Women in ScienceGender equality is vital for alleviating global poverty. Women represent 70% of the world’s most poverty-stricken people. Consequently, women need more opportunities in the job market and increased access to health and education resources in order to truly thrive. Uplifting and empowering women all over the world will lead to greater progress with global poverty reduction efforts. In particular, women in science have the potential to ignite impactful breakthroughs.

Society, Culture and Bias

Women’s empowerment starts with the foundation of education. Research shows that, as it stands, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. One can explain this by cultural beliefs and social norms inhibiting women from pursuing a scientific education and career.

The gender gap in science underscores a societal bias. Furthermore, because the majority of researchers are men, research is less likely to head in the direction of improving the struggles and concerns that women face. Providing more opportunities in science and technology for women would help promote technological breakthroughs and progress for the betterment of both genders.

Women in Science

Data shows that although the share of women in science differs according to specific countries, women have experienced global underrepresentation in scientific and technological fields. For instance, in 2016, women represented 55% of all researchers in Tunisia, the highest rate in Africa. Alternatively, women comprised only 5% of all researchers in Chad.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the average share of women researchers in Africa was 24.8% in 2016. This is approximately 4% lower than the already low international average of 28%.

Gender Equality and Development

For decades, the U.N. has supported gender equality and women’s empowerment. For instance, it adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, a landmark agreement putting women at the center of human rights issues and global development.

Gender equality also plays a crucial role in global development. Women’s empowerment is part of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals adopted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals represent a global partnership aiming to end poverty, promote education and health, reduce inequalities and more.

The U.N. gender equality goal (SDG 5) focuses on various targets such as ending discrimination against women, preventing the violent treatment and exploitation of women and ending child marriage and female genital mutilation. Target 5.5. entails ensuring “Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” This target definitely extends to the scientific arena where women’s participation would mean scientific breakthroughs geared toward improving the struggles of women.

What is the OWSD?

The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is a program unit of UNESCO. This program unit has been supporting women scientists in developing countries since 1987. Supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the “OWSD provides research training, career development and networking opportunities for women scientists throughout the developing world.” Since 1988, more than 470 women in developing countries have received fellowships and more than 270 have graduated. The OWSD grants fellowships in various fields such as biology, agriculture, medicine, engineering and physical sciences.

The main goal of the OWSD is to encourage and support women’s roles in technological and scientific fields as well as in leadership. In doing so, the organization underlines the importance of the representation of women in scientific and technological progress in developing countries. The OWSD also emphasizes the need for collaboration between women scientists to build a global network to continue assisting women in science.

The Role of Women

Women’s empowerment represents a key part of reducing global poverty and can also positively impact global peace. Women’s empowerment links to a country’s prosperity. Countries that offer women equal employment opportunities also have lower poverty rates and a higher GDP. Women also play a significant role in the success and development of children. Research shows that women are likely to invest 90% of their income into the household. Income would go toward securing the basic needs of the family, enrolling children in school and investing in healthcare.

Gender equality promotes social and economic developments. In turn, a strong and durable economy can help build peaceful societies. As Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Women executive director, stated in 2013, “There can be no peace, no progress as long as there is discrimination and violence against women.”

Women’s Empowerment for Global Development

According to the OWSD, in many developing countries women make up the majority of caregivers and agricultural workers.”If women are included as both participants in scientific research and as the beneficiaries of scientific research” the results will be highly impactful. By giving women consideration, resources and agency, the OWSD contributes to significant progress in developing countries. The organization not only contributes to scientific and technological progress but also endorses gender equality and fundamental human rights all around the world.

Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Nanotechnology is Alleviating PovertyIn its most basic sense, the concepts behind nanotechnology were formulated by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman in 1959. Over the past four decades, nanotechnology has made significant advancements and research is expanding as costs are falling. Because of these innovations, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty worldwide.

Using Nanosensors for Water Management in Agriculture

Whether mechanical or chemical, nanosensors use tools to detect minor changes in chemical composition and relay information to change the dynamics of whatever they are monitoring. Nanosensors use artificial intelligence and computing to make adjustments as soon as any predicaments arise. Because of their sensitivity and small scale, nanosensors can detect problems well before other outdated instruments.

In a study for sustainable agriculture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts nanotechnology is alleviating poverty issues such as food insecurity. The OECD study concluded that nanosensors effectively detect changes in moisture across fields of crops. They then automatically adjust the disbursement of water and eliminate water waste while preventing crop losses. Farm machines outfitted with nanosensors detect moisture levels in different crops and suggest better-suited areas for specific crops allowing farmers to change planting patterns or change water allocations to other land plots.

Nanofiltration Membranes Provide Clean Drinking Water

Access to clean water is a crisis that many developing countries face. Usually, the first issue dealt with when fighting poverty is economic development so regulations are not often in place to protect against pollution. In some countries, scarcity of clean groundwater becomes problematic too. However, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in these areas by providing clean drinking water.

Ghana was the center of a study on the effectiveness of nanofiltration membranes conducted by the International Water Association (IWA) and members of the Indian Institute of Science. The IWA chose to test Ghana’s groundwater due to the high level of pollutants present. During the study, it tested the levels of contaminants, bacteria and natural materials that render water non-potable before and after utilizing nanofiltration membranes.

The results of the IWA study were impressive. Not only did the study determine that nanofiltration reduces pollutants to potable levels, but executed efficiently enough, rural areas could produce enough water for more than 100 households. Ultimately, the conclusion was that nanofiltration was a low-cost solution for drinking water access and production in impoverished rural regions worldwide.

Nanotechnology to Fight Infectious Disease

Most original concepts of nanotechnology’s usefulness focused on medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long been fond of utilizing nanotechnology in health care and fighting infectious diseases. The WHO now recognizes that nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations through scientific medical breakthroughs.

The first need for nanotechnology to address in developing countries is the diagnosis of disease. Nanobiotechnology allows for an inexpensive option to find multiple dangerous microbes using a single test. These technologies have improved over time and are being used in developing nations to detect most viral and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis.

The COVID-19 vaccine development shows the importance of nanotechnology in the prevention of disease too. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a nanocarrier system designed to activate the immune system to fight COVID-19 by assisting antibody production. The distribution of the vaccine to developing nations is now underway.

The Future of Nanotechnology for Poverty Reduction

Nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations, and with continued scientific inquiry and advancements in nanotechnology, new applications for poverty reduction will improve. Nanotechnology’s cost-effectiveness and versatility make it one of the most viable technologies to assist in the struggle against poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Science Can Help End Global Poverty
Scientists around the world are passionate about making the world a better place. Almost 1 billion people around the world live in severe poverty. Such people lack access to food, clean water and sources of energy. They also lack much-needed medicine and access to healthcare. Advancements in science can help end global poverty.

Starvation and Diseases

Between 25,000 and 40,000 people die each day from causes such as starvation and diseases in impoverished countries, many of which are children. Each year, roughly 6 million children under the age of 5 die unnecessarily simply because they do not have access to clean water, doctors and food.

Science can help end global poverty by implementing more cost-effective strategies when it comes to advancements in testing for diseases. In developing countries, it can be difficult to conduct research for such testing. Chemist George Whiteside from Harvard University experimented with bubble wrap as a means for conducting blood tests. Whiteside found that he could create a sterile container from bubble wrap to test for anemia. More than 33% of the world’s population is anemic and this more affordable advancement could be useful in assisting the detection of the disease in developing countries. If the anemia undergoes detection, then those with it could receive treatment and lead more productive and healthy lives.

Agricultural Methods

Science can help end global poverty by enhancing agricultural methods. One particular issue affecting many developing countries is drought periods. Water conservation and distribution are barriers that science can address in developing countries that lack irrigation. The ratio of water necessary to grow a ton of wheat is 1,200:1 and the rice to water ratio is between 2,000-5,000:1. Satellite imagery can map out underground aquifers to monitor water supplies to help identify areas of the world that stand to benefit from increased water recycling programs.

How Innovations Have Helped End Global Poverty

While work is still necessary, there have been various successes attesting that science can help to this social plight. Malaria deaths reduced by 50% from 2000 to 2014 due to enhancements in testing. The availability of cell phones and wireless internet has assisted farmers with setting prices on their crops in Africa. Science has made advancements in helping developing countries grow healthier bio-fortified foods. Science has helped design stoves that burn cleaner and more available fuel made from animal byproducts. The utilization of these fuels also helps decrease respiratory infections. With proper governance and economic support, science can continue to help end global poverty and provide hope.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began a project called the Global Development Lab in April 2014. Both governmental and non-governmental agencies along with universities began working collaboratively to end global poverty by 2030. Budgeted at $1 billion, USAID works to make progress in areas such as clean water, healthcare, ample and quality food security, schooling and energy accessibility.

