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Vatican Pontifical CouncilEvery other year, the Vatican Pontifical Council is held in Vatican City for the purpose of improving human health and well-being. From May 6-8, 2021, the Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation joined the Pope, influential scientists, Christian leaders, humanitarians, ethicists and lawmakers to discuss recent advances in technology and medical science that will make for a better world.

The Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation seek to improve global health by partnering with doctors and researchers who are nearing medical breakthroughs. At this year’s Vatican Pontifical Council, they and other foundations took center stage. The Cura Foundation’s mottos, “unite to prevent,” and “unite to cure,” described the purpose of the discussions. Here are five promising developments from the Council.

Top 5 Highlights of the Vatican Pontifical Council

  1. The solution to global health spending according to Dr. Mark McClellan, director of Duke University’s Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy. Recalling the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. McClellan explained why the U.S. and other wealthy countries need to increase their spending on aid for developing countries. He explained that meeting countries on their level will mean considering digital care, care teams, medicine availability and more. In addition, prioritizing healthcare equality will not just benefit developing countries, but wealthy countries as well. The U.S. will see minorities such as Black and Native people, who statistically earn less money than whites, gain more equality. Focusing on health equality for the world will lead to more open-minded communities and better quality of life for minorities.
  2. Pope Francis explains the union of mind, body, and soul. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the union of the mind, body and soul is essential. Many factors can cause division between them, but unity encourages intellect and progress. Interdisciplinary research that works toward uniting mind, body and soul is the reason various leaders and initiators have been able to improve global health as they have.
  3. Sanford Health shares its findings on regenerative medicine. Many retired athletes and elderly people experience chronic joint pain that seems untreatable. However, Sanford Health explained that regenerative medicine can be useful in combating chronic pain. Regenerative medicine helps to speed the healing process and can especially aid practitioners in orthopedics. If regenerative medicine is integrated into care more widely, the physical quality of life will improve greatly for many people worldwide.
  4. Rick Anderson advocates for digital technologies. According to the president of DarioHealth, Rick Anderson, digital technologies are particularly beneficial for those with chronic diseases since they offer a wide variety of treatment options. For example, people with diabetes can use digital devices to test their blood sugar. Getting these devices to people who need them worldwide is a challenge, however. Anderson says the aid needed most in this scenario is internet access. Even low-speed internet can let people order what they need.
  5. New treatments for rare diseases. Dr. Michael Yeaman of UCLA has been studying neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a rare disease that disrupts proteins in the eyes and spinal cord and can lead to mobility loss. Different people can have widely different manifestations of NMO. Dr. Yeaman focuses on personalized medication to meet each patient’s needs. Dr. Jill Weimer, a senior director for Sanford Research, also discussed changing patients’ gene mutations as a cure for disease. While this possibility needs more research, it shows much promise.

The innovations in health and technology discussed at the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council will help minimize not only disease but also poverty. Worldwide improvements in health lead to fewer preventable deaths, more stabilized economies and more people finding jobs. Though this was the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council, it was the first virtual one, demonstrating that the Council is adapting to the pandemic and continuing to make a difference.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Technology Aids the Construction of Refugee SheltersCOVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh has greatly affected not only the population of 166 million people but also Bangladesh’s 1.1 million Displaced Rohingya People (DRP). When COVID-19 halted the construction of disaster shelters for the DRP, the World Bank and the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) uniquely partnered to remotely design the complex structures. Through this collaboration, the World Bank illustrates how technology aids the construction of refugee shelters in Bangladesh.

How the World Bank Helps the Rohingya

Since its establishment in 1991, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee settlement, now houses a population of nearly 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, a stateless Muslim minority group. Decades of persecution in the primarily Buddhist country of Myanmar has caused the Rohingya people to seek refuge in neighboring nations, leading to an influx of refugees into Bangladesh.

However, although welcoming, Bangladesh was not prepared for this extreme influx of refugees. The influx stretched its already scarce resources in an attempt to provide for a continuously growing population. In August 2017 alone, after a massive Burmese attack on Rohingya territories, the Bangladesh refugee camp Kutupalong Balukhali saw its population grow from 200,000 to 500,000. Within weeks, Kutupalong Balukhali had become one of the world’s densest refugee settlements.

With a growing population and few resources, Bangladesh began to plan and implement many multi-purpose disaster shelters/community service centers (MPSC), a part of the World Banks’s Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project. These shelters attempt to resist the nation’s frequent climate disasters and have their own solar panel supplies.

Construction Delays From COVID-19

Construction of these shelters came to a halt in March 2020 and extended until October 2020, as Bangladesh, like the rest of the world, entered a COVID-19 lockdown. The LGED had no access to the building sites. A major delay ensued as the shutdown also made it impossible for any topographic surveys to occur, a necessity for drafting the building layouts.

GIS Technology and Drone Imagery

Innovative measures helped ensure the construction of safe spaces for more than one million Displaced Rohingya People currently residing in Bangladesh. The World Bank updated its Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project to remotely support the LGED.

With the assistance and resources of the World Bank, the LGED acquired the GPS coordinates of the many disaster shelter sites through Geographic Information System (GIS) technology in addition to drone images. The use of drone images and GIS allows for the design of these shelters to take place without the need for physical presence on the site. In this way, technology aids the construction of refugee shelters in Bangladesh.

The “integration of these datasets in coordination with different officials who were in different locations due to countrywide lockdown” presented some difficulties. Despite this, the team proceeded with the plan. The coordinates and drone images aided the project team. The team placed the GPS coordinates over the drone images to get an accurate visual representation of the site and to determine the number of solar panels needed. Meanwhile, “real-time coordination with the architect, structural engineer, field engineer, safeguards specialists and the World Bank team was done using a video conference system.”

The Road Ahead

While the nation is still largely affected by COVID-19, facing 921,559 cases by July 1, 2021, COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh will be eased as its robust Rohingya population can soon seek shelter. Harnessing the power of technology can provide innovative solutions to resolve pandemic-induced barriers in humanitarian efforts.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Flickr

Rice ATMs in VietnamIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneur Hoang Tuan Anh created a network of rice ATMs in Vietnam to help alleviate poverty and address food insecurity due to reduced household incomes. Vietnamese celebrity Dai Nghia drew inspiration from the initiative’s widespread success. On May 14, 2021, Nghia donated 15 tons of rice to distribute through four new rice ATMs in Cambodia. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice ATMs have proven successful in feeding those struggling with food insecurity in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Rice ATMs in Vietnam

The rice ATMs in Vietnam, coined by Tuan Anh, dispense 3.3 pounds of rice at a time to people in need. During Vietnam’s initial COVID-19 lockdown, about five million people became unemployed, pushing millions into poverty. The informal working sector took a hard hit as informal employment lacks the security and benefits that formal jobs promise.

The rice ATMs in Vietnam operate 24/7 to ensure food is always accessible to those in need. The ATMs were initially created as a temporary form of assistance during the pandemic, but Tuan Anh pledged to keep them going even after the pandemic in order to reduce hunger for impoverished people. In June 2020, Tuan Anh helped install seven rice ATMs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with the intention of installing rice ATMs in 30 total locations in Vietnam. The entrepreneur aims to open 100 ATMs in the foreseeable future.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia

COVID-19 has harshly impacted Cambodia. Between June 2020 and January 2021, the World Bank identified at least 150,000 “newly poor” households, equating to about 500,000 people. The virus significantly impacted Cambodian industries such as “tourism, manufacturing, exports and construction,” which accounts for 40% of all employment in the country.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia arrive at a crucial time as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Phnom Penh Red Cross Society is in charge of distributing the donated rice to the four rice ATMs in Cambodia. The rice ATMs in Cambodia were developed and sponsored by the original creator, Tuan Anh.

Largely due to these slowdowns, the economic growth rate in Cambodia decreased by 3.1% in 2020, making it “the sharpest decline in Cambodia’s recent history.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected already impoverished people in Cambodia, causing the poverty rate to double. As the poverty rate is forecasted to reach approximately 17.6%, the rice ATMs serve as a solution to overcoming the increased poverty presented in Cambodia.

The Future of Rice ATMs

Vietnam and Cambodia have strong diplomatic relations. Tuan Anh’s rice ATMs and Nghia’s rice donation in Cambodia have only bolstered the already positive relationship between the countries. In May 2021, The Central Vietnam – Cambodia Friendship Association and Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) donated more than $200,000 to Cambodia for COVID-19 relief efforts.

For the cities hit hard by the pandemic, the ATMs have served as a vital resource. The creation of rice ATMs in Cambodia will aid many people struggling with pandemic-induced food insecurity. Overall, the project is an example of the power of creativity and technological innovation in the fight against global poverty.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr

Africa's Digital solutionsThe COVID-19 pandemic presents a chance for Africa to modernize by going digital, even after the socioeconomic consequences COVID-19 has wrought. Policies and economies have to be rebuilt and Africa has taken the steps to restore its nation with digitalization at the forefront. Through Africa’s digital solutions and technology innovations, the nation will become more sustainable, competitive and creative.

The Aftermath of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped increase the spread of new technology across Africa. The pandemic has spurred incredible creativity when it comes to technological innovations. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, Africans are responsible for 13% of all new or improved COVID-19 technology created. Two countries that have specially crafted technologies specific to the pandemic are Ghana and Tunisia.

Ghana created a COVID-19 tracking app and drones that deliver at-home COVID-19 tests as well as handwashing stations that are solar-powered. In Tunisia, a government ministry invented a robot to assist in enforcing lockdowns. Africa has made striking technological enhancements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, COVID-19 has also highlighted the digital divide between the wealthy and impoverished, online and offline.

The Digital Divide

The unequal access to information and communication technologies, or the digital divide, shines a light on the technological gap in developing countries. Due to the general delayed adoption of internet technology, Africa experiences difficulties overcoming barriers to long-term growth. Civil society and the commercial sectors cannot produce transformational progress alone. The digital divide in Africa is fueled by the continent’s socio-economic disparity. In order to transition to a digital society, governments must accelerate the use of digital technologies in all sectors.

Throughout the pandemic, digital media and technology have been critical, allowing for the continuance of work, communication and instruction. According to research by the International Telecommunication Union, only 28% of the African population has access to the internet. It is crucial to consider the many obstacles Africa has to overcome when it comes to digital technology. Not only is there a lack of internet access in Africa but the country also lacks electric power, access to education, social inclusion and more.

Africa cannot regress to pre-pandemic conditions as it recovers from COVID-19. Instead, Africa must create a brighter future that acknowledges the importance of digital transformation, particularly modern technology. Africa’s digital solutions can help overcome the continent’s complex challenges, including poverty, healthcare, industrialization, environmental degradation and government administration.

The Missing Piece: Policy

The majority of studies indicate that digital technologies are critical for solving global issues. However, technologies implemented without laws and policies that support new technological infrastructures rarely succeed long-term. With Africa’s digital solutions, the continent will be able to accelerate its transition to a sustainable and equitable economy.

For example, Rwanda, a country in Africa, is an excellent example of how the development of sustainable legislation can provide benefits to its citizens. Rwanda’s government has made significant investments in digital technology facilities, which resulted in 90% of the population having internet access and 75% of the population having mobile phones.

Enabling policies that provide digital technologies and promote their use will enhance Africa’s recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, it is essential to realize the importance of innovations through digital technologies and put action behind policies that support socioeconomic equality in Africa.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

MapActionHunger in Africa is an ever-present concern. The issue was heightened in 2020 when climate change and unusual rainfall patterns caused locust swarms to infest East Africa. The area had not experienced such an extreme locust plague in many years. Kenya’s last major infestation was about 70 years prior. On the other hand, Somalia and Ethiopia last experienced a severe locust plague roughly 25 years ago. In 2018, two major cyclones increased the locust population in Saudi Arabia by 8,000-fold, and subsequently, strong winds moved the swarms into the Horn of Africa. In December 2020, a rare cyclone in Somalia created locust groups of more than 15 million per square mile, devouring the crops of 19 million herders and farmers in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. MapAction is bringing in geospatial technology to help better respond to such crises.

Climate Change in Africa

In January 2021, the Famine Early Warning System reported that areas in the Horn of Africa were facing food crises due to the locust swarms. A swarm the size of Manhattan can eat the same quantity of food as the whole population of New York and California in just one day. From March 2021 through May 2021, a lack of rainfall in parts of Ethiopia meant that farmers could not prepare their fields for crops or have adequate grass for pasture. The countries most vulnerable to food insecurity are Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Indeed, the persistent lack of rainfall has brought dry conditions to many parts of East Africa.

The disastrous combination of flooding and drought, along with locust infestation, is harshly impacting communities in the region, even more so due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 lockdowns, communication between relief organizations is difficult. Since April 2020, an organization called MapAction has been working in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, “applying geospatial expertise to humanitarian situations” to improve results. The organization looks to improve communication between Oxfam and its local partners.

Geospatial Analysis

MapAction believes that expert geospatial analysis can help spread resources to populations affected by famine, drought and other emergencies. MapAction works to ensure that emergency aid responders and disaster management agencies have access to crucial data. This data will allow responders to make decisions that will improve food security and relieve hunger in Africa. The team creates map templates and trains locals to update maps. This helps inform Oxfam’s partners about threats to food security, such as when locust swarms move into new areas. MapAction also maps where work has been done to prevent efforts from being wasted through duplication.

MapAction’s Impact

Rupert Douglas-Bate originally conceived the idea for MapAction. Bate formulated the concept while “working as an emergency water engineer in Bosnia in 1994.” Bate realized “that there was a gap in mapped analysis to support the effective planning and delivery of humanitarian aid.” MapAction first started off supporting Oxfam and partners in Kenya and Somalia but intends to assist in Zimbabwe and Zambia too. In the near future, MapAction would like to extend its scope to Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Botswana.

Since its inception, MapAction has supported thousands of emergency aid groups in more than 60 humanitarian crises around the world. Furthermore, the organization has helped millions of people who were in danger of starving. The organization has won four Stevie International Business Awards for Company of the Year and an Association for Geographic Information Award for Excellence due to its Ebola assistance in West Africa.

MapAction continues to develop new technologies to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. In the process, it is subsequently reducing the threat of widespread hunger in Africa, preventing millions from falling deeper into poverty.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

The Smart City ProjectThrough a combination of STEM education, infrastructure and trade with industrialized countries, many formerly underdeveloped nations have seen significant growth in economic output and improved quality of life, especially Asian countries such as China, Singapore and South Korea. Halfway across the world from those countries, a massive well of largely untapped potential lies in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos houses nearly 15 million people, making it the most populated city in Africa. A combined effort from the Nigerian government and various private enterprises aims to revolutionize tech infrastructure in Lagos and spur economic growth through the Smart City project.

Making the Change

The Smart City project is led by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, assisted by several individuals and organizations in both the public and private sectors. The government has assigned a budget of 250 million nairas (around $640,000) toward research on tech infrastructure in Lagos under the management of the Lagos State Science, Research and Innovation Council, which will invest in fields such as AI, robotics, biomedical informatics and sustainable energy. The Smart City project aims for multi-level integration, with the government providing funds and direction for the private sector. This strategy aims to improve tech infrastructure in Lagos and increase the city’s productivity.

The Plans

Lagos is a city with a very large population. Nonetheless, the people of Lagos are limited to a space of less than 4,000 square miles, resulting in immense pressure on existing infrastructure and transportation systems. According to Sanwo-Olu, one of the premier goals of the Smart City project is to construct an intricate rail network that would allow for much more efficient transportation of people and goods, along with remodeled roads, airports and seaports.

Tech infrastructure in Lagos will also be improved through the installation of “3,000 kilometers of fiber metro network cables and broadband infrastructure.” This will provide high-speed internet access to offices, homes, healthcare buildings and schools. High-speed internet would increase productivity and allow for increased connectivity between organizations and the possibility of learning or working remotely, if necessary.

To help sustain technological progress for the future, the government has also sponsored student participation in a new program, the 774 Young Nigerian Scientist Presidential Award. This program aims to promote interest in STEM subjects among young Nigerians and encourage youth participation to innovatively solve the challenges within Nigeria. The fact that more than 66% of the population of Lagos are younger than 30 makes it certain that the future of Nigeria lies in the hands of the youth. As such, Nigeria aims to prioritize and empower young Nigerians.

The Progress

The installation of network cables is well underway with 3,000 kilometers of fiber cables laid in the ongoing first phase of plans. According to Sanwo-Olu, the Nigerian government has funded more than 20 innovative startups “in areas such as agriculture-tech, environmental tech, educational technology and small-scale manufacturing.” The government has also financially supported more than 70 research programs in four educational institutions.

Sanwo-Olu’s administration has also secured funding for the Fourth Mainland Bridge, which is slated for construction in December 2021 and will be the longest bridge in Africa upon completion. Another project slated for completion in 2021 is the Imota Rice Mill. The mill will be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa and will create more than 250,000 jobs for Nigerians.

The government and people of Lagos have made great strides to modernize tech infrastructure in Lagos. The Smart City project has the potential to transform Lagos into a tech powerhouse. Such a development has the potential to reduce poverty throughout Nigeria.

Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Smart Feature PhonesAccess to computing technologies and the internet are key to economic success in today’s post-industrial world. However, around 3.4 billion people, according to the Wall Street Journal, still do not have internet access. Smart feature phones may be key to increasing economic development in lower-income regions such as Africa.

Smart Feature Phones vs Smartphones

The primary barrier of a smartphone is financial: even the cheapest smartphones cost hundreds of dollars, a cost that is beyond the reach of many people in developing countries. On the other hand, smart feature phones can sell for as low as $20. Smart feature phones have a retro look but allow for plenty of modern features, including web browsing, email access, cameras and GPS systems. Compared to smartphones, the processing power of smart feature phones is limited, the screens are small and they lack advanced features such as high-tech camera lenses. Still, the absence of these extra features allows for longer battery life and greater durability, which are both major benefits for people in rural areas.

Mobile Phone Benefits

Mobile phones can greatly improve productivity in less ostensibly technological industries. Mobile phones are especially useful in industries such as agriculture where agriculture apps allow farmers greater market access and help increase their agricultural output. Mobile banking allows for safer and more stable commerce and marketing is often far easier and more effective online than in person. Additionally, remote communication between workers can maximize efficiency and weather advisory apps can improve productivity in any outdoor job. All of these functions are completely feasible on smart feature phones. Even illiterate people are able to use smart feature phones as models such as the KaiOS JioPhone features an extensive voice command system.

Increasing Popularity

KaiOS Technologies, a leading company in the smart feature phone industry, has spent much of the mid-2010s developing a mobile phone and operating system that can help stimulate emerging markets in the developing world. The company has formed partnerships with large telecommunications companies such as Orange and MTN, which are major operators in West Africa and South Africa respectively. So far, KaiOS’s efforts are paying off and the smart feature phone industry as a whole is growing rapidly. MTN alone plans on selling 10 million KaiOS-based phones between 2020 and 2023. Furthermore, smart feature phones have experienced “a 252% growth in demand in 2018.” KaiOS’s flagship product, JioPhone, is also selling well in India.

The Need for Infrastructure

As revolutionary as smart feature phones could be, the phones are not very useful without a reliable source of electricity and internet access. In 2017, only 22% of African people were connected to the internet, according to the International Finance Corporation. While some Africans lack internet access because they do not own a device, some are unable to access the internet due to high costs, lacking area connectivity and limited access to electricity.

The East African Cable System (EASSy), which launched in 2010, runs through 20 African states, reducing broadband costs by around 90%. EASSy has brought internet access to more than 250 million African people. In doing so, EASSy has contributed to economic growth in sectors, “increasing employment in some areas by as much as 10%.” Furthermore, internet expansion has helped East Africa increase its GDP by 14% since 2009.

The Road Ahead

Smart feature phones are on the rise in the developing world and may accelerate economic growth due to their affordability and digital functions. In the coming decades, these phones may significantly help formerly impoverished nations become major players in the global economy.

– Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Bangladeshi FarmersAs the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, smallholder Bangladeshi farmers began to suffer. Worldwide lockdowns disrupted supply chains, which led to economic loss. Agriculture is the dominant industry in Bangladesh and farmers play a significant role in the country’s economy. In Bangladesh, people who live in rural areas rely on farming for food security and income. The World Bank has partnered with the Bangladesh government to disperse emergency funds to smallholder Bangladeshi farmers using geotagging tools.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Bangladeshi Farmers

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns and economic dilemmas. In Bangladesh, COVID-19 has critically affected about 300,000 dairy farms and about 70,000 poultry farms. The dairy industry lost $6.7 million daily. Moreover, from March 20 to April 4, 2020, the poultry industry lost more than $1.35 billion. These losses forced farmers to shut down production.

For 16.2 million vegetable-growing farm households in Bangladesh, the pandemic also proved to be detrimental. Urbanization had already caused an increase in vegetable demand. Once COVID-19 hit, supply chains to the cities broke down. Faulty supply chains caused vegetable growers to halt production and incur losses. Farmers in Bangladesh have faced food insecurity and losses of income because of the pandemic.

What is GEMS Technology?

Geo-Enabling Initiative for Monitoring and Supervision (GEMS) is a technology that collects data from the fields digitally with easy open-source tools. In other words, teams use GEMS technology as a digital monitoring platform to assess visible information. The technology helps its users understand real-time dynamics on the ground. Users can collect data on their smartphones or tablets without the internet while working in the field. This information is saved on the device, and once the user reconnects the device to the internet, the data is saved onto a server. The World Bank first used GEMS technology in South Sudan. Since then, the technology has improved and has been used in projects throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The World Bank Assists Farmers

The World Bank and the Bangladesh government have aided Bangladeshi farmers in need by providing emergency cash transfers to smallholder farmers of dairy, livestock and aquaculture. A top priority for the World Bank is ensuring the correct beneficiaries receive the payments. After recognizing the difficulties in paper surveying, the World Bank decided to use GEMS-style remote supervision tools to ensure payments were sent to the correct beneficiaries. After the organization trained Bangladeshi project teams to understand the new digital tools, the teams used GEMS technology to identify beneficiaries. The technology helped to remove any double-counting and other manual entry errors and offered precise locations on maps.

Two projects have implemented GEMS technology to help Bangladeshi farmers affected by COVID-19 thus far. The Livestock & Dairy Development Project in Bangladesh used the technology to give 620,000 livestock producers emergency money transfers. Additionally, the Bangladesh Sustainable Coastal & Marine Fisheries Project gave 78,000 aquaculture farmers emergency money transfers with the help of geotagging technology.

Moving Forward

With the help of GEMS information technology, the World Bank and Bangladeshi organizations can ensure transparency in cash transfers to Bangladeshi farmers affected by COVID-19. Because the agriculture industry in Bangladesh is so vast, it is important that Bangladeshi farmers receive assistance in order to continue food production. Such assistance is imperative in order for Bangladeshi farmers to successfully recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam rice farming appFarming is becoming more valuable to Vietnam’s development as a nation. Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy and is highly reliant on its agricultural sector. The value of Vietnam’s agriculture, fishing and forestry markets accounted for almost 15% of the country’s GDP in 2020. However, there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of Vietnamese agricultural success. A Vietnam rice farming app is helping farmers to overcome these obstacles.

Rice and Salt Water

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest rice producers. These rice farmers depend on certain environmental conditions to take place in order to produce their influential yield. If natural variables are out of alignment, an entire season’s crop can go to waste. Without a successful crop, the livelihood of farmers is put at risk and they can easily slip into poverty. Thankfully, a Vietnam rice farming app was designed to keep rice farmers aware of precisely how their paddies are doing.

The smartphone app is helpful for farmers all across Vietnam, including in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is a vast expanse in the southern part of Vietnam where the majority of the country’s farming and fishing occurs. The pronounced wet and dry seasons affect the delta greatly since it’s a very low-lying area. During the wet season, there is plenty of fresh rainwater that fills the rivers. In the dry season, rivers are not filled with rainwater, so seawater laden with salt flows into them. A high saltwater content in rice fields can make the roots of the rice inefficient at absorbing water and can kill the plant. Regulating the salt content is a crucial aspect of being a rice paddy farmer. The Vietnam rice farming app aims to help local farmers monitor salt levels among its various other features to protect farms.

Impact of the App

Technology is offering a simple solution to the problem. The Vietnamese government, in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), launched a mobile app that provides farmers with information about the state of water in their rice paddies. This Vietnam rice farming app reports data collected by various sensors placed on farms across the Mekong Delta to each app user.

This Vietnam rice farming app gets information to the farmers quickly, which helps the farmers to make the necessary changes before it’s too late. Farmers can easily check the app for updates on the water quality in their rice paddies, such as the water’s salinity, pH, alkalinity and tidal water levels. This information helps farmers to prevent their crops from going to waste. For example, when the app reports salinity being too high, farmers know they must pump fresh water into the fields.

Before this mobile app, farmers were only getting one out of the usual three harvests annually. During a salinity wave, 300,000 hectares of rice fields were lost. But due to the implementation of the sensors and tracking abilities, the next salinity wave brought only 21,000 hectares of damage. This Vietnam rice farming app is protecting farmers from the costly reality of a ruined crop.

Of Poverty and Rice

The Vietnam rice farming app has a broad impact. About half of Vietnam’s 47 million labor force workers engage in agriculture and a poor harvest could prove detrimental to many Vietnamese people. Many in Vietnam don’t have savings and live a subsistence lifestyle, which can make any financial blow very serious. This is particularly true for the nearly 70% of the country lives in rural areas where poverty is especially concerning. The rate of rural poverty is around three times the urban poverty rate. By reducing the variables and uncertainty in the farming process with an app, Vietnamese farmers can feel empowered and less threatened about falling into extreme poverty. Utilizing this technology in agricultural practices can help save the rice paddies and protect against poverty in Vietnam.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

GirlsGoIT Promotes Teaching Girls about Tech
GirlsGoIT is an organization based in Moldova that encourages girls and young women to explore IT careers. Particularly reaching out to girls with disabilities or from rural areas, the organization helps introduce girls to tech fields through workshops, summer camps and large community events. Through the work of the organization, GirlsGoIT promotes teaching girls about tech and helping them see that there is a place for them in the tech industry. The tech industry needs girls’ voices, creativity and ideas to continue to thrive and grow. 

How GirlsGoIT Promotes Teaching Girls About Tech: Work and Events

A major event in the Girls GoIT program is the summer camps the organization holds, where the organization invites girls aged 16 to 20 from all over the country to spend time learning the basics of IT work, how to use different computer programs and how to create their own software. The camps also give young women a fuller scope of tech work by inviting professionals to work with the girls. These include web designers, copywriters and social media analysts. Working with the professionals gives the girls a chance to conceptualize different careers and think of the different possible career paths in the world of tech IT.

The hope with the camps is that the girls will continue to research and practice for a career in tech. The girls will build connections with professionals and peers and will pass on their knowledge to other young people in their communities. In fact, many of the girls become GirlsGoIt ambassadors, where they establish and run local computer clubs in their communities. 

Throughout the year, however, GirlsGoIT continues to have programs to help introduce more girls to the world of tech. The organization often has workshops in the spring and summer and has expanded its work to include creating and programming robotics and learning how to 3D print and model. GirlsGoIT also has many live discussions for adults in which it advises parents, educators and other professionals about encouraging more young women to involve themselves with IT. It often holds informative lectures about what people can do to help create a more inclusive tech workforce.

Work During the Pandemic

With COVID-19 preventing many in-person events, many GirlsGoIT annual events had to reform and take on a new shape. But even with these setbacks, GirlsGoIt was still able to hold successful events and create new opportunities for the participants of its program.

Even before the pandemic, the team at GirlsGoIt was looking for ways to combine in-person education with the digital sphere. So, the organization embraced this and moved its typical seasonal workshops online in 2020. In the autumn workshop in October 2020, around 155 participants joined. For the spring workshop, which was from the end of March to early April 2021, more than 922 people applied. This represents the largest number of applicants the workshop has had. 

GirlsGoIT Collaborations and Campaigns 

In 2020, GirlsGoIT partnered with different organizations to host new events and give participants of its programs new opportunities. One of the organizations was Crunchyroll Moldova. Both organizations host a discussion event about STEM education’s importance in our new generation. In addition, Crunchyroll also offers internships to participants of GirlsGoIt. The internship provides experience and helps the girls continue in their careers with a letter of recommendation and a diploma.

In 2021, GirlsGoIT released a new campaign titled “It’s Not Just About the Code!” The campaign intends to show that people with different interests and fields ranging from tech-based to artistic careers can involve themselves in GirlsGoIT. A variety of professions and fields use IT skills. It also emphasizes that learning how to code is just the first step in working in IT. Other skills include being able to communicate efficiently, creating a good product and considering the customer’s needs that are necessary to succeed in the tech field. GirlsGoIT emphasizes that the program is about teaching all the skills young women would need to be successful in the industry.

Impact and Importance

Predictions have determined that soon, 90% of all jobs will require some form of ICT skills. However, as of 2018, women held only 25% of all tech jobs. Upon further examination, only 19% of entry-level or mid-level tech jobs contain women. Women had 16% of senior-level jobs and filled only 10% of executive positions in the tech industry.

The low women-held tech positions directly tie into young women choosing to study IT or STEM-related fields in the teenage as young adult years. Many young women reported avoiding the subjects because they believed they were not good at IT subjects. The women did not think that the subjects were interesting or did not believe they wanted a tech career.

The fewer women in the tech industry, the more it feels to people that women do not belong in this field. GirlsGoIT’s work is important because of how the organization teaches girls to code, create software and build robotics. The organization is also important because it shows young women and their communities that women belong in the world of tech and that the world needs their voices and ideas.

In Conclusion

Many of the young women who participated in GirlsGoIt and became ambassadors for the program did not know they wanted a career in tech before they joined. Some of the women even said they were sure they were not good at STEM subjects before participating. The program also helped win over many parents. Seeing their daughters participate in the programs helped people realize the importance of increasing the number of women in the tech industry. The women started to encourage other parents that they knew to support their children in STEM and IT subjects. GirlsGoIt promotes teaching girls about tech and is taking an important step to help make the tech industry a more equal and fair workspace.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr