Information and stories about technology news.

Digital Solutions
Many countries in Africa suffer from food insecurity for a variety of reasons; most link back to unstable agricultural food sources. Traditionally, most farmers had no means of recovering from natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires. Other outside factors, such as a country’s political state and poor education, can also contribute to poor agricultural yields. Further, while these issues still remain, the creation of numerous digital solutions could help alleviate these problems. Digital solutions can benefit agriculture in Africa and positively impact Africa’s near future.

Digitalization for Agriculture

The use of applications has risen in Africa’s agricultural sector. This includes the use of text messaging to deliver economic advice to smaller farmers. Another way is through the use of interactive voice response to connect farmers with potential buyers and other farmers. These solutions allow farmers to expand their market, while also increasing the number of connections between farmers within a given area.

The digital solutions market in Africa is fairly new, with over 60 percent of the market established within the past three years and 20 percent started in 2018. However, the digital market has not been as beneficial to small independent farm owners. These small farm owners make up around 80 percent of Africa’s agricultural production. Despite this, digital solutions have proven to improve crop yields by up to 300 percent and increase income by up to double what farmers previously made.

How Digital Solutions Help the Economy

Digital solutions not only help farmers through increased market size, but they also provide helpful advice such as weather alerts or advice on which crops will grow well given a country’s climate or season. Additionally, technology can also act as a channel for farmers to innovate new and sustainable ways to improve yields and reduce crop loss in the future.

On top of this, with a new and expanding market for digital solutions for agriculture in Africa, this will inevitably lead to new jobs in the agricultural technology sector. While the amount of small, independent farmers who have access to a mobile device is currently low, Africa is nearing universal phone access within the coming years, which will further expand the digital solutions market.

Nonprofits for a Cause

Some nonprofits have also helped improve the livelihood of independent farmers, such as Self Help Africa. Self Help Africa specializes in creating business ties between distant rural farmers to markets and producer groups. These efforts help rural farmers adapt to the climate and cope with threats of natural disasters. Further, Self Help Africa assists in connecting rural farmers to microfinancing services, improving economic responsibility.

The group also specializes in providing aid for independent women who make up the majority of the workforce for agriculture in Africa. Women do over 80 percent of small scale farm work in Africa; however, these women also only receive a fraction of the support. Some of these benefits are growing increasingly more common due to Africa’s growing digital marketplace for agriculture. However, Self Help Africa’s fight for gender equality will always remain important for females working in small market agricultural systems.

Agriculture in Africa is crucial for providing African citizens with a stable and reliable source of food. With improving tools, more Africans can be successful in their agricultural endeavors. Issues such as flooding, poor connections and knowledge used to be major hindrances to some food suppliers. However, with increasing knowledge of agricultural techniques and increasing market connections, the future of agriculture is looking much brighter for small, independent farmers.

Andrew Lueker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top Four Technologies Solving Water Scarcity
Access to healthy drinking water is a basic human right and billions of people are suffering from water scarcity. The world has more salt water than fresh water, which makes it hard to find drinking water. Some have created technologies for this reason. Here are the top four technologies solving water scarcity all over the world.

Top 4 Technologies Solving Water Scarcity

  1. The WaterSeer: Among these top four technologies to solve water scarcity is a machine that VICI Labs developed called the WaterSeer. It can pull moisture from the air and produce up to 11 gallons of clean drinking water. It blows wind into an underground chamber that condenses and forms water. There have not been many field tests yet which has caused critics to raise an eyebrow. Hopefully, the machine does its job and can help produce clean drinking water for countries that have limited access to it.
  2. The Desolenator: Creating safe drinking water is very important but a machine needs to be sustainable enough to continue to give that resource. This is why this next technology ranks as one of the top five technologies solving water scarcity. The Desolenator is a solar desalination tool that removes 99 percent of contaminants from water. It is portable and can produce about 15 liters of fresh water a day. The company says that it has a 20-year life span making it an efficient and sustainable device for solving water scarcity. The reason for this device lies behind the Desolenator company’s philosophy on the importance of clean drinking water. The company’s philosophy is based on, “A desire to provide assured access to clean water in the toughest situations, whilst protecting the planet we depend on.” The Desolenator company aims to design a better water future for people and the planet.
  3. Janicki Omni Processor: The Janicki Omni Processor is another of the top four technologies trying to solve water scarcity. It was originally going to be a machine to clean waste in cities but it can produce clean drinking water from human feces as well. The way it works is a three-step process to create accessible drinking water. These steps include solid fuel combustion, steam power generation and water treatment. At the end of all these steps, water is then ready for human consumption.
  4. Desalination: Converting salt water into fresh water, is another way people can solve water scarcity. The process is called desalination, and it is a huge step towards ending water scarcity. The process may take a lot of energy to conduct but there are affordable ways to do so. Graphene filters are a way to waste less energy in the process of desalination. These filters could reduce the cost of the energy that desalination requires. The Lockheed Martin company has developed a filter that will take into account the amount of energy this process uses in the hopes of providing clean drinking water while also saving energy.

While these four technologies are working to solve water scarcity, there was also the Urban Drinking Water Challenge of 2018 working to eliminate water scarcity through innovations. This was a global innovation competition to identify and deploy drinking water solutions. The challenge provided $250,000 in awards to promising water technology startups. Those who participated in the challenge had to follow three themes that included alternative supply, distributed access and delivery and ecosystem health. This challenge presented opportunities for solutions that encompass the benefits of economies in urban settings to ensure affordability, reach and sustainability of drinking water services.

Water scarcity is a huge crisis, but with advanced technologies paving the way for change, there may be a solution.

Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Mexico
Mexico’s image tends to receive negative portrayal in news reports depicting violence and crime. However, advancements of technology in Mexico provide an alternate image of the country as a pioneer in the Latin American technological scene. Here are five key facts that represent the country’s incredible achievements.

Guadalajara is a Growing Tech Hub

Located in Jalisco, Guadalajara presents itself as Mexico’s own Silicon Valley due to its massive community of 600 tech companies, 35 design centers and four research centers. With this cluster of tech companies, Jaslico exports more than $148 billion tech products to global consumers.

Guadalajara houses 13 universities such as Tecnologico de Monterrey, which graduates 85,000 students in IT yearly. This is especially notable considering that the city has 78,000 employed IT professionals, 57 percent of whom come from Guadalajara, presenting an excellent investment into the growth of the Mexican IT community for a sustainable tech hub.

Technological Outsourcing and Nearshoring Favors Mexico’s Location

Up until the 1990s, outsourcing in Mexico existed mostly in manufacturing capacities, such as Ford manufacturing at the south of the border. Now, thanks to the startup movement in the 2010s, Mexico is also an outsourcing hub for nearshoring. This is the process of conducting business operations in a nearby country that shares the same time zone. This results in convenience, consistency and better collaboration. For example, border neighbors such as the U.S. and Mexico adopt this relationship in software development companies such as ITexico, which have relationships with U.S. clients such as McDonalds and IBM. With low labor costs and a thriving technological community, companies such as ITexico with revenues of $5 million view Mexico as a great source of outsourced nearshoring.

Technology in Mexico Receives Vast Amounts of Venture Capitalist Investments Yearly

From 2014-2016, the U.S. invested nearly $120 million into 300 Guadalajara startups. In 2017, out of all Latin American countries, Mexico received one-quarter of total investment at $80 million in funding for 59 venture deals. Viewing investments from a grander scale, nearly 1,900 venture capitalists received $22 billion in investments between 2010 and 2018.

Investments per company vary between $80,000 – $120,000. Companies such as Voxfeed provide investors with a great return on investment considering its $2 million in revenue.

Such financial growth benefits the Mexican economy as it is currently the world’s 11th largest economy. It has the potential to gain $245 billion GDP by 2025, and the possibility of being the world’s largest economy by 2050.

Fintech Growth in Mexico Surpasses Other Latin American Countries

In 2017, Mexico led Latin America with the growth of 80 Fintech companies in 10 months, amounting to a total of 238, and ahead of Brazil which had 230. In 2018, Mexico retained its lead with 394 Fintech startups, still ahead of Brazil which had 380.

Fintech is continually growing thanks to entrepreneurship to create Fintech startups, as well as low banking and lending. For instance, 44 percent of the population does not use any banking products.

In this sense, growth not only increases the size of this sector but also aids the Mexican population in becoming more financially secure with platforms like Konfio that assists individuals and businesses with access to affordable loans.

Aside from Fintech expanding the function of technology in Mexico, investors such as Goldman Sachs view the sector as an opportunity for growth. Just recently, in September 2019, Goldman Sachs invested $100 million into Konfio, a small business loan lender. This allows $250 million in loans to 25,000 companies.

Technology in Mexico Advances With New Urban Landscapes

As Mexico advances technologically, the city landscape in Guadalajara does so to sustain a future generation of tech. As part of the 2012 Ciudad Creativa Digital project, the city has undergone construction to reinvent the historic district of Parque Morelos with the aim of creating a more urban, media/tech center and a 21st-century creative workspace. Developers envision Guadalajara with new educational and cultural institutions such as the Digital Creative Institute, as well as a Middle School in Visual Arts. On a cultural scale, institutions such as The Mexican Marketing Museum and Media Center engage the public to learn more about media. Outdoor theatres, pools and playgrounds provide a recreational experience.

By investing in this new landscape, Mexico will tap into the $1.5 trillion media and entertainment sector. Allowing more revenue, jobs and new technology to overall ensure a durable urban fabric to foster the growth of media in Mexico.

These five facts prove the successes of technology in Mexico in the forms of a new tech hub, nearshoring, venture capital investment, Fintech growth and a media/tech-oriented environment. Such successes in investing and growing a solid tech foundation will allow the country to sustain a future in the continuously digitizing world.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

5G in India
With 5G connectivity as the next digital revolution for the global world, it is imperative to think about the positive impacts as 5G arrives in India as early as 2020. The service will introduce higher internet speeds and access for millions of Indian users. Here are five benefits of 5G in India involving its economy, retail, education, health care and agriculture.

5 Benefits of 5G in India

  1. A Boosted Economy: With the second-largest population in the world at 1.3 billion in 2019, India’s digital customer base is just as numerically significant because it constitutes a great amount of the country’s GDP at 8 percent. For example, in 2018, there were 560 million Indian internet subscribers and 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions. Out of the $200 billion revenue from the country’s entire digital economy, digital communication and telecommunication account for $45 billion while mobile handsets account for $10 million. The introduction of 5G in India will allow for increased internet and broadband, and revenue will continue to trend upwards. For example, with the introduction of 5G in India, the country’s GDP could reach $1 trillion by 2035.

  2. Advanced Retail: India’s retail sector accounts for a significant 10 percent of the nation’s GDP or $1.8 billion in 2017 through brick and mortar as well as online retailers. By 2020, the retail sector should rise to $3.6 billion. Thanks to 5G in India, higher internet speeds offer retailers and sellers a better connection due to faster website access. This instantaneous connection presents the potential for better sales. Additionally, store and inventory management software could aid retailers in their organization to offer better customer service. Digital payments such as United Payments Interface, the interbank money transfer service and Paytm can provide better data on revenue and increase the customer base. Digitization with 5G in India will provide better connections, increased sales, data collection and increased productivity causing the GDP to inevitably trend upwards.

  3. Enhanced Education: 5G technologies will benefit students with increased communication, virtual and augmented reality, increased cloud data and smart learning for differently-abled students. For instance, 5G enables increased connection with 100 times faster speeds, thus enabling more opportunities for distance learning for individuals in remote areas. Virtual and augmented reality provide engaging and easily understood content, thus improving the quality of education. With faster connections, cloud data becomes more accessible, allowing students to resume work at their own pace. Personalized education for differently-abled students will vastly increase with cloud-based robots which act as assistants to aid children more in need of teacher assistance. Such progress is tremendous given that estimates determine that each additional year of schooling should result in about 8 percent higher wages.

  4. Better Managed Agriculture: The Indian agricultural sector faces current challenges with a lack of data collection and analysis, fluctuating prices, unavailability of agri-logistics, poor farm returns and lack of information on consumer interest. 5G technology can amend such challenges with increased soil and crop monitoring, precision farming, smart irrigation and climate change alignment, livestock monitoring and agricultural drones. For example, in terms of soil and crop monitoring, 5G implemented sensors can provide information on soil data of moisture, nutrients and spoilage. These sensors are a huge accomplishment for food security because crop diseases are a challenge to Indian farmers serving an ever-growing population.

  5. Increased Health Care: 5G forms a comprehensive digital network in health care with The Massive Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB). With 5G, IoMT and eMBB will operate at faster speeds to effectively provide more personalized patient care. Technologies such as smart glucose monitoring and automated insulin delivery enhance proactive care with early detection methods resulting in more lives saved. With 5G, rural areas lacking health care facilities will have support from local centers made operable by new technology. These individuals can thus receive faster treatment, which was once only attainable at a distance.

With the second-largest population in the world and second-largest internet consumer base, 5G in India is sure to benefit the nation with better connectivity and higher speeds in urban and remote areas. Aside from its technological benefits, other great benefits exist as well with poverty reduction. In alignment with the forecasted GDP of $1 trillion by 2035 thanks to many aspects including digitization mentioned in this article, by 2027, the country expects to reach upper-middle-income status.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Ro-Boats are Cleaning Water Pollution
The Ganges is sprinkled with human excrement, idol remnants, raw sewage, industrial waste, ceremonial flowers coated with arsenic and even dead bodies. The New Yorker said the Ganges absorbs more than one billion gallons of waste each day making it among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. The magazine said three-quarters of the waste is raw sewage and the remaining waste is treated industrial wastewater. The Indian government has attempted to clean up the Ganges several times over the last 30 years. Recently, Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution instead of direct human intervention.

The Holy Water in Despair

The Ganges holds spiritual importance in Hinduism. The Ganges is considered the personification of the goddess Ganga – the goddess of purity and purification. Hindu men, women and children decorated in garlands and bright robes are common sights along the shores of the Ganges. They bathe, wash their clothes, defecate and dispose of the corpses of their loved ones. Hindus bathe in the Ganges for spiritual purification – releasing them from their sins and freeing them from the wheel of reincarnation. Bathing and drinking the waters of the Ganges pose a risk to its visitors’ health. The current sewage levels of the Ganges spread a variety of diseases among the population including typhoid, cholera and amoebic dysentery.

The Indian government believes an automated water device solution, a fleet of robotic boats (Ro-Boats), may aid the clean-up of the Ganges. Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by being self-propelled riveting river raider robots that churn through water and collect and dispose of sewage and other waste.

Omnipresent Tech

Omnipresent Tech is the creator of the Ro-Boats. The Indian government gave Omnipresent a $200,000 contract to build up a fleet of these Ro-Boat vessels to clean up the river. The Indian government’s investment in Omnipresent is part of its efforts to combat the waste level deposits of the Ganges. The Indian Government began the Ganges Action Plan in 2015. This plan is among the most recent of the decades-long efforts to clean up the river. Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India said, “The Ganges will be clean by 2019.”

Omnipresent’s official website claims the company is India’s leading robotics, industrial UAV/Drone and Video Analytics solutions provider. Omnipresent produces industrial inspection drones, river cleaning robots, logistical robots emergency response drones and defense drones

Omnipresent also produces the drone software, as well as 3D modeling machine learning surveillance and a variety of other industrial and consumer high-tech. A Ro-Boat device costs $21,057.75 to build. The bots run without human intervention – neither during the day nor at night. The Ro-Boat has a capable arsenal. Each riveting river raider has fog lights, a pan-tilt-zoom camera, a solar-powered battery and twin-propelled engines

GPS commands guide the Ro-Boats. A drone that flies above the bot gives commands to the machine. The drone flies ahead, scouts debris and pollutants in the water and gives a signal to the Ro-Boat to drive over, scoop up and dispose of the waste. The drone also serves as a spy to catch companies spewing pollutants into the Ganges.

Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by collecting sewage through robotic arms and depositing the waste. The riveting river raider is capable of cleaning 200 tons within a 24-hour period. This means that the device could remove 1,400 tons of waste material from the Ganges with a week. Overture estimated that the bot could remove 200 tons from the Ganges in a year.

A Ro-Boat looks like the offspring of a dump truck and a fighting robot from the television competition “Robot Wars.” Not only can Ro-Boats swim across the surface of the water and clean the waste floating on the river surface, but these self-propelled riveting river raiders can also submerge and dig out the river-bed lodged pollutants. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared the Ro-Boat to be among the top 20 innovations.

Currently, the Ganges remains filthy. Overture says that 1.3 billion gallons of untreated sewage continue to flood into the river each day. Finding vendors to create sewage treatment plants is also problematic. Land cost, bad management and bidding practices halt progress.

How the Ganges Can Get Help

One way to help is for the United States government and companies to invest money in Omnipresent Tech and the Indian government’s waste infrastructure building projects. With enough support, these projects may purify India’s Ganges river.

Purification will help India’s poor who bathe in and drink the water of the Ganges. If the Ganges is clean, this should decrease the level of diseases in the country and prevent their spread. Investment in companies, such as Omnipresent, should aid the growth of India and increase the production of Ro-Boats. The increased production of Ro-Boats will demand a workforce to keep up with increased production and contribute to hiring, increasing poverty reduction among the Indian population. If successful, these riveting river raiders may be a key contribution to India’s efforts to become a leader in the world economy.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Angola
Angola, the seventh-largest country in Africa, has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Since 2013, its economy has been booming and both international and domestic investments have been on the rise. Although Angola’s economy has the potential to become an economic powerhouse in Africa, the international community has become concerned with the poverty rates and overall income inequality in Angola. Despite Angola’s rapidly growing economy, it has a 26 percent unemployment rate and 36 percent of the Angolan population lives below the poverty line. The living conditions in Angola are indicative of an economy that is not yet diversified and a country with extreme income inequality. Here are 10 facts about the living conditions in Angola.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Angola

  1. Low Life Expectancy and Causes: Angola has a very low life expectancy. The life expectancy in Angola is one of the lowest in the world, and Angola has the 12th highest number of infant mortalities every year. The leading causes of death revealed that the low life expectancy is a result of preventable causes like diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, neonatal disorders and influenza.
  2. Literacy: A third of all Angolans are illiterate. Although primary education is compulsory in Angola, 33.97 percent of Angolans are illiterate and literacy rates have been on a steady decline since 2001. Very few individuals go on to college, leaving their economy stagnated with a brain drain and a lack of available employees for white-collar jobs that require a deep understanding of their field.
  3. Clean Water Availability: Angola has a lack of clean water resources. Forty-four percent of Angolans do not have access to clean water, according to the United Nations Children’s Agency. The Public Water Company in the capital of Angola, Luanda, reports that although the daily need for water is well over a million cubic meters of clean water per day, the public water company EPAL can only supply 540,000 cubic meters of clean water per day. This leaves many without clean water. Even if EPAL were to have the capacity to supply all residents with clean water, it does not have the infrastructure to do so.
  4. Access to Electricity: Few Angolans have access to electricity. In rural areas, only 6 percent of Angolans have access to electricity. In urban areas, 34 percent of Angolans have electricity, leaving 3.4 million homes without power.
  5. Income Inequality: There is a severe gap between wealth in urban and rural areas. Income inequality in Angola is one of the highest in the world at 28.9 percent. Poverty is highest in rural areas where 94 percent of the population qualifies as poor. This is contrasted by the fact that only 29.9 percent of the urban population qualifies as poor.
  6. Public School Enrollment: There is low enrollment in public schools and UNESCO reports that enrollment has been on a steady decline since 2009. The low enrollment rate may be because many schools and roads suffered during Angola’s civil war and because many schools are located in inconvenient and rural locations with poor sanitation and untrained teachers.
  7. Unemployment: Unemployment is very high in Angola. Angolan unemployment has increased by 1.7 percent since 2018, growing to 30.7 percent. The youth unemployment rate is at an all-time high of 56.1 percent.
  8. Oil-based Economy: The economy is not very diversified. Angola is an oil-rich country and as such, more than one-third of the Angolan economy comes from oil and over 90 percent of Angolan exports are oil. Because the oil sector has been public for so long, the economy was prone to contractions and inflations along with global fluctuation in oil prices. This has left the stability of the Angolan economy at the mercy of oil prices, which have been rapidly fluctuating, destabilizing the economy.
  9. Food Insecurity: Many Angolans suffer from severe food insecurity. In fact, 2.3 million Angolan citizens are food insecure, and over 1 million of those individuals are children under 5 years old. Because of government redistribution of land, many farmers have lost their best grazing land and their arable land for crops, leading to a lack of meat and produce.
  10. Unpaid Debts: Unpaid debts threaten to dampen economic growth. After a long economic slump, the Angolan economy has further suffered due to unpaid loans. Twenty-seven percent of total Angolan credits are loans that are defaulted or close to being defaulted, and 16 percent of the largest bank in Angola, BIA, are not being reimbursed.

Although Angola has a multiplicity of problems related to poverty to solve, the country is not beyond help. Angola’s new President has secured loans from China, garnered aid from the International Monetary Fund and promised to allow local businesses to partner with international customers and trade partners to increase macroeconomic growth. As Angola diversifies its economy in 2020, the President of Angola states that economic growth and stability is on the horizon. Angola’s economy is receiving aid from a number of nations, including China, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, which will no doubt prove to be a successful investment.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Technology
Agriculture is a cornerstone of human development and one of the most easily accessible methods of generating food. However, agriculture is also one of the riskiest ways to feed a community due to the unpredictability of the weather and pests that could spontaneously destroy an entire year’s worth of crops. Many countries, like India, struggle to maintain farms due to a lack of water, infrastructure and storage facilities. It is no surprise, then, that experts across the world argue that advancements in agriculture technology could prove invaluable in the fight against poverty due to larger crop yields and more success during harvests. Although no one has found a definitive solution to effectively grow enough food to feed those in poverty, numerous organizations have developed potential solutions to the problems that plague agricultural communities.

5 World Leaders in Agriculture Technology

  1. Farmmi: One organization making efforts in agriculture technology is Farmmi, an agricultural product supplier responsible for most of China’s supply of Shiitake mushrooms and other fungi. Recently, Yefang Zhang, Farmmi’s CEO, announced a partnership with the China Democratic League on Poverty Alleviation Initiative. During this partnership, Farmmi plans to provide new job opportunities for those living in impoverished village communities, give agriculture technology advice to farmers free of charge and sell local agricultural products in Farmmi Stores. Representatives of Farmmi will also meet with the China Democratic League continuously to discuss optimal ways to help poor villages in China with their farming, and ways to implement new action plans for agriculture effectively.
  2. Yunshang Agricultural School: In the Gui’an area of Beijing, China, citizens have a large selection of programs in which they can improve both the dependability of their crops and the amount of food they produce during harvest. One example lies in the Yunshang Agricultural School, an institution to help educate the farmers of the area on scientific planting. In these classes, farmers learn the most optimal ways to grow their crops by planting seeds in different formations or at optimal times. Citizens of the Gui’an area have also been utilizing smartphone technology to monitor their agriculture, like installing cameras to check the growth of greenhouse crops instead of examining them one by one. This education on agriculture and utilization of technology in farming sparked the construction of the Gui’an Agricultural and Tourism Industry Demonstration Park in 2015. This park contains several greenhouses and many different agricultural activities for tourists, including tropical fruit picking halls and a demonstration on smart agriculture, but the biggest impact lies in the park’s efforts to fight poverty. Currently, the Gui’an park is collaborating with 11 villages in the area through the Big Data Agricultural Precision Poverty Alleviation Agreement. With this agreement, the Gui’an Park aims to help poor villages grow high-value crops through the teachings of the Yunshang Agricultural School. As long as the people of the Gui’an area continue to focus on agricultural technology and education, more and more farmers will have the resources necessary to feed the people in their communities.
  3. Internet of Things: As the agriculture technology market grows, so does general interest from corporations. One example is Internet of Things, a tech company that has developed sensors to monitor the soil moisture of crops. These monitors can connect to a smartphone or personal computer, allowing farmers to save time that they would usually spend testing the soil. Internet of Things also plans to provide irrigation sensors and actuators, which will maximize water efficiency with crops. This should ensure that crops never receive too much or too little water, and minimizes water waste. The International Business Machines Corporation predicts that these tools from Internet of Things will improve crop yield by 70 percent by 2050. With these innovations Internet of Things has made a massive advancement in agriculture technology and its application in impoverished areas could prove invaluable in the fight against world hunger.
  4. H2Grow: Established in 2017 as part of the World Food Programme, H2Grow is an agriculture technology organization dedicated to helping poor communities build their own hydroponic systems so that they can grow food in previously barren areas. In areas with little to no soil, like a desert, traditional farming is nearly impossible. Hydroponic farming, however, involves no soil because the farming occurs either entirely in water or with some soil substitute like moss or peat. The removal of soil in the farming process allows the plants to receive their nutrients directly from the water while they grow and generally results in larger, healthier plants. With this practice, H2Grow has helped many communities grow their own food since its inception, sourcing 714 applications for hydroponic farming systems in 2019. As H2Grow installs more and more hydroponic farming systems, the world may see a day when every country has the ability to grow its own food.
  5. GrainMate: Launched in December 2017 by Sesi Technologies, GrainMate is an electronic meter invented to help impoverished farmers and businesses test the moisture levels in their grains. Monitoring the moisture level of grains helps a farm prevent detrimental losses during storage. If a farmer uses GrainMate and finds that his wheat is drying out, he can take the necessary steps to restore the grains to a safe moisture level, preserving them for as long as possible and maximizing the effectiveness of his crop yield. Sesi Technologies has received many orders for GrainMate, like one from Vinmak Farms in Ghana, that stated that its device is a good quality product to use on farms. With GrainMate in its arsenal, the farms of Africa have an advantage in the unpredictable nature of agriculture.

The use of agriculture technology is the most effective way to minimize world hunger. Whether it is a device that monitors the moisture level of crops or an initiative to educate citizens on optimal farming techniques, programs and innovations like these will continue to grow and develop to provide the quickest, cheapest access to food for disadvantaged communities.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

European Energy Security
H.R. 1616, The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019, is a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to incentivize and assist European and Eurasian countries to develop and utilize diverse energy sources. H.R. 1616, that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced and nine other Representatives co-sponsored, focuses on European energy security that will incentivize American investment into European and Eurasian energy infrastructure and energy markets. According to the European Commission, European energy access is a problem for many Europeans.

The European Commission estimates that between 50 and 125 million people (at the highest estimation, 17 percent of the European population) in Europe are unable to afford the energy necessary for proper indoor thermal heating. H.R. 1616 would directly benefit these individuals, the energy poor, because of the introduction of more cost-effective energy infrastructure, an increase in accessibility in the energy markets.

European Energy Security

The Council of European Development Bank reports that energy poverty is a result of poor energy infrastructure and of the inaccessibility to energy markets. Because the majority of energy insecure homes are already poor, the lack of access to energy compounds the effects of poverty. The choice between energy and food, for instance, is a common choice for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In Europe particularly, the lack of energy infrastructure across borders is detrimental; 85 percent of those who are energy insecure live in 10 of the 32 European states. Meanwhile, natural gas is 20 percent of the energy in Europe and coal makes up 20 percent of European energy markets. Both are inefficient and the grid infrastructure makes gas and coal inaccessible.

H.R. 1616 Policy Goals and Income

H.R. 1616 would increase access to energy markets by funding the transition away from natural gas and coal through aid, increasing European access to the American energy market and funding accessible infrastructure. The bill also allocates $579.5 million to help properly create supply routes throughout Europe, and between European states, which would ensure rural access to energy. H.R. 1616 would also negotiate cross-border energy infrastructure, including negotiating environmental standards and the accessibility of an array of energy sources.

The E.U. has been diversifying some forms of energy in the status quo by increasing energy production in the Baltics on the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. However, Europe would be unable to sustain the diversification of energy on its own due to current regulatory restrictions that the U.S. put in place, as well as the economic barrier of opening new markets. H.R. 1616 would raise the regulatory restrictions and fund the new markets, allowing for Europe to continue to decrease energy insecurity in its states. 

A Lasting Effect

H.R. 1616 will decrease energy insecurity in Europe, alleviating the effects of poverty in the lowest echelons of society, and fund the transition away from unsuccessful forms of energy production. The infrastructure that H.R. 1616 would build would increase access to energy and allow cross-border energy trade, making sure that poor states have access to energy. The current European trend of diversifying energy would continue, ensuring European energy security and diversification. The House passed the bill, and the Senate has read it and referred it to the Committee on Foreign Relations for further review.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini
eSwatini (also known as Swaziland) is a small country located in southern Africa. Although eSwatini only has a population of 1.367 million, the country currently has the highest rate of HIV in the world. Still, major progress has been made to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, particularly in the past decade.

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini: Successes

The government has made a commitment to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, most notably via its 90-90-90 targets that the country aimed to achieve by the year 2020. The goal is to have 90 percent of people who are living with HIV know their status; 90 percent of people who know their status should be receiving treatment and 90 percent of people who are on treatment will have “suppressed viral loads.”

According to 2018 UNAIDS data, the country has already achieved these targets and then some. In 2018, 92 percent of people with the virus knew their HIV-positive status; out of these people, 93 percent were on HIV treatment and out of those people on treatment 94 percent were virally suppressed. eSwatini has worked with PEPFAR and other partners to seriously tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 2011, saving countless lives and contributing to a more sustainable outlook for the future.

Increased Access to Testing and HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini

Campaigns such as the 90-90-90 targets were alsoachieved thanks to the efforts made to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV/AIDS. In the year 2009, only 16 percent of the population had been tested for HIV or knew their status. By 2014 this had increased to 66 percent of women and 54 percent of men as the government launched initiatives to make testing more accessible. For instance, by 2014, 83 percent of health facilities provided HIV testing. The government also launched a self-testing pilot program in 2015, making it possible for people to test for HIV in the comfort of their homes. The goal of the pilot scheme is to address the stigma associated with getting tested as well as circumvent other barriers such as long wait times at clinics and inconvenient clinic hours.

Although the public sector started providing antiretroviral therapy in November 2003, the country has since stepped up its efforts in order to ensure this treatment reaches those who need it. As of 2014, eSwatini implemented the World Health Organization guidelines, enabling anyone who is HIV positive to gain access to treatment.

HIV/AIDS is Still An Epidemic

Today, 27.3 percent of people aged 15-49 live with HIV currently and HIV/AIDS is still the number one cause of death in eSwatini which means more work still needs to be done to tackle the epidemic going forward. HIV/AIDS mortality coupled with widespread poverty contributes to low life expectancy rates in eSwatini. As of 2018, life expectancy for women stood at 61 years old and 54 years old for men.

Lack of education continues to be a major obstacle in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in eSwatini. In a study done by the Cultural Statistical Office in 2014, only 49.1 percent of young women and 50.9 percent of young men were able to identify ways to prevent HIV transmission.

The cultural stigma attached to the virus is another factor that impedes the proper prevention and treatment of AIDS. More than 63 percent of the population does not hold accepting views towards people who are HIV positive. This accompanied with the lack of education on the subject leads to fewer people getting tested for HIV or seeking treatment due to a fear of being judged and discriminated against.

Frontline AIDS Focuses on Spreading Awareness

Frontline AIDS is an NGO focused on addressing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. The organization also provides care for at-risk populations including young people and sex workers. This work includes programs such as the Resilient and Empowered Adolescents and Young People program. This initiative aims to reach 30,000 young people living with HIV in eSwatini, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe by incorporating home and clinic visits to provide treatment as well as counseling.

As of 2019, Frontline AIDS has helped thousands of people living with HIV. The organization has provided 30,690 people with access to prevention activities and more than 31,000 people have accessed Frontline AIDS’ HIV treatment services.

Overall during the last 10 years, there have been major strides in terms of HIV/AIDS treatment in eSwatini. Despite this progress, there is still much room for improvement. In order to increase the prevention of HIV and AIDS within Eswatini, there needs to be a shift in the social and cultural views of this disease. The current discriminatory views that a large portion of the population still hold in regard to people who are HIV positive leads to fewer people seeking testing or treatment. However, groups like Frontline AIDS and others are working to help put an end to this epidemic.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Technological Advancements in Africa
Technology
plays an important role in a nation’s modernization. Through health, communication and economical advances, all nations benefit from the inclusion of tech. The world’s leading nations are also synonymous with technological innovations, emphasizing the effect and power of focusing on technological integration with society. Promoting technological advancements in Africa has benefitted them greatly. 

Looking at the Numbers

Africa has seen a dramatic spike in mobile phone users from 330,000 in 2001 to 30 million users in 2013. However, the first piece of technology that has made a large impact and that one can consider a mark of technological advancement in Africa is the internet. In 2014, Africa Renewal, a United Nations magazine, concluded that the main issue in technological penetration of Africa would be in the rural South African regions outside of the scope of major cities.

However, the data that Pew Research showed that in six African countries, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, internet usage increased by 2 to 16 percent from 2013 to 2017, leaving South Africa the highest at 59 percent. This data shows that even if the median percentage usage, 41 percent, is not nearly as high as more developed nations like the U.S.’s 89 percent, sub-Saharan countries are still increasing in internet usage.

Pew Research has shown that younger people are the ones utilizing the internet more. From Tanzania to South Africa, 34 to 75 percent of people aged 18-29 utilize the internet. This group of users is breathing life into technological advancements.

One such case is Peter Kariuki, a Kenyan native, who recognized the growing issue of road accidents in Africa. Road accidents are now the eighth leading cause of death in all of Africa, at 1.35 million deaths in 2016, beating tuberculosis. Peter Kariuki has created CanGo (formerly SafeMoto), a ride-sharing app that links a user with a safe and experienced motorcyclist in the hopes of lowering the rate of traffic accidents 

CareAI

Outside influence has trickled into Africa. One such influence comes in the form of the European Commission and CareAI. CareAI is a computing system that can diagnose diseases anonymously using blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized growing list of records or blocks that cryptography links.

Malaria, typhoid fever and tuberculosis are some types of diseases that CareAI can test and identify and can do so in an anonymous manner. This anonymity allows migrants, minorities and those without health care to receive the diagnosis without the fear of others outing or persecuting them. The next step after the diagnosis is for CareAI to prescribe an individual with a prescription through an NGO, a nonprofit organization that operates independently of any government or even an NGO doctor. 

M-Pesa

Technological advancements in Africa have helped regions connect via the internet and mobile devices. Widespread use of the platform has increased communication and facilitated technical improvements that improve internet connections.

An offshoot of this connectivity has brought an age of innovation, such as the app M-Pesa which acts as a digital wallet that allows for remote withdrawals without having to visit a bank. With this increased acceptance of technology in Africa, outside organizations have begun to invest in helping Africa, such as U.S. company Zipline. Zipline’s partnership with Rwanda delivers blood and plasma via drones. Technology has aided Africa’s ascent to modernization and will keep improving as long as innovation exists.

With health care innovation, Africa can easily provide medical attention to those living in remote areas. The increasing connectivity of African society benefits not only the welfare of the nation but computer media connections. Outside of health care, technological advancement in Africa has improved manners of access to finances, ridesharing and social media. Africa has taken a step in the right direction in focusing on technological improvements, and people can provide assistance through the African Technology Foundation with its mentorship or partnership programs that focus on providing the education and resources necessary for technological advancements in Africa.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: Flickr