Information and stories about technology news.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

Technology in South Korean SchoolsMany know South Korea for having high-quality education, resulting in influential economic and technological impacts. After World War II, South Korea reformed its educational system to emphasize the importance of national identity and benefiting all of society. One way the country began to alter education was through implementing technology in South Korean schools.

Education in Korea

A student who received an education in South Korea told The Borgen Project in an interview, Korean students must attend school for at least 220 days each year. Elementary school lasts from age 6 to age 14. Middle school lasts for three years, and high school lasts for another three years. In elementary school, each period lasts 40 minutes. For middle and high school, periods last 45 minutes. Students get between four and seven hours of instruction each day. Since 2007, Korean schools have been transitioning to five-day school weeks instead of six.  High schools have different categories; the main two are academic and vocational.

SMART Education in South Korean Schools

The “S” in SMART Education stands for “self-directed.” This means that students will initiate the learning. When the students have the willingness to gain knowledge, they are more likely to succeed in their education.

“M” stands for “motivated.” In the classroom, teachers include this concept by ensuring that the learning and teaching methods are engaging. This will help the students to be excited about their learning and more likely to work hard on given tasks.

“A” stands for “adaptation.” This allows education to be effective for different individuals. Each student learns differently, so teachers must adapt to the individual’s needs and circumstances.

“R” stands for “resources.” In order for the curriculum to be effective, South Korea aims to have the highest knowledge scores. In order to have all of the information required to teach effectively, teachers need enough resources.

“T” stands for “technology.” This shows the use of ICT—Information and Communications Technology—in South Korean schools’ curricula. Implementing technology and technology education into the education system digitalized South Korea’s curriculum to reflect the modern age.

Technology Education in South Korean Schools

Approximately 98% of Korean households use the Internet each day. Two-thirds of these households use smartphones. In addition, 5% of South Koreans say that they use their smartphones for at least eight hours each day. This is especially prominent among young Koreans between the ages of 5 and 19.

South Korea has been thoroughly implementing technology curricula into the country’s secondary level education. This decision originally occurred in 1969 due to the quick economic growth and technological advances in the country. Through focusing on middle and high school students, technology can have an impact on societal progress.

South Korea has the fastest internet speed and the widest access to the internet across the globe. This has contributed to the country’s successes related to technological advancement. Through incorporating technology into their education system, the country has continued to flourish and progress.

ICT Education

People across South Korea started utilizing Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, in 2005. The aims of the use of ICT are to strengthen the educational system, to further science and technology and to adapt to the rapid changes in the economy, society and science. In working toward reaching this goal, South Korea is constantly learning about advances in technology and having researchers and scientists developing new technology, as the interviewee told The Borgen Project.

In the classroom, one can see this in how students do not learn through the traditional methods of blackboards and textbooks. Schools have included ICT at all levels of the education system to develop a new generation of learners.

Professor Jeong Rang Kim of the Department of Computer Education at Gwangju National University described how, in order to strengthen students’ learning capacity, schools focus on the four C’s: critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, character and communication.

These skills are to help students adapt quickly and be ambitious. Not only did society quickly adopt ICT, but it is also part of many Koreans’ individual lives. A common Korean phrase is “pali-pali,” which means “quick and quicker.”

Impact on Poverty

Before the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea, Korea struggled with poverty. Now, it has become the world’s top 15th economic stronghold. Part of this is due to the promise of free, high-quality education for everybody, regardless of socioeconomic status; South Korea is aware of the importance of UNESCO’s “Education for All” initiative.

In addition to this, no matter how much money a student’s family has, each person has the entitlement to have skilled teachers. Becoming a teacher in South Korea is a career with high esteem, as the interviewee described.

High academic achievement sets up students for future career success. This, in turn, helps students break the cycle of poverty and build a financially secure life for themselves. By giving equal access to education, students will be more likely to get into universities and get a college degree. Furthermore, excellent education results in employees with special skills and a highly educated populace.

Going forward, individuals will continue to place a greater value on education that includes technology in South Korean schools. This results in future generations becoming more and more invested in their education, further establishing their financial security and stability.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

Mali and the TNA Project
Mali is a West African country with a population of 20 million people. The country’s high poverty levels have long-term impacts on the physical health of citizens. With a poverty rate of 42.7% in 2019, many citizens suffer from malnutrition. In response, the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) project’s overall focus on environmental health helps mitigate the long-term effects of poverty within the country. Mali and the TNA project have helped the country utilize agricultural technology to develop programs and projects centered on these impacts of poverty.

What is TNA?

The U.N. Environment Programme and the UNEP DTU partnership (U.N. Environment and the Technical University of Denmark) created the Technology Needs Assistance project in 2001. The Global Environment Facility helps finance this multi-phased project.

TNA has helped people in more than 80 countries, with a primary focus on environmental health. It uses a country-led approach in order to develop accountability. TNA generally helps countries make improvements to many of the programs and projects already in place.

The work of TNA aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs emerged to end poverty and other deprivations through global partnership. TNA recognizes the role technology can have in achieving these goals, especially in the area of environmental health.

Mali and TNA

Mali faces a serious risk of droughts. Droughts can have disastrous economic and environmental effects by damaging agriculture, water supplies and more. In response to this risk, Mali and the TNA project helped develop field contouring. Field contouring prevents soil erosion and water run-off. In one rural part of the country, Koutiala, the water run-off has reduced by at least 20% and the crop yields have increased by 30%. Additionally, Mali and TNA developed micro-hydroelectric stations that benefit the rural and urban areas of the country by providing clean energy.

Although Mali completed its TNA in 2012, the Institute of Rural Economy measures the progress and impacts of the technology that this project introduced. This research agency mainly focuses on agricultural, livestock and food technology. TNA focused on the agriculture, water resources and energy sector of the country to improve overall environmental health. Despite the country’s completion of TNA almost a decade ago, there are still clear benefits from the project. For example, the Institute of Rural Economy continues to hold training sessions and collect data to ensure the country is advancing in technology. Overall, TNA in Mali aligns with five SDGs: clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action and life on land.

CORAF in Mali

Since the TNA project in Mali officially ended, the country has taken steps to continue improving its practices for environmental health. The Conference of the Agricultural Research Leaders in West and Central Africa (CORAF) is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on agricultural production. Currently, Mali has implemented 23 CORAF projects. This organization works with different agricultural programs in Mali to improve and strengthen its agricultural technology. Its main goal is to reduce poverty and malnutrition in the country.

Although Mali has phased out of the TNA project, the nation is still working to improve its agricultural technology. Utilizing technology is one step toward mitigating the impacts of poverty within Mali.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Flickr

UnivocaNorth Korean defectors are Koreans who have fled North Korea seeking asylum in South Korea or other nations, mainly due to “political, ideological and economic reasons.” When North Korean defectors flee to South Korea, one particular challenge they endure is the language barrier. The two Koreas once shared a common language, but after years of conflict, the languages today are much different. The Univoca app, designed in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, is a South Korean-North Korean translator app that has proven useful for learning new vocabulary to helps bridge the linguistic divide. Bridging the linguistic divide helps North Korean defectors better transition to living in South Korea.

Korean Dialects

The North Korean language has always remained the same. It is known as Chosŏnŏ, whereas Hangugeo is the language of South Korea. The alphabet is the same but there are visual variations in terms of spacing, connection and appearance. Some words look completely different but most of the difference is in the dialect and pronunciation.

The developing democratic nation of South Korea frequently pokes fun at the northern dialect in comedy acts for seeming “quaint or old-fashioned. The government of the north, is of a hereditary nature as it is a family dictatorship that some often call a “hereditary dictatorship.” North Korea does not allow anything to stray from its traditional and conservative history. Defectors that have fled to South Korea often flee in a desperate attempt to leave their pasts behind them and begin a new life that does not involve dictatorship. Univoca, short for unification vocabulary, helps bridge linguistic barriers.