Moving Forward So Science Can Help End Global Poverty

For science to make greater strides in assisting those living in extreme poverty policymakers in wealthy countries need to realize the importance of funding to make the necessary advancements. Scientists in the United States spend more than $20 billion per year working to improve biomedicine. To do this globally would be of a much greater cost and securing the support of policymakers pertaining to foreign aid budgets will be necessary to continue advancements.

–  Carolyn Lyrenmann
Photo: Flickr

research4life
Research, development and innovation are key factors in addressing socio-economic challenges. Investing in scientific research and institutions promotes economic growth, product development and global market integration. In fact, there is a strong positive relationship between scientific research and the standard of living. While high-income, developed countries continue to advance in this sector, low-income, developing countries lack the resources to reach this potential. In 2019, nations collectively invested $1.7 trillion into research and development. However, this spending was mostly concentrated in 10 of the world’s wealthiest countries. In economies where citizens struggle to meet basic needs, the government is left with few resources to invest in academia. Research4Life, a program that provides access to academic and peer-reviewed content for developing countries, is helping to solve this problem.

What is Research4Life?

Since it was founded in 2002, Research4Life has been committed to reducing the scientific research gap between high-income and low-income countries by providing access to scholarly journals and books in a variety of fields including health, agriculture, environment and law. So far, Research4Life has helped over 10,000 universities, libraries, research institutes, government offices and hospitals across 120 countries.

The organization is a collective of five programs that specialize in providing scholarly resources across a variety of disciplines:

  1. Hinari: The Hinari Research for Health program is a partnership between the World Health Organization, Yale University Library and several international publishers that provides access to biomedical and health-related literature. Hinari empowers workers and students to improve the world and public health conditions.
  2. AGORA: The Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture is run by the Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with Cornell University and provides access to research in agriculture, fishing, nutrition, veterinary and biological sciences.
  3. OARE: The Online Access to Research in the Environment combines resources of the United Nations Environment Programme, Yale University and international publishers to provide access to peer-reviewed literature about environmental sustainability and climate studies.
  4. ARDI: Access to Research for Development and Innovation is an initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organization that provides low-income countries with research from the fields of science and technology that can help with developing solutions to technical problems.
  5. GOALI: The Global Online Access to Legal Information provides access to legal research with help from the International Labour Organization, Cornell Law School Library and the Law Library at Yale Law School.

A country or territory is eligible to register with Research4Life for free or at a low-cost based on five factors: Total Gross National Income, Gross National Income per capita, its ranking on the Human Development Index, Healthy life Expectancy figures, and whether it is considered a Least Developed Countries by the United Nations.

Today’s knowledge market is incredibly competitive. Access to science-based research and collaboration is a critical component in the development of new products and services that can help to improve living standards in developing countries. Applied research can help create solutions for eradicating poverty in its many forms, decreasing the spread of disease, ending famine and promoting environmental sustainability. Closing the research gap and expanding the reach of science-based knowledge is an important step towards achieving sustained global development and ensuring the inclusivity of developing countries.

– Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

astronomy in developing countriesThe night sky has always been a catalyst for the imagination and a defining aspect of culture – gods have been forged out of planets and myths sewn out of the arrangement of the stars. Now that humanity has the technology to discover the universe in greater depth, the night sky once again has the opportunity to be a force for development through the implementation of astronomy in developing countries.

Using Astronomy for Development

In 2011, the International Astronomical Union and the South African Research Foundation developed an Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), which was designed to actualize their goals of worldwide astronomical participation and interest. The OAD has several goals they hope to achieve, such as cultivating astronomy in developing countries, stimulating global development through astronomy, encouraging astronomy as a method of education and contributing to at least half of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. Since the OAD was founded, it has already made tangible progress toward achieving its goals. For instance, in 2016 the OAD developed astro-tourism programs in Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. These programs facilitate tourism for both ancient and modern astronomical sites in those countries. 

The OAD also partnered with organizations in Madagascar to initiate LAMPS, a program that seeks to educate young people in the town of Arivonimamo on fundamental scientific and mathematical principles as well as the application of STEM fields from the astronomical perspective.

Astronomy in History

The idea of using astronomy to cultivate development is not unique to the modern era; in fact, astronomy was an integral part of some of the most influential civilizations in history.

One of the first societies to understand and utilize the night sky were the Polynesians, who thousands of years ago memorized the rising and setting of the stars. They used this knowledge to navigate the seas and eventually developed a star map that helped them settle the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Astronomy and advancements in culture seem to go hand in hand. In Ancient Greece, many of the mathematical principles that were developed, and still used today, were spurred by interest in the night sky and our place in the universe. Trigonometry was discovered because of philosophers’ interest in understanding the heavens. Eratosthenes, for example, used trigonometry to approximate the circumference of the Earth by measuring the angle of the sun’s shadow in two different cities during the summer solstice.

Modern Context

In the 21st century, ships use satellites to navigate the sea, and the circumference of the Earth has been precisely calculated (24,901 miles), but that doesn’t mean the importance of astronomy in developing countries is exhausted.

People, and especially women in developing countries, have less access to STEM education, but that can change if international organizations bring concepts and educators from applied sciences to these countries. Not only would students there be better equipped to find reliable careers, but astronomy in developing countries would also provide the opportunity to understand and contribute to humanity’s understanding of the universe and Earth’s place in it.

– Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Economic and Scientific Development in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a country plagued by violence and poverty. There is little opportunity for work in Burkina Faso outside of agriculture. The country also has recently become the victim of Jihadist attacks. Jihadists exploit the country’s impoverished citizens to gain recruits. Violence and climate change contribute to the country’s poverty. Despite this, the government aims to prioritize economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. The country adopted a National Policy for Scientific and Technical Research in 2012. The goal of the project was to improve research and development. Additionally, the project hopes to improve the country’s agricultural output to improve food security.

Burkina Faso’s Economic and Scientific Development

The country’s objective is to promote an effective and accessible health system. This implementation yielded some positive results in economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. Fortunately, there is a growing number of doctoral candidates in medicine and other similar fields. However, most of the researchers working in Burkina Faso are from European nations, such as France.

The country passed the National Policy for Food and Nutrition Security in 2014 and the National Program for the Rural Sector in 2011.  The country also passed the Science, Technology and Innovation Act in 2013. The act established three mechanisms for financial innovation: the National Fund for Education and Research, the National Fund for Research and Innovation Development and the Forum for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation.

To attract researchers and developers in an effort to improve economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso, the country held a major event in 2017. Burkina Faso’s National Center for Scientific and Technological Research organized the event. The event hosted investors, innovators, researchers and other players in the technology field to suggest and showcase their ideas on how to improve technological research. As a result, Burkina Faso has received funding from organizations, including the World Bank.

Development Challenges

Much of the funding Burkina Faso and other Sub-Saharan African countries receive comes with expectations. As with many African countries, there is often a condition requiring the country to bring a portion of its own money to be eligible for grants for research projects. Many funding agencies expect contributions of 20 to 50 percent of the project’s cost, according to the Executive Secretary of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology. Donors often ask for this contribution as a method to ensure the country’s commitment to a project.

Burkina Faso cannot obtain the necessary funding due to these restrictions. As a result, there are a number of problems facing Burkina Faso’s research and development programs. The country has a small pool of researchers, a lack of research funding and outdated research facilities.

Success Stories

Despite the lack of funding, there have been small success stories of economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. Aminata Sinka, the founder of Linea’s Ideas, embroiders gadgets, baby gift sets, sheets, t-shirts and blouses for businesses or individuals. She takes inspiration from designs she sees on the internet and tries to ensure her designs are unique. As of now, she is the only reference for digital embroidery in Burkina Faso.

Another success story is Sotria-B, an industrial nut processing company in the city of Banfora. Sotria-B nut processing is uplifting the lives of women in Burkina Faso. More than 300 people have employment, 90 percent of whom are women. Most of these women come from impoverished backgrounds. Since 2006, the company has processed 3,000 pounds of cashew nuts. The company sells its nuts in both Europe and America and obtained investors through the European Union. The owner’s goal to improve the lives of women is slowly coming to fruition as the company flourishes.

It is probable that more success stories will come out of Burkina Faso. A higher chance for success requires additional funding and understanding concerning Burkina Faso’s inability to bring forth its own funding. With more grants and other funds, Burkina Faso can implement more economic and scientific developments.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Foldscope Can Save LivesIn 2010, Manu Prakash, a professor at Stanford University, and his student, Jim Cybulski, encountered the same problem in most of their travels. The microscopes provided to them were usually broken or there was a lack of access to them altogether. That is what gave them the idea for the Foldscope. They wanted to create a very inexpensive microscope that could be portable. The duo accomplished their goal and by 2014, they had fully developed the technology called the Foldscope. Foldscope can save lives. It has an enormous amount of uses that can impact developing countries tremendously.

The Foldscope is a portable microscope. Prakash and Cybulski made it so that the Foldscope came as a single piece of thick paper. The user assembles it by snapping out the individual pieces from the paper. It takes fewer than ten minutes to put together. The microscope is fully functional and weighs a total of about nine grams. Because of the inexpensive parts used, the Foldscope costs less than a dollar to produce. Although the Foldscope is very inexpensive, it doesn’t mean it isn’t effective; the Foldscope can magnify up to 2,000 times.

Foldscope Fighting Diseases

Because of the cost and accessibility of the Foldscope, each doctor could potentially have their own personal microscope on them. This is largely important because one of the deadliest diseases in the world, Malaria, can only be detected through a microscope. Without the proper equipment, Malaria goes undetected and kills about one million people per year. It affects at least 300 million people in the world today with 90 percent of them being in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having access to a microscope will impact developing countries greatly as detection will decrease the number of deaths per year. Thousands of children will be saved since Malaria affects them the most. In 2016, malaria took the lives of 300,00 children.

Noma is another disease that has a high chance of affecting children in developing countries. This is a disease that can be prevented if dentists have access to the proper tools and the public has access to dentists. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in these developing countries. The ratio of dentists to the general population in Africa is 1 to 150,000. When there are dentists available, they often don’t have the necessary tools. By providing Foldscopes to dentists in developing countries, dentists can easily identify diseases like Noma that affect 140,000 people per year. This could prevent the deaths of as many as 80 percent of those affected.

Preventing Hearing Loss

In surgery, microscopes are crucial for performing effective operations. This is especially true in surgeries involving the ear. Hearing loss is a prevalent problem in developing nations. The most common cause of hearing loss in these countries is chronic otitis media. Chronic otitis media can include a hole in the eardrum or an infection that won’t heal. It can also include other infections that can lead to the erosion of the walls in the ear. These holes can cause serious side effects like facial nerve paralysis and meningitis.

Chronic otitis media affects at least 65 to 330 million people per year with 90 percent of them occurring in developing nations. Fortunately, this can be prevented through surgery. However, because there aren’t many ENT specialists and most don’t have access to the tools they need, it has become a widespread problem in developing nations. The availability of the Foldscope can save lives and impact developing countries tremendously because they make surgeries are more possible. This could help bring down the most prevalent cause of hearing loss in developing countries.

Increasing Scientific Breakthroughs

Research in developing countries has been improving for years now. Unfortunately, many governments generally don’t have the funds to provide research facilities with the equipment needed. Equipment like basic mass spectrometers can cost between $100,000 and $200,000. This is why it’s important to cut down costs at every opportunity.

Since 65 percent of Africans rely on agriculture to live, agricultural research is some of the most important research being done in developing countries. It’s important that scientists get the equipment they need. Because the Foldscope is a portable microscope, it’s perfect to take out into the field to study crops. Although the Foldscope was designed for portable applications, it has a wide range of potential uses that can impact developing countries greatly.

The microscope detection of malaria in its early stages could save thousands of children’s lives. It could also help dentists in developing countries detect Noma. The microscope can also help ENT specialists prevent hearing loss at an early age, which can help open up opportunities they wouldn’t have. Lastly, the Foldscope is beneficial to scientists in developing countries as it gives them an easy way to study out in the field. All of these potential uses for the Foldscope can save lives and even help the economies of developing countries. Having a healthier population will provide a boost to their economies.

Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Vietnams Science Tech and innovation

Vietnam sits at a crucial point as its economic development is currently facing difficulties with labor and capital forces that could hinder proper and sustainable development. Therefore, Vietnam must rely on a boost in productivity to successfully increase the country’s GDP growth. At this moment Vietnam’s science, technology and innovation system can provide numerous advantages in accomplishing its goal of building a sustainable economy. By taking proper advantage of its science and innovation, Vietnam could create numerous opportunities for its future.

Vietnam’s Successes

While Vietnam has a long history of respected and reputable scientific research, particularly in agriculture and biology, its innovation system is only beginning to emerge. Vietnam has numerous advantages it can utilize in order to improve its science, technology and innovation (STI) system.

Geographically, Vietnam is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. Over the past 2 decades, Vietnam has seen strong economic development and a massive reduction in poverty rates. In 1993, the percentage of Vietnamese people in poverty was 58, but by 2011 the percentage had dropped to 12. Vietnam’s education system and educational efforts have also been largely successful. The education systems success is demonstrated by a 98 percent literacy rate in Vietnam.

Furthermore, since the nation becomes industrialized, it has seen an increase in exports of an eclectic variety. Previously exports have been predominantly in agriculture, which it has maintained. However, in 2009, its exports expanded to include electronic equipment (5 percent), jewelry (5 percent) and machinery (4 percent).

Obstacles and Solutions

Vietnam’s current science, technology and innovation (STI) system contains several weaknesses. They include a lack of proper infrastructure, poor research and development in the business sector and weak STI government policies. Vietnam is also faced with several threats to its STI system such as a slowdown in economic growth in recent years, failure to prepare for international cooperation and failure to improve government and business institutions to deal with corruption.

To address these threats and weaknesses to innovation the World Bank has formulated a list of recommendations to serve as solutions to these problems. The list includes:

  • Improving the framework for innovations: All aspects of Vietnam’s framework, including infrastructure, the business sector, openness to trade and foreign direct investment and the tax system affect Vietnam’s innovative system.
  • Improving governance of innovation system: The government plays an integral role in regulating all aspects of STI systems, including setting priorities and ensuring adequate performance.
  • Strengthening the human resource base for innovation: Improving the educational system and allowing current workforce members opportunities to improve their skills as well as placing heavier emphasis on soft skills is essential for innovation.

Looking Forward

With the proper development of Vietnam’s science, technology and innovation System, the country has numerous potential opportunities to pursue. It could lead to a positive social and economic impact on the country’s population. Vietnam’s economic system has the potential to be upgraded and diversified with the development of a dynamic business sector. Lastly, the improvement of Vietnam’s STI system could be the driving force to sustaining Vietnam’s recent economic development.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Saving Premature Babies Globally with Scientific Research
Globally, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely, meaning they have completed less than 37 weeks of gestation. Scientific research throughout the years has been successful in saving premature babies on a global scale. For instance, India is a developing country whose focus is on saving the lives of preterm babies.

Achievements of Scientific Research Regarding Premature Babies

In 1953, researcher Dr. John Clements discovered that there was a way to save millions of premature babies around the world through his understanding of lung functionality. He found that a slippery substance, a surfactant, can help lessen the surface tension in the alveolar membranes. Therefore, scientists discovered that a lack of surfactant connects to human lung disease.

Another researcher, Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, in 1959, used Dr. Clements’ research to find that the lungs of premature babies cannot produce surfactant. Since then, saving premature babies globally has been made more possible through the FDA approval of five synthetic surfactants, which helps prevent respiratory distress syndrome in premature babies.

A recent innovative, surfaxin, was approved in 2012 and is a method to help with stopping the disease in premature babies. Dr. Clements say: “When we began this work back in the 1950s, the mortality from RDS was above 90 percent. Today, that mortality is 5 percent or less.” The original findings of Dr. Clements helped lead to a solution of saving the lives of preterm babies all over the world.

Premature Babies in India

Due to having the most significant number of premature babies in the world, the vast size and population of India can find hope through these scientific discoveries. In addition to this prevalence, one should also consider gestational age.

Usually, ultrasound imaging is completed in the first trimester. One thing that makes this hard is that ultrasound calls for training to receive the images accurately. This can be hard to do because ultrasound imaging is not practiced regularly; instead, the mothers are asked the date of the last period, which results in inaccurate assessments of the time of conception.

Increasing Affordability and Impact

Moving forward, a more affordable and recent hardware-software can be made possible through positive changes in the ultrasound hardware, such as modifications to the core technology.

An issue in this field is that there is consistently a lack of trained healthcare workers. Machine learning and development of software technologies have improved to combat this deficiency and reduce the need for trained healthcare personnel overall.

Recent discoveries have shown that a deficiency of selenium could be related to more preterm babies’ births. The researchers performed a genome-wide association study in an extensive database and combined it with independent data to acquire results.

Future Discoveries on the Horizon

Research is being done in Africa and Asia to see if such processes actually work. These areas are predominantly where selenium deficiency is present, but these tests could prove crucial to saving premature babies globally as selenium contains proteins present in body functions.

Preterm births are traced back to inflammation, and the body function of producing antioxidants prevents inflammation. This is one example of how scientific research can greatly impact studies on premature births.

In fact, scientific research has made it possible for successful progress to be achieved in India and all around the world when it comes to saving the lives of premature babies. All of these recent discoveries create a positive sense of hope around the world in the quest of ending the problem of premature babies. The world is getting closer day by day to having more babies born healthy.

– Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr