Information and news about innovations

tech startups in Latin America
According to the Vice President for Finance and World Bank Controller Jorge Familiar, “We should adopt and promote technology and innovation to boost economic growth, poverty reduction and increase opportunities for all, rather than planning barriers.” In recent years, Latin America has followed Familiar’s advice as it has seen a dramatic rise in access to technology and a sense of entrepreneurship. Below are seven facts about tech startups in Latin America.

7 Facts About Tech Startups in Latin America

  1. Latin America is more connected than it has ever been, a necessity for the success of tech startups. More than 70 percent of South Americans had access to the internet as of January 2020, up from 55 percent in 2017. There are about 500 million smartphone subscriptions across the region. Brazil and Mexico rank fourth and fifth in the number of Facebook users with 120 million and 84 million users respectively. Additionally, Latin America has been one of the top growing markets for Spotify and Netflix.
  2. E-commerce sales in the region reached $53.2 billion in 2018, up 18 percent from 2017. This is attracting attention from international e-commerce businesses such as Amazon, which opened its first distribution center in Brazil in 2019.
  3. Venture capital investments in Latin America surpassed $1 billion at the end of 2017. There were 25 new global investors that year. These investors include Softbank, Telstra Ventures and Rethink Education.
  4. Three tech startups surpassed $1 billion valuations at the beginning of 2018. These startups include Nubank, an online banking service, and PagSeguro, an e-commerce service for commercial operations.
  5. Strong institutional support in the region has facilitated the expansion of startups. Startup Chile and Mexico’s Fund of Funds are government-initiated investment firms that act as accelerators to provide capital to small and medium enterprises to get them off the ground. Similar organizations exist in Argentina, Peru and Columbia. Brazil’s development bank has played a critical role in the provision of capital to small businesses as well.
  6. The share of female participation in creating startups is higher in Latin America than in Europe. The failure rate of startups is higher than ever in many Latin American countries. However, this is due to a growing sense of entrepreneurship amongst men and women alike.
  7. The Tech Growth Coalition began in 2018 to facilitate investment in the region’s startups. One of the issues Latin American startups face is the small domestic markets the countries have. However, by working together as a region, countries can overcome this problem. The Tech Growth Coalition, which consists of large investors such as Google and Facebook, emerged to help with this cross-border collaboration. The parent organization, the Latin American Venture Capital Association, which originated in 2002 and consists of more than 190 firms of all types and sizes, has built up $65 billion worth of assets “directed at capitalizing and growing Latin American businesses.”

The growth in the number and size of tech startups in Latin America is key for several reasons. One key reason is the opening of foreign markets and the attraction of foreign investment and businesses. This not only leads to increased “investible resources and capital formation” but “a means of transferring production technology, skills, innovative capacity and organizational and managerial practices between locations, as well as of accessing international marketing networks.”

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

5 New Technologies in Latin AmericaSilicon Valley may be the world’s tech Mecca, but technological innovation isn’t restricted to the San Francisco Bay. Latin America is in the midst of a technological revolution. Nations like Argentina, Columbia and Mexico are continuing to invest in IT infrastructure and modernize STEM education standards. Latin American nations now rank higher than China and India in English fluency, making the region an appealing prospect for outsourcing IT services. Latin governments recognize the economic potential in new technology: Argentina’s Program AR ensures public school students learn to program while Columbia’s Plan Vive Digital finances 80 percent of tuition and fees for IT students. Those investments are paying dividends. Here are five new technologies in Latin America.

5 New Technologies in Latin America

  1. Clic Educa (Chile): Clic Educa is a modular e-learning platform developed in Chile. The program measures students’ emotional states and behavioral patterns and provides instructors with customized feedback. Teachers can modify Clic Educa’s curriculum and learning materials to best suit their needs. They can even design lesson plans for students with learning disabilities or other conditions.
  2. Emiti (Mexico): Emiti is a startup headquartered in Guadalajara, Mexico. It created a health-monitoring smartwatch for eldercare purposes. The watch includes an emergency button, and it automatically detects if the wearer is undergoing a medical emergency. Sudden falls and cardiac irregularities are among the conditions the device will detect.
  3. Biofase (Mexico): Environmental sustainability is a hot topic in the current zeitgeist. Chemical engineer Scott Munguia founded Mexico’s Biofase in 2014. It is a bioplastics firm that converts avocado seeds and synthetic organic compounds into plastic goods. Biofase uses only inedible food waste to manufacture its products. Its bioplastic degrades naturally, so the company’s operations do not contribute to food shortages or greenhouse gas emissions via waste incineration.
  4. Emi Labs (Argentina): Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming business and technology worldwide, and Argentina is no exception. Emi Labs utilizes a virtual AI assistant to automate rote tasks necessary to HR operations such as screening resumes and scheduling interviews.
  5. La Casa Uruguaya (Uruguay): La Casa Uruguaya is an environmentally friendly construction project aiming to revolutionize the housing market by designing sustainable smart homes. These energy-efficient houses use solar energy, recycle water and employ a sensor network to regulate temperatures and lighting. La Casa Uruguaya’s homes are surprisingly affordable. They range in price from $50,000 to $90,000 and are installable in just 15 days.

These five new technologies in Latin America are but a few examples of the region’s ongoing tech boom. Latin America’s rapidly growing middle class offers entrepreneurs a consumer base for their products. Digital transformation is well underway. Internet penetration rests at 57 percent, but 70 percent of citizens subscribe to mobile plans. On average, Latin Americans log on to the internet for longer lengths of time than anyone else in the world. The next Silicon Valley may well rest south of the border.

– Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Newsroom

Innovations Addressing Food ScarcityFood scarcity is a major problem in the world today. Roughly 795 million people (this equates to one in 9 people) do not have enough food to survive. Specifically, developing countries face the highest levels of food scarcity These statistics, paired with the fact that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste annually, necessitates reformation. Around the world, people have been working to help resolve this crisis and ensure that the hungry do not starve. These are five modern innovations addressing food scarcity.

5 Modern Innovations Addressing Food Scarcity

  1. SAP Digital Farming: SAP is a company that is working to combat global food shortages through revolutionary technology. After implementing state of the art sensors in crop fields, farmers would download SAP’s digital farm app. Then, the app would relay necessary information to the farmer. This information includes the supply of fertilizer, water needs, soil moisture and crop growth. Importantly, this information makes the agricultural process more efficient by helping the farmer realize optimal harvesting and planting times. Further, these additional benefits will maximize yield while minimizing costs.
  2. M-Farm: M-Farm serves as a tool to help farmers in Kenya. Often, in the case of farmers in developing countries, intermediaries between the producer and consumer will reap the rewards for a task they had very minimal involvement in. Further, the farmers will have a vast amount of their earnings usurped and will be charged ridiculous prices for necessities, carrying on the cycle of poverty. M-Farm enables Kenyan farmers to SMS the number 3555 to get relevant information. This information includes the price of their products and the ability to purchase the necessary equipment for affordable prices. Additionally, M-Farm also relays crucial trends in the local market for farmers to enhance their judgment. The app collects this information independently through location services and analysis.
  3. Share the Meal App: Developed by the World Food Program, the Share the Meal application on iOS and Android phones works to combat starvation across the world. In 2015, four years after the start of the Syrian Civil War, the organization sought to mobilize technology to feed starving children in refugee camps in Jordan. Additionally, the app enables people to donate 50 cents that will go toward securing meals for these children. Currently, the app has enabled over 48 million meals to be distributed to those in need.
  4. Plantwise: Launched in 2011 by the global nonprofit, CABI, Plantwise is a program that helps farmers understand tactics to increase efficiency and yield. CABI established a global plant clinic network that provides farmers with information about plant health. Qualified plant doctors advise farmers on techniques that will reduce the number of pests and diseases that afflict their crops. Plantwise works to disseminate information to farmers in rural areas that have little access to useful information regarding their agriculture. The goal is to emphasize healthy plant habits so farmers lose less yield and are effectively able to produce more food.
  5. Digital Green: The last of these five modern innovations addressing food scarcity, Digital Green uses modern technological advancements to uplift impoverished farmers. The project began in 2008 in India, where workers trained credible officials in villages to use video technology to convey crucial information, including agriculture techniques and market conditions. This effort was widely successful, as Digital Green reached a total of 1.8 million farmers in over 15,000 villages. In addition, this prompted the organization to expand into Ethiopia. There, almost 375,000 farmers were reached, which led to the commencement of initiatives to help farmers in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Niger and Tanzania.

Finally, it is undeniable that technology plays a very prominent role in society today. Technological innovations have revolutionized the lives of people across the world. Further, these innovations addressing food scarcity are prime examples of this rapid paradigm shift. Progress necessitates change and change is only possible through people working together to absolve adversity in the most effective way possible.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished
Artificial intelligence has evolved from a futuristic fantasy to our living reality. The possibilities for artificial intelligence-based solutions are continuously developing. Therefore, the potential to expand the reach of various initiatives to help those in poverty is increasing. Recently, companies have recognized that artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by contributing to various sustainability initiatives in impoverished countries. The globally impoverished disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of environmental issues. Artificial intelligence can help those in poverty restore a sense of empowerment in struggling communities.

How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals

  • Wadhwani AI – The focus at Wadhwani AI is to bring artificial intelligence to communities in need (and thus that are the least likely to have access to artificial intelligence). One of their current projects focuses on cotton farming. Cotton is the third-largest crop in India with 75 percent grown by small farmers who struggle to have a stable income. Pests are a huge problem for small farmers for both economic and mental health reasons. After 40 percent of cotton crops were destroyed by a pink bollworm attack between 2017-2018, 100,000 cotton farmers committed suicide. As many pesticides have proven unreliable over time, Wadhwani AI is developing technology to detect pests, reducing crop losses and pesticide use.
  • GringgoRecycling collection is incredibly limited in impoverished areas. Generally, only 40 percent of trash is collected in South East Asia. Gringgo, based in Indonesia, uses an app to help collect plastic waste. The app connects waste collectors to uncollected recyclables in their area that can be sold for a profit, increasing income for waste workers and cleaning up waste simultaneously. Recycling facilities purchase these recyclables and convert them into various commodities. For example, plastics can be converted into fuel for the cement industry. Selling waste back to recycling industries (effectively taking it out of the waste stream) reduces ocean pollution, as many landfills are located near rivers, causing much of the collected waste to end up in oceans. Gringgo aims to increase recycling rates by 50 percent by 2022 and reduce the plastic in oceans by 25 percent by 2020 in South East Asia.
  • Makerere University – Air pollution causes more than 700,000 deaths in Africa yearly. Additionally, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income areas do not meet air quality guidelines. Finding solutions to reduce air pollution is imperative. Based in Uganda, Makerere University demonstrates how artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by aiming to improve air quality. By using low-cost technology, Makerere University hopes to obtain more data on air pollution and the communities most at risk. Sensors attached to taxis around Uganda track pollution and will ultimately forecast future air pollution rates. Policymakers will use this data to make informed decisions regarding industrial changes to reduce air pollution. As data on air pollution rates in specific communities is currently lacking. However, this study could raise awareness among citizens about the unhealthy pollution rates in their own communities.

AI expansion is inevitable; it is already happening. While there are many possibilities for how artificial intelligence can help the impoverished, companies may also question the ethics of new technologies and possible impacts. That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence can help those in poverty when paired with an open dialogue with those involved in terms of how to help.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

10 Innovations That Tackle World HungerOne of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is the elimination of poverty. This is necessary to achieve worldwide prosperity. Billions of dollars have been spent on projects attempting to eradicate and reduce poverty. However, many of these projects have failed. The eradication of poverty has been an international focus for several years. While its causes are worrying, its effects are more damaging.

As poverty grows, individuals and communities around the world have been motivated to act. Private companies are growing socially responsible. Individuals are boycotting companies that exploit communities suffering from poverty. And nongovernmental organizations are establishing independent and unique projects. More significantly, entrepreneurs and innovators are inventing products to help reduce poverty. This article lists 10 innovations that tackle world hunger.

10 Innovations that Tackle World Hunger

  1. Safari Seat
    Access to wheelchairs in rural areas of developing countries is incredibly low. Safari Seat is one invention that tackles this issue. Its production is low cost and the company is located in Kenya. Safari Seat is made up of bicycle parts and controlled by hand levers and durable wheels.
  2. NIFTY Cup
    Child malnutrition in Africa is a major obstacle. Many infants struggle to nurse, which can ultimately lead to death. It costs as little as $1 to produce a NIFTY Cup, however, its impact is tremendous. The cup is designed to make milk more easily drinkable is also reusable.
  3. LifeStraw
    This innovation is one of the most important among the 10 innovations that tackle world hunger. LifeStraw addresses access to clean water. Eleven percent of the world’s population lacks access to drinkable water. And the effects of drinking contaminated water can be deadly. The straw-like product includes a filtration system that filters contaminated water as it is used.
  4. M-Farm
    M-Farm is a digital technology allowing Kenyan farmers to receive up-to-date pricing information on their products. This eliminates the corruption of middlemen who usually receive more profit than deserved. Kenyan farmers particularly suffer from issues with middlemen as they lack high levels of internet access.
  5. Wonderbag
    Areas where poverty is present usually lack basic needs, such as access to electricity. However, Wonderbag doesn’t let that stop anyone from cooking. Wonderbag is a slow cooker that requires no electricity to use, allowing those without electricity to still cook their food.
  6. Feedie
    Feedie is a project run by the Lunchbox Fund which allows you to donate a meal to a child somewhere in the world simply by sharing the picture you took off your food. This is significant as social media already encourages food bloggers to share pictures of food, making Feedie an easy way to help tackle world hunger.
  7. Mazzi
    Developing countries often lack methods for collecting food without spilling and wasting it. This occurs specifically in the collection of milk. Mazzi is a 10-liter plastic container that is designed for collecting and transporting milk safely with no losses.
  8. Eco-Cooler
    Eco-Cooler is a simple invention that cools down unbearably heated huts. It is made up of recycled bottles that are built up in a way that attracts cool air into homes, helping keep conditions cool for both people and their food without air conditioning or refrigeration.
  9. Lucky Iron Fish
    Lucky Iron Fish is an iron, fish-shaped object that can be placed in a pot of boiling water when cooking to enhance iron levels in the meal. Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Therefore, Lucky Iron Fish is a significant innovation in tackling world hunger because it helps those without access to iron-rich foods.
  10. Humanium Metal
    This initiative turns disarmed weapons from areas of conflict into “humanium” blocks by recycling metal from destructed guns. Humanium Metal then sells these blocks to companies, for instance, blocks sold to H&M are used for buttons. Violent conflicts are a major cause of poverty and world hunger. Therefore, this unique approach recycles destructive materials for a constructive cause.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

provide clean water to the poorWater is the source and sustainer of life everywhere, but that does not mean it is readily available everywhere. Developing countries and communities often have limited or difficult access to water, and even then it may not be clean enough to safely drink. With so many people needing help, and the situation different in each community, the question remains: what are some available ways to provide clean water to the poor? Fortunately, many have explored this question

The Water Project

The Water Project is an organization that builds sustainable sources of clean water for poor communities. In March 2019, they improved an existing well in the village of Lungi in Sierra Leone and the well provides clean water today. The well was initially completed in 2000, but did not provide water from March to July. During those months, people relied on a nearby swamp for water. The swamp was unhygienic and far away. After deepening the well and giving it a new hand pump, 333 people had access to water year-round. The Water Project also provided hygiene training, which included teaching the community how to create hand-wash stations using a jerry can, string, and some sticks.

Another method for cleansing water of pathogens before consumption is solar disinfection, referred to as SODIS, where water is placed in a clear plastic bottle and left in sunlight to disinfect. When done correctly, it is a zero cost method of purifying water. In a project that lasted from 2013 to 2015, HELVETAS, a Swiss organization, introduced the SODIS method to the region of Benin. The method was taught at schools and brought to the local government and it resulted in 66,000 people learning how to disinfect their water.

AtmaGo

Other ways to provide clean water to the poor come from technological innovation, such as AtmaGo. Initially launched in Indonesia as a website, it has since become an Android app for originally for building a web of information about water prices. Families in some areas could spend 10 percent of their income on clean water from a vendor, not knowing that better prices could be found nearby. With AtmaGo, this knowledge became more readily available, allowing clean water to become a safe part of a family’s budget. AtmaGo has since taken on other functions, including disaster relief and preparedness. Now, more than one million people in Indonesia use the app.

Hippo Water Roller

Simple innovations can also provide clean water to the poor. A prime example is the Hippo Water Roller, a barrel that can be filled with water, and then rolled long distances via handle. It helps people more much more water than is possible with the containers most communities use, and rolling a barrel is easier than carrying a container. It is a significant boon for communities that have to travel long distances for their water supply.

This has been useful to the communities of Tanna Island in Vanuatu. World Vision International distributed Hippo Rollers to communities in Southwest Tanna, where many live on narrow ridges away from the ocean and cannot rely on wells. The result is a journey of 100 to 300 meters down to rivers, creeks or the sea. The containers often held only 20 liters of water for transport at a time. The Hippo Roller, by contrast, holds 90 liters of water and can be transported more easily. As a result, Tanna communities have easier access to clean water, which means more time for the children who help with water collection to study.

Wide-scale installation, increased communication and simple innovation are all ways to provide clean water to the poor, and anyone can help implement them. New, more efficient methods of water preservation and transportation are always in demand. The organizations undertaking these efforts require constant funding and a steady supply of manpower. Thanks to dedicated organizations and people from all walks of life, solutions that provide clean water to the poor remain plentiful.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Start Up Nation 
Out of the ashes of World War II rose a small, independent nation situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Since 1948, the nation of Israel has become a great leader in innovation and technology. In just 70 years, Israeli settlers have transformed the country’s desert landscape into lush green gardens by high-tech agricultural methods. With a population just over 8.5 million, Israel has earned the nickname “Start-Up Nation” which rose to popularity in 2009 after Israeli author Dan Senor’s book.

MASHAV Providing Humanitarian Aid

Since 1958, Israel has been committed to providing humanitarian aid through the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation and provides more assistance to more than 140 countries. MASHAV helps alleviate hunger, disease and poverty by providing technology and training to places all across the globe including Cambodia, Guatemala, Albania and Ethiopia.

Since 1959, MASHAV has been sending Israeli eye-doctors to countries throughout the developing world to help combat preventable blindness and ocular disease. It has also introduced Israeli drip-irrigation systems to sub-Saharan African countries to aid in providing water to more regions, especially during times of drought. MASHAV has also started a project called Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, which teaches farmers throughout India new agricultural methods.

The Pears Program for Global Innovation

Israel has made it a priority to assist developing countries through entrepreneurial efforts. The country has “the largest number of startups per capita in the world, 1 startup for every 1,400 people.” One example is a company called The Pears Program for Global Innovation, which aids people affected by poverty by supporting Israeli innovators and companies that create technology-based, financially sustainable solutions.

The Pears Program is responsible for several innovations that could have a lasting impact on the world. For example, through its support to the Mosteq company, Israel has found a way to sterilize mosquitos, which could significantly lower, and eventually, end the spread of diseases like malaria. The company, Soapy, has invented smart capsules containing soap and water to facilitate hygiene in countries where sanitation is an issue or there is little access to clean water.

Ideas for the Future

According to Technion International, “Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than Europe, Japan, Korea, India, and China combined.” What is the secret that makes Israel so ingenious and resourceful? “At the heart of this combined impulse is an instinctive understanding that the challenge facing every developed country […] is to become an idea factory, which includes both generating ideas at home and taking advantage of ideas generated elsewhere,” says Senor in his book “Start-Up Nation.”  Furthermore, Israel values education, which helps to foster innovation.

Idea generation has become the backbone of Israeli society. It has allowed the country to thrive in a desert ecosystem, deliver aid to thousands of countries and defend itself from outside attacks. According to the New York Times, “Years of dealing with terrorist attacks, combined with an advanced medical technology sector, have made Israel one of the nimblest countries in disaster relief.” Other humanitarian programs in Israel are continuing efforts outside and inside the country, like Ziv Hospital, which has treated more than 2,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border seeking urgent medical attention.

The Israeli Innovation Authority estimates that, over the next decade, there will be a shortage of 10,000 engineers and programmers in the high-tech sector. Although this gap allows for future economic growth, it is a big concern for policymakers. Who will fill these gaps? Will Israel continue to be the Start-Up Nation of the World? Hopefully, Israel’s commitment to entrepreneurship in developing countries will come in handy and create more jobs within the country for migrant workers.

Grace Klein

Photo: Flickr

The Posner CenterIn the United States, there are thousands of organizations working to combat poverty. They run on volunteers, paid employees, and countless others who contribute through donations. They sustain themselves through their own hardwork, goodwill and the charity of others. In the heart of Denver, there is an organization called The Posner Center that is bringing these people together and getting them to mobilize domestically by providing many organizations a place to work, collaborate, learn and improve/pioneer methods for fighting global poverty.

What is the Posner Center?

The Borgen Project conducted an interview with program director, Meg Sagaria-Barritt, about The Posner Center. When asked to give an overview of the organization, she informed that there are three main points of focus: “Convene, Connect, and Catalyze.” She then broke this down. “Convene means that we are Colorado’s home for international development. We have the membership of over 150 organizations that work in 100 different countries… 64 of these organizations are on-site tenants in our building.” She quickly interjected, “But we are much more than a building.” She then described what is meant by Connect, “We bring these organizations together to share their ideas. Their top executives get together to swap ideas and to improve their own organizations.” More than a building indeed, The Posner Center is an incubator for international development and collaboration. Lastly, Sagaria-Barritt explains what is meant by Catalyze, “This is the most important aspect of The Posner Center. Through Convening and Connecting, we create real change that is catalyzed right here at The Posner Center.” By mobilizing domestically, The Posner Center is bringing about change all over the world. For every staff member representing an organization in Denver, there are 37 more working internationally, 93 percent of these being native to the country in which they work.

Members Within The Posner Center

iDE is one of the organizations that holds a membership with The Posner Center. They operate on a broad spectrum, helping people from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and many more. Their main focus is on finding innovative technology that will improve the lives of the poor and destitute and then helping companies to market that technology. For instance, their WASH initiative has helped bring sanitation to thousands of homes around the world. But, the sanitation products are distributed at low cost without bankrupting the companies who produce them. The companies actually see profit from the endeavor, creating an ultimate win/win. This was one of the brilliant ideas catalyzed at The Posner Center.

On the opposite end of The Posner Center members is Starfish. Unlike iDE, they do not cover as broad a spectrum. There focus is solely in Guatemala where they invest in the lives of young girls who cannot afford education and training for employment advancement (if they are employed at all). They provide several kinds of educational programs from mentoring to university scholarships.

The Posner Center itself provides one more key function in the form of their International Collaboration Fund (ICF). The ICF offers grants to initiatives across the globe such as The Well-Siting Meter, to which they have allocated $10,000 for clean water in Cameroon and The United States. This is just one of many grants they have made, the rest of which you can find on their website where they have a transparent list of exactly where their funds are being allocated.

How To Get Involved?

Wondering how to get involved? First, The Posner Center is always taking on new tenants. Any organization that would like to take up residence and begin collaborating is welcome to apply. Secondly, The Posner Center has a newsletter, links for subscriptions can be found on the footer of their website. And lastly, visit their website and learn more about what they do. There are always ways to help out just by volunteering time.

The Posner Center is bringing people and development-oriented businesses together in Denver in order to bring about real-world change by mobilizing domestically. Its goal, according to The Nonprofit Centers Network, is to “spur innovation by enabling groups to cross-pollinate through the exchange of ideas, the overlap of programming, and the generation of more comprehensive and lasting solutions to global poverty.’”

– Zach Farrin

Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Innovation Fund
UNICEF’s Innovation Fund is a newly established, non-thematic, pooled fund which has been specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that benefits children. When companies are considered for funding, three core areas are the focus:

  • Products for Youth
  • Real-Time Information
  • Infrastructure

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

UNICEF started its Innovation Fund back in 2016, and raised millions of dollars in the hopes of expanding technology for education for children of poverty across the globe. The Fund offers innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help them take their tested projects to the next stage.

The Innovation Fund allows UNICEF to quickly assess, fund and grow open-source solutions that can improve children’s lives. Financial and technological support is available for companies using technology for education in innovative ways to improve the world. The Fund has made 57 investments in 33 countries, totaling $3.9 million in investments. UNICEF has set a goal to invest in 30 more start-ups in 2018. To date, the Innovation Fund has already invested in twelve companies since the start of 2018, with six in April alone.

Pixframe

The first three newest companies under the Products for Youth are Pixframe, Teliportme and Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp. The last three newest companies funded under Real-time Information are Datawheel Chile, Thinking Machines and Dymaxion Labs.

Pixframe is a Mexico-based company developing a software platform leveraging games-based learning technology for education called Towi. This software strengthens children’s cognitive skills across different areas including memory and attention. The system evaluates children’s skills through a series of activities, which are then analyzed to develop personalized training paths.

Children with disabilities in countries like Mexico face particular challenges as schools’ capacities to diagnose and treat learning disabilities are limited. Towi test can be applied to a group of students simultaneously, without specialized supervision and in just one session, paving the way for a greater scale of disability care.

Teliportme and Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp

Teliportme, based in India, uses WebVR technology for education by creating immersive and enhanced experiences for children. Immersive education has proven to help children understand concepts faster, while learning about and experiencing things what would not have been otherwise achieved. VR experiences can provide a new way of learning topics and making them more exciting and immersive.

Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp is a Chinese company that uses a mobile application, called VRMaker, for Android-based phones which enables children to think, design and create content for VR devices.

The visual programming technology for education is specifically designed with a variety of digital assets that can be used to create everything from stories to education content and games. Children can express themselves with pictures and sound in a virtual world, with links to creating virtual reality stories.

Datawheel Chile

Datawheel Chile is developing a country-wide fully integrated solutions and data visualization engine that merges, optimizes and integrates multiple data sets and streams from multiple official sources, to empower decision makers to make better informed decisions. This technology for educations expands past the classroom and into the community.

Traditional data distribution efforts fail to visualize and deliver data in an integrated manner. Datawheel provides useful insights for the design and evaluation of education, childhood and youth policies. It will also help local governments make informed decisions and monitor key indicators.

Thinking Machines and Dymaxion Labs

Thinking Machines is a Philippines-based company that encompasses a software framework that leverages Natural Language Processing techniques. The software accurately matches huge numbers of records across data silos. In 2016, Thinking Machines was able to link three different Philippine government databases and accurately match records in a fraction of the manual time.

Dymaxion Labs in Argentina addresses the growth of informal settlements in Latin America. These settlements often do not have critical public services such as sanitation and thus result in health and environmental hazards, especially for children.

Census data collection makes it difficult to monitor the growth of such settlements since it is conducted every 10 years (on average).Dymaxion Labs’ solution is also useful for rapid response when strong climate events and humanitarian crises occur in risky zones. It could also be used to monitor population spread and changes as a result.

Through its investments, the Innovation Fund generates value by strengthening communities of problem-solvers, increasing open source intellectual property and growing technology for education to bring results for children.

– Richard Zarrilli
Photo: Flickr