After the arduous journey to South Korea, many defectors describe the struggle with the language to be one of the biggest hardships. North Koreans can only understand about half of the language in South Korea. Defectors compare the transition to learning an entirely new language. Although they are eager to start a new life, the language barrier makes transitioning difficult.

The Univoca Translation App

South Korean teachers are hopeful that the Univoca app will help new defector students better understand their learning material. This, in turn, should help them progress in their educational endeavors. Univoca offers some independence from constantly relying on others to teach and translate the language.

The developers of Univoca’s dictionary deliberately and considerably chose the first 3,600 words of Univoca’s dictionary. Co-developer, Jang Jong-chul said, “We first showed this typical South Korean grammar textbook to a class of teenage defectors who picked out the unfamiliar words.” The creators also consulted older North Korean people to help with producing accurate translations.

Univoca users are able to type in the unknown word or scan a photo of it with a cellphone camera. The app then produces the appropriate translation. Univoca also offers commonly used phrases to guide users through basic activities such as ordering food off of a menu or asking for directions. Subscribers are able to add suggestions of words that they would like Univoca to add to the dictionary. This leaves room for a continually growing translation app.

The Univoca translation app is a simple solution with a tremendous impact. Univoca helps North Koreans transition to life in South Korea by offering assistance with the linguistic barriers that present themselves.

Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Global Teacher Prize
Ranjitsinh Disale received the Global Teacher Prize in December 2020. Disale is a 32-year-old schoolteacher in Paritewadi, a village located in a rural area of Western India. The Varkey Foundation named Ranjitsinh Disale the most inspirational teacher of 2020 for various reasons. Additionally, he remodeled the area’s school system, optimized pupils’ learning process and empowered teenage girls.

Celebrating Teachers Around the World

The Varkey Foundation collaborates with UNESCO to award the Global Teacher Prize to educators around the world. This Foundation believes that education should be at the center of social and humanitarian issues. According to the Varkey Foundation, education “has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict.” The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million grant that goes to one educator every year to celebrate their contributions to education and, by extension, world peace.

The Varkey Foundation underscores the impact of the Global Teacher Prize on local and international levels. As education shapes future generations, it is crucial to invest in teaching and improve educational systems on a global scale. Thus, the Global Teacher Prize has always received important media coverage. Moreover, the Global Teacher Prize inauguration obtained international support from Prince William, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates in 2014. International media supports the foundation’s goals and is crucial for the Global Teacher Prize. It recognizes the essential nature of education-related professions. Overall, the Global Teacher Prize awarded more than 40 national rewards to teachers and educators all around the world. For instance, 17 countries and states created awards celebrating local teachers in 2017.

The 2020 World’s Most Inspirational Teacher

Ranjitsinh Disale greatly contributed to the educational and cultural structures he worked in. Shortly after arriving in the small village of Paritewadie, he learned the local language. He then translated the textbooks used in his classes to improve his students’ ability to study efficiently. The 2020 laureate showed dazzling commitment to his profession. For example, he used technology to transform the educational system. He made PowerPoint presentations to expose his students to the outside world. Furthermore, he showed YouTube videos, songs and movies to his students on his personal laptop. Others best knew Disale for embedding QR codes into the students’ books so they could use videos and poems while studying a specific lesson.

One of the main challenges Ranjitsinh Disale encountered as a teacher was the lack of access to education for teenage girls. The schoolteacher used interactive and digital versions of his own lessons to reach girls who were staying at home. In addition, he personally advocated against teenage marriages. According to the Varkey Foundation, the schoolteacher transformed the entire village’s system. The organization stated, “The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary. There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school.”

Hope for the Future

Disale’s contributions to world peace do not stop here. The schoolteacher recently took part in the Let’s Cross the Borders and Live Together project. This international project aims to create a network between young people living in conflict zones to raise global awareness and build international solidarity.

Ranjitsinh Disale explains that collaboration is crucial in the fight against poverty. As a result, he decided to share his $1 million prize with the nine other Global Teacher Prize finalists. By supporting other inspirational educators, the schoolteacher hopes that they can all help improve education systems in developing countries. In an interview, the schoolteacher declared that his highest hope was to give every student from underdeveloped countries a chance to access quality education.

To make his dream come true, local solidary and international cooperation remain crucial to his vision of an educated future.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Drones and Precision AgricultureIn Africa, farming provides more than 30% of the continent’s gross domestic product and employs more than 60% of the working class. Unfortunately, Africa’s agriculture sector is hurting because environmental challenges have affected the continent’s weather patterns and temperatures, making farming extremely difficult. Outdated practices also hold Africa back, such as planting based on the moon phases, which further affects productivity. These issues bring new challenges to a struggling market trying to provide for a growing population but drones and precision agriculture may be able to help.

A Growing Population

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in three decades, Africa’s population will rise to about 2 billion people, requiring the farming sector to grow exponentially to sustain Africa. Luckily, a new relationship has formed between technology and agriculture. Drones and precision agriculture are helping farmers increase food production, protect their crops and protect themselves from poverty.

4 Ways Drones and Precision Agriculture Benefit Africa

  1. Drones and UAV’s can speed up the land registration process. Just 10% of Africa’s rural land is mapped and registered, leaving people insecure about land ownership and affecting rural farmers more than others. People involved in trades besides farming would benefit because they could use the land as a backup plan if a period of economic instability occurs instead of falling into poverty.
  2. Drones also provide farmers with an aerial view of their crops, allowing them to manage them better and notice changes. UAV’s with specialized sensors can alert farmers to changes like normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), leaf area index and photochemical reflectance index. This allows farmers to notice developments the human eye would not. Using NDVI, a person receives information about water pressure, infestations, crop diseases and nutrient problems that may affect crop production. Around 7,000 African farmers in Uganda have used these drone techniques to better manage their crops.
  3. Drones and precision agriculture provide data that helps farmers take inventory of their crops and estimate crop yields faster. Drone use also lets a farmer know the location of livestock and helps to monitor fencing. Additionally, if farmers have detailed layouts of their land, including size, crop health and location, it will improve their ability to get credit, which will provide more economic advantages.
  4. Drone technology is also changing the schema of crop insurance. Crop insurance helps small farmers recover when natural disasters destroy their crops but poor reporting delays payouts. The use of UAVs makes it easier to quickly assess disaster damage and compensate farmers that disasters affect. Some larger reinsurers, such as Munich Re, have partnered with UAV service providers to improve response times and reporting accuracy after natural disasters strike. This use of technology to better assess farm damages keeps farmers from falling into poverty and allows them to protect their livelihood.

Drone Regulations

Over the past couple of years, Africa’s food exports have increased. This rise increases farmers’ productivity, especially those who can grow staple crops, allowing them to sell their produce for more money. Drones and precision agriculture help low-income farmers learn new techniques to keep up with the demand.

While multiple countries have proven the benefit of using drones, African farmers still face a problem. About 26% of African countries have laws about drone usage. Regulations restrict drone use in certain areas, which thus restricts farmers’ productivity. In Mozambique and Tanzania, drones undergo deployment at random to assist small farmers but most drones in Africa monitor wildlife. Increasing beneficial regulations for drone and UAV usage is integral to transforming Africa’s agriculture sector.

Drones and precision agriculture have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in Africa, presenting a way to lift Africans out of poverty.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain in Southeast Asia
Early 2021 saw the formation of a new partnership between the San Diego-based blockchain platform, Solana, and the Vietnam-based investment firm, Coin98 Ventures. Together, they plan to provide a grant of $100,000 and technical, marketing and community support for Southeast Asian startups via the Solana platform. In total, the development fund will be worth $5 million. Solana’s development fund is among a trend of growing interest from private companies along with increasing government support across the region, now seeing supporting blockchain technology as a practical part of a development strategy. As a result, blockchain in Southeast Asia is increasing.

What is a Blockchain?

At its core, blockchain is an innovative database. Unlike the traditional form of storing data in a table format, blockchain operates as its name suggests: as a chain of blocks. Each block contains data, and each new inputted information adds a new block to the chain. When a new block is added, it undergoes time-stamping and encryption.

Essentially, blockchain software provides a secure and decentralized form of storing data, particularly financial data. The software operates on an algorithm to automatically record and encrypt transactions without a third party’s costly support. As a result, blockchain decentralizes financial transactions while also making them cheaper.

Blockchain: An Expanding Market

The blockchain market comprises one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2020, the market size was $3 billion. The Markets and Markets firm predicts it to reach $39.7 billion by 2025. Moreover, its Compound Annual Growth Rate is a stunning 67.3%.

One can partly explain this growth rate by increasing access to the internet and e-commerce in the world. Access to the internet has increased rapidly. In 2000, about 413 million people had an internet connection; by 2016, this number jumped to 3.4 billion.

The Benefits of Blockchain

Billions of people still experience exclusion from financial tools and cannot use anything other than physical cash for transactions. As of 2017, 1.7 billion people across the globe remained unbanked. However, by sidestepping financial institutions, blockchain decentralizes banking and opens up possibilities for many locked out of traditional financial tools such as transferring and storing digital currency and investing.

Cutting out the middleman reduces the fees involved in transactions, which often run high. This is particularly important for migrant workers who pay high transaction rates to transfer money back home to their families. For example, in 2018, Western Union reported a $5.5 billion profit in fees from the money transfers in the same year.

Additionally, blockchain reduces the cost of doing business. It cuts overhead costs by lowering transaction fees, upgrading analytical tools to understand the market/customer needs and protecting and storing data more efficiently. For instance, by the year 2024, expectations have determined that blockchain will save the food industry $31 billion. And in early 2020, Cargill and Agrocorp and partners used a blockchain platform to shorten a U.S.-Indonesia wheat transaction from a month to a mere five days.

Blockchain in Southeast Asia

Perhaps more than any other region, Southeast Asia can benefit most from blockchain’s developmental potential. As a region, it has a high internet penetration rate of 58%. Moreover, it is an underbanked region with a shocking 73% of its population still unbanked in 2017. Additionally, Southeast Asia has a large migrant worker population around the globe who would benefit from blockchain. In 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that of the migrant worker population, 20.2 million originate from Southeast Asia. Finally, as a manufacturing hub with a large e-commerce presence, blockchain technology plays an essential role in facilitating online shopping and supply-chain tracking and data storage.

Appropriately, Southeast Asian governments have supported this nascent technology. For starters, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has embraced the technology in its Economic Community 2025 Strategic Action Plan for Financial Integration. The organization claims that it will “promote innovative financial inclusion via digital platforms.”

Likewise, countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines have invested in blockchain education programs to promote its development. Singapore, for instance, launched a $9 million program, the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Program, to facilitate and research blockchain applications. Vietnam, for its part, has transitioned the storage of government education records to blockchain technology and has plans to use block-chain infrastructure to transition Ho Chi Minh city to a smart city.

Southeast Asian Blockchain Companies

Through this support, hundreds of blockchain start-ups are rapidly growing across the region, utilizing blockchain in diverse ways that cut across different sectors. Some of the significant blockchain companies that illustrate its diversity are:

  • Electrify (Singapore): Founded in 2017 to introduce “trans-active energy platforms that will democratize access to clean energy across the Asia Pacific.”
  • Pundi-X (Indonesia): Partners with retailers worldwide to install its XPOS – a blockchain-powered point-of-sale device that allows retailers to accept cryptocurrency.
  • LuxTag (Malaysia): Utilizes blockchain to verify the authenticity of luxury items.
  • HARA (Indonesia): Founded in 2015, it relies on its blockchain software to provide data exchange for the food and agriculture sectors.

Blockchain’s potential as a developmental force is palpable. The growing blockchain market in Southeast Asia is vital for development in the region. It gives many people access to financial tools who otherwise would not have it while also easing business flow across industries. These factors have propelled blockchain in Southeast Asia as a critical tool in its development.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Haller Farmers AppThe agricultural industry is responsible for a large portion of the economies in Africa. This fact means that agriculture has the power to transform Africa by helping to eradicate poverty and hunger, increasing industrialization and creating jobs and prosperity among all people. The Haller Farmers app hopes to improve agriculture in Africa with the purpose of helping farmers rise out of poverty.

Agriculture in Africa

The independence of any given African nation is dependent on the agriculture sector. Productive agricultural methods allow nations to have food security. When nations face food insecurity and widespread hunger, it is easier for other powerful countries to undermine the sovereignty of that nation. Further, agriculture is also important for the prosperity of the African continent because it has the highest potential for mitigating inequality and creating opportunities for the most disadvantaged workers in society.

In order for agriculture in a nation to thrive and allow that nation to continue to grow, innovative techniques must be implemented. Farming innovations must not only meet the needs of producers but also consider the health of people and the environment.

The Problems Farmers in Africa Face

Most farmers in Africa are small farmers or subsistence farmers who farm merely to survive and not for profit. The majority of farmers also reside in rural settings and often lack access to quality and equitable education. The number one problem African farmers face is a lack of information regarding new and modernized ways to farm.

Other farmers in Africa have had the challenge of producing agricultural goods to feed an ever-growing population with the same unsustainable techniques. Training farmers on more productive and sustainable farming techniques would hold huge potential for a flourishing African agricultural sector. This would thus allow these farmers to successfully feed the growing continent.

The Haller Farmers App

In 2014, the Haller Foundation created the Haller Farmers app to give farmers in Africa widespread access to farming techniques and agricultural information. The app is free to download and has consolidated 60 years of readily available agricultural knowledge, with the mission of creating sustainable food security and prosperity in Africa. The Haller Farmers app covers information on soil health, urban farming, water conservation and plants and animals. The app also does not need data or WiFi for information to be accessed.

Africa has experienced a mobile phone revolution, with access to smartphones and the internet growing massively in the last decade. In Kenya, for example, 74.2% of internet penetration exists and more than two-thirds of all new phones that people purchase are smartphones. The Haller Farmers app has capitalized on this data to create an equitable and widespread way for farmers to gain knowledge.

Going Beyond Food Security

Beyond ensuring food security, the Haller Farmers app also strives to minimize the gender divide and empower women since 80% of smallholder farmers in Kenya are women. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that farm productivity can grow by 20% through women’s empowerment. Educating these women farmers gives them more opportunities for success, which helps economic growth as a whole. The Haller Foundation also recognizes the communal nature of many farming regions in Africa, so when a community has access to even one phone with the app, this small change could impact hundreds of others.

The Haller Farmers app also hopes to add more features in the future. This includes an e-commerce function, information on weather and the market, microloans, crop insurance as well as progress monitoring services. The e-commerce function would allow farmers to buy and sell tools and other farming supplies. The Haller Foundation is hopeful that these features will help to create sustainable agriculture in Africa. A second version of the app launched in 2020.

One particular success story is that of Patricia. The Haller Farmers app helped her to make her land farmable again. The financial gain from the success of her farming, therefore, enabled her to build a house with electricity and water access for her whole family. In the year 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture made Patricia Farmer of the Year.

The Future of Agriculture in Africa

A hopeful future for agricultural production in Africa rests on the ability of farmers to utilize sustainable technologies that help them to maximize production. The Haller Farmers app is, therefore, one step in the right direction of creating a self-sustaining and thriving agricultural sector in every nation of Africa.

Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

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

Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.

Technology

Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr