Poverty AlleviationFor the past four decades, the Chinese government has viewed poverty alleviation as integral to its economic development. The government’s efforts against poverty have intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping who proposed ambitious measures to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020.

China has made tremendous progress in alleviating poverty through the government’s efforts, as the number of people living in poverty in China has fallen from 750 million in 1990 to just 16.6 million in 2019. However, obstacles remain ahead of China’s efforts to completely eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for its residents.

Poverty Eradication Under Xi Jinping

In 2014, China’s government implemented a strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which allows the government and local officials to address the needs of individuals and households rather than entire villages. Local officials use data from a local registration system containing information from more than 128,000 villages to identify and provide support to poverty-stricken areas. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, Targeted Poverty Alleviation follows an approach based on policies in five areas:

  • Industrial development
  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Eco-compensation
  • Relocation

 At a local level, the Targeted Poverty Alleviation program employs the pairing-up strategy, which enables impoverished families in western provinces to receive support from the more affluent eastern provinces. Officials who exclusively support rural inhabitants support impoverished households, including those in ethnic minority areas. The government supports the local industry by establishing internet commerce centers in rural areas known as Taobao villages. In Taobao villages, rural residents can support themselves by selling crops and local products online. By 2015, Taobao villages supported 200,000 shop owners and employed one million people.

The Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign has also implemented nationwide initiatives to facilitate industrial development. In 2019, China spent 19 billion dollars on a variety of infrastructure initiatives. Through these initiatives, China has been able to build or renovate more than 124,000 miles of roads and provide 94% of rural villagers with internet access.

China also uses a resettlement program to help elevate rural residents from poverty. Under this program, the government encourages residents in remote and ecologically vulnerable rural regions to relocate to areas closer to the cities. By one estimate, over nine million people have been resettled by this initiative between 2016 and 2020. Increased economic opportunities in cities and reforms that allow greater internal migration in China have also encouraged resettlement. These migrations have resulted in China’s urbanization rate rising from 17.92% in 1978 to 57.3% in 2016.

Metrics of Success

China’s efforts to alleviate poverty have been judged as tremendously successful by most measures. Between 2014 and 2019, 68 million rural residents have risen from poverty. China’s reforms to its economy has enabled 730 million people to emerge from poverty over the past four decades, accounting for nearly three-fourths of global poverty accomplishments from this time period. According to the UN Millennium Global Development Report, China’s policies have enabled the international community to meet the UN’s goal of reducing extreme global poverty by 50%.

China’s economic success has enabled it to address disparities between its urban and rural populations in healthcare. Urban and rural populations have both witnessed infant mortality rates decline below 1%, and maternal mortality rates for urban and rural mothers have declined and attained parity at the level of two per million in 2019.

Obstacles

Despite China’s progress in eliminating poverty, the nation continues to face obstacles in attaining its ambitious standards and supporting the needs of poor residents. Local officials’ administration of financial support is often arbitrary or impeded by stringent bureaucratic procedures, which has resulted in some poor households being denied or receiving insufficient financial support. The increased funds invested in poverty alleviation efforts has also contributed to significant “corruption and mismanagement.”

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported that 730 yuan (112.21 million USD) in poverty alleviation funds were misappropriated in 2018 through violations, such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery. The government uses the CCDI to maintain oversight on how its funding is used, and officials who fail to accomplish poverty reduction in their region face expulsion from the Communist Party and “career oblivion.”

The government’s poverty alleviation efforts have also been criticized for its emphasis on the rural poor while ignoring those in urban areas who are struggling to meet high living costs. China’s poverty alleviation campaign invited high polluting industries, such as those that have been associated with reduced air and water quality in impoverished regions, causing many to question whether China’s progress is sustainable. The relocation program has also been controversial as many rural residents often relinquish their land for little compensation, only to subsequently struggle to find work in the cities. Government officials have also expressed impatience with residents who were unwilling to relocate.

The progress of the poverty alleviation campaign was also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial four months of 2020, unemployment rose to 6.2% and one expert calculates that 80 million people in China were unemployed when rural villagers and migrant workers were included in the calculation. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, Beijing has not relented in its endeavor to eliminate poverty, and experts doubt that China will admit to having failed to meet its goal for 2020, regardless of the state of the economy. Regardless of whether China attains its goal for 2020, experts doubt that it will abandon its endeavors to improve its people’s standard of living.

China’s efforts towards eradicating poverty have yielded tremendous success, yet the government and the country’s people will be responsible for ensuring that its progress is sustainable and results in tangible improvements to the standard of living of people in urban and rural areas.

Bilal Amodu
Photo: Pixabay

Project LoonInnovative 21st-century technologies have motivated NGOs and tech companies around the world to develop apps and other online ways for people in developing areas to stay connected. Information provided on the internet or transmitted through SMS assists people worldwide with acquiring resources and employing techniques to advance education, healthcare and agriculture. Unfortunately, some areas remain untouched by the benefits of staying connected because their remoteness prevents internet availability — at least until now. Google’s sister company, Loon, is rising to the challenge of providing internet to remote populations in Africa and recovering populations affected by natural disasters using solar-powered 4G balloons with Project Loon.

Project Loon

Project Loon, which became one of Google’s “moonshot projects” in 2011, began launching balloons by 2013 and partnered with Telkom Kenya in 2018. Following this deal, the solar-powered balloons were tested on 35,000 customers covering over 50,000 square kilometers. The goal was to provide adequate connectivity to underserved and disadvantaged communities, beginning with Kenya. Loon executives stress that providing creative, low-cost solutions is the greatest way to help people, particularly those in rural areas where connectivity could be life-changing. Their passion stems from an intense desire to “challenge the status quo” by “[relying] on knowledge and empathy to make wise decisions.” Initial findings suggest that Loon balloons cover up to 100 times more area than typical cell towers and deliver wifi strong enough for video callings, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, downloading apps and messaging other users.

How it Works

Loon 4G balloons are essentially flying cell phone towers but they are much lighter and more durable. They have the ability to withstand temperatures below -90°C and to remain steady amid violent winds. After being launched in the United States and traveling through wind currents across the world, the balloons begin their 100-day stays in Kenyan airspace, providing internet download speeds up to 18.9 megabits per second in partnership with AT&T.

Although the balloons heavily depend on wind currents as guides, they also have specially designed, state of the art Flight Systems that consist of three main parts: the balloon envelope, bus and payload. The envelope, made of polyethylene plastic, forms what people typically recognize as a balloon. The bus holds solar panels where the battery is charged, the altitude control system that navigates winds using GPS and the safety gear (parachute) for landing. The payload is the internet provider that houses the LTE antenna and the gimbals which liaise between the balloon and the ground. The balloons also depend on lift gas to loft them 20 kilometers into the air and to assist during the descent alongside local air traffic controllers. Loon specifically designates predetermined landing zones where the balloons are either recycled or prepared for reuse by on-site recovery teams.

After the balloons are collected, they are closely analyzed for holes and tears, allowing examiners to alter their designs and make the balloons stronger if necessary.

Disaster Preparedness

Resilient balloons can go a long way in addressing disaster preparedness and this also presents a significant opportunity for Project Loon to make a difference. Natural disasters often wipe out infrastructure, leaving populations disconnected when communication is more vital than ever. Because Loon balloons fly at such high altitudes and do not require activation within close proximity, there is greater potential for connectivity.

For example, Loon’s balloons were deployed during an earthquake in Peru where they covered nearly 40,000 square miles and were used following a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. The company’s role in connecting families in the wake of disaster “is a lifeline” for those affected and can have a life-changing global impact.

Loon Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth has expressed concern about the effects of COVID-19 on disconnected populations. Because the virus has obstructed normalcy, connectivity could be the only way to continue education in developing nations. There are numerous agriculture, healthcare and education resources that, with internet connection, can preserve progression, one of Loon’s immediate goals.

Future Flights

To date, Loon has launched 1,750 4G balloons that have spent more than 1 million hours in the stratosphere and connected over 35,000 users, with the most successful balloon remaining aloft for 300 days and counting. The ultimate goal is to maintain a permanent 35-member fleet over eastern Africa in the hope of connecting and empowering developing nations.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Coronavirus Data
Currently battling cholera, measles, ebola revival and the new coronavirus — the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is experiencing one of the worst public health crises in the world. The DRC has seen about 9,300 cases of coronavirus, a small number given its population. Roughly 90% of these cases are located in the Kinshasa Province,  which has a 2.3% mortality rate as of July 2020. At first glance, this number looks very small and suggests that the government has effectively prevented the spread of COVID-19. However, a hard look at coronavirus data in the DRC, reveals otherwise.

These numbers are misleading — given that over 50% of the countries’ population live in rural areas. These regions do not have the same access to testing equipment nor the technology that would provide valuable coronavirus data. As a result, the government’s main objectives now are to slow the propagation of COVID-19, support communities with insufficient medical infrastructure and strengthen the healthcare system. Mobile data is central to accomplishing these goals and avoiding further economic contraction.

The Need for Mobile Data in the DRC

Data is vital to limiting the spread of any virus, as it allows governments to obtain necessary health equipment for communities — based on existing medical infrastructure. Also, proper information enables health officials to warn at-risk citizens, promptly. Mobile data has five stages in the fight against COVID-19:

  1. Population mapping
  2. Plotting population mobility
  3. Adding data about virus spread
  4. Preparing logistics and health infrastructure
  5. Modeling the economic impacts

In countries where most of the population uses the internet, coronavirus data is available in abundance. This, in turn, allows such governments to progress through these five phases, quickly. However, the DRC’s ability to obtain and use coronavirus data is hindered by limited infrastructure. Only 17% of the country’s population has access to electricity. Furthermore, around 70% of the population lives in poverty. Therefore, only 4% can afford the internet.

Improving Information Accessibility

Recognizing its need for data to fight public health crises, the DRC is increasingly funding improved internet access. Most notably, the country partnered with Grid3, a company that helps governments collect, utilize and map demographic and infrastructure data. This results in better population estimates and enables the country to plot its healthcare centers concerning that data. Additionally, the DRC has partnered with various mobile operators, digital health specialists and public health NGOs to jumpstart its data-driven coronavirus policy project. Such projects have already produced promising results, such as mobile connectivity has risen by one million connections from 2019 to 2020.

Data Is the Key

Ultimately, data will be essential to tracking and predicting the spread of the new coronavirus as communities begin to open up. Better data will create more informed policies that will better protect the DRC’s fragile healthcare system and economy. Although the U.N. has said that 50% of all workers in Africa could lose their jobs because of the coronavirus, (putting millions more Congolese at risk of poverty) the DRC’s recent data collection efforts are promising for the future of poverty in the DRC. If the government continues to value mobile data and access to technology, poverty can be greatly reduced. Likewise, widespread electricity and internet availability, as well as the advent of a modernized, more resilient economy will increase the quality of life in the DRC.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Internet in KenyaLoon, a company division of Google, is using balloons to provide internet in Kenya. The Kenyan government is collaborating with Loon to provide more substantial 4G coverage since many areas of Kenya have poor service. In the future, Loon hopes to expand to other areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. Loon is hoping to expedite the process of sending balloons to Kenya because of the increased demand for information during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Importance of Internet Access

UNESCO estimates that 45% of households worldwide do not have internet access. In Africa, 72% of people are unable to use the internet because companies do not see the need to travel to remote locations with less robust populations. Loon is looking to change these statistics by focusing its services in remote areas so people can use apps to communicate with each other.

Internet services help empower people in poverty by offering opportunities for education. Many students in rural areas do not have schools near them, so students rely on quality education through the internet. The Kenya Education Network (KENET) works to bring internet and laptops to various schools in Kenya. KENET has already invested $2 million in supplying free high-speed internet. The internet has become an essential need for educational purposes; Loon’s work will elevate people’s access to these important services.

Are Balloons Reliable To Provide Internet Access?

Loon used its balloons in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the cellular towers. The balloons were deployed to provide immediate internet access for people on the island. Before the official launch, Loon tested out 35 balloons, which led to 35 thousand people being able to access the internet in rural Kenya.

Now that Loon is working to send out more balloons, the company is hoping to cover 31 thousand miles. The balloons are effective for providing internet coverage because they work like normal cell towers. The signal is transmitted for 100 days by software controlled from the ground.

The Future of Reliable Internet In Kenya

Loon expects to deploy more balloons in the future through a partnership with Telkom Kenya. Kenya is one of the leading technological countries in Africa. From 2019 to 2020, an increase of 3.2 million people accessed the internet in Kenya.

One of the barriers for people in poverty in accessing the internet is high-cost data plans. Kenya has higher data prices than other surrounding countries. An unlimited data plan in Nigeria can cost around $26, but the same plan in Kenya allows for only 50GB of data. In Kenya, 36.1% of people live below the poverty line, so many Kenyans do not make more than $1 each day. Cellular data plans are still unobtainable for some of the population.

While the Kenyan government is looking to provide a better signal to rural areas, residents may not have the money to pay for cellular services. Access to more service areas through Loon and cheaper data prices through Telkom Kenya could help increase people’s connectivity.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Pixabay

diminish global poverty
Self-driving cars and trips to Mars might be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Elon Musk. His massive-scale innovations will help humanity as a whole, but Musk’s initiatives are also helping to diminish global poverty. Since he was in college, Musk has sought to help humanity through space exploration, global internet and energy efficiency. The mission of Tesla, which Musk founded in 2003, is to accelerate the world of sustainable energy for the good of humanity and the planet. This mission will also have numerous benefits to the poor and overlooked populations of the world.

Tesla Powered Water Plants

In the coastal village of Kiunga, Kenya, water is available but contaminated. With most water sourced from saltwater wells, communities must bathe and cook with saltwater. Washing clothes and bodies with saltwater leads to painful sores that are hard to heal. On the other hand, drinking and cooking with saltwater leads to health problems like chronic diarrhea or kidney failure. These complications inhibit a healthy and productive society.

Tesla and GivePower offered a solution to Kiunga’s lack of potable water: a desalination plant that solar power and a battery reserve power. GivePower is a nonprofit organization aiming to provide resources to developing countries; it was acquired by Tesla Motors in 2016. A solar water farm that Tesla Powerwalls facilitated stores energy from solar panels to fuel the Kiunga facility at night and when there is a lack of sunshine. This plant produces about 70,000 liters of clean water every 24 hours, giving clean water to 35,000 people daily. This project has improved Kenyans’ lives, and GivePower aims to reach Colombia and Haiti next.

Tesla Powered Micro-grids

In many regions, people take electricity for granted. In Africa, hundreds of millions live without it. According to the International Energy Agency, 55% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack basic electricity access. Energy is essential to power schools, homes and healthcare facilities. A lack of modern energy in developing countries hinders the ability to study, work and modernize. For instance, in Zimbabwe, widespread violence and poverty contribute to a declining economy. One beacon of hope is the money trade, which takes place almost completely electronically. An innovative mobile payment system called Ecocash facilitates financial transactions for customers with mobile phones. To be effective, this process relies on consistent power infrastructure.

One incident in July 2019 exposed the vulnerability of Zimbabwe and its markets. A power outage occurred, and Zimbabwe’s Econet generators failed to power up, resulting in a mobile money blackout. This consequently had detrimental effects on the country’s economy, as the majority of financial systems halted. Over 5 million transactions occur daily through mobile money markets, adding up to around $200 million. Interruptions to power cause Zimbabweans to lose millions of dollars.

Microgrids are the answer. Generated by Powerwalls from Tesla, these self-contained systems of solar panels and batteries can provide power across the globe. Above all, no community is too remote to benefit. Tesla’s Powerwalls will alleviate uncertainties that unfavorable weather, unstable prices and fuel shortages cause. Although they require an investment of $6,500, solar-powered batteries replace archaic diesel-powered generators to ensure stability and diminish global poverty.

StarLink: High-Speed Internet Access Across the World

A lack of internet and mobile applications make life harder in developing countries. Without educational, communication and health tools, the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, an estimated 750 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write. Access to educational tools and resources through the global internet can reduce drop-out rates and improve education levels.

Elon Musk’s StarLink internet would deliver high-quality broadband all over the globe, reaching communities that historically lack an internet connection. The internet can bring education, telemedicine, communication and truth to people oppressed in developing countries. It gives isolated and overlooked communities a chance to become more secure. Using Starlink is straightforward: Plug in the device and point it toward the sky. The costs and benefits of Starlink can be shared across multiple families. The Starlink project strives to place a total of 42,000 satellites in space by the end of 2021, enabling internet access and helping to diminish global poverty.

A Sustainable Future for All

Musk’s focus on energy technologies benefits everyone, including the world’s poor. One obstacle to ending global poverty, especially in extreme cases, is that the poorest populations are usually the most remotely located. However, with Musk’s innovations, even remote rural communities can advance with modern technology.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Internet Connectivity in Cuba
Cuba has long experienced poor levels of internet connectivity and high rates of media censorship. Cuba ranks 125th out of 166 countries with regard to telecommunications infrastructure. Prior to 2012, the country relied on Russian satellites for its internet. The nation sponsors a single main telecommunications corporation, ETECSA, which gives the state full control over internet services and its pricing.

However, within the past decade, Cuba has worked to expand internet connectivity across the island. Both the government and private multinational corporations are working to expand access, increase internet speed, heighten connectivity and lower internet prices for all Cubans.

The following are major innovations to telecommunications and internet connectivity in Cuba:

  • Increasing household access to high-speed internet services and routers
  • Expanding cellular coverage and connectivity of mobile phones
  • Lowering the cost of internet connectivity

Increasing Access

Reports show that more than 5 million Cubans, which equates to about 80,000 households, currently have access to the internet out of a population of over 11 million. This marks a dramatic level of development across the country since the arrival of Wi-Fi in 2013. This change comes primarily as a result of many private and public enterprises aimed at providing faster and more comprehensive internet services to Cubans.

One private multinational company working to improve telecommunications infrastructure is Google. As of 2019, Google began negotiations with ETECSA to establish a cost-free direct connection between their two networks. This involves establishing Google sponsored servers on the island that would dramatically speed up internet services for Cubans. This would be a remarkable partnership considering Cuba’s historic antagonism towards the internet and American companies.

Expanding Connectivity

The government has also developed new strategies to increase internet connectivity in Cuba for its citizens. As of July 2019, the government has allowed Cubans to import routers and create private Wi-Fi networks that can connect to ETECSA from any household. This is a departure from the previous situation where Cubans could only connect to the internet from clearly defined public hotspots.

Since December 2018, mobile phones have also gained 3G connectivity. Reports determine that 2.5 million Cubans currently have 3G connectivity, allowing them to connect to ETECSA from household hotspots as a result of newly acquired private routers. This has further improved levels of communication and interconnectedness across the island since 2018.

Lowering Cost

With the aim to expand the breadth of internet connectivity in Cuba, ETECSA plans to open 1,400 new hotspots across the country, in addition to lowering the price of connecting to the internet to $1 per hour from $4 per hour in 2015. This expansion of hotspots, paired with the individual possession of routers and 3G phones, will widen the reach of broadband internet exponentially. The lower cost of connecting, however, is still exorbitant when the average income per month in Cuba stands at only $50.

Political Ramifications

With the rise of internet connectivity comes increased communication, organization and debate among citizens. One central debate raging since the introduction of the internet is the unaffordable price of connectivity. The cost of connecting to the internet is extremely high for the widely low-income population. This results in internet services being more readily available to the upper classes and systemically prevents poorer Cubans from reaping the benefits of connectivity, despite the cost of connection per hour standing at $1 down from $4 in 2015.

Regarding internet connectivity, only a small percent of the population actually has access to the entire global internet, with the vast majority only being able to access the national internet, which the state monitors, censors and regulates heavily. Cuban officials had previously disregarded the internet as an American tool used for “ideological penetration by the enemy,” but many top officials have reversed course within the last decade and have begun hesitantly sponsoring initiatives to expand internet access. Despite this infrastructure expansion, the central government continues to be the sole provider of internet services and censors dissenting websites or users. This censorship has caused tension as increased access to the internet has given rise to multiple independent online news publications presented as alternatives to and watchdogs over the state-sponsored media.

Now independent voices have a platform on which to present and defend their dissenting opinions of the central government. These citizens and journalists share the views and opinions of the economically disenfranchised and critique the governing authorities.

Conclusion

Within the last decade, Cuba witnessed extreme developments in internet and telecommunications infrastructure relating to increased access, greater connectivity and lower costs of connecting. The country has developed initiatives of its own to foster growth and connectivity, partnering with private corporations to aid with this endeavor. Internet connectivity in Cuba is critical to helping the poor, increasing economic and social development and keeping the country competitive on the world stage. This surge in connectivity comes at the hesitant approval of the central government, which continues to censor and filter national media outlets. Dissenting opinions and alternative media have developed within this new technological arena, laying the foundation for future political and social changes.

Ian Hawthorne
Photo: Flickr

Quingyuan's Agricultural Sector
With the ability to connect people faster than ever, 5G has transformed Quingyuan’s agricultural sector from an impoverished community to a thriving online agricultural production center in less than a year.

How can 5G Alleviate Poverty?

5G is better than 4G for three main reasons: higher bandwidth, lower latency (lag time) and much faster speeds. The implications of 5G are endless for these reasons. Specifically, 5G can alleviate poverty by driving economic growth. The Imperial College of London found that a 10% increase of mobile broadband, or more commonly known as wireless internet access, is associated with a 0.6-2.8% increase in economic growth.

Installation of 5G in Quingyuan

Quingyuan is home to over 3 million people. It is a city located in northern Guangdong, a coastal province in South China. Quingyuan became China’s first administrative village to be covered by 5G networks, two months ahead of schedule. Citizens in Quingyuan began using 5G last fall with the installation of two 5G base stations.

Guangdong’s Goals for 5G

According to the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Department of Guangdong Province, Guangdong will use 5G to further assist the country’s rural revitalization strategy. The overall goal of the rural revitalization strategy is to provide rural areas with the necessary tools so the citizens can have pleasant living conditions, thriving businesses and prosperity. Guangdong plans to focus on building both a 5G smart agricultural pilot zone and, ultimately, a 5G agricultural industrial cluster. 5G would allow farmers to utilize technology to monitor their crops and host webcasts to sell them.

Intelligent Agriculture

In the Lianyi village of Quingyuan, farmers are using an intelligent agricultural base to increase labor input while alleviating poverty. The intelligent agricultural base is a targeted poverty reduction project from Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. There are 10 planting areas in the agricultural base, which covers an area of more than 16 acres. The agricultural base uses advanced technology to manage and monitor the crops, which increases the traceability of agricultural products. The system has irrigation pipes and a weather station to monitor the environment as well.

After the execution of the project, the land rental income of villagers increased by around $6,298. The working income of poor households and villagers also saw an increase of about $57,109 after the implementation of the project.

Webcasts

Another way 5G has transformed Quingyuan’s agricultural sector is allowing farmers to host live-streaming promotions, which substantially increase the number of customers that local farmers can reach. Lu Feihong, secretary of the Party branch of the Lianzhang village in Quingyuan, noted that “5G not only facilitates access to the Internet, but also establishes good conditions for [farmers] to develop smart agriculture and e-agricultural businesses through live streaming promotions.”

According to Feihong, watermelon farmers sold their entire harvest, totaling more than 55,000 lb, in May 2020. A yam farmer experienced a similar situation when he was able to sell his entire harvest of 16,000 lb worth of Chinese yams after an online webcast that attracted more than 400,000 viewers.

5G transformed Quingyuan’s agricultural sector and helped farmers in the city maintain, and even increase, their incomes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr

5G Internet Could Reduce Poverty
With the “fourth industrial revolution” underway as technology rapidly advances and changes the global outlook, fifth-generation (5G) internet has proved to be a breakthrough that could potentially pull millions out of poverty. One can characterize 5G internet by its high speed, high capacity and low latency with a bandwidth almost 10 times more than fourth-generation (4G) internet. Peak download speeds for 5G internet are around 20 gigabits per second, allowing users to download full movies, videos, advanced Internet of Things (IoT) software or artificial intelligence (AI) in minutes. 5G internet could reduce poverty significantly if countries implement the correct infrastructure for it.

Many countries have already begun building 5G networks. According to a report by Cisco, at the end of 2019, 26 countries were commercially selling 5G programs, 14 of which were developing countries. Countries with high rates of poverty could especially benefit from 5G internet as it would provide a stable internet connection and allow them to access a wealth of online resources. Below are seven ways 5G internet could reduce poverty.

7 Ways 5G Internet Could Reduce Poverty

  1. 5G internet could further advance the Sustainable Development Goals set for completion by 2030, especially surrounding “inclusive and equitable” education for all. The communities that live in rural locations most commonly face difficulties accessing educational resources. According to the World Economic Forum, construction of a school would have to happen every hour for 11 years in order to ensure enough schools for all of the children living in sub-Saharan Africa. 5G internet could connect those in unreachable locations to online teaching resources and remote learning opportunities. The speed of 5G internet could allow students to tune in live to classrooms globally.
  2. Healthcare, which has lagged far behind in many developing countries, could see massive reforms as part of 5G internet access. New AI and IoT devices could revolutionize the industry. New surgeons in training can wear haptic gloves that track hand movement to send to professionals across the globe so they can correct and mentor them. Virtual reality and 3D imaging allow medical professionals to aid in surgeries in rural areas. AI could even enable remote surgeries or checkups.
  3. Compared to 4G networks, 5G can reduce energy consumption by 50% to 95%, said the European Investment Bank. Energy poverty is already a prevalent issue, which is a lack of access to energy as a result of its high cost. Reducing energy usage further would allow 5G to be more affordable and sustainable.
  4. The internet has already allowed massive globalization to take place which has expanded global output by millions of dollars. 5G will continue this revolution – by 2035, IHS economics and technology has determined that 5G internet will enable $12.3 trillion in global economic output. In addition, it should allow the creation of 22 million jobs, meaning a vast new market could open up for employment in all countries.
  5. With new AI and IoT devices monitoring factors, such as rainfall, water content, nutrients in the soil, ground temperature and more, 5G internet should encourage the rise of “smart” agriculture. This technological push to increase farmer efficiency has already begun but faster data speeds and larger bandwidth that allow the installation of more sensors and larger-scale technology should accelerate it. Intel estimates that the global smart agriculture market will rise to $23.44 billion by 2025 and that 55% of data on farms will come from IoT devices. Impoverished countries could especially benefit from these advancements as they will allow higher crop yields, saving money and feeding a larger portion of people.
  6. People could use unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones) in combination with 5G internet to supply a larger area. Especially in rural areas where built-in infrastructure would not provide for all of the people who need it, traveling drones could circulate 5G networks to all that need it. A farmer who is trying to use a cellular device on a large plot of land could have a personal unmanned aerial vehicle that would travel with them as they inspect the whole field, ensuring that their 5G network never experiences an interruption.
  7. Emerging countries are especially willing to build 5G infrastructure as it is more affordable than previous internet structures and proves to have a large payoff. The implementation of 4G networks is often more expensive with less energy efficiency, sustainability and economic increase, causing developing countries to jump straight into adding 5G infrastructure. India, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, Qatar, Oman and Uruguay have been some of the first countries to modify their industrial transformation programs. In addition, due to the fact that many western developed countries have banned or restricted 5G data networks until recently, major 5G players such as China have increasingly marketed to developing nations.

Currently, 5G internet is accessible mostly in urban areas due to population density, but rural areas will not lag far behind if areas put the right infrastructure in place. South African cities and Cape Town were the first in Africa to see 5G due to the growth of Rain, a South African company. These seven facts about how 5G internet could reduce poverty show that it holds a bright future for many of the developing countries and will be a key player in the coming years.

Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Flickr

Internet Access in the DRC
Internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been almost nonexistent for the past decade. The DRC’s internet access is 145th in the world, which is horrendous knowing the haunting past of its internet accessibilities. It was just in 2019 that the DRC lost its internet access completely amidst its election cycle. This has become a growing trend amongst several African and Asian nations, as governments are becoming more capable of shutting down electronic ways of communication and civil discourse. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Skype have cut communication. Here is some information about internet access in the DRC.

Economic Burden of Internet Loss

The financial burden that the DRC has faced has become an eroding problem after every internet shutdown of 83 million people. NetBlocks and the Internet Society, both internet access groups, calculated these shutdowns by using an algorithm. NetBlocks is a website that has a Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) that “estimates the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and U.S. Census.” NetBlocks estimated that the DRC’s shutdown costs an economic downturn of $3 million or more. This paints a bleak picture for the people of the DRC and their government.

Cutting off internet access is one thing but to cut it off at the expense of losing capital funds is a losing feat on both ends. The Internet Society has been trying to answer the question, how can internet access be better for the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

New Approaches to Internet Access

In 2019, The Internet Society started working on launching the second Internet Exchange Point in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kojo Boakye, that Head of Public Policy for Africa, said that “This new infrastructure will help improve connectivity by lowering the cost of delivering Internet services to people in the region.”

Since then, the DRC has seen a steady increase in internet access. Mobile connectivity has increased by 1 million (3.1%) from January 2019 to January 2020. This increase still means that 60% of the DRC’s total population does not have a mobile connection via the internet. Social media accounts have increased by 680,000 (28% increase) from April 2019 to January 2020.

The Future of the Internet in Congo

With TIS and NetBlock’s help, internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should continue to expand as more IEP emerge. Another way of helping the Congo is by advocating for the removal of censorship laws from laws like No. 13/2002. No. 13/2002 “governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense.”

Not complying with these laws makes internet service providers like Bharti Airtel and Orange Group afraid that the country could revoke their licenses. If these laws change or the DRC puts a new one in place, internet access in the DRC should allow others to hear all voices without the government’s force.

Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

internet access in africaIn most developed countries, paper consumption has quickly been reduced as digital resources have offered a more efficient alternative to the traditional pen and paper. However, digital technologies are used neither equally nor to their fullest extent around the world. In many African countries, for example, a 5GB movie could take hours to download. In Singapore, however, that same 5GB movie could be downloaded in less than 12 minutes. As a continent, Africa’s access to high bandwidth internet ranks among some of the lowest compared to the rest of the world. In a growing digital age, it is nearly impossible to thrive when the minimum technological requirements are not met as a continent.

Internet Access in Africa

According to InternetWorldStats, roughly 39% of Africa’s entire population had access to the internet as of December 2019. As of 2019, “17.8% of households in Africa had internet access at home“, and “10.7% of households in Africa had a computer.” These percentages might seem low considering that computer technology is more prevalent than ever before. In Africa, however, high-quality internet access is a luxury many people cannot afford.

Barriers to Internet Access

Affordability is the biggest issue concerning internet access in Africa. Internet access in many African countries is expensive compared to countries outside of the continent. Africa as a whole has the least affordable internet prices on the planet. In the Alliance for Affordable Internet’s annual affordability report for 2019, it stated that “across Africa, the average cost for just 1GB data is 7.12% of the average monthly salary.” To put it in perspective, if the average U.S. consumer had to pay 7.12% of his or her average monthly salary for internet access, it would cost nearly $373 per month to access only 1GB of data.

Solutions

Although the amount of people who have high bandwidth internet access in Africa is low today, numerous organizations are working to close the continent’s digital divide. For instance, an initiative called the Africa Digital Moonshot aims to digitally connect all facets of life in Africa by 2030. Some of the “Moonshot Objectives” include:

  1. Establishing more digital infrastructure

  2. Teaching basic digital skills and literacy

  3. Increasing the amount digital platforms

  4. Making Digital financial services more accessible

  5. Expanding upon digital entrepreneurship

To see this dream come to fruition, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development laid out the first goal for the initiative in a past report: doubling Africa’s broadband connectivity from its current number by 2021. If this is achieved by next year, the plan to implement good quality, universal internet access in Africa by 2030 is on schedule. Although these developments are necessary for improving internet access in Africa, they come with a hefty price tag, since roughly $100 billion is needed to cover numerous implementations (such as infrastructure, legal costs and network management.) Even though the goal hasn’t been achieved yet, internet access rates in Africa are moving in a positive direction. Moreover, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development is closer than ever to reaching its Seven 2025 Targets for worldwide, universal high bandwidth internet access.

The Economy and Internet Access

Experts also have stressed the critical role high bandwidth internet access in Africa will have for boosting Africa’s economy in the future. Makhtar Diop, the World Banks’ Vice President for Infrastructure, stated that “the digital agenda is first and foremost a growth and jobs agenda.” He goes on to explain that “broadening internet access means creating millions of job opportunities.” When it comes to job creation, universal internet access not only improves domestic business but it also allows for more participation in marketplaces worldwide. For many Africa countries, e-commerce is heavily underutilized, but installing suitable, accessible internet throughout the continent can make conducting e-commerce internationally a top priority for most African businesses.

Given the positive progress Africa has made over the past 20 years concerning internet access, many are optimistic about the continent’s online presence development for the near future. E-commerce, telehealth, mobile education and many other virtual alternatives are slowly becoming more prevalent throughout Africa. The necessary first steps toward improving internet access in Africa have yielded positive results, and these plans for improving access are only the beginning of the continent’s untapped digital potential.

– Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Flickr