How the Technology Gap Censors and Silences the World's PoorTechnology often feels like it has inundated our lives, yet about 60 percent of the world’s population does not have Internet access. Technological progress has jumpstarted globalization and fed growing economies, but the International Monetary Fund shows that it has also created a technology gap that is the driving force in inequality. The voices of impoverished people are almost completely lost in today’s technological world.

China made headlines in the U.S. recently for their technological censorship. The Communist Party holds congress October 18 and as the date has been approaching, the Chinese government has interfered with communications they cannot directly monitor. It is easy to criticize such blatant corruption – the story even made New York Times headlines – but there is comparably little concern over the fact that poverty creates a societal censorship more crippling than any government.

The freedom to communicate has been autonomous for most of history, only hindered by disability or geographical and cultural divide. Technology gave the world a solution to these roadblocks and seemed to “shrink” the world. But now it has been marketized so much that a single shift in Apple’s quarterly earnings will shift the entire Dow Jones Industrial Average. Technology is commercialized and treated as a privilege rather than a right, taking the right to communicate along with it.

The U.N.‘s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development names the technology gap as one of the greatest obstacles to eradicating poverty. The Mexico delegate expressed that bridging that gap means “embracing the information society which was plural, transparent, decentralized, democratic and egalitarian.”

China’s censorship is only one symptom and one example of a government working against that vision. The country ranks 79th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which is even a relatively liberal position compared to some of the world’s poorest countries. The majority of the most corrupt countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and northward into the Middle East. Business Insider’s list of the poorest countries, based on International Monetary Fund data, shows the same pattern and attributes the correlation to “authoritarian regimes where corruption is rampant.”

Two of the best examples of this are the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Ranked the two poorest countries in the world, they are also both on the list of the 20 most corrupt countries. Furthermore, in the Central African Republic, just over four percent of the population are Internet users, whereas just under four percent are Internet users in the Congo. About 10 years ago, that number was less than one percent in both countries. The technology gap means that people who need the world’s help the most unfortunately do not have the resources to ask for it.

The U.S. passed a piece of legislation this year called The Digital Gap Act, which was implemented in September and hopes to bring first time Internet access to 1.5 billion people by 2020. This is just one step – though an important one – in the direction toward a global society that is representative of the entire population, and a step toward helping eradicate poverty by ensuring those who need it most have access to helpful technology.

Brooke Clayton
Photo: Flickr

Senate Committee Votes "Yes" to Improving Global HealthThe Senate Committee on Appropriations made significant progress for improving global health on September 7 by approving both the FY 2018 State & Foreign Operations (SFOPs) and the FY 2018 Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations bills. Both of these bills intend to allocate money to important global health initiatives.

After months of controversy surrounding President Trump’s drastic cuts to these initiatives in his proposed FY 2018 budget, funding in the Senate’s budget for all program areas was above the President’s FY 2018 budget request and either matched or exceeded final FY 2017 levels. The proposed levels of funding are a clear rejection of President Trump’s proposals.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle came together to offer bipartisan support. One uniting factor was the $2 billion proposed increase for the National Institutes of Health and $29 million increase in funding for the Department of Education.

The funding proposed in this bill will be very important for improving global health. The budget proposes funding of $8.6 billion to the State Department and USAID, which handle all the majority of global health assistance programs. This number represents a $2.1 billion, or 32.6 percent, increase from President Trump’s proposal. The budget also allocates $433.6 million to the CDC for global health.

Many specialized global health programs will benefit from this funding. Here are some of the highlights:

  • $1,350 million as the US contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
  • An increase to $261 million in total funding for Tuberculosis
  • An increase to $202.5 million in total funding for Global Health Security
  • $23 million in funding for Vulnerable Children, which President Trump had eliminated from his request
  • $622.5 million for Family Planning and Reproductive Health
  • Repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which President Trump had reinstated with an executive order in January

One especially important program receiving funds is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), which is working to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria. The prevalence of antimicrobial resistance is growing at an alarming rate and especially impacts developing countries.

The Senate’s approval of these bills has important implications for the future of global health. While much work still must be done to actually approve the budget, these numbers are certainly a step in the right direction and indicative of a commitment to improving global health.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr

How to Become a PoliticianPoliticians are vital to a successful country, state or municipality. Their main task is to represent the beliefs and needs of their constituents at the various levels. They create laws and carry their people through good times and bad times, and they often hold large amounts of power.

Politicians must represent the political, financial, administrative, economic, educational and other interests of their constituents. Most politicians strive to get elected to office in order to participate in creating legislation that supports those interests and eventually move their way up tot the state or national level.

But how does one actually become a politician? The following are important steps to answer the question of how to become a politician:

 

Step 1: Learn the Essentials

There are a few critical characteristics and steps to achieve before even considering the logistics of how to become a politician. First, one must understand politics. As simple as it sounds, the political landscape is vast and ever-changing, and it requires a certain finesse to navigate. Developing strong communication skills is another important necessity.

In order to convince constituents of one’s trustworthiness and effectively communicate their interests, one must be an exemplary and effective communicator. Finally, politics is not for the faint-hearted. There are significant risks involved with running for office, including risks to financial security and permanent reputation. Also, politicians often receive harsh criticism, so potential politicians have to have thick skin.

Step 2: Raise Money

Assuming that an individual possesses the aforementioned qualities, he or she needs to secure finances as quickly as possible. Money is arguably the best predictor for the outcome of an election. In fact, even the very best candidate will fail miserably without proper funding.

Running for office is a job in itself and often requires that the candidate take time off his or her work, which may cost his or her a year or more’s worth of salary. Money is especially critical for those seeking to serve at the state or national level.

Step 3: Gain Experience

When considering how to become a politician, a good way for complete beginners to enter into the political world is to volunteer or work at another politician’s office who is in their chosen party. This experience will expose the future politician to the job and allow him or her to build connections and work experience. As time goes on, he or she may even be promoted and considered by the party for a nomination. After that, the most important task is to connect with and advocate for one’s constituents.

These are important steps, but certainly not the only ones one must consider when wondering how to become a politician. The profession is complex, demanding, and requires a great deal of responsibility, yet can be incredibly rewarding.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA
The House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Karen Bass (D-CA), joined forces to introduce legislation that will improve economic trade in Africa utilizing the Africa Growth and Opportunity and Millennium Challenge Acts.

The original African Growth and Opportunity Act (or AGOA) is a U.S. Trade Act enacted in May 2000. AGOA enhances access to the U.S. market for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. In order to qualify for AGOA, countries have to be working to improve their rule of law, human rights and respect for labor standards. Although the act originally covered an eight-year time period until 2008, due to various amendments signed by both former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, AGOA has been extended to 2025. The new amendments will update and strengthen the original act.

The amendments to AGOA will make information more readily available over the Internet to users in both Africa and the U.S. while encouraging policies that promote economic trade with Africa. They also provide technical assistance that allows participating countries of AGOA to utilize it to its full capacity.

The second part of this legislation will improve economic trade in Africa through updating the Millennium Challenge Act (or MCA). The MCA was passed in 2003 with the main purpose of providing global economic development through assisting in programs that will eliminate poverty while supporting good governance and economic freedom. These programs are run through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which partners with countries directly in programs that encourage economic growth.

The new amendments to the legislation will allow the MCC to work with more flexibility in their mission to increase regional trade, collaboration, and economic integrity. To accomplish this, the amendments to MCA will allow two projects, or “compacts,” per country simultaneously. In the previous legislation, there was only one allowed—making it particularly competitive. Additionally, MCC’s private-sector board members can extend their term for two years, providing stability. Lastly, the reporting requirements of MCC will be strengthened in order to ensure greater transparency.

Upon the introduction of these amendments to both AGOA and MCA, Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, Rep. Smith and Rep. Bass said in the press release by the Foreign Affairs Committee: “Moving developing countries away from aid and toward trade helps African companies, especially women. But it also benefits U.S. farmers, manufacturers and small businesses by providing new markets for their goods. So today we are introducing a bill to modernize AGOA and MCA—key laws in the effort to encourage African economic independence and promote U.S.-Africa trade. With Africa’s consumer spending expected to reach one trillion dollars, now is the time to accelerate this important trade relationship.”

The introduction of these amendments is a step in the right direction for economic trade in Africa. As so many other countries have invested in the economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa, the US appears to be moving in that direction as well with the updates of AGOA and MCA.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

World Bank
The bullhorn has sounded: implementing an effective foreign policy that reduces global poverty and food insecurities is part of creating the perfect future. Nonprofit organizations aren’t the only ones making this crucial argument; in fact, the World Bank made the same case in its 2017 Governance and the Law Report. These foreign policies should reflect the values of those in and out of power.

“Mechanisms that help give less powerful, diffuse interest groups, for example, a bigger say in the policy arena could help balance the influence of more powerful, narrow interest groups,” the World Bank noted in the report.

Part of the effort to strengthen the economies within developing nations through targeted foreign policy action can come from private interests. According to the World Bank, “Contemporary case studies suggest that business associations have helped government officials improve various dimensions of the business environment—such as secure property rights, fair enforcement of rules and the provision of public infrastructure—through lobbying efforts or better monitoring of public officials.”

In 2016, successful advocacy for a U.S. foreign policy that works towards reducing global poverty and food insecurities resulted in the passing of the Global Food Security Act, the Foreign Aid and Transparency Act and The Electrify Africa Act.

One important aspect of policy development and implementation is that citizens in part drive the process, not just lawmakers. Through elections, political organizations, participation and advocacy, citizens can influence the development of U.S. foreign policies that benefit marginalized communities globally.

“However, all citizens have access to multiple mechanisms of engagement that can help them overcome collective action problems—to coordinate and cooperate—by changing contestability, incentives, and preferences and beliefs,” the World Bank noted in the Governance and the Law Report.

This power underscores the importance of direct communication and advocacy between citizens and their representatives, both state and federal. The World Bank’s report outlined the ways that citizens and political organizations (such as ones built around the common goal of alleviating global poverty) are “associated with a higher likelihood of adopting and successfully implementing public sector reforms.”

There are currently at least eight foreign policy legislation in the congressional pipeline. These include the International Affairs Budget, the READ Act, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act, the Economic Growth and Development Act, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act, the Digital Gap Act and the Global Health Innovation Act.

Citizens can visit The Borgen Project Action Center and join the foreign policymaking process.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr

The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Many in the U.S. feel that is their job to help those in poverty stricken countries. Currently, there are  five bills in legislation that affect global poverty.

International Affairs Budget:
One piece of legislation that affects global poverty is the International Affairs Budget. In March 2017, the Trump administration proposed a 31 percent cut to the State Department and USAID funding. This enormous cut has not been seen since World War II. Programs funded by the IAB create jobs here at home by opening new markets to U.S. businesses and protect our national security by fighting terrorism and preventing conflicts before they start. This piece of legislation that affects global poverty can help those in need.

AGOA and MCA Modernization Act
Another piece of legislation that affects global poverty is the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC) Modernization Act. This legislation that affects global poverty has a rich history. This act has spurred economic development around the world. Strengthening these programs furthers the U.S. position of international leadership and strengthens our domestic economy while protecting our national security interests.

Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act
The lack of education for girls in developing countries can hinder their ability to find jobs, engage in civil society and access other economic opportunities. This piece of legislation that affects global poverty can help. This act will prioritize efforts to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children with a specific focus on the inclusion of women and girls in foreign assistance programs.

Economic Growth and Development Act
The Economic Growth and Development Act seeks to boost market-based economic growth in developing countries. This legislation that affects global poverty also creates opportunities for the U.S. private sector to become more involved in foreign assistance programs by improving planning and coordination among U.S. departments and agencies.

Global Health Innovation Act
The last legislation that affects global poverty can help significantly. Each year, millions of people in the developing world die of infectious diseases, malnutrition and complications due to pregnancy and childbirth. This act seeks to require the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to submit an annual report to Congress on the development and use of global health innovations in the programs, projects and activities of the Agency.

If you feel strongly about any of these issues, visit the borgenproject.org and email your local congressmen. https://borgenproject.org/action-center/

Paige Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Lobbying for a cause is an important part of the political process and a key way all citizens can impact government decisions. There are many ways to advocate for a cause. Here are seven important points to consider when regarding how to lobby for a cause important to you.

7 Ways to Lobby for a Cause

  1. Know background information. Having a holistic picture of an issue and understanding all sides will allow you to have more effective and productive conversations.
  2. Have a clear objective. No matter how broad your cause may be, have specific points to address and keep the focus on a clear goal, such as signing a bill. Refer to bills and pieces of legislation by their specific name and number, and remain up to date on events that could affect your objectives.
  3. Be persistent and personal. A crucial part of lobbying for a cause is building a relationship with members of Congress and their staff. Introduce yourself and tell a story that explains your personal connection to a cause. Bring photos or documents relevant to your story if you have them. These personal touches can make an issue significant for a politician. Similarly, persistence reiterates the importance you place on a cause and is vital for building relationships with your representatives.
  4. Listen. Try and have a conversation with others about your cause rather than doing all of the talking yourself. Pay attention to what questions are asked regarding the cause and your objectives as well as common themes in differing viewpoints. Listening will allow you to better formulate your argument in a way that addresses concerns and dispels misconceptions.
  5. Find allies. Being part of a group not only provides a strong support network that will help you learn how to effectively lobby for a cause, but also shows a Congress member the cause is important and personal to many constituents. Spreading awareness and advocating for a cause is more effective in a group. Beyond other supporters of a cause, also remember the important role staffers play in pushing a cause through. Do not underestimate the importance of your relationships with staffers, and know that they can advocate for you and your cause as well.
  6. Remember the power of positive reinforcement. Do not forget to say thank you and acknowledge tiny positive actions. Whether it is for signing a piece of legislation related to your cause or just taking the time to meet with you, using positive reinforcement in your interactions paves the way for building strong relationships. Collect business cards and contact information from staffers and be sure to follow-up interactions with thank you messages.
  7. Don’t get discouraged. Even if your Congressional offices do not support your cause, remain polite and persistent. There are a myriad of factors influencing political decisions, so do not be discouraged if your objective is not supported immediately or even after years of work. There is no recipe for how to lobby for a cause with 100 percent success. It is important to remain focused on the personal connection you have with this cause and continue to build relationships and find allies to support your work.


Learning how to lobby for a cause takes time and often requires one to re-evaluate their strategies in order to convey their message most effectively. Remaining persistent and listening to all sides of an issue are crucial aspects of lobbying for a cause, and over time can lead to successful results.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

"Honor Killings" in Pakistan: How Social Media Star’s Tragedy is bringing Awareness
The time has finally come. Pakistan announced that after centuries of senseless deaths, they have decided to put an end to the loopholes in the 2004 Honor Killings Act. Legislation brought this act forward in hopes that it would reform society and make honor killings punishable by law.

However, the act was essentially ignored because many religious groups did not support the change as they believed it was a family’s right and part of Islamic law to give families a chance to regain honor. The current law also allowed aggressors to go free if the family forgave them. Consequently, due to the recent and tragic killing of the iconic Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan’s Senate and National Assembly decided to convene.

Baloch, known as Fouzia Azeem to some, was a Pakistani model, actress, activist, feminist and social media celebrity. Baloch gained spotlight after auditioning on Pakistan Idol. She soon became widely known on social media through her pictures, videos and stance on not being afraid to be who she is.

Though loved by many, opposers believed as a Pakistani woman, she should not sexualize herself or interact closely with men. Baloch’s brother, Waseem Azeem, was ashamed by her controversial popularity and on July 15, 2016, he drugged and strangled her to death. He was not remorseful for his actions. He claimed his actions were appropriate in order to bring honor back to his family.

Baloch’s story is one of many. Yet, her calamity can be the one to launch human rights and women’s rights change in Pakistan. According to the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights, “honor killings” have occurred in Great Britain, Brazil, India, Ecuador, Israel, Italy, Uganda, Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco and more. The countries with the highest numbers are India and Pakistan.

In mid-August, the anti-honor killing bill was brought forward. It will hold murderers fully accountable for their actions. As seen in the Baloch case, her brother has been charged and no exceptions to the Act will be accepted. Although an initial bill was introduced in March 2015, it failed because of a lack of political unanimity, which was obligatory for it to be enacted. Now, with the help of the parliamentary committee, change can take place.

Changing traditions and implementing new laws is not easy. It is, however, necessary to protect women and put an end to the acceptance of murder disguised as an honor. According to the Wall Street Journal, “With the support of the lower house of Parliament and support from major opposition parties, the government is expected to have enough votes to pass the bill.”

The consensus on the anti-honor killings bill was “great news for Pakistan.” It was an upward battle and many are excited about the long-overdue change.

Needum Lekia

Photo: Flickr