Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

UNDP GoalsIn 2018, the United Nations Development Programme implemented a new strategic plan to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The plan included fast-tracking towards Agenda 2030 by alleviating poverty, accelerating structural modifications and building resilience to crises. For example, in Fiji, one of the UNDP’s goals included alleviating poverty, which can be achieved by a surge of innovation that allows the locals to connect to services. This allowed the locals to shape the governance of the future. Many other similar goals succeded in 2018.

Here are the five UNDP goals reached in 2018.

5 UNDP Goals Reached in 2018

  1. Poverty: The UNDP succeeded at helping half of the countries in the world prioritize poverty reduction by aligning it with national and local interests. The global development network also helped 4 million people affected by poverty or crises to attain employment and improve their livelihoods. Of note, 20 million more people can now make use of financial services.
  2. Governance: The UNDP supported 56 counties to carry out fair electoral processes through digital means. The aim was to fight corruption and increase the likelihood of civic engagement. In fact, in 2018, 21 million people across the globe became newly registered to vote and 89 countries partnered with UNDP to reform discriminatory laws. For example, to tackle corruption in the Philippines, the UNDP and Google together created “DevelopmentLIVE” to give citizens the chance to livestream the monitoring activities for infrastructure projects that relate to the Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Resilience: Conflict and crises often worsen poverty and inequality — this is why the UNDP invested more than $1 billion to improve resilience to shocks and crises in 2018. Thanks to this commitment 3 million people living in 12 different countries resumed accessing basic needs such as housing and energy. In 2018, the UNDP also partnered with the local municipalities in Turkey, funded by the EU Facility Projects, to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to shocks, such as the wave of Syrian refugees. This partnership launched the “UNDP Turkey Resilience Project in response to the Syria Crisis (TRP)” that prioritizes livelihoods through economic and social resilience.
  4. Environment: Oftentimes, the ones who are most affected by environmental disasters are those living in extreme poverty. Thus, UNDP goals included helping countries to protect the most vulnerable communities. Of note, 256 million tons of carbon emissions have been cut thanks to UNDP efforts. In addition, in 2018, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the UNDP worked together to encourage governments to incorporate the environment aspect into the framework of human rights for the mining sector.
  5. Energy: UNDP goals redirected countries from using fossil fuels towards renewable and affordable sources of energy. The organization provided around $1 billion in grants to 110 countries towards progressing this goal by increasing the percentage of clean energy usage in each countries’ national energy mix. For instance, Indonesian farmers worked on the Biochar project with the UNDP to develop bio-charcoal. This enabled female farmers to develop bio-charcoal home industries to boost their incomes and improve their living standards.

The UNDP aims to complete its agenda and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which is why it has built labs in more than 60 countries to accelerate the process.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

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

How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals

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

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

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

starving to death
Whale hunting in Japan is immaterial to feeding the population. As a result, many wonder why the nation continues to practice the antiquated ritual, while a bulk of its citizens are starving and fighting an uphill battle against the national welfare program. Japan’s current poverty rate is 15.3 percent, and more than 19 million citizens are living below the poverty line.

Welfare and Whale Hunting in Japan

The Japanese government has defended whaling practices by claiming that the practice is a part of the ancient Japanese culture. From the 1940s to the mid-1960s, whales were the biggest source of meat for the Japanese people. This was due to food shortages throughout the country. The government found an inexpensive solution in canning whale meat and serving in the government-funded national school lunch programs. At the highest point of the hunt, 24,000 whales were killed in just one year.

However, the economic climate has shifted. Japan has one of the wealthiest economies in the world and can easily afford to import meat from the United States or Australia. Currently, with Japan leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the financial burden of whaling will again fall on taxpayers. Expenditure of citizens’ tax money on whaling is justified by classifying whaling as research. The International Court of Justice has disproved Japan’s research claims, yet, funding that could be allocated to other benefits, like welfare, continues to be allocated to the practice.

According to a poll in 2015, the average consumption by the Japanese people of whale meat was just one ounce per person. Whale meat in Japanese cuisine has only been popular post World War II, and it would be categorized as nostalgia food by older generations. Nevertheless, Japan continues to fund whaling with $50 million annually. Regarding the Japanese welfare system, the central government acknowledges 75 percent of the costs, and Japan is planning on cutting back even further to their system.

When it comes to welfare,  Japanese citizens do not have the right to be taken care of by the government. Welfare in Japan is most commonly utilized by either the elderly, single mothers or handicapped citizens. Currently, there are five million unemployed Japanese citizens. Since 2008, the Japanese government has tried to make acquiring government assistance more manageable. However, most applicants are obliged to ask their family for help before applying, and impoverished people who are physically capable of working are still ineligible.  Professor Hiroshi Sugimura from Hoesei University in Tokyo said: “Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to the citizens, only those who pay taxes are citizens.” The government currently gives 3.4 trillion Yen to welfare a year, but this only amounts to 10 percent of all tax revenues.

With the strict guidelines of the welfare program, people in need often slip through the cracks. Just in the past ten years alone, 700 Japanese citizens have starved to death, most of them elderly people. While the poverty rate in Japan does not reach the global levels (nearly 3.4 billion people, or half of the world’s population, struggle to meet basic needs),  Japan is currently in the lowest category of children in need, with the OECD estimating there are 3.5 million Japanese children who are living in relative poverty.

What Is Being Done?

An organization called Second Harvest provides the only nationwide food bank in Japan. Since 2002, Second Harvest has been food security for the needy. It delivers to children’s homes, women’s shelters and handicapped facilities. Second Harvest also works tirelessly with companies to acquires left-over food that is still edible and recycles it into free meals.

The Japanese government supports the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to bring hunger to zero by the year 2030. Japan is putting forth procedures that will help build a sustainable society and help with social improvements. By incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals, Japan is hoping to prioritize ancillary benefits, far removed from previous oversight, promoting human rights for every citizen.

The heated issue of whale hunting in Japan and the hunger of its citizens has been recognized by the Japanese government. Acknowledging the fact that many citizens are starving to death, and few are interested in eating whale meat, is an impetus for the government to remedy the issue. Solutions are being established and proposed on a regular basis, and with time. these two issues will be combatted and Japan’s healing as a nation will happen quickly.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Google

What you wear tells a story
Reflect is a new brand founded by young entrepreneurs in Istanbul who believe that what you wear tells a story. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to catch up with Ece Altunmaral, one of the founders of the organization, and asked her questions concerning the origins of their organization’s story and what awaits them in the future.

What is “Reflect”?

How did the idea come up and what were you thinking of changing in the clothing industry?

“Reflect is a textile-oriented design studio, creating narrative products for both organizations and individuals. The studio operates with ‘storytelling design’ and ‘responsible production’ in its heart and relies on the power of stories that make feelings tangible and ideas memorable.

The idea came up as a reaction to the facts we heard about the dirty textile industry, and also as a realization that clothing is a great medium of communication and could be used for a good purpose. Although not widely known, the textile is the second most harmful industry to the environment, only after oil. The process behind our clothes is also kept opaque. We do not know where the fabrics of our clothes are sourced from, nor do we know how many people worked in the making of them.

On the other hand, clothes are the first thing we see when we meet a person. What you wear tells a story, and clothes are dialogue starters. So we thought, ‘why not use clothing as a medium to deliver a message, to highlight stories on social issues through a unique way of design?’ Radical change takes time, but we aim to challenge the current clothing industry by introducing transparency, responsible production and story-telling design.”

 Three Articles in Reflect’s Manifesto

Starting with the article “What You Wear Tells a Story,” would you mind sharing with The Borgen Project the meaning behind the three articles you picked for your manifesto?

  1. Article 1: What You Wear Tells a Story. Appreciating the value of involvement, engagement and different perspectives, we develop our products “together” with designers and brands. The design process starts with collaborative workshops, results in lacing the outcomes onto fabrics and turning them into narratives. Accordingly, we invite all of our clients to become a part of the solution by designing stories around “Sustainable Development Goals”, which focus on environmental, political and economic problems that the world faces.
  2. Article 2: Radical Transparency Establishes Trust. Embracing the worldwide movement of “slow fashion,” we reject being part of the damage that the fashion industry causes on the environment. We guarantee an ethical and transparent operation from production to distribution while only producing internationally certified sustainable products and assuring long-term use.
  3. Article 3: Every Purchase Is an Endorsement. This last article is actually the reason why we have started a company. Every dollar we spend makes an organization live a day more. We do hold the power in our hands by choosing to shop from responsible companies. As three co-founders, we wanted to create a better alternative for responsible consumption.”

Designing “Solidarity”

How was the designing process of your first ever product “Solidarity?” What does it reflect about your organization?

“In our first collection Solidarity, we identified our social challenge as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. We focused on displaced Syrian refugee children living in Istanbul. We organized art therapy workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. Our creative art therapy workshops encouraged them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a unique and subjective way through art. Their expressions have turned into the design of our garments. Our first organization is the leading example of our collaborative and participatory approach to communities around us as a brand.”

The Impact of the Organization

What kind of impact do you aim to bring to life and clothing industry by showing people that what you wear tells a story? What is the outcome of the desired social and environmental impact of the “Reflect” so far?

“Since our first day of operations (October 2016), we have reached out to 143 refugee children aged from 7-12, who live in Istanbul, to get empowered through our art therapy sessions. Through our sustainable production process for the manufacturing of our first two collections, we saved 53 percent of material waste and 77 percent of water compared to global industry standards. Furthermore, through partnerships with ateliers, we enabled the employment of 43 textile workers under fair-trade conditions.”

The Future

What waits for the organization in the future?

“For our products to be made accessible worldwide. We want to help increase the number of individuals who care about social and environmental causes across the world with our strong corporate commitment to the realization of sustainable development goals. We want more people to buy garment products manufactured sustainably and become part of the solutions that address such challenges through directly impacting vulnerable groups with every purchase they made from reflect.

We would scale up our impact through increased e-commerce activities and physical presence of Reflect products in major markets (European Union and North America). Moreover, we aim at expanding our market share in B2B partnerships for garment products. We are aiming to increase the number of long-term collaborations with mission-driven organizations. Also, we started our application procedure to become a Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) by fulfilling all the required criteria. By mid-2019, we want to become a registered B-corporation!”

Reflect is doing its part to provide sustainable clothing to the mainstream market. The organization is also reaching out to communities around the world, working with refugee children, supporting sustainable sourcing and working for a better future for our planet.

Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty
Eliminating global poverty will not be accomplished strictly through emerging opportunities and resources for the world’s most vulnerable people but will be done by redefining ideas about poverty. Instead of defining poverty by a purchasing power baseline, Rajiv Shah, the current Rockefeller Foundation President, thinks we should define and measure poverty in terms of power connectivity and electrification, in other words, energy poverty.

Rajiv Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, suggested this idea at the Affordable and Clean Energy for All event in Washington, D.C. Shah points to the idea that poverty is traditionally measured by a “basket of goods” stemming from a “total calories mindset.” Energy poverty defines poverty by the extent of the lack of access to modern energy.

Poverty Definitions Today

Currently, poverty is defined with a mere dollar amount. Extreme poverty is defined as a daily income of less than $1.90, and moderate poverty is living on less than $3.10 a day. The idea of moving from defining poverty from purchasing power to energy accessibility has some weight to it. For example, India in the 1970s defined poverty as the ability to purchase 2,100 to 2,400 calories of food per day depending on if the person was living in the city or in rural areas. In 2011, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee, a namesake for the late economist Suresh Tendulkar, defined living below the poverty line as spending between 27.2 and 33.3 Indian rupees (or between $0.38 and $0.46) per month on electricity, food, education and health.

This measure is thought to be far too conservative, but it does touch on the expanse of resources and services, specifically electricity, that factor into basic living standards. India is said to have 300 million people with little or no access to electricity. That is roughly 23 percent of its population. By taking energy poverty into consideration, a much clearer picture of global poverty rates can be analyzed.

Providing Energy to Areas In Need

Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation are not just providing mere lip service to the conversation on extreme poverty but also real energy service. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsors Smart Power for Rural Development, a $75 million program launched in 2015 that brings solar power to villages. This program has already powered 100 Indian villages with mini-grids that supply renewable energy to over 40,000 people.

Investments in mini-grids such as Smart Power for Rural Development or the $20 million raised from Husk Power Systems (the largest for an Indian mini-grid company) are thought to be the most efficient solutions for securing energy goals for sustainable development. Without reliable energy connectivity, almost half Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 cannot be achieved. Two of such goals are “no poverty” and “affordable and clean energy.”

Energy is vital to attaining Development Goals such as health, education, inequality and food security. “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty,” says Gerth Svensson, chief executive at Swefund, a Swedish development finance institution that works to eliminate poverty by establishing sustainable businesses.

Metrics to Define Energy Poverty

Defining poverty through the proxy of energy poverty can leave vague perceptions. Yet, one metric illuminates the reality of what it means to be energy poor. Energy poverty is being quantified by the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI). The MEPI measures energy deprivation, as opposed to energy access. It is made up of five dimensions: cooking, lighting, services provided by means of household appliances, entertainment/education and communication.

Each dimension has one indicator to measure the importance of the activity, with an exception to cooking, which has two indicators. Each indicator has a binary threshold that indicates the presence or lack of a product or service. Energy poverty defined through the cooking dimension is measured by cooking with any fuel besides electricity, natural or biogas since it would leave a family vulnerable to indoor pollution. The lack of several other products or services complete the index—the lack of access to electricity (lighting), a refrigerator (household appliances), a radio or television (entertainment/education), and a landline or mobile phone (communication).

Measuring Poverty Through Energy

According to BRCK, a Kenyan organization that works to furnish internet connectivity to frontier markets, 18 of Africa’s 54 total nations have at least between 50 and 75 percent of their population without access to electricity, and 16 have more than 75 percent of their population lacking. On the measure of communication, only four of those nations have mobile-phones access for more than half their population, the highest being South Africa at 68 percent.

Using the current standard, roughly 736 million people worldwide are considered to be living in extreme poverty, yet 1.1 billion people were still living without access to electricity in 2017. The means for microeconomic power and poverty alleviation via education, healthcare, business and communication seem to be less about cash flow and more so concerning reliable energy flow, redefining poverty with the idea of energy poverty.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Outlook for Sustainable Development
In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to expand upon the progress of the Millennium Development Goals that were set from 2000 to 2015.

Comprised of 17 goals, the SDGs address issues such as poverty, education and health with the overall aim of achieving worldwide peace and prosperity by 2030. Three years into the initial reports on the outlook for Sustainable Development Goals express skepticism that these goals can be reached at the current rate of progress. The problems in meeting these goals are described below.

Eliminating Poverty

According to the World Bank, the rate of poverty reduction that more than halved the world population of people living in extreme poverty from 1990 to 2015 is currently in decline. The organization estimates that the annual rate of poverty reduction that was 2.5 percent from 2011 to 2013, will decrease to less than half a percentage point.

The World Bank has also calculated that the bottom 40 percent of people in terms of income would need to see a yearly income increase of eight percent or more for the next 12 years in order to meet the first SDG of reducing the global poverty rate to 3 percent or lower. The report also notes that income growth never reached this height from 2000 to 2015, despite the notable progress in poverty reduction during these years.

Improving Education

Although the information is scarce, the available data suggests that the current rate of progress in education is also too slow to meet designated targets by 2030. In its 2018 report, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) projects that at least 22 million children worldwide will be unable to participate in pre-primary education unless the current rate of progress doubles in countries that lag behind.

Low reading proficiencies among 15-year-old adolescents are of additional concern. According to the same UNICEF report, 26 percent of countries and 36 percent of 15-year-olds need to see faster improvement in reading proficiency in order to meet the target for quality education. This is without accounting the 70 percent of countries and 61 percent of 15-year-olds for which there is little or no data.

Providing Better Health Care

Along with education, health is considered one of the most important factors in fostering economic and other forms of development. The Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report provides recent data and future projections for 18 SDG indicators as a way of tracking the overall progress of the initiative, the majority of them pertaining to health. According to the 2018 report, the U.N. estimates that by 2030:

  • Mortality of children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 3,9 percent of live births to 2,6 percent, which is 1,4 higher than the target.
  • The rate of stunting in children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 27 percent to 22 percent, which is 7 percent above the target.
  • Basic vaccines will be available to anywhere from 74 to 90 percent of the world population, falling short of the goal to be accessible to all people.
  • Neglected tropical diseases will see a decrease from 17,000 to 13,000 per 100,000 people, well above the goal of 15,000 cases per 100,000.
  • Universal health coverage will be available to 72 percent of the global population, 3 percentage points higher than in 2017 but well below the goal of achieving universal coverage for everyone.

The Good News in the Outlook for Sustainable Development Goals

While the outlook for sustainable development in each of these reports is not ideal in terms of the time it will take to be achieved, data trends still show progress, not regression, in development. With 12 years remaining, the United Nations is still in the initial stages of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If the projections for 2030 fall short of the targets for the SDGs, they at least provide a better understanding of the extent of the resources necessary to improve the outlook for sustainable development goals going forward.

In consideration of the data, the World Bank, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation have all called for increased investment in world development. As a specific example, the World Bank has invested $3.2 billion in education programs for girls between 2016 and 2018, exceeding a commitment of $2.5 billion.

If all actors in the 2030 Agenda follow suit, the current outlook for Sustainable Development Goals does not have to determine the final extent of the world’s progress.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates
When living in the U.S, it is easy to forget that being able to read and write is not something allowed to every person in the world. However, when it was discovered that approximately 32 million Americans could not read at a basic level, society deemed this as a crisis.

Comparatively, though, the crisis of illiteracy is much scarier in developing countries. The CIA World Factbook defines literacy as being able to read and write when older than the age of 15. Countries like South Sudan, Niger, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have literacy rates below 40 percent of their total population. These countries also happen to be the most poverty-stricken countries. This connection leads to the importance of listing five reasons to increase literacy rates.

Five Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates

  1. By being able to read and write, citizens can further develop their education. It is a given that if citizens want a great education, they will have to increase literacy rates. To do this, countries need to prioritize primary education so that the children that are already in school can get a good base. In a report from UNICEF on world education and literacy, it is stated that the focus on primary education had already boosted literacy rates that in turn boosts further education.
  2. Illiterate adults are more likely to fall victim to poor health and to have poor health care treatment later in life. World Atlas reported that there are around 493 million women who are unable or have difficulties reading text messages, filling out forms and reading their doctor’s prescription. If a person cannot properly read documents and prescriptions from a doctor, they might sign off on something without knowing what exactly it is. On top of that, they might not know what medications are good for them. Not to mention, without being able to write, it would be near impossible to keep track of past ailments or family history in the health care system.
  3. Literate adults are more capable of being able to take care of their children. Parents who have a basic education have an easier time making sure their children live to be over the age of five. This way, the cycle of poverty can be broken. Also, parents who have already seen the importance of having an education are more likely to push for their children to get the same level of education. Combined with previous reasons, parents who can properly read their prescription labels will be able to give children the right medicine and with a higher level of education, they are also more likely to have a steady job.
  4. Literacy is one part of the Sustainable Development Goal number four under UNESCO’s plan to reduce global poverty. The goal number four references equal education, affordable further education, widespread scholarships safe and non-violent locations for education and an increase of qualified teachers in each country.
  5. It is very plausible to increase literacy rates and it is producing great results in other countries already. In India, the computer-based functional literacy (CBFL) solution is providing free and remote education to rural areas and low-income areas around the country. It aims to teach children how to read, write and do math in approximately 50 hours. On top of that, the system focuses on teaching words rather than the whole alphabet. The typical participant learns around 500 words that are enough for him to navigate everyday life. More than 700,000 people have already benefited from CBFL in India.

These five reasons to increase literacy rates described in the article above showcase how being able to read and write can vastly improve someone’s life. Even if it does not fully bring them out of extreme poverty, these people will at least have the tools to make progress for themselves. Giving such tools is the least the world can do to help those in need and decrease the world poverty.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Big Data
Three years into the United Nations’ latest agenda to fight global poverty and promote peace, health and justice, the chief Sustainable Development Goal of 2030 to end extreme poverty has become a contest to procure and deliver the right resources for the world’s most vulnerable people at just the right pace. There is a race against rising inequality and time, but some economic circles have come to regard one performance-enhancing resource as more valuable than oil and with the potential to boost poverty relief — big data.

Big Data to End Global Poverty

During a lecture at Singularity University Global Summit 2018, a lead economist for the World Bank, Wolfgang Fengler, shared his curiosity about using data to end global poverty by asking, “What would it take to create a data revolution for the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]?” Fengler oriented summit-goers to subterranean depths as he compared big data to oil, and emphasized how their values are only realized in the efficiency of its production modes: collection, refinement and delivery in a usable form.

In 1990, 1.9 billion people were considered extremely impoverished; in 2015, the final year of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, that number was 836 million, a 66 percent decrease. Pointing to the World Poverty Clock, a real-time dashboard for poverty numbers created by Fengler, the current global poverty escape rate is 1.1 people per second. That rate should be 1.6 people per second to put an end to global poverty by 2030.

World Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock shows data from specific countries, and these types of snapshots provide reliable stories that can inform effective policy and strategic poverty alleviation practices. According to Singularity Hub, next steps for the World Poverty Clock include presenting data by specific regions within countries with the idea in mind that there are region-specific issues related to poverty.

Forbes Magazine contributor Bernard Marr offers some corrections to the data and oil comparison, one that suggests much richer potential for data. Oil is a finite resource that requires a massive amount of ancillary resources to deliver a final product. Contrarily, data has a low cost of production and can become more useful with every use. He also contends big data is environmentally innocuous and has a wider variety of application beyond its crude state.

New Kind of Renewable Resource

While Marr takes issue with comparing big data to an “old world resource,” he does concede to its versatility and value in shrinking hunger and battling climate change. He likens it more so to a renewable energy source such as wind or the sun. The World Poverty Clock reports that poverty is rising in 13 African nations. Two of those nations are Africa’s largest oil exporters: Angola and Nigeria, which both produced more than 1.5 million barrels of oil in 2017.

Rounding out the rest of the African OPEC nations, Guinea and Libya are labeled as “off track,” or “unable to reach the sustainable development goal target at the current rate;” Gabon and Algeria are also considered to have “no extreme poverty.” In Nigeria, oil production accounts for 10 percent of the GDP of the new world capital of extreme poverty; almost half of the nation’s 180 million people live within poverty’s grips.In Angola, 30 percent of its 25 million live in extreme poverty; oil production is expected to comprise 10 percent of its GDP.

Combatting Poverty

These macro-level findings support The Economist’s and Forbes Magazine’s positions on data’s supremacy to oil as a precious resource for profit and a poverty alleviation tool. Crude oil has less of a guarantee, if any at all, to be wielded as such a resource as it does not necessarily translate to economic stability in nations where the gross national income per capita has been decreasing since 2015.

Just as marketing research uses big data to track discrete consumer insights — such as millennial spending trends or researchers’ use of data to identify the demographic most likely to be excessive sun tanners — big data has the power for direct combat against extreme poverty.

Big Data Around the Globe

In China, the Guizhou province developed a cloud-computing platform that tracks the financial status of 6 million impoverished people in 9,000 villages. China aims to usher 10 million people out of poverty annually from 2016 to 2020. In Tongzi county, the government issued subsidies to needy villagers and a data platform monitors the distribution of these subsidies, minimizing the risk of embezzlement by unscrupulous officials.

Zhou Xing, an expert of the poverty-relief office in Guizhou province, said, “Big data really helps make poverty-relief more precise and efficient.” On the days before big data, Xing added, “poverty relief work was difficult because the information of residents was written by hand and passed to central authorities via a series of local officials, which could be hampered by corruption.”

In Rwanda, American researchers have leveraged cellphone metadata to estimate wealth and poverty distributions and the telephoning habits of the affluent and those with more modest means.

Infinite Possibilities

Putting an end to extreme poverty can potentially be achieved through fiber-optic cables rather than petroleum pipelines. The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are fixed; through big data, the potential for precisely architected solutions to end extreme poverty seems infinite.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr