Information and stories about technology news.

Apps Help FarmersAccording to the Thinus Enslin, founder and owner of AgriPrecise, one of the biggest issues facing farmers is the high cost of over-fertilizing, leading to negative effects on the environment. The company’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers. With the help of the app, farmers can now use more efficacious methods to grow crops. The app aids farmers in using the right amount of fertilizer for crops to grow well. Because of the app, farmers can decrease the cost of growing crops and boost crop production.

AgriPrecise

The company AgriPrecise is located in Potchefstroom in South Africa. The primary purpose of the company is to gather and make sense of fertilizer and soil data. For 20 years, AgriPrecise has worked in agriculture, having worked in Zimbabwe and Zambia for 7 years. AgriPrecise has also worked in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

The company provides services in areas such as agronomy and consulting, data analysis, grid soil sampling, soil classifications, NDUI imagery and monitoring and data processing. Over the past 8 years, AgriPrecise has changed much of its work to IT. IT is helping in another part of its mission, which is to promote sustainable farming methods and practices.

AgriPrecise’s software development partner is the Centurion-based technology solutions company Moyo Business Advisory. To assist farmers, AgriPrecise utilizes satellite imagery and conducts accurate soil sampling. The farmer will have access to a location-based visual display of his or her farm, fields and the conditions and will also be able to gather data on crops and pests. Then, data scientists carry out analytics and send the findings to the farmers.

AgriPrecise’s AgIQ App

Out of 1.166 billion people, more than 60 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas. Much of the economy in Africa is dependent on agriculture. In fact, 32 percent of its GDP is from agriculture. AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app meets a large part of Africa’s economy. The app aids the productivity of African Farmers through a number of steps. First, the app makes an assessment of the data and then finds the integral parts,  showing a farm, field and soil analysis. Lastly, it gathers information on all the kinds of crops ranging from vegetables to sugarcane.

The AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers through a sensor attached to a tractor that measures the amount of nitrogen needed to grow crops, so it can spread the right amount of fertilizer. The sensors on the tractor face down on each side of the bar on the roof of the tractor. The sensors measure the greenness of and the density of the crops below it. Facing up are the light intensity sensors that check the level of ambient light. The greenness measures plant health through analysis of the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves. This way the correct amount of nitrogen can be used to help grow crops.

One of the areas that the app helps gain information on is crop yields. The goal of AgriPrecise is to pick up patterns in growing crops to increase production, boost the quality of the crops and lower cost of growing them. The app has helped farmers increase their crop production by 2 percent, which has led to a 10 percent increase in profits.

One of the issues facing farmers that AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers by helping farmers with is the cost of production and amount of crops grown. The app helps decrease the cost of growing crops and increase crop production. The app also diminishes negative effects on the environment by reducing over-fertilization. With the creation of the app AgIQ, farmers can take positive steps towards carrying out sustainable agricultural practices.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Unsplash

L'Afrique Excelle
It is a common misconception that technological advancements in Africa are far behind the rest of the world. However, African developers are working to modernize the continent with the resources they have available, as well as with the help of large, digital businesses like L’Afrique Excelle. L’Afrique Excelle is a francophone organization that exceeds in aiding entrepreneurs in anglophone and francophone countries, as well as providing support for African countries that are less developed technologically.

The Work of L’Afrique Excelle

L’Afrique Excelle works to encourage its startups to find tech solutions for the African market designed to expand and increase access to services for the general public. Powered by the World Bank, the organization has supported several startups spearheaded by technological entrepreneurs in francophone and anglophone countries in Africa. The organization offers a series of commodities including:
  • access to Capital
  • mentorship
  • XL Academy
  • Mali Residency
  • France Residency
  • exposure

L’Afrique Excelle has supported new startups in raising up to five million dollars in funding from investors. The company has also connected startups with leading investors. Additionally, new startups can receive a one-week all-expenses-paid residency in Bamako and an all-expenses-paid residency to Paris including a showcase at VivaTech. These opportunities help new brands increase visibility and raise awareness.

Striking Benefits of Technological Advancements in Africa

L’Afrique Excelle is not the only organization currently aiding the development of technology in Africa. Digital Africa, a French-based development company, is working to increase investment funds in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and beyond. All of the startup companies that work with Digital Africa will also have the chance to showcase at the Francophone Africa Investor Summit (FAIS), an event that takes place in West Africa for early-stage investors.

The World Bank is helping advance startup companies in African countries that will have widespread benefits. The increase in capital will allow for improved systems of health care, transportation, data analytics and software. These developments will allow African countries to improve not only technologically, but also economically and socially with an overall improvement in infrastructure.

Current Progress and Future Outlook

More than 900 applicants entered the L’Afrique Excelle startup initiative, and the 20 most promising startups involved transportation, health care, education, human resources and B2B. Some of these startups included Aerobotics (data), Electronic Settlement Listed (FinTech), Lynk Jobs Ltd. (human resources), MAX (transportation), Prepclass (education technology) and Ongair (SME services).

These businesses and investors, expanding from Cape Town to Cairo, will be working hard to innovate new and improved ways of solving Africa’s most pressing issues. According to African Law & Business (ALB), some of Africa’s most prominent issues as of 2019 include low access to world-class computing, low rates of developmental finance, governmental corruption, climate change, energy and business. L’Afrique Excelle’s mission to enhance the growth of digital businesses in Africa will help limit these problems and improve the standard living in Africa.

– Sara Devoe
Photo: Pixabay

Agriculture Industry in Bolivia
Since Bolivia gained independence from Spanish rule in 1825, the country has undergone several shifts in political power with long-term effects on economic stability. Similarly, the agriculture industry in Bolivia has experienced considerable changes, sometimes resulting in difficulty for farmers. A startup, PanalFresh, is working to improve difficult conditions and improve farmers’ access to markets.

Inequality in Agriculture Industry in Bolivia

In the late 1990s, former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada made substantial changes to the agriculture industry in Bolivia that have lingering effects to this day. Lozada’s Law of Agricultural Reform Services promoted a liberalization of trade in the agricultural sector and bolstered trade activities centered around exports. One negative consequence of the increased privatization was the fact that small-scale farmers were now forced to compete with much larger companies that could provide extremely cheap imports. The new structure crippled the ability of rural smallholder farmers to increase productivity and income.

The agriculture industry in Bolivia is a key part of the country’s economy, as it accounts for almost 14 percent of the total GDP and employs nearly 30 percent of the nation’s workforce. Unfortunately, with 57 percent of the rural population living below the poverty line, the potential for job creation and economic growth is not coming to fruition.

Tech Startups, Global Poverty and PanalFresh

Tech startups are tackling many of the toughest problems facing the world today. Companies like Viome and The Ocean Cleanup are undertaking monumental efforts to solve issues like prevalent diseases and plastic waste in oceans.

Similarly, a startup called PanalFresh is doing its part to address the “lack of infrastructure and access to markets” that results in rural poverty in Bolivia. PanalFresh provides next-morning delivery of fruits, vegetables and other grocery items through an online store available to customers in the cities Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. The truly unique part of PanalFresh’s business model is that all of the produce in the store comes from small-scale farmers in rural Bolivia. On top of providing farmers with an effective and far-reaching marketplace for their harvests, PanalFresh consults farmers on what to plant in order to meet with demands.

PanalFresh’s co-Founder, Andrea Puente, dedicates her time to helping farmers know what to grow and giving them a marketplace so they can be successful. Her platform claims to yield 10-15 percent better prices on the same crops and provides services to more than 400 farmers. By reconnecting the rural farmers of Bolivia to the more affluent urban customers, Puente is sure to increase the long-term financial stability of hard-working farmers who struggle with poverty day in and out.

While today’s agricultural sector faces many roadblocks, Panalfresh is an example of how achievements in technology can lift other industries into prosperity. With the collaboration of farmers and companies like Panalfresh, the future of agriculture in Bolivia is bright.

– John Chapman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Using Technology for Decreasing Poverty in the Dominican Republic Via Technology
A promising program that is aiming to help to bring people in the Dominican Republic out of poverty is the Community Technology Center Program (CTC). This initiative is one key sign of the progress the country is making in improving health, promoting gender equality and decreasing poverty in the Dominican Republic. With more innovative programs like the CTCs, the country could continue to see significant progress in many areas of poverty reduction through education and access to technological resources.

What Do CTCs Offer?

Since its inception in 1998, the primary purpose of the CTCs is to offer technology resources for people to help in areas such as employment and education, thereby increasing financial stability. The CTCs are also working to achieve its mission connected to health by helping to prevent the spread of disease by offering people access to information about health. Currently, there are 87 centers, but there are plans to build more.

The CTC initiative works towards helping families living on a dollar per day to possess the tools to help themselves increase their financial stability. One of the reasons for the success of the CTC program is that it utilizes technology to help people at no cost, thereby bestowing to people the tools to have a say in their lives. In fact, the centers offer technology training for those who don’t know how to use the resources.

Empowering Women and Minorities

Assistance for women, the disabled, immigrants and others who have not had access to online information and technology is a top priority. One of the issues the CTC programs has been trying to address is women’s access and use of the Internet. At least “three-fourths of the female population don’t use the internet.” The CTC initiative is also working to expand women’s participation in technology and Internet access.

The part of the program, women on the net, also demonstrates the progress that the CTCs are making. Some of the areas of education the centers provide are programming, multimedia and telecommunications. By providing education in these areas, the goal is for participants to find jobs in technology. By 2013, 700 female participants had finished programs at various centers, learning computer literacy and technology.

By providing assistance to people with disabilities, immigrants and non-legal residents, CTCs are helping to reduce poverty in often marginalized communities. One of the people the program has aided in employment, Julien Joseph-Josue, said the CTC program made him feel like “part of a family.” Joseph-Josue is a Haitian immigrant who received training to help his career as an interpreter.

The Success of the Program

The centers provide opportunities for learning and sharing in a community space as well as providing training in obtaining a job. Currently, the centers have achieved substantial progress in alleviating poverty in the Dominican Republic and have made significant strides in working to promote gender equality. The number of people CTCs has helped demonstrates this development. CTCs have helped develop the skills of around 40,000 people, 60 percent of these people being women, creating a more positive outlook.

Demonstrating a continual sign of progress the CTC program has made is the Bill and Melinda Gates recognition for the initiative for its innovation. The organization awarded the initiative The 2012 Access to Learning Award (ATLA), an award for organizations across the globe that offer access to technology. The CTC program obtained $1 million from this award. Furthermore, Microsoft will give $18 million worth of software to the initiative in accordance with its global citizenship effort to offer help in the positive developments from technology.

The technology that the program provides allows for access to information aiding in financial stability, health and decreasing poverty in the Dominican Republic. In addition, the CTCs have been shown to move the Dominican Republic further along on the path to achieving gender equality. With the continual effort of the initiative, hopefully, there will be more positive results in the effort to alleviate poverty in the Dominican Republic.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country ripe with investment opportunities mainly due to its abundant natural resources, population size and predominantly open trading system. At the same time, it is also a challenging country for business because of its weak financial system, widespread corruption and bribery.

Overall, credit access in the Democratic Republic of Congo is limited, therefore the country has a scarce and short-term credit volume history.

Financial System in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Congolese financial system has less than 10 licensed banks, one single development bank, 120 microfinance institutions and has no equity or debt markets. The lack of a substantial financial sector prevents the Congolese from participating in the global market. The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (GDRC) is working to improve and enhance regulatory measures over its economic environment.

The GDRC’s National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANAPI) is responsible for monitoring initial investments that have a value larger than $200,000. ANAPI is required to make the investment process streamlined and transparent for new foreign investors with the goal of improving the country’s image as an investment destination. The GDRC has enacted investment regulations to prohibit foreign investors from conducting business in small retail commerce. These regulations also prohibit a foreign investor from becoming a majority shareholder in the agricultural sector.

Partnership for Financial Inclusion

The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo contains laws meant to combat internal corruption, bribery and the illegal activities of all Congolese citizens. Unfortunately, these laws are rarely enforced, and when they are observed, the application is politically motivated. The corruption negatively impacts the country’s exports and the economy as it discourages foreign investors. In 2013, the IMF withdrew a $532 million loan because the GDRC refused to disclose details surrounding the sale of 25 percent of a state-owned copper project. Without foreign direct investment (FDI), job growth remains stagnant and low wages remain, resulting in the inability to get credit. All of the issues contributing to the fragile state of credit access in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be rectified with innovation and reformation.

The GDRC’s push for advancement is not lost on some U.S. investors, evidenced by the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a $37.4 million joint venture between the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Mastercard Foundation that focuses its interests on financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative aims to expand microcredit and develop digital financial services that are present now in the DRC, as many of the country’s banks are using mobile services.

Credit Access in the Democratic Republic of Congo

According to the World Bank, current statistics show the strength of legal rights index for the DRC to be six on a scale from zero to 12. This score indicates how the GDRC’s collateral and bankruptcy laws protect borrowers and lenders. The country has no electronic infrastructure listing debtors’ names and wages and lacks any unified registry. In DRC, there are no established rules that work on behalf of its citizens to make it easy to establish credit access. The depth of credit information index shows the DRC ranks zero on a scale of zero to eight. This index measures rules that affect the quality of available credit information and its accessibility to credit bureaus.

The World Bank’s statistics show that within the DRC’s economy, an integrated legal framework for secured transactions exists. However, this framework is a one-stop shop where interagency communication and transactions occur in non-digital systems. This framework is comprised of governmental agencies that expedite registration of DRC companies. A digital infrastructure could allow for a much more fluid and rapid increase in the establishment of digital financial services.

Digital financial services include cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual money that use encryption to safeguard, regulate and verify the currency and transfer of funds. Cryptocurrencies are not subject to commercial or governmental control and remove corruption from the equation by preventing illegal facilitation payments. Virtual currencies are the foundation for digital economies and financial inclusion. They can reform the Congolese banking system and fund areas such as health care and education.

A digital economy can pave the way for improved personal savings and increased credit access in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to a study about the impact of digital financial inclusion on inclusive economic growth and development, individuals in rural areas who regularly save their money have more of an ability to feed their families. Results also show they feel socially included with the use of digital services or agent banking, which is not the case with traditional banks.

A nominal percentage of the DRC population has accounts with traditional banks, but thanks to the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, that reality is changing. The country’s goal of expanding microfinance and developing digital services throughout the DRC is slowly actualizing, as is evident by the GDRC’s economic governance of its business climate. It also is evident by their scores for the strength of legal rights index and depth of credit information index.

Because of these scores, the range of credit access in the Democratic Republic of Congo widens, but the country’s laws and corruption still are hurdles that must be overcome in order for the credit access and credit volume to reach ideal numbers.

– Julianne Russo
Photo: Pixabay

Tech Hubs in Ghana
Even with the challenges the country faces in establishing complete infrastructure, the positive influence of internet coverage in Ghana can be seen from the following data from 2016:

  • Over 18 different service providers offer easy access to the internet all over Ghana. These providers include BusyInternet, Africanus.net and Africa Online.
  • Over 2,900,000 of the Facebook users live in Ghana.
  • As of 2016, 28.4 percent of the Ghana population had access to the internet, opposed to a mere 0.2 percent in 2000.
  • The number of 7,958,675 internet users means that 20,074,700 people still live without internet access in Ghana.

Community-Influenced Tech Hubs

An African organization called Developers in Vogue provides a haven for Ghanaian women pursuing the education in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Women make up over 50 percent of the population in Africa but less than 20 percent of the science and engineering world in Africa. Developers in Vogue combats gender preconceptions on one level and lack of opportunity on another. Providing scholarships, training courses and a project-based curriculum for women seeking a STEM career, Developers in Vogue connects students with internship and jobs. Their aim is to inspire social impact through technology and problem-solving by using real-life cases from their communities in their curriculum.

Another company, Hopin Academy in Tamale, Ghana, works toward supporting students by connecting them to the courses most appropriate for their interests and skills. Through peer-to-peer development and local innovators, the tech hub connects Ghanaians from different backgrounds to practical niches in the local job market. One of the school’s students, Mercy Hammond, is studying BA in Development Education and had her secondary education at Aburi Girls’ Senior High School in the Eastern Region. She is the owner and director of Sparkle House Enterprise that was registered on June 28, 2017, and is involved in the production of jewelry made of both beads and soft metals.

Companies Partnering with Ghana Tech Hubs

As Christoph Fitih, Sales Director for Africa branch of Parallel Wireless states, African countries need to adopt new technologies to prevent further marginalization of Africa from the world economy and eliminate the widening of the current digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world.

Businesses in Ghana understand the time is ripe to create an online presence and even necessary as the world market starts to move more and more toward internet users. MEST, a Pan-African organization partnering with global tech giants, offers aspiring entrepreneurs a rigorous, fully sponsored 12-month program to top-graduates in several African countries including Ghana. Training includes business, communications and software development as well as hands-on project work, giving graduates the chance to pitch their final idea to the board and receive seed funding for their entrepreneurship. Academics and teachers from all over the world bring their experience to the company.

More internet coverage in Ghana means tech companies such as Hubtel and Rancard have become Pan-African brands and according to Nana Prempeh, co-founder and CEO of Asoriba, Ghana has great strengths when it comes to the tech ecosystem. MEST has been a strong backbone of the community. Other global companies partnering with Ghana’s many startups and tech hubs include Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, all connected through MEST.

Ghana Technology Development Issues

Ghana’s comparatively stable electricity, security and internet infrastructure exists despite the series of damaging military coups the country went through before 1981. Even though fewer than 1 percent of African retail sales happen online, e-commerce will sky-rocket in Africa, according to the technology review Ghana’s Last Mile by Jonathan Rosen. He hopes issues with unpaved roads and confusing street-labeling will soon be solved through the same spirit of innovation that is already sweeping the nation.

Broader internet coverage in Ghana brightens its future in tech and the online market. There are obstacles of infrastructure to overcome and yet great hope for keeping up with world-wide tech hubs remains. Perhaps the country’s name, roughly derived from the words meaning Warrior King, gives a glimpse of the spirit of the country.

Investment from giants like Google and Amazon Web Services spearhead the beginning of partnerships with corporations all over the globe, as other companies begin to take notice of Ghana’s local hubs and competitive training. Most encouraging is seeing the hands-on training of MEST addressing communities and providing a stream of trained tech-students into the job market.

– Hannah Peterson

Photo: Flickr

Technology Transforms Agriculture in Developing Countries
Smallholder farmers and their families make up to almost 75 percent of the world’s poor population. Struggling with access to health care, clean drinking water and education are just some of the daily challenges these people face. A digital technology company called Ricult is striving to improve the productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in developing countries by solving agricultural problems with technology-based solutions. Ricult has already helped 10,000 farmers across Thailand and Pakistan and continues to prove that technology transforms agriculture in developing countries every day.

Technology Transforms Agriculture

Ricult requires farmers to enter in their geo-coordinates through their app. It then uses geospatial data streams that monitor the environment through weather, satellite, and soil analytics. This provides the farmer with valuable data such as soil conditions to ensure optimal growth.

Some of the basic problems that poor farmers face include inadequate access to weather data, no pest attack forecast, storage issues, low-profit margins and credit access. According to Usman Javaid, the CEO of Ricult, the biggest reason why microfinance institutions haven’t been able to alleviate poverty in developing markets is that they only focus on one part of the problem by providing credit.

The Work of Government of Pakistan

Providing credit is the main way the Government of Pakistan seeks to transform agriculture. The government has adopted a long-term development strategy that aims to remodel the country into an upper middle-income country by 2025. The government developed the Five Year Plan that aims to ensure national food security and reduce rural poverty by increasing productivity, competitiveness and environmental safety. Through this program, the government provides $3 billion in subsidies, grants and loans. They are also providing credit to farmers who own up to 12.5 acres of land and are facing massive irrigation costs.

Ricult as Example how Technology Transforms Agriculture

Javaid says that one of the biggest problems in developing countries is that when farmers receive cash, they will use it for anything and everything but not for agriculture. The country gives an in-kind loan of inputs delivered to the doorstep of the farmers and accompanies this with insightful and actionable agronomic data from optimal sowing times to yield forecasts. This is just one of the examples of how exactly technology transforms agriculture.

Another great component about Ricult is that it allows farmers to get paid within 48 hours. Farmers generally use a middleman who delivers produce from the farm to the markets. Middlemen often stagger payments and cost additional input. Ricult offers five times lower interest rates than middlemen. Ricult has received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation and continues to transform agriculture in developing countries by making a positive impact in the lives of farmers.

A Pakistani farmer named Faraz Shah has said that the current system of informal credit was not working for the farmers. They were very upset, but Ricult has greatly improved their lives by offering credit at much cheaper prices and improving them with high-quality products. Thailand farmer BubpaWorawat said that Ricult dashboard with its color coding system lets him know in which part of his land growth is stunted so he can take immediate action unlike before when he could not personally scout the areas and he would not know about the problem until it was too late.

Ricult is only one example of how does technology transforms agriculture. Since agriculture is a prevalent way of life in less developed countries, in which most of the poor people of the world live, it is very important to develop the new ways and to use technology to help these people to be more effective in their line of work. By doing so, technology can help poor people get out of the cycle of poverty.

– Grace Klein

Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in Africa
With many of the world’s fastest-growing economies and tech markets, Africa’s next logical step of developing artificial intelligence (AI) and assimilating it into various industries is quickly becoming reality. Despite fears of worsening unemployment rates and widening wealth distribution disparity, many tech companies and governments are finding ways of using artificial intelligence in Africa to improve lives.

The Current State of Technology

In countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, whose steadily growing economies are due in part to the rise and success of tech industry growth, local startups are addressing issues unique to the areas in which they operate. Despite the technology growth and development, many people are afraid that the implementation of artificial intelligence in Africa will take jobs away from workers, leading to increased unemployment rates that have long troubled various African countries.

Understanding that many Africans do not currently have access to the level of education needed to qualify for loftier jobs, governments of the African countries have set out to make education more attainable and more specialized, and global tech giants have made it clear that they see potential in Africa in the tech industry, specifically in artificial intelligence in Africa, and are looking to take advantage of this potential.

Unlocking Potential

Artificial intelligence in Africa has already yielded substantial results, promising a bright future as the industry grows so long as it receives proper support from government and tech organizations. For example, governments must change the school curriculums to meet the demands of the modern workforce, cultivating analytical thinkers with the ability to identify and solve everyday problems.

Tech companies including Facebook and Google have already established a respective presence in Africa, acknowledging both the capable minds the continent already has to offer as well as the increasing need for reform in education. Google has opened an AI research center in Ghana, where it has also begun construction of a fiber-optic line that will strengthen the internet for the country. It will draw students from local universities that have already made headway in specializing in computer sciences and other fields of study crucial to the growth of AI and the tech industry as a whole.

In areas such as health care, insurance and manufacturing, AI has already yielded significant beneficial results for Africa. As issues in these and other fields accumulate naturally with growth, tech professionals see AI as the key to maintaining and improving the lives of many people in Africa and around the world.

Looking Forward

While AI still has a stigma and is consider a luxury, other people see the tech industry as vital to solving practical problems whose solutions may not be realized quickly enough by human efforts alone. The fear that artificial intelligence in Africa will take away jobs is legitimate in that the very objective of AI is to accomplish the work of humans more quickly and efficiently.

Governments of African countries can improve and adapt education and if global tech leaders continue to see potential in Africa and support its growth, the tech industry will demand increasing numbers of educated Africans to match the industry’s rapid growth.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Pixabay

Using ‘evil’ technology in the fight against poverty
Technology is neither inherently good or bad; it is, rather, humanity’s use of technology that can be considered as evil or virtuous. Certain modern tools have the reputation for being capable of carrying out despicable deeds and are, therefore, surrounded by controversy. Artificial intelligence and drones are two of the most widely commentated on and feared applications of modern science. Despite this prevailing negative perception, combatting poverty is happens to be one of the good uses of AI and drones.

Drones Revealing Inequalities

Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, but they, along with their human operators, are also doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cities and show the line dividing the rich and the poor.

He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. You can see giant mansions with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings squished into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality, which would be impossible without drone photography.

Drones Mapping Land

Another way that drones are helping alleviate poverty is through land mapping. More than half the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove they own their land. This is especially problematic in Kosovo where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars in the late 90s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and their communities. One enormous roadblock is their inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically.

These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business, but she was repeatedly turned down because she lacked “property documents to put down as a guarantee.” These communities do not have the means to hire the land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation for their land.

However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatch drones to map out land plots for a fraction of the cost of traditional land surveyors, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

AI for Safety and Health

Artificial intelligence (AI), also referred to as “machine learning,” is the “capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” It’s often associated with movies about robots destroying humanity that are based on the real fear that one day these machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this destructive potential of AI, in the real world, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing businesses in Africa.

One article argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is the Moroccan company Casky that uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This has been improving riding habits and providing more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders.

One Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The AI creates models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save many lives of those who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

AI Helping Businesses

Another instance showing the advantages of AI is the reduction of consumer costs from companies like Niotek in Egypt. This company used AI to improve service quality and reduce the likelihood of human error. AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India where RFID tags are being used in dairy cows to provide important information about the cows’ diets and overall health. The information is then stored in a “cow cloud” where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues or if a cow requires their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just a few of the many examples of good uses of AI and drones.  They have been especially useful in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses of AI and drones. While some individuals may want to use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of people looking to use the same tools to improve the world.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty in India
India, one of the most populated countries in the world, is a country that has benefited from the use of programs that are utilizing technology. Several programs have been implemented in the last decade that can serve as real examples of how technology is reducing poverty in India.

Reducing Poverty in India

Data from 2012 indicate that India contains the largest number of people living in poverty, at 270 million, with 80 percent of the poor living in rural areas. Most of these people living in rural areas rely on agriculture to make a living, and because men are leaving isolated villages to try and work in urban areas, women make up almost 50 percent of India’s self-employed farmers.

In 2016, the Prime Minister of India introduced a national policy aiming to double the farmers’ income by 2022. He advocated for a three-part strategy under which one-third of the farming sector should focus on traditional crops, such as paddy and sugarcane, one-third for poultry, beekeeping and fishery and one-third for planting trees to produce timber.

Crop Insurance Scheme

The Prime Minister also implemented a Crop Insurance Scheme to help farmers. They have to pay just 2 percent of the premium for kharif crop or those harvested in the summer season, and 1.5 percent for rabi, crops harvested in the spring, and the horticulture will be fixed at 5 percent. The balance premium will be paid by both the state and central government. India derives about 17 percent of its GDP from agriculture, and because crop output can change due to weather, this crop insurance scheme gives farmers a safety net.

Nano Ganesh

Another use of the technology in reducing poverty in India is Nano Ganesh. This is a mobile-based remote controller that is used to control water pumps from a mobile phone with mobile signal connectivity at both ends. The app is used as an interface between the high voltage starters and the low voltage GSM modules, which allows for farmers to turn the water pumps on and off and to check how much power is available.

Farmers can also check the water levels in the storage tank as well. This app saves farmers from making the long trek to distant water pump sites and also saves them from waiting on site to switch the water pump off when irrigation is complete. Since the app was introduced in 2003, it has over 60,000 installations in India reaching 480,000 people living in rural areas.

National Identity Card

India’s national identity card project was established in India in 2009 and represent yet another successful step in reducing poverty in India through technology. The goal of the program is to issue an identity card to each of the country’s over 1.2 billion residents. The card contains a unique 12-digit number that is linked to each person’s fingerprint and iris scans. Eventually, the card is expected to improve India’s basic education and health systems. The card could help check attendance of students and teachers in rural schools as well as the presence of doctors in rural health centers. It is also intended to serve as the basis for building a complete health information system.

In addition, the ID card is said to be sufficient for opening a bank account. Currently, over 50 percent of India’s people currently do not have bank accounts, and 90 percent of the bank accounts that had been initiated about a decade ago under a policy of opening bank accounts for all people living in India are now either closed or unused.

India is the second most populated country in the world. Due to this reason, and the fact that a large percentage of the population lives in poverty, the country’s government must do everything it can to improve the situation and alleviate poverty. Technological improvements and their usage were out of great help in reducing poverty in India, and future steps should be also taken in this direction in order to improve the situation in the country.

Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr