largest economic, industrial and governmental zones in Northeastern China, Shenyang demonstrates the efficacy of urban poverty alleviation programs.

Generally, within the nation of China, a large portion of the population is characterized by suffering from a large income disparity variable, as well as the insufficient provisioning of basic necessities such as food, sanitary water, and extracurricular, educational, and recreational amenities. However, the population of Shenyang attests to the ability of the Chinese government to effectively alleviate poverty within certain urban areas, as this city maintains a record of 100 percent of the population receiving access to all basic services and amenities enumerated above.

National policies and strategic programs within China have allowed the provisioning of regional authoritative decisions regarding infrastructural development initiatives, subsequently encouraging the inclusion and implementation of socioeconomic programs designed to alleviate high rates of poverty based on localized variables.

Despite the notable successes of the regional government of Shenyang, recent government actions have resulted in an increasing limitation of regional control and a decrease in state capital investment. These actions have resulted in the failure of certain state-owned businesses and subsequent increase in regional unemployment rates. Researchers are currently studying how these economic shifts will ultimately affect the rate of urban poverty within Shenyang.

-James Thornton

Sources: The Mirror, Muse,
Photo: Time

automation
A recent book called The Second Machine Age has been heavily cited in discourse regarding the state of the economy and the future of work itself. What is the second machine age? The second machine age refers to the rise of automation of tasks once thought to be restricted to human ability. How will emerging technologies like artificial intelligence affect the poor?

Many famous people, such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, are worried about the future implications of artificial intelligence being malevolent towards humanity; however, the real problem may begin before artificial intelligence even reaches such a point. A more urgent and realistic scenario approaches — it does so at an uncertain rate, but it is projected to run down a well-worn path.

AI are quickly developing the ability to do tasks as well as and better than humans, albeit usually narrowly specialized tasks. Driving cars, manufacturing goods, finding patterns in data, even winning jeopardy – AI technology is assuredly forging ahead. If AI are going to be able to do these tasks, where does that leave the truck driver, the factory worker, the lawyer, accountants and others? These are millions of jobs that could be eliminated in rapid succession, potentially creating a situation of chronic high structural unemployment amongst people in their prime working years.

Where does this leave those without employment? And an even more unnerving question – where would this leave those who are already impoverished? The answer is complicated. A few things might happen at once. To begin with, some jobs are simply not worth replacing with robotic labor – for the time being, at least. Waiters and other jobs that require genuine human interaction at low wages may survive.

Others believe that AI can help usher in a so-called “post-scarcity” society. A post-scarcity society would be the result of a world where AI and technology as a whole would work for humans and produce more goods than people would need. Perhaps John Maynard Keynes’ predictions of fewer hours of work per worker will come true. Germany currently has a system in which they incentivize companies to cut workers’ hours, not jobs. This could save some jobs, but it may not be suitable for every type of occupation. The poor would make even less money with the jobs they do hold.

Some believe that the current situation of worldwide income inequality could become aggravated even further by AI-caused automation of jobs. Fewer jobs could lead to further concentration of wealth and an unhealthy economic balance. The prospect of less work to be done, fewer jobs and fewer ways to make money seems to bode poorly for fighting the cycles of poverty.

However, automation does happen for a reason; namely, automation of tasks is more productive and efficient than using human labor. Higher productivity means more goods and services for lower prices. Perhaps the post-scarcity world isn’t such as fantasy. Maybe automation could be a great thing for the poor in the very long term – if managed properly. For now, it seems as though the short-term effects may need to be addressed more seriously. Automation of a diverse range of professions will be a problem for the poor and for society as a whole.

– Martin Yim

Sources: RT, The Atlantic, New York Times
Photo: Flickr

Evolution of Women
A new age for women is being ushered in, although this battle seems to have been going on for years now. It’s the evolutions of women!

Women in countries around the world that previously lived in prejudice and oppression are beginning to see a light at the end of a very long tunnel. Here are five areas in which women around the world are evolving and even excelling:

Girls’ Education

Education has become a priority for many countries around the world that previously lacked a stable and equal educational system. A heavy emphasis being placed on girls’ education has women around the world beginning to speak not only for themselves, but also for their daughters, sisters, mothers and friends.

Schools are being built near once-remote villages and girls are being educated instead of tending to homely or motherly duties. USAID has supported the Ministry of Education’s efforts to build thousands of new schools in the Middle East and Africa, as well as partnering in the distribution of millions of textbooks and supplies. The barriers are breaking down for girls’ education and opportunities for higher learning are expanding.

The Health of Women and Children

Numerous countries are working with USAID to completely reform the current health care systems in order to allow mothers and women to reach the medical treatment and health facilities they need to care for children and birth healthy offspring. In addition to building more healthcare centers, training for medical staff and midwives has been expanded to promote health in all areas of life for women.

Women in Politics

Women are gaining momentum in politics. In the Afghanistan 2014 elections, for example, voter participation reached a record high for both men and women. Women also served as election observers, ran for public office and were victorious on the campaign trail. Women made up 21 percent of winners from the 2014 Provincial Council Elections, 11 percent of judiciary seats and 20 percent of judges in training.

Women in the Economy

More women are taking on entrepreneurial roles than ever before. In response to the growing demand for the skills needed to participate in the increasingly advanced job market, USAID has provided job training for thousands of women and helped thousands more to find rewarding jobs. In addition to job training, many markets are expanding to create new jobs that both men and women can go after.

Women and Leadership

For countries to prosper, more women need to take leadership roles, and they are doing just that. USAID programs such as “Promote” will serve as the missing stepping stone between education and careers for thousands of Afghan women driven to serve as political, civil society and private sector leaders.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: About, USAID
Photo: Professional Women’s Breakfast Club

Andela
For many, working from home is the ultimate luxury, especially when living in a big city where bumper-to-bumper traffic stretches for miles.

This is always the case for New York City, which recently ranked fifth in Forbes’ “10 U.S. Cities With The Worst Gridlock.” But there is one company that’s paying the work-from-home luxury all the way to Nigeria.

Andela is the global talent accelerator that allows people in Africa to work locally and reach globally. They find the brightest people to provide training and mentorship needed to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies across the world. Though the company also has offices in the U.S., what distinguishes it from others is its global outreach mission to provide people in Africa an opening to the digital economy and give companies access to untapped talent.

For example, Nigerians are getting paid to learn programming skills before putting them to work on projects that serve businesses back in the States. Chibuzor Obiora is one of those people who at first thought it was too good to be true when he discovered the opportunity on Twitter.

“I was always interested in learning [to code] because of the problem-solving aspect of it,” he told Wired Magazine, “and here was a firm that promised to pay you to learn.”

Even with the increase in competition to gain technical skills such as programming, companies around the world are still struggling to find software developers to meet the demand. Thus, Andela aims to bring out the pool of talent found in other countries that are not known to be tech-hubs like Silicon Valley. This not only includes Nigeria but other countries in Africa.

“We know that brilliance is relatively evenly distributed across the human population,” says Andela co-founder Jeremy Johnson. “In terms of pure aptitude, there are genius level people across the world. But what there’s not is equal opportunity.”

So how exactly do they choose “genius level people” across the world?

Using rigorous, online aptitude tests, Andela gauges reasoning and logic skills followed by a two-week-long screening process that interviews the top 10 percent to access their “soft skills,” such as interpersonal communication.

Those who pass this phase go on to a several-month training program, but not many make it this far due to highly selective nature of the program. Less than one percent of applicants are selected to become Andela developers, which is 10 times more selective than Harvard University, for example.

What comes next for those accepted is access to educational resources that are hard to come by in Nigeria. For example, one student, Tolulope Komolafe, had learned how to “code” from what the teacher wrote on a chalkboard and realized during her first two weeks of training at Andela that her university computer science courses did not involve actual programming.

Students are eligible to work as web developers for Andela’s clients once they finish at least 1,000 hours of training. However, that’s not to say that the learning stops there. According to Johnson, most students will spend about two-thirds of their time working for clients and the rest on education. Work averages around 60 hours a week for both students and staff.

“It’s very similar to the way that guilds worked in the middle ages,” Johnson tells Wired. “You get paid a small amount as an apprentice, then you work as a journeyman with lots of other craftspeople, and eventually become a master.”

Today, U.S. tech companies continue their struggle to find programming talent that meets the demands of selective hiring practices and qualifications. As result, companies like Andela are left with a window to provide a new wave of services that can work globally.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Andela, Wired, Forbes
Photo: Wired Magazine

Development in Latin America
Multidimensional poverty is a widespread problem throughout Latin American and the Caribbean, marked by deficiencies in education, health and standards of living. In 14 countries in the region, close to seven percent of the population is familiar with this degree of poverty and an additional 9.5 percent stands on the brink.

United Nation Development Programme expert Alfredo González stated that “there are 45 million people that are living at the limits of their capacities and could fall back into poverty if faced with a negative shock.”

Such a shock could be caused by anything from a financial crisis, such as Argentina’s newest default debacle, to environmental catastrophe, seen in severe flooding and droughts throughout the region.

The UNDP reports that, while Latin America continues to enjoy the greatest amount of human development of any developing region in the world, this progress is being threatened by inequality and a lack of access to formal employment.

In fact, since 2008, the region’s progress toward human development has slowed by 25 percent according to UNDP figures.

The UNDP’s yearly Human Development Index, calculated based on a combination of factors including life expectancy, educational opportunity and purchasing power, rates the long term human development of every nation on a scale of zero being the worst to one being the best.

Chile, Cuba and Argentina topped the region’s HDI charts with respective scores of 0.82, 0.81 and 0.80, while Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras came in last place.

This year’s HDI report highlights the important role formal employment plays in human development in Latin America. Increased incomes, gainfully employed youth and increased labor regulation are all benefits that communities stand to gain from better access to full employment.

Liliana Rendón, economics professor at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, observes that “the poor do not only suffer from an income deficit; poverty also includes shortcomings in healthcare, education and other problems. Income must translate into wellbeing, taking social, environmental and policy aspects into consideration.”

In order to make strides toward greater wellbeing the UNDP recommends that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean push for policies that facilitate universal access to social services, which, in turn, may serve to bolster formal employment and lift more people out of poverty.

-Kayla Strickland

Sources: Independent European Daily Express, Nearshore Americas, Buenos Aires Herald
Photo: The Guardian

Poverty in Tokyo
Despite having the third-largest economy in the world, there is a growing issue with poverty in Japan. Of the total population, 15.7 percent of Japanese people live in poverty, a percentage greater than countries with less economic resources.

The country’s overall child poverty rate has also hit a record high of 16.3 percent, prompting questions as to whether the country is trying to fix these issues.

When people think of Tokyo, “poor” is a thought that seldom ever comes to mind. Walking in the streets of the capital, you do not see people begging for money; the homeless are all hiding amongst the shadows.

Yet when the story of the emaciated and hypothermia-struck bodies of an elderly man, his wife and 39-year-old son were found in their home after weeks of no one noticing, one cannot help but question the state of the one in six Japanese citizens living under the poverty line.

Living in a Single-Parent Household

In 2012, The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that “significant poverty among single parents is a factor boosting the child poverty rate to 14 percent.” According to a Library of Congress article, there has been an increase in the number of welfare recipients, especially from single-parent households. In addition, the article states, “It is hard for single mothers to find jobs that pay enough to support a household in Japan.”

Child poverty in working, single-parent households stood at 50 percent, according to a 2014 TokyoWeekender article. The Abe administration is working on poverty alleviation methods, but not enough attention is paid to child poverty.

Due to the stagnant economy, the number of “freeters” is on a rise. “Freeters” refer to young people, who, after deciding to avoid Japanese corporate culture, live a freer lifestyle. But jumping from job to job in modern Japan is too difficult to properly survive on.

More than 1.23 million single mother households exist that earn only 40 percent of the average household income. One out of three unmarried women are considered poor, and many of these women fall into poverty due to divorce, single parenting, debts, domestic violence and family background.

The Elephant in the Room

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, there have been many job losses for middle-aged workers.

At the national level, Japan has gone through three prime ministers since the Fukushima disaster, who ranged from anti-nuclear to cautiously pro-nuclear. Calls for removing nuclear plants completely swarmed the country due to the fact that 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in Japan; danger of a repeat is high.

Only one or two of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are now active; the rest are substituted by imported coal and gas, which have caused other detrimental effects on the economy.

When it comes to the question of poverty in Tokyo, many people prefer to hide the truth. On a neighborhood level, people hide that they need two jobs to afford tuition. On the political level, the government hides the true poverty statistics from its international community.

According to an article describing the effects of the Fukushima disaster, the “government was afraid to face reality and did not set the poverty line at an appropriate value.” All of this was done in the effort to endure the misfortune in private.

Poverty is a topic that is emerging from the shadows, and the Japanese government is beginning to acknowledge and address its presence.

– Ashley Riley

Sources: Behind the Grids, Japan Sociology, Tokyo Weekender, Library of Congress, The Economist
Photo: Travel CNN

education in cote
Education in Cote d’Ivoire is present and plentiful for those who can afford it. While there are free public schools available to Ivoirians, families are still required to pay for books, uniforms and supplies.

Additionally, over two-thirds of native Ivoirians work in agriculture, and children are often needed as part of the work force. The unfortunate reality is that most students who receive a proper education in Cote d’Ivoire are not natives of the country.

Zeina Jebeile, a current student at Boston University who grew up in Cote d’Ivoire but was not born there, says that the private school education she received was comparable to the education received by her friends in the United States. “We learned a lot of similar things, it was just in a different language,” Zeina explained. She continued to clarify that public schools are only available to those born in the Ivory Coast, and people like her who were born in other countries must attend expensive private schools.

Due to the French colonization of Cote d’Ivoire the vast majority of schools run on the French system and have the exact same curriculum as high schools in France. While being a native of the Ivory Coast holds the benefit of free primary education, students have a much higher chance of attending university if they graduate from one of the French, American or Lebanese private schools.

Due to the high cost of schooling, “not everybody gets access to education, and it’s sad because a lot of them are really interested in doing so,” Zeina explained. “Education is about $7,000 a year for high school, which is kind of ridiculous, but that’s what you get for the ‘French Prestige.’” In order to combat this, small tutoring centers have popped up throughout the country. The centers operate on a volunteer basis, with classes usually taught by Americans and Europeans travelling abroad to teach languages.

Language is a problem within the private schools as well. Zeina, who attended a French school, said that there is little emphasis placed on learning English. “You have the option between German, Italian and Spanish…. And the English is very, very basic. In the last year of high school they literally teach you things like ‘my dog’s name is Bobo.’”

Despite her classmates’ limited knowledge of the English language, a diploma from a French private school almost certainly leads to an acceptance into a French University, as well as easier access to a French visa. Those who graduate from Ivoirian Schools must either be the very top of their class or come from wealthy families if they wish to continue their education in college. “The system is very limiting for most people who live in the Ivory Coast,” Zeina admitted. “At the end of the day if you don’t have money you don’t really get access to education.”

The Ivory Coast has a population of 15 million, approximately one third of which are non-Ivoirians. Out of the 128,318 students enrolled in high school, 42 percent attend private school. In addition to high poverty rates among Ivoirians and the necessity for child labor, there are other factors which can prevent children from receiving the best education possible.

Cote d’Ivoire has suffered through two civil wars in the past 15 years. Political conflict instigated outbreaks of violence in 2002, leading to a five-year civil war that killed and displaced thousands. Just three years after the call for peace, violence broke out once again leading to a second civil war that lasted from 2010-2011. The physical and emotional damage inflicted upon residents of the Ivory Coast during these wars contribute to days of school missed.

Taylor Lovett

Sources: Interview with Zeina, Our Africa, University of Szeged, Kuno Library
Photo: Unocha

restricted labor force in india
While stories of India’s gender gap have been in the media spotlight in past years, a recent census shows the depth of the inequality. India is rated 101 out of a 136 country survey for gender disparity, with lower economic opportunities and a lower literacy rate. With a population of over a billion, nearly 160 million women are estimated to be restricted to domestic work, many of whom are of working age.

With a restricted labor force in India, the capacity for growth and development is hindered. Additionally, the options women do have are limited by unequal access to education and training. While this problem has been acknowledged, its scope was underestimated. Sociologists hope that governmental encouragement of women in the workforce can help reduce illiteracy and poverty among women.

However, even women who are employed are more likely to be “vulnerably employed” than their male counterparts. This term, used by an ILO study to describe nearly 84 percent of South Asian women, refers to the risk these workers face: seasonal employment and more easily terminated services leaves them with little job security. Additionally, these workers perform mostly domestic services, a trend which consistently reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy in India.

With job security being a problem for women, the government is hoping that opening up more opportunities in the public sector, now dominated by men, can have an equalizing effect for the women of India. With women and girls being among the most disadvantaged in the world, employing them and fostering growth in education and literacy is in the best interest for 21st century India.

For as large of a nation as it is, the hindrances on the labor force have not allowed India to realize its potential. For the generations of women now and those in the future, women must have the opportunity to come out of the domestic sphere and into the working world.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Silicon India, ISP News
Photo: Worldbank