How Affordable Irrigation Technology Helps FarmersSupPlant, an Israeli firm that installs sophisticated irrigation systems for villages facing water scarcity and low yields, wants to improve its system and spread its work to even more people in need. As such, the organization is pioneering affordable irrigation technology by cutting down on the amount of infrastructure its systems need to function.

The Old Ways

Reliable data is crucial to getting the most out of an irrigation system. While practical experience can help some of the world’s most impoverished farmers improve their yields, there is considerable room to improve from the uncertainty of relying on intuition. SupPlant was built on recognizing the potential of making these improvements with the accuracy that only sophisticated data retrieval equipment can provide.

Efforts to improve agricultural income with innovative new techniques have been successful under the startup model of installing small sensors to relay data like climate conditions or plant health. SupPlant’s customers are mainly from farms in South Africa and Venezuela, with additional demand from Australia and Mexico.

Farmers Review Africa reports a successful curve on implementing this system, with a 1,200% increase in demand for SupPlant’s solutions in 2020. However, when it comes to accessing the 450 million farmers that subsist on two hectares or less of productive soil, SupPlant encountered a problem.

Financial Barriers

Until recently, SupPlant has struggled with the cost of serving rural communities. Installing hardware is very expensive for farmers, so wealth is necessary to benefit from this system. Low-income farmers with small parcels of land have “no ability to afford knowledge and technology that is super expensive and very high-end,” says SupPlant CEO Ori Ben Ner in an interview with The Media Line.

If the data from these physical sensors is a fundamental aspect of SupPlant’s agricultural assistance, then providing affordable irrigation technology must preserve this data while eliminating the very hardware that provides it. After $19 million in fundraising from an array of venture capitalists, SupPlant is providing exactly that.

How Does it Work?

Rolling out affordable irrigation technology is a balancing act that requires finding ways to increase efficiency without compromising the benefits of full implementation. The new system adapts its older iteration as the foundation for its improvements. The steps to accomplishing this are as follows:

  1. Cloud computing forms the backbone of this endeavor. Thousands of small farms can grow the same crops under similar conditions. Thus, the data gathered from sensors in a single farm can benefit other farmers after it is uploaded to an easily accessible database.
  2. Collecting this data is only part of the process. Vast amounts of data have limited utility if farmers lack the training to interpret it well enough to make informed decisions. SupPlant employs algorithms based on artificial intelligence to read a constantly updating sensor feed to provide legible recommendations on how to manage irrigation for specific crops and environments.
  3. Once the data is ready, it is up to farmers to do what the algorithm suggests. Many of these directives may be as simple as adjusting water levels based on how much one of the 32 crops in the database requires to stay healthy and resilient. Climatic data may also factor in, reducing water use if there is a high probability of rain.

The net result is not entirely accurate because the data cannot reasonably account for minor variations between different farms. Broad utility at an affordable price nonetheless offsets these considerations in light of what affordable irrigation technology can still accomplish.

Results on the Ground

Even though prohibitive cost leaves only 2% of the world’s farmers able to install sensors on their land, these sensors accumulate enough data to meet the needs of affordable irrigation technology for the other 98%. “We increase yields starting at day one by 20-30% while saving 30-40% water use,” says Ben Ner on the impact of widespread implementation.

Earlier cases of SupPlant’s success in 2020 provide a definitive outline for the potential of making its agricultural assistance available to low-income brackets. South African farmers who could afford these services leveraged superior knowledge to squeeze an extra 41% out of their lemon harvest, while Mexican farmers transformed a 15% reduction in water usage to a 20% increase in their mango yield.

What is Next for SupPlant?

With affordable irrigation technology now a reality through sensorless data, SupPlant aims to breach the poverty line that stopped so many farmers from reaping its benefits. Short-term goals for 2021 deal with expanding services to Kenya, and the company expects 500,000 new farmers by September 2021. More ambitious goals for 2022 anticipate two million new users of sensorless irrigation, counting many African countries and India as the next beneficiaries.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

affordable satellite imagingSatellite imaging is an amazing technology that allows humans on Earth to see pictures of space without having to leave the surface of the planet. More than that, satellite data can give vital information that will help solve problems and make changes to better society and the planet. Since this technology is expensive, organizations are trying to prioritize affordable satellite imaging.

Affordable Satellite Imaging

Satellite imaging is more complicated than it appears. Satellites are extremely expensive to create and put into use because they need to survive in space. As of April 2021, more than 6,000 satellites are orbiting Earth. About 3,000 of those are inactive, and more than 700 are imaging satellites. However, only the most wealthy and educated experts have access to the images that these satellites create and can interpret them correctly.

With an expansion of access to the information that satellite imaging collects, there could be more solutions for problems in society, including poverty. A group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley may have made that possibility a reality.

The Creation of MOSAIKS

On July 20, 2021, Nature Communications published a study by the researchers stating that “combining satellite imagery with machine learning (SIML) has the potential to address global challenges by remotely estimating socioeconomic and environmental conditions in data-poor regions.” However, SIML has limited accessibility and use because of the resources it requires. The Berkeley team aims to lower the computational cost with a new system that rivals competitors. 

The team creating the machinery consists of the Global Policy Lab directed by Solomon Hsiang and Benjamin Recht’s research team in UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.

After a great deal of hard work, the team created a system called Multi-Task Observation using Satellite Imagery & Kitchen Sinks (MOSAIKS). The system has the power to analyze hundreds of data variables that satellite imaging picks up while making it affordable and easy to use.

Co-author and Ph.D. student Esther Rolf said that “We designed our [satellite images] system for accessibility so that one person should be able to run it on a laptop, without specialized training, to address their local problems.”

How MOSAIKS Affects Global Poverty

If developing countries implement MOSAIKS, it could help decide something like where is best to build a road. This knowledge would help under-served communities that currently have low access to infrastructure.  

MOSAIKS can find the best freshwater source, farmlands, highest human populations and more. MOSAIKS does all of this at a low cost and in a user-friendly way. For developing countries, affordable satellite imaging could be the key to growing further out of poverty.

Both Rolf and Hsiang are hopeful for the further development of MOSAIKS and what it can do for the future. With affordable satellite imaging technology on the horizon, the eradication of global poverty could become more of a reality.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Flickr

Space Technology Combats PovertySpace technology is a multifaceted tool that can help preserve the environment and improve agricultural success. Space technology combats poverty in communities by tracking global poverty, monitoring natural disasters, measuring pollution, protecting wildlife and managing resources.

Tracking and Predicting Poverty

Space technology is an emerging method for pinpointing and combating poverty. Data from satellites and algorithms can help countries accurately determine the most impoverished communities in need of resources in order to best assist the communities.

For example, nighttime images from satellites can reveal the areas that can afford electricity and the areas that cannot. Nighttime electricity use can have greater implications for economic activity and performance, which governments can study to better understand the distribution of wealth.

Once governments understand the geography of poverty in their countries, governments can distribute resources effectively. Satellites can also capture images of crops to help farmers estimate their harvest sizes. At large, countries can use crop data to understand local economies, assist farmers with crop insurance and warn them about potential crop failure.

Monitoring Natural Disasters

Space technology also combats poverty by monitoring natural disasters around the world. Satellites track a wide range of natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and floods. Satellites can also locate human-prompted events such as industrial accidents and oil spills.

By tracking global environmental disasters, space agencies allow the international community to pinpoint at-risk areas and distribute aid accordingly. Countries can use satellite data to better prepare for environmental disasters and identify the regions that will experience the most damage, and therefore, require the most aid. Additionally, when satellites predict an impoverished community will experience a natural disaster, the community can more effectively prepare for it in order to mitigate damage and destruction.

Protecting the Environment

Satellites can also be used to measure pollution and protect wildlife. By measuring water, air and soil pollution, satellites can distinguish between natural resources that are safe to consume and natural resources that are best used for agricultural purposes. Satellites can also locate areas contaminated by oil spills and mining activities.

With this knowledge, governments can work more efficiently to contain and address pollution. Additionally, satellites protect wildlife by tracking changes in ecosystems. The use of satellites helps the global community understand and preserve biodiversity by monitoring various habitats and species.

Countries can use information from satellites to make more constructive efforts at maintaining wildlife, natural resources, and ultimately, agricultural success. Space technology combats poverty by protecting the environment and improving agriculture in impoverished areas.

Managing Resources

Space technology can also locate and manage natural resources in impoverished areas. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, space-based innovations are promising solutions to environmental and natural resource-related conflicts in developing countries. Remotely collected data from satellites can inform areas of study such as agriculture, geology, surveying, inventory and land use.

Experts in these fields can use knowledge from satellite data to help impoverished communities maximize land use and natural resources. As a tool for collecting expansive global data, space technology combats poverty by helping developing countries gather and monitor data to make the most informed decisions.

With the help of satellites, governments can locate vulnerable areas and direct aid to the people most in need. Space technology ensures decision-making targets those who will benefit the most.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Smart Tech Cities
Africa has become home to multiple smart tech cities. More than 15 tech cities have undergone introduction in Africa in the past decade, and three more cities are currently boosting the continent’s economy. Here is some information about the three new smart tech cities in Africa.

Mwale City

One of the smart tech cities is Mwale, a tech and medical city located between Butere Sub-county and Kakamega County in Kenya. The construction of Mwale started in 2014 and reached completion in December 2020, with a budget of $2 billion. Mwale city consists of five districts, and its construction occurred in three phases. The construction of the city occurred with sustainable energy, including solar street lights.

Mwale will also have amenities like a golf resort with more than 4,700 private residences, a Disney water park and the biggest convention center in the world. Additionally, people will be able to reach the city’s hospital via a cable car that travels along a serene aerial route from a private international airport.

When Mwale reached completion in 2020, it became home to more than 20,000 workers, 9,000 of whom are healthcare workers in Hamptons Hospital. The hospital has the capacity to serve 12,000 patients regularly. With the Kakamega County Healthcare Referral Program, the hospital also offers free treatment to Kakamega habitants.

Additionally, the smart tech city of Mwale has also seen a jump in land prices, benefiting 30,000 landowner inhabitants. The cost of one acre in 2014 was $1,500. One acre now costs more than $30,000, which makes landowning residents part of the middle class.

Mwale also has its own source of power, running on solar power and other energy sources. It also uses rainwater harvesting for drinking water.

Further, builders constructed the city’s 150 km of roads to accommodate all-weather standards. It also contains a connected system of installed bicycles and sidewalks that intersect the city to discourage motor vehicle transport and create a pollution-free environment.

Many anticipate that the smart tech city of Mwale will become one of the biggest cities in Africa in 15 years. It could become a leading economic hub not only in Western Kenya but also in the broader regions of East and Central Africa.

Konza City

The smart tech city of Konza is among the projects central to Kenya’s vision for 2030. This plan includes the goal of establishing Konza as a world-class smart city and a prime economic driver for the nation. The city will also create 200,000 jobs once its construction is complete.

Konza is located about 37 miles away from the nation’s capital of Nairobi on 2,000 hectares of land, and it has a total project budget of several billion dollars. The city will include four primary services: infrastructure, residential, city and business (local trade support).

In addition, Konza will collect data from smart devices installed in the city’s roads and buildings. To adapt services to Konza’s residents, a smart communications scheme will share the data and examine it with software. For example, pedestrian and vehicular traffic will undergo supervision with route sensors, which will also control the traffic lights.

Konza is currently in its first phase of construction on 400 acres of land. The intention of this phase is to host more than 30,000 residents. More than 300 investors have demonstrated interest in the city.

Diamniadio City

Another smart tech city, Diamniadio, is part of Senegal’s vision for 2035. The city is located 24 miles from Dakar, the country’s capital. The intention of Diamniadio is to lessen the population overcrowding in the capital while boosting the country’s economy.

Diamniadio has cost $2 billion so far and will include four areas of 1,000 acres each. One area will be the Ministerial City, which will include entertainment amenities, an international park and the Amadou Mahtar Mbow University (UAM). The city plans to host about 350,000 residents.

Diamniadio will also have an express train connecting to Dakar, the Dakar “Abdou Diouf” conference center, the Dakar Arena and a sports complex. Eventually, China will invest $105 million in the second industrial phase of the city.

Africa is now competing to lead the world in the cultivation of smart tech cities. Smart tech cities in Africa are attracting global giant companies, which will help grow its economy and accommodate the rest of the world.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

global chip shortageThe COVID-19 pandemic created a global chip shortage that has ultimately exacerbated poverty. Most notably, the tech divide has widened as economic sanctions worldwide slowed production or halted it entirely, leaving many out of work. Fortunately, countries and manufacturers are stepping up to address the pandemic-induced global chip shortage.

The Cause of the Global Chip Shortage

Chips are known as the “brains” of electronic devices and are essential to several industries, including the cellphone industry and the motor vehicle industry. The shortage initially began because of a delay in production caused by factories shutting down due to the emergence of the COVID-19 virus in 2020. Simultaneously, remote work increased the demand for telecommunication, ultimately creating a strain on the supply and demand ratio.

The U.S.-China tech war also played a major factor in the global chip shortage. The U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted SMIC, which is one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in Asia. The inability to source U.S.-based parts to manufacture small chips had significant ramifications for the supply chain. Several companies, including Huawei Technologies Co., had anticipated such actions and began stockpiling chips as early as 2019.

Effects on the Global Economy

The chip shortage has harshly impacted several East Asian countries, largely because 75% of global semiconductor chips are produced in East Asia. Because of COVID-19, 2020 saw a $2.1 trillion revenue loss across Asia, putting an estimated 23 million individuals out of work.

The U.N. realized the economic strife that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the world. The U.N. predicted that 71 million individuals globally would be “pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020.” The pandemic even put previously financially secure individuals at risk of poverty.

Several motor vehicle manufacturers, including Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Honda, halted production at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the companies eventually increased their semiconductor chip orders, suppliers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) could not keep up. Due to the impact of chip shortages, Ford failed to produce upwards of 1.1 million cars, giving way to a potential $2.5 billion loss.

Chip Shortage Impact on the Tech Divide

Almost 60% of the global population has access to the internet, with Europe and Asia leading the highest internet penetration rates in 2020. China has around 854 million internet users out of a 1.4 billion population. In lower-income countries, however, internet penetration rates are far lower.

The COVID-19 pandemic created the global chip shortage, which in turn, caused high inflation. A significant factor in widening the tech divide is the high cost. GPUs, PS5s and Xboxes have skyrocketed in value, with some products tripling in price in a little over a year. For example, the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti graphics card had seen an increased retail price of $399 to a street price of $1,226 by March 2021. These higher prices create barriers to internet access and other technological abilities for those in lower-income countries, thereby exacerbating the digital divide.

Resolving the Shortage

In order to address the global chip shortage, in February 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to expand semiconductor chip production within the United States. The U.S. accounts for 47% of the world’s semiconductor chip sales yet just 12% of all chip manufacturing. In order to solve the shortage, Biden sought “$37 billion in funding for legislation to supercharge chip manufacturing in the United States.”

In April 2021, TSMC announced a plan to invest $100 billion in chips over the next three years to address the global chip shortfall. In 2020, TSMC spent around $17 billion in producing semiconductor chips and originally only planned to spend between $25-28 billion for 2021. The budget changed to account for the shortfall and the increased demand in telecommunications.

The global chip shortage is projected to linger until 2023. Despite this prolonged shortfall, many companies look forward to operating at full capacity as COVID-19 vaccines become more globally available and the global chip shortage decreases.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Women-Only Ride Service
In South Africa, many stories have emerged from women experiencing sexual assault while being in a taxi. Reports determined that there were more than 53,000 sexual assaults in March 2020, though the number might be far higher according to women’s rights groups. Luckily, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service to provide women safe transit in South Africa.

Women-Only Ride Service

With technology constantly progressing, safer transportation for women has become very vital. As recently as January 2021, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service. This service allows women passengers to request female drivers only; this also prohibits male drivers from viewing this request. This is possible through the registration process for drivers with Bolt; verifying if they are female or male, and their identity, makes it possible that only female drivers can access the Bolt Women Only category.

In November 2020, Bolt’s women-only ride service entered a pilot phase in East London and Rustenburg. Made possible through Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola, an app-integrated SOS emergency button protects drivers and passengers. The functions this button offers enables the passengers and drivers to private armed response teams, private emergency medical services and roadside assistance if they are involved in any medical or security emergency while on a Bolt ride.

Bolt App

Bolt is a transportation app that women can use to request affordable and fast conveyance. Reviews for the app are mostly positive, and the new service is now available in various locations, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Polokwane, Thohoyandou, Mbombela and Emalahleni.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolt had taken into consideration the dwindling economic activity and rising poverty. To benefit those with low income, bolt introduced a new low-cost category called “Bolt Go” for its South African customers. The new affordable service trialed successfully in the Eastern Cape cities of East London and Port Elizabeth. In South Africa, the 35 cities and towns where Bolt is active started utilizing the service.

Increased Safety for Women

The woman-only ride service was a long time coming, but highly necessary. Just like anywhere else, women are in danger of being targets for assault or harassment, including in transit environments. This new service emerged out of a series of complaints and petitions from users who have experienced sexual harassment from male drivers. Both women and e-hailing drivers have the right to feel safe and protected while driving around and working. In sub-Saharan Africa, unsuitable transportation—”transport poverty”—inordinately impacts women and young girls due to abuse and sexual assault.

Less than 5% of female drivers using Bolt are women. In fact, around 64% of women have mentioned “security” as the reason that they are not lining up to be e-hailing drivers. The woman-only ride service will exclusively be available during 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., though the small number of female drivers might impact the waiting time for potential passengers. Even though the lack of female drivers might bring a setback, the woman-only ride service is much more beneficial if it comes out sooner rather than later.

Thomas Williams
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Belize
Within a short distance of the Caribbean sea sits Belize, a small country with dense jungles, ancient ruins and tourist resorts. But recently, the coastal country has received classification on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. However, the country is paying attention to human trafficking in Belize amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Its government is actively employing new strategies to relinquish this human rights violation.

The main targets of human trafficking in Belize are women and children. Traffickers often lure them into trafficking with promises of gainful employment. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 50,000-100,000 women and children become trafficking victims annually.

The Human Trafficking Institute

Belize is on the Tier 2 Watch List according to the U.S. Department of State, meaning it does not meet the necessary requirements to prevent human trafficking. The minimum requirements for a Tier 1 ranking include meeting all standards that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act sets. These standards include decreasing the population of trafficking victims from the previous year, reporting all trafficked victims to appropriate officials and following the judicial system.

Seeking to eliminate Human Trafficking in Belize are the staff at the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI). The institute first emerged in 2015 and has been working toward implementing anti-trafficking laws and prosecuting traffickers to the fullest extent. The institute has made long strides to improve the overall safety in the community. On March 10, 2020, the country celebrated its second conviction, which found Rosa Anita Garcia Julian guilty of two counts of human trafficking. This proved to be a major milestone for the country, as it was the first conviction since 2016.

Most recently, HTI has partnered with Uganda to fight human trafficking. Over 2020, it helped rescue over 130 victims. Its new CEO, Victor Boutros, says changes need to occur in the way government addresses human trafficking. Through international diplomacy, governments could start contracts that commit to the overall safety and protection of victims of human traffickers. Government involvement is crucial in stopping human trafficking.

Importance of Biometrics

Higher conviction rates often lead to lower criminal activity. Technology is helping to prevent further injustices: an example of this technology in action is personal biometric data. Personal biometric data is any unique physical characteristic, like fingerprints, which can lead to convictions.

This data is also stored for future use. A prosecutor can use a fingerprint from 1990 to secure a conviction in a current case. Statistics can help pinpoint problem areas. Statistics track and monitor problem areas and also help to identify victims of human trafficking. Computers can recreate a single photograph of a child at age 10 to show what the child would look like 5 years later. This use of data and biometrics helps to identify and help victims.

Belize’s TIP Ranking

A yearly report tracks progress in lowering human trafficking rates. The TIP, or Trafficking in Persons Report, tracks each country’s progress ranking them in either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 categories. Belize remained in the Tier 2 Watch List category for 2020 but is making fast progress to reach Tier 1 status to end human trafficking in Belize. Together, with the help of its government and police officials, it should be able to achieve this goal.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Improve Agriculture in Africa
Agriculture in Africa is a major contributor to the continent’s economy. Africa has ideal farming conditions with large amounts of freshwater. Furthermore, it has about 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and an estimated 300 days of sunshine. Agriculture is able to boost trade, feed the hungry and help end poverty. Many countries in Africa began to invest in agriculture through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). Some of these countries are Zambia, Niger, Togo, Mali and Ghana. Additionally, communities have recognized that agriculture has the potential to create jobs, improve food security, sustainable resources and so much more. Farming in Africa has become a major focal point due to these benefits. As a result, an app is attempting to improve agriculture in Africa.

Smallholder Farms

A smallholder farmer is a person who works on a small piece of land growing crops. Many of these farmers grow crops and farm livestock. Families typically run the farms and those farms are often their main source of income. There are more than 500 million smallholder farms around the world. Furthermore, the farms contribute to about 75% of the continent’s agriculture production and 50% of livestock products.

Despite having suitable land for farming, a lot of the older generations in Africa discourage their children from farming. The land has the ability to grow an abundance of crops, yet African countries spend close to $65 billion importing food. The African Development Bank stated that the key to improving the economy is to focus more on farmers and providing better equipment, knowledge, training and technology.

The App for Farmers

About 33 million smallholder farmers exist in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, as mobile phone usage has been increasing, The Haller Foundation created an app,  Haller Farmers, to reach these farmers and improve agriculture in Africa. The app underwent testing at the Foundation’s demonstration plot in Mombasa, Kenya and researchers found that it would be able to help farms.

The majority of smallholder farmers in Africa have limited access to agricultural skills, technology and knowledge. Haller Farmers includes more than 60 years of farming experience that are low-cost and organic. In addition, the app is easy for people to use. The app is free to download from the Google Play store and farmers can download the practices so users do not have to connect to WiFi or use data.

Haller Farmers provides smallholder farmers with information in English and Swahili. Here are examples of some of the resources the app offers:

  • Low cost and organic farming techniques
  • Innovative ideas
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Conservation information
  • Techniques for crops that require minimal water
  • Haller team contact
  • Encouragement for youth farming

The purpose of the app is to aid smallholder farmers and improve agriculture in Africa, provide choices that can improve ecosystems and re-empower the farmers. Furthermore, farmers will be able to receive high-quality farming techniques and information as phone accessibility increases. About 48% of the population relies on agriculture in Africa. Thus, it is necessary to continue helping the continent’s farmers in innovative ways to bring reliable information and tools to the agricultural population.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Smartphones in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the world’s fifth-largest islands located off the east coast of Africa. Its population consists of more than 22 million people. Many of these people live in rural, impoverished areas. Additionally, many families cannot afford basic needs such as food, shelter or transportation. However, some people have found a way to find work through telecommunication. Here are some examples of how smartphones in Madagascar are bridging the wealth gap.

Madagascar’s Economy

Cell phones are efficient, fast and reliable in times of crisis. Currently, 96% of Americans own a cell phone. Now, villages in Madagascar are benefitting from telephone access as well. Since 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been doing business with Zain, a telecommunications company. IFC and Zain launched Village Phone, a campaign that helps bring change to local communities. This campaign creates jobs and promotes entrepreneurship by allowing small companies to sell mobile air time. Moreover, it helps people gain experience in areas like finance, information technology and business.

This knowledge is crucial to sustaining Madagascar’s economic future. The nation’s economy is largely based on agriculture, fishing and tourism. The economy now provides around 74% of the GDP, with 26.2% coming from the agriculture sector alone. The influx of technology will help strengthen Madagascar’s employment by enabling residents to improve in their respective fields.

Literacy Rate

Smartphones in Madagascar are also improving the literacy rate. In 2005, Madagascar’s literacy rate was at 58.4%. Meanwhile, in 2018, it climbed to 74.8%, an immense growth that rarely occurs in reality.

The relationship between growing literacy rates and texting is strong. Texting is a process that involves typing out letters, numbers and composing sentences. Thus, texting helps children gain more exposure to the written word. Greater exposure to the written word has a link to better reading skills.

Improved Education

Smartphones in Madagascar are accelerating the rate at which people receive information. Furthermore, smartphones help promote and improve access to education. Children who learn to read at an early age often become more capable of understanding syntax, grammar and literature. However, COVID-19 has caused many setbacks for students. Many schools closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. A young mother expressed concern by saying, “It does not make me happy that my children are no longer going to school. Years don’t wait for them. They have already lost a lot.”

Thankfully, alternative options for learning are now available. Radio, television and smartphones are the main pipelines that support distance learning. Most recently, CISCO, a telephone company, and the Ministry of National Education and Technical and Vocational Education (MENETP) have launched a support platform to help with limited internet access to ensure learning continues.

Smartphones in Madagascar have proven to be especially useful for informing people of the COVID-19 infection rate and teaching children to wash their hands properly. Furthermore, this technology is providing hope in creating a more sustainable future for people.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Education in India
Schools in India shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. While a lot of schools transitioned into online curriculums, many were unable to make this infrastructural shift. More than half of India’s population lives in rural areas. Furthermore, only 15% of rural households have access to the internet. The pandemic has put a spotlight on the digital divide within the country. NGOs, foundations and other social enterprises have become key to improving education in India.

Sampark

Sampark Foundation has reached more than 10 million children in six states throughout India. It focuses on education equality, providing low-cost educational services in order to broaden its reach. Sampark Smart Shala uses innovations such as board games, mobile applications and rechargeable audio devices to keep students engaged in lessons. These innovations specifically cater to students in rural areas.

Sampark’s COVID-19 response utilizes the national television channel Doordarshan and language-friendly apps to share quizzes and improve education in India. Furthermore, this organization posts ideas on a crowdsourced platform called Baithak for teachers to use. Teachers are also encouraged to keep in touch with their pupils.

Recently, Sampark has launched a program called Har Ghar Science STEM for Girls. This program’s goal is to establish science labs in rural schools and adopt an ascending approach to educating girls. As a result, education in India continues to evolve positively within rural communities.

Pratham

Pratham is an NGO based in Mumbai. Its goal is to bridge the gap in the Indian education system by implementing high-quality, low-cost and replicable interventions. This organization’s programs have improved education in India tremendously. Additionally, Pratham aids the government in encouraging children to regularly attend school. The organization relies on parents, local communities, volunteers and state governments to create personalized models of learning.

Currently, Pratham is working to engage underprivileged children and improve education in India through new programs. Karona Thodi Masti Thodi Padhai (Do it: A Little Fun, A Little Study) is a new program developed to aid students during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program uses popular messaging services, radio and WhatsApp to check in with students virtually. This new aspect of learning prioritizes “fun” and “study” to motivate students during this stressful time.

Eklavya

Eklavya is an NGO that works in education resource centers in Madhya Pradesh. This organization focuses on helping impoverished children become self-sufficient learners. Eklavya has published several books on education, children’s literature and other resource material, believing that education should be based on curiosity and experiences to motivate students. This NGO aims to enhance education in India by focusing on rural areas. Eklavya trains eligible parents, siblings and local youth to teach at well-ventilated spaces within local, socially distanced locations. Additionally, it has established a mobile-library system that rotates between localities.

Vidya

Vidya is an NGO that has served 3.7 million people in major cities such as Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai. This organization aims to provide education on life-skills, vocations and mental and physical wellbeing. Vidya’s goal is to improve education equality throughout India.

In response to the pandemic, Vidya developed strategies to combat the effects of COVID-19 on education in India. The NGO divided its solutions into technology and organization-based approaches. Solutions include reorganized exam schedules, adjusted syllabi and increased planning for a teaching aid for the next academic year.

The technological divide has made it difficult for students living in impoverished areas to access education in India. However, Vidya has received donations for phones, laptops and other devices to improve access to education. It arranges for students to pick up these devices at their convenience.

Thinkzone

Thinkzone is a social enterprise that aims to improve educational outcomes for children living in vulnerable communities. It uses “tech plus touch” models to combat inequality in education. Similar to other organizations, Thinkzone uses community-based approaches. This organization’s COVID-19 response is rooted in home-based learning that relies on phone calls and SMS to interact with parents who have started teaching their children. Fortunately, automated calls and interactive voice response technologies are accessible in many different languages. These automated calls provide pre-recorded course material to improve education in India.

This organization also strives to train community educators and assess the needs of students for further improvement. Furthermore, Thinkzone has partnered with various organizations and the government to improve education in India. Its home-based initiative has successfully reached more than 10,000 children in India.

These organizations have taken significant steps to improve education in India and aid the government in creating a more sustainable way of learning. With improved access to technology, education equality will continue to improve long after the pandemic has ended.

Anuja Mukherjee 
Photo: Flickr