Information and news about innovations

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

Japan’s foreign policyJapan has an advanced transportation system, outstanding outcomes in the field of technology research and a matured business development model. As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan has been expanding its foreign policies to aid developing countries and boosts the global economy.

From Japan’s international cooperation on Pandemic Influenza to NERICA (New Rice For Africa), Japan plays an essential role in solving urgent and consistent poverty issues. Its foreign policies promote the progress of eliminating poverty worldwide. There are three cases of how Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems.

Examples of Japan’s Foreign Policy

  1. NERICA: Food shortage is a continuous problem in Africa. The main reason is low production field. NERICA stands for New Rice for Africa. The Japanese government cooperated with the Africa Rice Center to introduce this program in 1992. This program is applied extensively in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).The Africa Rice Center cooperated with its partners to produce interspecific hybridization, which can combine advantages of two species to increase the yield of rice. In the meantime, the interspecific grains have better ability to tolerate drought, pest and disease. These grains have higher nutrition as well. Japan has adopted various plans to apply different irrigated rice production technology in Tanzania since the 1970s, which has boosted the yield of rice to three times larger than the national average.In 2014, the total production of milled rice in Uganda was 154,050 metric tonnes, but the consumption rate was 215,707 metric tonnes. NERICA plays a vital role to ameliorate the Ugandan food shortage problem by increasing rice varieties. Most farmers are planting NERICA rice because its mature time is shorter, the yield is higher and it is more tolerant to drought and viruses. For example, NERICA 6 is immune to Yellow Mortal Virus and NERICA 1 only takes 100 days to mature.NERICA is a typical example of how Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems. It ameliorates African food shortage problems efficiently and provides an alternative way for people in SSA to access higher-nutrition and larger-yielding grains.
  2. STI: In September 2015, the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda lists 17 goals to eliminate global poverty issues in sustainable ways. Japan continuously contributes itself to achieve the 2030 Agenda.Japan has abundant human resources and advanced technology. It can help reach the agenda through STI, which stands for science, technology and innovation. STI can contribute to boosting development by using limited sources.Japan will contribute its extensive database, which covers from the ocean up to space, to facilitate the efficiency of international cooperation. In addition, Japan will facilitate people-centered development by offering consistent assistance in areas of information and communications technology, research and development, industrial human resources development and vocational training.In 2015, the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation was established to solve social issues and boost economic growth. The Japanese government will spend $1.8 billion on STI in the next three years mainly on high technology development which has international benefits.For example, outbreak alert innovation can reinforce surveillance of infectious diseases, and mobile innovation can facilitate the urban transportation system by using wireless communication for extension of green light. STI acts as a “bridging force” to connect Japan with the globe by assisting technology training processes and sharing developing STI experiences.
  3. Infrastructure Aid: Japan has consistently been sharing its sources on infrastructure building with other countries. For example, in September 2017, Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail was launched when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India. This high-speed railway corridor stretches from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, which is a total of 508.17 km.This project is the symbol of cooperation between Japan and India. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered $12 billion in loans to build India’s first bullet train. In the meantime, the Japanese government agreed to bear 80 percent of the total project cost when Prime Minister Abe visited India in September of 2017. Assisting in building infrastructure is another way Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems.

Overall, Japan’s foreign policy helps solve global poverty by sharing resources and advanced technology. For Latin America, Japan will promote its development by improving trade and investment to create a more comprehensive environment for economic growth. For the Middle East, Japan works on overcoming peace-building and human resources development, as well as a sustainable and stable energy supply. Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems through science, technology and innovation.

– Judy Lu
Photo: Flickr

5 Areas Developing Countries Lead the WorldUpon initial inspection, developing countries face many obvious challenges, some of which obscure the progress being made. The realities of poverty can sometimes force this progress; after all, from the bottom, there’s only one way to go: up. Developing countries lead the world now in ways unforeseen perhaps a decade ago, and in some ways have even distinguished themselves on the global stage. Five areas serve to highlight where these countries are outperforming the developed world.

5 Areas in Which Developing Countries Lead the World

  1. Renewable and Sustainable Energy
    On the rocky fringes of a global landscape, developing countries lead the world down some of the most implausible of paths. One such pathway grows greener than others. According to World Bank, an international financial institution that finances capital projects in countries throughout the world, Mexico, China, India and Brazil are among the leaders in sustainable energy policies.In Scoring 111 countries on policies that support energy access, World Bank analytics called Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) took into account each country’s energy access, efficiency, and policies. Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania also received praise for their efforts.Perhaps one reason for this trend could be the falling costs of solar energy, allowing for developing countries to reach their most isolated residents. Whatever the reason, developing economies invested in renewable energy to the tune of $177 billion in 2017. That’s a 20 percent leap in one year.
  2. Election Technology
    In places like Nigeria, electronic voter identification takes precedence over traditional work, while elsewhere, in developed countries like the U.K., the digital jump still hasn’t been made.While the electronic “fixing” of an election may be possible, the likelihood of it working in a persuasive manner depends largely on the closeness of an election. And while elections in places like Kenya meet opposition and challenge, Africa still finds itself ahead in the popular vote, so to speak, when it comes to digital voting technology.
  1. Mobile Money
    Developing countries lead the way in the implementation and use of mobile money technologies as well. Remarkably, Kenya has hit the decade mark with its M-Pesa mobile money service, but it is not alone in this growing trend among developing nations.In a 2017 report by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA), an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators the world over, 277 million registered mobile money accounts dotted sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2016. These services generated $110 billion of economic value and helped to support more than three million jobs.
  2. e-Commerce and Trade
    Commercial transactions conducted electronically online, referred to as e-commerce, might often be associated with advanced economies. However, developing countries also lead the way in this area, in nations like Columbia, Argentina and Nigeria.In fact, in Latin America alone, e-commerce is expected to see growth of nearly 20 percent over the next five years. What does this mean for a developing economy? It means growth opportunities and greater integration within the world’s markets.In terms of countries opening themselves up to trade, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines take center stage. According to the World Economic Forum, an organization that engages world leaders to shape agendas, these countries have now displaced the traditional powerhouses.
  3. Positivity
    A recent poll by Gallup International, a leader in economic and market research, shows that the external powers of money may not necessarily translate to intrinsic happiness. The poll found that optimism came from places like Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.When asked questions about prospects for the future or personal happiness, confidence abounded in places like Mexico, despite grim financial outlooks for the country. Maybe money can’t buy happiness.

Despite lingering stereotypes and growing pessimism in our world, developing countries lead the world in several different areas, and while the change in perception may be gradual, reality dictates a much quicker realization: developing countries make strides every day, and in some cases, set the standard.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

African Technological Innovations
Over the last few years, innovators and inventors have been springing up across the African continent to deliver buzzworthy technological advancements to the world. Though Africa is not conventionally thought of as a global tech powerhouse, the continent is certainly on the rise and gaining recognition for developing original and important technologies. There are a lot of brilliant minds coming out of African countries, and they are using their intellect, resolve and resourcefulness to introduce groundbreaking inventions to the world. These three contemporary African technological innovations are the first of their kind and well worth learning more about.

The First Recycled 3D Printer

With a population of just 7.6 million people, Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa. In recent years, this small nation gained worldwide recognition for accomplishing an incredible feat. In the city of Lome, a team of young innovators operates Woelab, a fablab launched in 2012 where local makers come together to collaborate and create. In 2013, Woelab developed the world’s first fully-functional 3D printer made entirely from recycled parts. Made from used computer parts and other finds, the Woelab innovation is one shining example of resourcefulness, sustainability and ingenuity.

In the years after this impressive first, several creators throughout the African continent have followed in Woelab’s footsteps, creating recycled 3D printers and putting them to use in their own countries. Buni Hub in Tanzania and KLAKS 3D in Ghana have sprung up in recent years, creating and dispensing their own 3D printers to benefit national industries. Kenyan startups Micrive Infinite and African Born 3D are currently using 3D printers to help hospitals cut production costs and become more efficient.

African Technological Innovations Include the First Digital Laser

Another exciting example of African technological innovations comes out of South Africa. Dr. Sandile Ngcobo, a researcher for the country’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, developed an important invention that could revolutionize the worlds of science, medicine and information and communications technology. In 2013, while working on his PhD, Ngcobo created the world’s first digital laser.

Traditional lasers use beams of light that can only be modified with various shaping devices like lenses and mirrors. Ngcobo’s laser does not require these devices. Rather, this laser beam is shaped electronically via computer. The digital laser has applications across several disciplines and is making all the meticulous effort that goes into producing technology using lasers a good deal simpler.

The First Neurotechnology Device

Perhaps the one of the most profound African technological innovations to be introduced to the world in recent times comes from a Nigerian physicist. Oshi Agabi brought forth a groundbreaking innovation called the Koniku Kore in 2017. Named for the Yoruba word for “immortal”, the Koniku Kore is the world’s first neurotechnology device. It combines live neurons and stem cells from mice into a silicon chip, and it has applications for several real-world problems. The device may have the ability to detect cancer cells and explosives alike, an infinitely useful technology in contemporary times.

These outstanding innovations are just three in a growing sea of inventions coming to the global market from Africa. Each of these technologies has useful applications for reducing poverty within their countries of origin and the African continent as a whole. Furthermore, they have great potential to impact the world, revolutionizing ICT, science and medicine across the globe.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr

creativity, innovation and poverty
Mainstream thinking revolves around the idea that emerging nations need the industrialized world to bring innovation to them, since they lack the resources to innovate themselves. Silicon Valley and their cohort have proven themselves to be masters of advancing and solving first-world issues, but they do little to solve the very real problems that exist in the developing world. Their hearts lie in the right place, but, having grown up in a different world with a vastly different life, they tend to lack the knowledge to fully understand what will and won’t work.

The true innovators of our time are those who live within the borders of developing countries, as they are the ones who truly comprehend the complex relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty.

Creativity and Poverty

In an interview with Innovations Online, a technology and entrepreneurial digital magazine, Marcelo Giugale, a senior economic advisor at the World Bank, stated that “innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation is the actual application of an invention.”

According to Ken Burns, an Ashoka fellow in a similar interview with Innovations, the minds in first world countries often innovate for the sake of innovating. When people live in dire situations and are consistently faced with constrained resources, they may be driven to solve problems and create in ways that can fundamentally change their daily lives.

The creativity that comes from the people who live in extreme poverty has the potential to instate meaningful and large-scale change that can improve the lives of millions, and not just those in the middle and upper middle class seen in developed countries. The link between creativity, innovation and poverty is being acted upon within the minds of several talented individuals living in emerging countries.

Map Kibera and Insiders4Good

In 2009, young Kiberans of the Kibera division in Nairobi, Kenya, created Map Kibera, the first open and free digital map of their own community. Until then, it was just a blank spot on the map. The primary goal of Map Kibera was “to find a new solution to an old problem: the lack of participatory democracy in Kibera.” The platform aims to address the omission of Nairobi’s citizens from policy decisions, mass communications and city representation.

The site utilizes the digital age to allow the region’s inhabitants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of data and information. They no longer must rely on the common methodologies of NGOs to learn the facts about HIV, gender, malaria, sanitation and other important health facts in their own community – they can now research the information themselves. Map Kibera has recently grown into a full interactive community project and has expanded to Mathare and Mukura.

Insiders4Good East Africa Fellowship is a training program that, in 2017, brought together 20 young entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who had innovative business ideas that have the potential to improve their communities. The program consists of six months of technical and strategic mentorship from international and local leaders.

Mensa Healthcare and Worknasi.com

Many of these young entrepreneurs utilized the cross-section between creativity, innovation and poverty to address and solve many critical local problems. Using artificial intelligence, Peter Aketch’s Mensa Healthcare provides actionable data to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and governmental agencies.

The necessity for such an innovation is vital due to the healthcare system’s lack of comprehensive and efficient digital record keeping. This innovation will decrease the possibility of misdiagnosis and allow for a more robust collection of public health data.

Eighty percent of graduates in Tanzania struggle to find jobs. This has led to an increase in crime, extremism, drug abuse, and violence. Edgar Mwampinge’s Worknasi.com aims to help these youths by making it easier for start-ups and freelancers to succeed.

His goal is to make shared office space available by connecting these youths with business and office owners who wish to share their workspaces.

IV Drip Alert and Lyon Analytics

In Rwanda, Ange Uwambajimana’s IV Drip Alert enables nurses to more easily manage intravenous fluids through its wireless system. This creative innovation was in response to problems such as embolism which can occur if the medical observer forgets to change the IV at the right time.

And Kenya’s John Mugendi developed a breast cancer prediction system. He proposes that his Lyon Analytics will track the progression from onset to late stages.

2015 Website

2015 is a site that launched in the Middle East. It invites users to submit their own creations that help bring awareness to social issues such as poverty in the Arab region. The relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty is front and center on the site as it showcases images and videos of hunger, the vulnerable and of poverty.

This “movement,” as some have come to call it, was born out of a reaction to the promise made by the nearly 200 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. They pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015; however, as of 2012, the number of people still living in extreme poverty checked in at 3 billion.

The creative mind brings wonderous elements to the world — whether that be in new technological advances in the medical field, social satire, digital communications or a site dedicated to awareness. As long as ambition and goodwill prevail, there will always be a relationship that exists between creativity, innovation and poverty. The 2015 slogan reads, “Art changes perceptions, perceptions change people, people change the world,” and its mantra could not be more right.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

most innovative countries in AfricaInnovation seems impossible to quantify, but the business world has found a way to rank countries based on various forms of data considered to indicate innovation. Innovation indexes can vary, but the 2017 Cornell University Global Innovation Index takes a unique approach to calculating innovation, based on 81 indicators with a focus on human welfare, technological or creative outputs, infrastructure and business sophistication.

10 Most Innovative Countries in Africa

  1. Burkina Faso
    Burkina Faso has focused its innovation on agriculture, with farmers learning how to organize themselves and share new farming practices. The country’s farming innovation has been channeled into poverty reduction.
  2. Malawi
    Malawi has had some interesting innovators, such as William Kankwamba, who created a windmill for power out of locally collected supplies. Malawi’s government still accepts help from varying organizations, including UNICEF, to improve innovations in mobile phone technology and medical care.
  3. Mozambique
    Mozambique has struggled with giving all its citizens access to clean water, as well as with HIV infection and infant mortality rates. However, these struggles have caused the country to look to business opportunities for solutions, leading to innovations in sectors such as tourism, health, education, and natural resources.
  4. Rwanda
    A country known for its civil war and genocide in the past has become one of the most improved countries in innovation index rankings. Rwanda is becoming a central point for information technology and has launched a 4G LTE network, helping to facilitate job growth and economic improvement.
  5. Kenya
    It is no wonder Kenya made the list, as it is becoming well known for its information technology development, thus acquiring the nickname “Africa’s Silicon Valley”. Also prominent are some of its innovators’ more interesting inventions, such as putting a charger in your shoes to charge your phone on the run or connecting an alarm to a TV to deter burglars.
  6. Botswana
    With one of the continent’s most stable governments and economies, and its support of startups, research and even global corporations, it is no surprise that Botswana makes the list of the 10 most innovative countries in Africa. This support and encouragement of growth has created an atmosphere for technology innovation to grow.
  7. Senegal
    Senegal has been known for its business practices and innovation in agriculture, paper and research. However, its growth has not been as substantial as some would have liked, leading to Plan Sénégal Emergent, a plan put in place by the government to bring the country to the forefront of West African economies by 2035 and putting it in the world’s sights.
  8. Seychelles
    Seychelles is one of the newer countries on the list of the 10 most innovative countries in Africa, appearing for the first time in 2014. This is significant because it is the third sub-Saharan African country to rank in the upper half of the Global Innovation Index.
  9. South Africa
    Of these countries on this list, South Africa makes the news the most in regards to its innovative capacity. The main limiting factor for the country has been its inability to maintain and grow innovative thinkers, many of whom are lost to emigration to the U.S. and the U.K. If this trend can be reversed, the country would see a strong change in the tide as it moves up the innovation list.
  10. Mauritius
    Mauritius tops the list of the 10 most innovative countries in Africa and has been in the top half of the index since 2011. It has the advantages of being a tourist destination and maintaining stability. The government has also put a focus on innovation by investing in research into job and wealth creation.

These countries utilize their stability and market-oriented economy to foster innovation. Many find that democratic countries have a higher likelihood of increasing and maintaining their innovation. While Africa still has work to do in comparison to other regions, it is making headway and moving forward.

– Natasha Komen

Photo: Flickr

Slums
In 2001, 65 million people in India were living in slums without decent living conditions or any access to water and food on a daily basis. According to Berkeley research, more ore than 80 percent of the urban population in India cannot afford a concrete slab to be used as a roof.

For those who can afford a roof in slums, most of the time they are made of cement or metal sheets, which has a very bad effect on health and leads to poor quality of life. Witnessing such a lack of basic need, Hasit Ganatra, engineer and founder of ReMaterials, conceptualized a new type of roof named ModRoof to improve lives in slums.

According to ReMaterials, ModRoof is a “modular roofing system” that can improve shelters in slums and village homes in developing areas. Eco-friendly, easily removable and simple to install, it is also designed to be strong, waterproof and fire-resistant.

In addition, ModRoof is available for a low cost. Payable through microfinance companies, a very popular system in developing countries, the program solves the main obstacle to better facilities in worldwide slums: the price.

ReMaterials is currently considering embedding solar cells in ModRoof, which would allow houses to have power LED lights and outlets to charge phones. Employing solar power with ModRoof would be a huge step forward, as providing electricity to these shelters could assist in lifting the residents out of poverty.

“Worldwide experts told us to give up; they said we’d never do it,” said Ganatra in an interview with BBC. “But when you see this sort of problem [in the slums] you have to do something about it.”

Thus, the stark blue rooftop from ReMaterials is set to change lives. With continued persistence from Ganatra and his team, ModRoof will allow families living in slums all around the world to sleep in a safer, warmer environment.

– Léa Gorius

Photo: Flickr

New Tech InfrastructureThe recent ravaging of the island territory of Puerto Rico, first by Hurricane Irma, then by Maria, is a reminder of the sheer destructive mayhem Mother Nature can wield—but also of the ability of individuals, businesses and governments across the globe to come together to solve problems and help those in need. Although the storms undoubtedly caused major problems, they also offered opportunities for change and innovation.

One such possibility is the chance to build a new tech infrastructure from the ground up. Many U.S. companies are stepping up to join in on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Under the direction of Elon Musk, Tesla is sending its Powerpack battery system to Puerto Rico to help homes, businesses, hospitals and schools use their existing solar panels by providing energy storage. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is sending special balloons to help restore cell phone connectivity in areas where the infrastructure is down. Meanwhile, Facebook pledged $1.5 million in relief money to various charities and sent employees to Puerto Rico to work toward restoring internet connectivity to the island.

In an interview with USA Today, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló spoke about talking with Elon Musk. He affirmed that they were looking into batteries and solar panels as a long-term solution to transform energy delivery and bring down costs for the island.

The new tech infrastructure is direly needed. As The New York Times notes, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was already $9 billion in debt before the two hurricanes hit. PREPA declared itself insolvent in 2014 and ceased making debt payments, forcing a debt restructuring deal that has yet to be finalized. To make matters worse, PREPA has been at the center of a corruption scandal, making it harder to unify the public behind its mission and importance.

But, according to Puerto Rico resident Gabriel Rodriguez, tech company aid to the island has been very polarizing. In his words, “People are really for it or against it. There are the people that say that of course it’s going to be a great improvement for us… but then there’s a lot of people that are very mad because they say we are selling the island to outside interests.”

Ina Fried of Axios speculates that the American companies currently volunteering side-by-side on the island will eventually compete with each other for larger-scale rebuilding contracts. The heavy lifting won’t come free, and this is likely the source of some Puerto Rican worries.

One of the challenges of rebuilding will be to do it in a way that respects Puerto Ricans’ autonomy and independent identity. These fears of selling out to foreign interests are similar to the ones that inspired the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s that toppled Fulgencio Batista and put Fidel Castro in power.

While the two situations are not politically analogous, the tales of government corruption and fears of foreign influence are, and those U.S. companies interested in helping would do well to approach the situation with sensitivity. There is room for all parties to share in the profits and rewards that a new tech infrastructure in Puerto Rico can yield.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr