Information and stories about technology news.

Technology Developments in Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in North West Africa that sits in the Sahara desert. It has one of the smallest populations in West Africa but it is one of the largest countries. Mauritania’s economy is largely agricultural, with scattered settlements of people throughout the desert. According to the latest official estimates from 2014, 31% of the population lived under the poverty line. The World Bank says income and employment losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced 48,000 people in Mauritania into conditions of extreme poverty. Education and technology developments in Mauritania will help stimulate the economy and alleviate systemic poverty.

Education in Mauritania

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has tried to increase its standards and practices of education in the country, and following COVID-19, technological advancements came inevitably. In terms of access to education, USAID notes the primary school net enrolment rate as 76.86% in 2019, but for upper secondary schools, this rate stood at just 38.87%. The average Mauritanian is expected to receive just seven years of education from birth to the age of 18. Fortunately, the youth literacy rate stood at 76.49% in 2021, a number that international organizations and the Mauritanian government would like to increase.

The World Bank explains that poor education in Mauritania has a direct adverse impact on the economy and that efforts to improve education are necessary. Education and technology developments in Mauritania could strengthen human capital.

The Support of Grants

In March 2020, UNICEF Mauritania received a grant from the Global Partnership of Education to the value of $70,000 to assist the Ministry of Education in developing a strategy to address the impacts of the pandemic on children’s education. Between 2020 and 2022, the Islamic Development Bank gave Mauritania $3.5 million in grants to strengthen the education sector amid the pandemic.

The grants went toward ensuring the continuation of education through distance learning, for example, through radio and TV broadcasts and digital learning platforms. Funding also went toward establishing “remedial and accelerated learning programs” to address learning losses arising from school closures.

The introduction of digital technology into education systems also formed an imperative part of reforms. The grants also funded awareness campaigns to “address the barriers that stop children from going to school” and give more attention to vulnerable impoverished children. Teachers also received training in psychosocial support, with an emphasis on supporting girls.

Developments in Technology

More than 40% of the people in Mauritania live in rural areas, which are often remote with little access to infrastructure. In 2017, only 21% of Mauritanians utilized the internet, rendering much of the population inactive on the internet. Increasing internet and digital education is a large part of the country’s national development plan going forward.

The High-Level Digital Council (HCN) and the Ministry of Digital Transition, Innovation and Public Sector Modernisation (MNTIMA) look toward “digital transformation” solutions to strengthen “regulation, infrastructure, e-government, digital business, sectoral transformation and human capital.”

The West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP) has delivered new programs and launched initiatives as well. WARCIP has put down 1,700 km of fiber optic cable to provide internet connectivity and access in previously inaccessible areas of Mauritania since 2012 when the project began.

These broadband networks are working to lower the cost of communication in Mauritania. WARCIP recognizes Mauritania’s geographical potential to be a center of economic activity and hopes to expand the growth of information and communications technology to spur economic growth and job creation.

Education and technology developments in Mauritania play a large role in economic growth and communications advancement. These areas suffered during COVID-19 but have seen an uptick in funding that must continue in order for the country to thrive.

– Anna Richardson
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Nigeria
In today’s digital age, technology has become an integral tool in Nigeria’s fight against various diseases. From improving access to health care to building health care capacity, technology has played a vital role in the effort to combat disease. Here are 10 ways technology assists in tackling diseases in Nigeria.

Tackling Diseases in Nigeria with the Help of Technology

  1. One of the major ways technology is helping to combat diseases in Nigeria is through an electronic case-based reporting system. This system allows for real-time tracking of disease cases and outbreaks, which helps detect potential outbreaks early and respond quickly. All 774 local government areas in Nigeria have implemented this system through the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTP).
  2. Technology is also helping to fight tuberculosis (TB) and HIV in Nigeria. More than 1,000 health facilities have implemented electronic medical record systems, providing data for program decision-making. A national repository of de-identified patient records for more than 1.9 million HIV patients has also emerged and more than 500 facilities have implemented systems for automated and instant transmission of viral load results to aid in the exchange of health information related to HIV.
  3. Technology has played a key role in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases by using innovative software and messaging systems. Nigeria has implemented a national software system for routine immunization along with an SMS texting system for weekly reporting in 18 states. Additionally, an electronic data management system is aiding COVID-19 vaccination efforts, allowing for more efficient tracking and distribution of vaccines.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology in the fight against disease in Nigeria. The integration of COVID-19 testing into the national laboratory network enabled the country to conduct more than 5.5 million tests between 2020 and 2022. A state response coordination mechanism has emerged, allowing for weekly virtual meetings among the 52 national rapid response teams. Additionally, digital training materials are helping to support infection prevention and control efforts among 1,000 frontline health care workers.
  5. Funmi Adewara and her company, MobiHealth International, are using digital technology to combat the pandemic. They are doing this by providing patients with access to thousands of doctors in multiple languages through a smartphone app, toll-free line or mobile, solar-powered telehealth clinic across Nigeria. Additionally, the company has launched a free telemedicine hotline in partnership with the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research to provide remote communities with COVID-19 screening and testing.
  6. Technology is also aiding in training volunteers who spread information about COVID-19 through digital media platforms such as Zoom. This allows for effective communication and dissemination of information about the virus to a wider audience, which increases public awareness and understanding of the disease.
  7. Technology is also beneficial for surveillance and response to diseases. The power of technology has greatly enhanced the speed and effectiveness of activating public health emergency operations centers in Nigeria. The country has 36 sub-national public health EOCs spread across its six geopolitical zones, all of which are connected to the National EOC.
  8. Additionally, technology is helping to improve surveillance systems for tracking and preventing infectious diseases, such as polio and measles, in Nigeria by monitoring vaccines’ side effects. In the fight against Ebola, technology has played a crucial role in early detection and response. Examples include thermal scanners at airports, mobile phone technology for reporting, and public health informatics tools for data collection and analysis, which have helped overcome challenges in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
  9. The African CDC is using technology to improve disease monitoring in Africa, including Nigeria, through Digital Disease Surveillance. This method involves tracking and monitoring illnesses and outbreaks by utilizing data from online sources such as search engines, social media and mobile phones, allowing for real-time tracking of disease spread and targeted efforts by health care professionals.
  10. Technology is helping enhance health care delivery in Nigeria by utilizing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes the utilization of ICTs to improve health care services and record keeping by implementing remote monitoring systems for patients to track their health, using advanced equipment and machinery in laboratories to better understand diseases and their causes and utilizing telemedicine and artificial intelligence.

Looking Ahead

In conclusion, technology is playing a vital role in the fight against diseases in Nigeria. From electronic case-based reporting systems to digital surveillance and telemedicine, technology is improving disease monitoring and responsiveness, enhancing health care delivery and increasing health care access for all Nigerians. The implementation of these technologies has enabled real-time tracking of disease cases, early detection of outbreaks and efficient distribution of vaccines. The use of technology has also helped to overcome challenges in the fight against diseases such as COVID-19, TB, HIV and polio. Moreover, it has greatly enhanced the speed and effectiveness of activating public health emergency operations centers. As technology continues to advance, it will become an even more important tool in the fight against diseases in Nigeria.

– Nkechi First
Photo: Flickr

Digital Technologies
Impoverished children have long been the target of anti-poverty efforts. In addition to being one of the groups most vulnerable to the effects of penury, ensuring children have opportunities to grow economically and socially is vital in the long-term fight against global poverty, considering they will form coming generations. This aspect has become more important than ever; due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, child poverty has seen a substantial increase in many parts of the world, and the fight against child poverty as a whole has experienced complications. Thankfully, focusing on digital technologies can yield multiple solutions to many of the issues bound up in child poverty.

Understanding Child Poverty

Today, 1 billion children are in multidimensional poverty (with about 356 million of those children being in extreme poverty), which means they lack access to various necessities ranging from clean water and food to a proper education. In recent years this number has unfortunately increased, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing another 100 million children into poverty.

The effects of child poverty can be devastating, both short and long-term. About 3.1 million children die each year (or 8,500 children a day) from a lack of proper nutrition. For many other children, not having adequate nutrition or clean food can lead to several issues such as stunted growth. In the long term, if these impoverished children are unable to get a proper education, that will stymie opportunities for them to climb the economic and social ladders and raise themselves out of poverty. For these issues and many more, child poverty is a vital facet to focus on when fighting against world impoverishment.

Technological Solutions

Thankfully, digital technology has emerged as one avenue to fight child poverty. For example, one huge way digital technologies are improving the lives of impoverished children is by providing greater access to education. As technologies like computers and cellular connectivity continue to gain a greater foothold in the world’s poorest regions, they provide opportunities for children to have complete, safe and efficacious access to sources of education. Studies that the United Nations and agencies like UNICEF have backed this up by showing that using digital technologies to educate poor children can not only help them get into the educational system but help them catch up on time they lost in the classroom during events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital technology can also help fight child poverty in ways many may have never considered. For example, the introduction of new technologies into poor regions can help improve their Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems, programs that various national governments use to record data such as birth date, place and other vital information about individuals. These systems do not have records of many of the world’s poorest children, which means these children cannot access things that their governments provide such as social, health and education services. Streamlining digital technologies that allow for poor children to be registered in these systems, will ensure they have the full support and protection of rights from the government necessary to thrive and survive.

Looking Forward

Child poverty remains a top issue in the fight against global poverty. Thankfully, several of the issues rooted in this fight are possible to combat through the promotion of the innovative use of digital technology in the world’s poorest regions. As more research continues into how digital technologies can help end child poverty, progress will continue.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

EdTech Companies in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has been heavily relying on coaching centers as after-school education resources. According to the Education Household Survey 2014 by BBS, around one-third of educational costs are spent on coaching centers or private tutoring. In addition to in-person tutoring, EdTech companies in Bangladesh are currently gaining popularity due to their wide range of access and quality learning experiences. With the rise of internet and technology users, EdTech companies are expanding their content and services to meet the student’s needs.

Post-Covid Situation

Back in March 2022, all educational institutions in Bangladesh had to shut down because of a governmental mandate implemented because of the pandemic. As a result, many students and teachers opted for online platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet to conduct regular classes. Additionally, teachers have used online submissions and clouds to store and grade materials.

Ten Minute School

Ten Minute School is a pioneer of EdTech Companies in Bangladesh. Ayman Sadiq launched the company in 2015 as a YouTube channel. Within a few months, it skyrocketed in popularity and turned into the most popular EdTech company in Bangladesh. That channel currently has 2.52 million subscribers. Teaching materials include educational videos, training programs, English language courses and more. The company has a broad targeted audience including students in K-12 and those preparing for university entrance exams, IELTS, GRE Prep, etc.

Technical-Training Companies

In addition to educational lessons, many companies also provide skills training ranging from social media marketing, graphic designing, web designing, software building and more. Some of the technical training and skill-based EdTech companies in Bangladesh include Upskill, BYLCx and CodersTrust. Besides courses in core academic subjects, Upskill also provides corporate training to employees in specific industries. Similarly, BYLCx has training programs in fields such as entrepreneurship, leadership, digital marketing and personal development in hopes of producing more young change-makers in their communities. On the other hand, CodersTrust is more focused on technology, coding classes and training for the digital economy.

According to Digital Mahbub, the Bangladesh EdTech industry can grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% from 2019-2024. However, due to its somewhat new industry, there is not a wide variety of data related to the industry or its statistical benefits. With an increasing number of internet users, more and more students are opting for EdTech companies as a supplemental method of studying. Not only does it create more job opportunities for recent graduates, but it also provides students with a quality education from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, EdTech companies in Bangladesh are more suitable options for low-income students as these classes are sometimes free or cheaper than traditional coaching centers. Bangladesh is set to graduate from its status as a Least Developed Country in 2026 and EdTech companies will continue to play integral roles in improving literacy and educational outcomes among the population.

– Zahin Tasnin
Photo: Flickr

African Women
One area where the fight against poverty in Africa has had significant support is the continent’s tech industry. As more tech companies and startups move into Africa, the result is an increase in opportunities for Africans to enter the sector as developers and IT experts. In 2020, the number of professional software developers in Africa rose from 690,000 to 716,000, which is due in part to countries like Kenya making it mandatory to teach programming in school. The tech industry continues to provide many amazing opportunities for Africans and African women to rise out of poverty.

However, one group that has not experienced the full positive impact of Africa’s tech industry is women. Today, women make up less than 20% of the digital workforce. Despite making up about 60% of Africa’s workforce, women often find themselves in low-income and labor-intensive jobs such as farming that provide little opportunity for economic and career development. By not being as readily included in Africa’s tech industry, African women – especially those who are in deeper poverty – are at a strong disadvantage.

Thankfully, there are those who realize this discrepancy and are working to provide opportunities for women to enter Africa’s tech industry. Two of these organizations are Mukuru and WeThinkCode, a financial service company and an educational institution, respectively, that recently hosted a hackathon to help female developers show their skills and gain impactful career opportunities.

Opportunities Through Coding

Both institutions have great influence in the sphere of Africa’s digital economy. Mukuru is an innovative money transferral service located in South Africa, while WeThinkCode is an academy that provides top-class coding education to residents of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province. In September 2022, both organizations teamed up to host a woman-only hackathon, to which they invited female students of WeThinkCode and bursary recipients of the Mukuru Education Fund.

A “hackathon” is an event where multiple people get together and work on one or several coding projects over a specific period of time. The goal for this hackathon was for the selected female programmers to create either a financial education or management tool that Mukuru would then use to serve its customers. Designed to allow the attending women to put their coding skills on display, the event helped women win internships and important job shadowing opportunities.

Deidré Vrede, Mukuru’s CSI manager, cited the problem of women in Africa’s tech industry making up less than 20% of the workforce, and how she felt their hackathon was a great step forward in remedying this issue. “Judging by the innovation, skills and creativity on display [at this hackathon], the future of women in IT is bright,” she said. Nyari Sumashonga, the CEO of WeThinkCode, concurred, stating her belief that the young women that participated will be role models for future generations of women wishing to enter the tech industry.

Woman Leading Tech

Mukuru and WeThinkCode’s hackathon serves as a great example of the work occurring to provide African women with opportunities to gain meaningful careers in the tech industry, regardless of their economic status. Providing opportunities for impoverished women to prove their skills and climb the professional ladder will not only help raise them out of poverty but will also be a boon to Africa’s tech industry.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Rwanda's Innovative Technology
Rwanda is a country located in the Eastern part of Africa that has been on the rise since the 1990s. The country has become a leader in innovation and technology, and it is one of the most innovative countries in Africa. Here are 10 facts about Rwanda’s innovative technology.

10 Things About Rwanda’s Innovative Technology

  • Rwanda’s innovative technology inspires the country to dream of “Made in Africa.” The Mara phone—the first phone in Africa—aims to create high-quality smartphones designed to promote digital inclusion. Using technology to improve the lives of people in Africa, Mara Phones produces high-quality smartphones designed to promote digital inclusion. Founded in 1996 by Ashish Thakkar, Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group, a dynamic African group with operations in the banking, technology, real estate and infrastructure fields.
  • Rwanda is using its technological potential to move the country from a developed nation to a developed country. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is intent on turning Rwanda into the technology capital of Africa, like Singapore. For years Kagame has been drawing parallels between the two countries, following in the footsteps of the late Lee Kuan Yew, the man credited with transforming Singapore from a developing world status. Together with his successors, they have experienced global renown as the ‘master builders’ of the 20th century.
  • The Rwandan government has Stellar Ambitions, including a satellite program to help monitor water supply and anticipate natural disasters. In 2019, Rwanda launched its first telecommunications satellite, Rwa-Sat-1. The satellite now collects data from terrestrial sensors to inform the government about agriculture, meteorology, national water resources and disaster risks.
  • Today, Rwanda is part of just 13 African countries that have enacted explicit legislation on e-waste. In 2016, Rwanda’s law cratered common regulations for dealing with outdated electrical devices, as well as assigning duties in this area between the nation’s different organizations. By 2020, the so-called Enviroserve Rwanda Green Par e-waste management plant opened. Enviroserve offers services, such as remodeling, refurbishing and recycling of hardware, e.g. outdated mobiles, computer systems and other appliances. Furthermore, Rwanda has been championing the regional e-waste program of the East African Communications Association (EACO) alongside Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania, according to the World Economic Forum.            
  • Rwanda became one of the first nations in Africa to launch a national drone delivery system. Rwanda has been able to reduce service time delays and costs by using drones instead of conventional delivery methods to deliver medical supplies. To streamline blood deliveries, Rwanda’s government signed a deal with Zipline, a drone startup based in San Francisco, in 2016. Zipline’s autonomous drones would transform blood from a distribution center to a hospital.  
  • One of the forerunners in Africa in the development of smart cities is Rwanda. Kigali’s modernization is a part of a larger initiative by the Rwandan government to broaden and streamline access to public services. The government’s Irembo platform aims to develop e-government services that will enable citizens to submit requests for birth certificates and register for driving tests online. The Rwandan government established a partnership with Nokia and SRG to implement smart city technology in order to “improve the lifestyle and social sustainability of its citizens.” For instance, in 2016, the city began deploying buses with free Wi-Fi and cashless payment services.
  • The government of Rwanda introduced AI-powered chatbots to health care to help Rwandans have easier access to consultations with doctors or nurses. This is possible thanks to Rwanda’s cutting-edge technology. Today, patients can complete about 4,000 consultations per day from any location in the nation with just a mobile device. Babylon’s nurses are using the tool to increase productivity and help them make better choices for their patients.
  • To improve the technological aptitude of its youth, Rwanda has implemented a number of significant initiatives and policies. The “One Laptop Per Child” project, which distributes laptops to all of the nation’s primary schools, is one such initiative. The project has already given 203,000 laptops—which government funding paid for—to 407 schools. The Carnegie Mellon University branch in Rwanda is a partner in another impressive project. Through this collaboration, the University will offer Rwandan students instruction in IT, electrical and computer engineering as well as a degree.
  • A number of cutting-edge startups that have support from the government are based in Rwanda and have a positive impact on the nation. In contrast to other African nations, Rwanda’s government has complete authority over the nation’s technological infrastructure and operations. Long-term, this may stifle innovation, but it has helped the nation concentrate its efforts and resources on crucial areas that might be crucial to its future growth. In order to produce laptops that are “made in Rwanda,” the government, for instance, recently agreed to a contract with the South American business Positivo BGH, World Geostrategic Insights reports. The contract stipulates that the business will make 150,000 laptops annually.
  • Together with OneWeb, Rwanda launched its own satellite, the Icyerekezo. Rural Rwandan schools will now have access to fast internet thanks to the satellite. Icyerekezo (meaning Vision) is the moniker that students from Groupe Secondaire St Pierre Nkombo on Nkombo Island gave to the satellite. With the help of this exciting partnership, schools in isolated areas will have access to the internet, allowing them to take part in the ICT initiatives in classrooms all over the nation.

A Major Driver

The government of Rwanda made the deliberate choice to prioritize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a crucial component of the nation’s development agenda, which has led to the country’s innovation and technological advancements. A major driver of the expansion of the telecommunications industry in Rwanda has been the rise in demand for ICT services and the pressure to make the economy more competitive.

– Frida Sendoro
Photo: Flickr

Smart Farming
In many parts of the world, communities hugely rely on the success and yield of various crops to feed and financially support their inhabitants. As both weather patterns and air temperatures continue to fluctuate, smart farming could offer opportunities to adapt to those who these situational changes affect the most.

What is Smart Farming?

Smart farming is the use of various new technologies to allow farmers to improve both the quality and quantity of crops. This includes the use of AI, Wi-Fi-enabled machinery and drones. The use of such technologies could help improve productivity and lead to more sustainable farming practices.

Why Do Farms Need To Become Smart?

The Paris Agreement states that countries worldwide should reduce global emissions by the year 2030 to minimize the changing weather patterns. As environmental conditions change so too will farming. A number of these changes could impact farming including soil degradation, temperature differences and changes in rainfall and weather patterns, negatively affecting the productivity and yield of crops. In the face of this feedback loop of unsustainable farming leading to unsustainable environments, research suggests that technological advancements are necessary to break the cycle.

In the current global system, those principally responsible for environmentally damaging practices are not necessarily the ones that weather patterns affect the most. It largely falls on already disenfranchised communities, such as those living in the Global South, to bear the brunt of others’ pollution.

Smart Technologies 

Smart farming is just one example of the kinds of smart technologies which are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. From watches to fridges, more of the things that surround us are using Wi-Fi. This growing digitization is known as the Internet of Things.

In the context of smart farming, digitization could allow farming technologies to effectively communicate with one another using sensors and automation to adapt to light and moisture levels in real-time, according to IoT For all. This leads to a huge increase in the efficiency of the farming practice and a much higher yield for farmers.

Agricultural Drones Offering Opportunities

Agricultural drones are a growing example of the kinds of technologies people will use on farms in the coming years. Drones are currently able to conduct imaging and monitoring of crops, however, Global Data explains that by 2030 drones will also be able to conduct advanced crop spraying and terrain monitoring.

According to the U.N. smart farming offers huge opportunities for communities that are struggling with the adverse effects of fluctuations in weather and climate. The donation of and investment in smart farming technologies provides communities with a long-lasting solution. Unlike food donation, an approach used in traditional foreign aid strategies, investment in these technologies would grant communities greater autonomy and provide them with a future-focused solution.

The Use of Agricultural Drones in Nigeria and Malawi

One strong example of the use of smart farming to improve access to food is in the West African nation of Nigeria where people use drones to plan design and construct rice irrigation systems. Using the drones on a farm near New Busa, situated 700 km from the nation’s capital Abuja, enabled farmers to adopt irrigation and drainage systems to the natural landscape. The resulting rice paddies were much more efficient leading to greater crop success and more food for both sale and the local community.

Malawi is a Southeastern African nation that has been facing big consequences of the recent droughts. High-precision drones and weather station data have been used to accurately predict crop yields. These images were then used by researchers to help devise solutions for the 80% of Malawi’s population who make their living as small-hold farmers.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Tsunami Technology
Tsunamis are dangerous natural disasters that affect populations on coastlines and contribute to increases in global poverty. Two teams of researchers in Japan and Australia are looking into new innovations in tsunami technology, hoping to decrease some of these negative effects.

Negative Impacts of Tsunamis on Coastal Populations

The effects of tsunamis can vary depending on their size and location. Tsunamis of a large magnitude can cause extreme destruction to a country’s infrastructure, housing and transportation systems. In poorer nations, where architecture is not as robust, the destruction of buildings can be devastating. In addition, tsunamis can also cause loss of life and increase the spread of waterborne diseases. Moreover, tsunamis can also damage natural resources and water supplies. 

In addition to the safety impacts, tsunamis impose hefty financial costs on nations. After a tsunami, money is necessary to repair the damage and provide support to communities and rescue teams. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (UN OCHA) research found that “Tsunamis account for $280 billion in economic losses over [the] last twenty years.” Nations in states of poverty have a hard time providing monetary aid and require support from external organizations. This is why a single event can cause massive distress within a country, especially those with high poverty rates. 

Warning Systems and Detection in Japan

Japan is an example of a country that suffers from the negative impacts of tsunamis. The nation celebrated World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5th and hopes to use new research to strengthen communication systems and preparedness, to uncover innovations in tsunami technology. The best way to minimize casualties is communication. Once people become aware of a possible tsunami, they can move to safer areas. In addition, Japan has implemented a new system that relies on drones for detection. Earlier detection also correlates with decreased effects because nations can prepare for impact more effectively. Innovations within this field, therefore, have the potential to save human lives. 

Satellite Research in Australia

An Australian research team has published research on the potential for using satellites to map out oceanic activity. This innovation in tsunami technology utilizes atmospheric waves to locate a surface activity that is at risk of causing a potential tsunami. Satellites can also map out paths of tsunamis approaching land. This information can allow countries to anticipate disasters and protect their citizens and infrastructure. 

Benefits of These Innovations

Research in Japan and Australia provides increased preparedness for tsunamis. Innovations in both communication and detection can help countries mitigate the effects of this dangerous natural disaster. Although we cannot prevent tsunamis altogether, these innovations can help decrease fatalities and destruction. 

Both innovations in tsunami technology can be expanded and used globally to decrease negative impacts from potentially deadly tsunamis and minimize negative economic repercussions.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

5G services in India
On Oct. 1, 2022, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched 5G services in India. Such services will improve many industries, including India’s agricultural industry which is in desperate need of it. Farmers in India still heavily rely on traditional farming methods. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, approximately 58% of India’s population work in the agricultural sector. In 2020, World Bank estimated India’s employment in agriculture to be at 41.5%. Approximately, 62% of the land in India is used for agriculture. The country’s livestock population of about 535.78 million is the largest in the world. With its farmland and livestock, India is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and spices. Farmers of India play an important role in providing a means of sustenance to not only India but also the rest of the world. However, multiple challenges stand in the way of farmers in their attempt to meet the nation’s demands for food.

The Struggles of Farmers in Inda

According to a 2017 report that India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare published, about 22.5% of India’s farmers live below the poverty line. One of the reasons behind this estimate is that 70% of farmers work on farms less than one hectare (2.5 acres) in size, thereby limiting how much they can grow. For comparison, the average-sized farm in the United States is 445 acres. Another reason is that the crop yields in developing countries are 30% to 50% less than those in developed nations. This is due to the lack of modern farming technologies and techniques and the decrease in soil fertility as a result of over-fertilization and sustained pesticide use. Poor access to market information on the price of their crops and lack of good farming infrastructure, like cold storage to preserve fruits and vegetables, also contribute to lower crop yields.

In 2020, many farmers protested laws that threatened guaranteed crop prices that existed for decades. Around 100,000 demonstrators and 31 farmer’s unions united and set up large camping sites on the highways of India. Protesters claimed to represent the farmers of India and stated that the laws would allow the private sector to set lower prices on their crops. This would further worsen the ongoing struggles of farmers in the country. According to federal data, more than 10,000 farmers and agricultural workers have committed suicide due to work-related stress and despair over their livelihoods. The laws aiming to deregulate agricultural markets were eventually repealed, thanks to the protests.

Turning it Around in Farming

With the introduction of 5G services in India, farming will be more manageable and profitable. Such services can allow farmers to manage their livestock remotely. Farmers can also monitor the health of their livestock and track their activities, their food intake and their fertility through devices such as 5G-connected collars, sensors and cameras. This allows them to be aware of important events, for example, when their livestock is going into labor. 5G technology can increase profitability and improve the sustainability of India’s agricultural industry.

Farmers can use 5G to connect to the web and keep up with the market prices of their products. They can also check weather conditions to see how much water their crops would need, based on whether it would rain or not. 5G services in India will allow farmers to use cellular-connected and camera-equipped drones. These are helpful in scanning crops to monitor their health, identify weeds, apply pesticides and water with more precision and provide high-resolution images to the farmer. Farmers can also be able to control their irrigation and reduce water usage by up to 40%. They can use soil probes buried underground to monitor their soil’s moisture, soil patterns and salinity. This data can also help figure out the amount and frequency of watering for their crops.

Limitations and Promises of 5G Services

Once 5G is available to all, farmers will benefit quickly. According to an article on AgriEngineering, a majority of Indian farmers have smartphones, and the number of Indians with smartphones is expected to reach 875 million by 2023. In 2019, 88% of Indians living in rural parts of the country already had access to 4G services. Airtel and Jio (telecommunication companies) users, whose phones already have 4G SIM cards, would not need new cards for 5G as they are already 5G enabled.

However, the current lack of cellular towers in rural areas could limit 5G services for some time. Fortunately, India’s National Telecommunications Commission has directed the country’s three top telecommunication service providers to build more cellular towers and signal relay stations in rural areas. It may take over a year for 5G services to be available across the entire country. While some Airtel and Jio users may be able to use their current phones to access 5G services, users of other telecommunication companies will have to purchase new phones. With the introduction of 5G services in India, the country is taking a significant step towards digitizing agriculture. The benefits of 5G will allow farmers to improve their livelihoods and secure a better future for generations to come.

– James Harrington
Photo: Flickr

Technology Access
All over the world, libraries provide the public with free resources in order to inform, educate, enlighten, empower and equip communities with the tools to succeed. Being such an integral part of communities, it is important that everyone has access to libraries or public spaces for educational purposes. Currently, most “economic, educational, health and social opportunities” are dependent on access to the internet. The Gates Foundation’s Global Library Initiative is working to expand technology access in public libraries around the globe.

The Global Library Initiative’s Strategy

The Global Library Initiative, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sponsored, works in partnership with governments around the world to expand technology access, foster innovation, train community leaders and advocate for policy changes that benefit public libraries. By investing more than $1 billion globally to enhance the power of libraries, the Global Library Initiative is improving lives. Over the next 10 years, the Gates Foundation plans on implementing:

  • New models of public library research, training and practice.
  • More collaboration across organizations that support public libraries.
  • More support for global connections between public libraries and library organizations.
  • Sustain existing global library programs.

The Significance

“Access to information is a great equalizer” reported the Gates Foundation in response to the significance of The Global Library Initiative. After the technology boom, economic, educational, health and social opportunities almost always depend on an individual’s access to resources found online. A lack of internet access can usually translate to a lack of opportunity.

The World Economic Forum reported that the pandemic exposed the true digital divide across the globe. It reported that almost half of the world’s population had no access to the internet and fewer than one in five people in countries that are least developed around the world were connected. Furthermore, women are 30-50% less likely than men to use the internet to participate in public life.

Because so many people are unable to access the internet that would otherwise provide them with useful knowledge, funding and supporting libraries across the globe provides a smart solution. However, even though many countries already have public libraries, the communities they support often overlook their use and importance and underutilize them. In sustaining these pre-existing libraries, The Global Library Initiative can train staff to provide services to users, supportive networks and broadband connectivity rather than construct new structures entirely.

The Global Library Initiative at Work to Improve Technology Access: Romania

Because the Global Library Initiative is not contained in a single country, the program works with libraries across the globe. One example of the benefits includes their partnership with Biblionet in Romania. In partnering with the Global Library Initiative through the Gates Foundation, the Association of Librarians of Romania, and local and national governments, Biblionet allowed librarians to inspire and “breathe new life into Romanian Communities.”

The Global Library Initiative equipped 80% of all of Romania’s libraries with tech tools that offered strong internet connectivity. Then, the program funded the training of just more than 4,000 librarians in using the technology in order to ensure its accessibility to the public. In doing so, more than 41,000 farmers were able to file online applications for agricultural subsidies through public libraries. This resulted in more than $63 million worth of subsidies granted to them from the Ministry of Agriculture. Without access to the internet through the public library system, the farmers would not have received their fair share of subsidies.

The Global Library Initiative is bridging the gap between access to the internet and connectivity. The program allows more individuals to access free online resources that they would otherwise not have access to. Now, the disadvantaged have access to opportunities previously only available to more fortunate individuals, thus helping bridge the poverty gap.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr