Technology in Ghana
Ghana has been the hub for technology production in sub-Saharan Africa for decades. In terms of recent technology progression, Ghana stands out for its IT programs, sustainability training and more. Accra is one of the metropolitan cities in the country, known for its technological innovations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Accra has been working tirelessly to safely and efficiently produce technology that provides aid to sub-Saharan Africa. Here are six facts about technology in Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6 Facts About Technology in Ghana

  1. The Ministry of Health established a partnership with Zipline, a U.S. company that delivers medical supplies using drones. Zipline is distributing supplies and test kits to 1,000 medical facilities across the country. The company loads the drones with tests and return packets to go back for testing. This has helped Ghana complete 68,000 tests during the lockdown and distribute more supplies as the virus has spread.
  2. Cognate System, a software company, is tracking cases of COVID-19 throughout Ghana. Cognate System uses a platform called Opine Health Assistant (OHA), a phone app that people use to report and record their symptoms. Once someone tests positive, they can use the platform to report their symptoms and determine when they are COVID-free. The application asks questions like where the user has traveled recently and whether they are in need of food, shelter or water. After the lockdown, OHA tracked and recorded approximately 3,000 cases.
  3. As the COVID-19 virus spread through Africa, hospitals began to fill up and medical personnel quickly realized they did not have adequate supplies to prevent further spread of the disease. Ultra Red Technologies (URT), a 3D printing company in Nairobi, got to work immediately to help. The company printed out plastic face shields to send to Ghananian medical staff to help them protect themselves while tending to patients. Mehul Shah, at the URT, wanted to do his part and find a way to help without needing to import products. His work represents the benefits that technology in Ghana has had on the country’s coronavirus response.
  4. Fablab, an innovation hub in Kenya, has been developing tracing applications. The applications track positive patients on public transport to determine who experienced exposure to the virus. If users are in a taxi, for example, they could scan the code onto the application to mark the vehicle as exposed. If everyone uses the application properly, it could trace the positive patient and notify others who may have had exposure to the virus.
  5. The Academic City College in Accra worked alongside the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, located in Kumasi, to build a ventilator that takes merely an hour to assemble and costs only $500 to $1,000. This effort resulted from students who noted that most oxygen bags required hand-pumping to keep patients breathing. The low-cost ventilators use a wooden box with pipes and electrical programming that push oxygen into the patient’s mask, eliminating the need for hand-pumping. Ventilators are quite difficult to distribute as they are expensive to build and maintain, even in wealthy nations. Lowering the cost and production of ventilators can save the lives of millions of COVID-19 patients.
  6. Ghana has been able to test 100,000 people through drone testing. This has likely contributed to the country’s relatively low death toll, which rests only at 486, or 18% of the 2,700 positive cases recorded. Each death has been due to previous underlying conditions that prevented patients from fighting off the novel coronavirus.

Technology in Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic relies on the good use of resources and accounting for cost and efforts. During the pandemic, Ghana and its neighboring nations have stepped up to the plate to prevent further spread and manage cases so that citizens can get back to work soon. Since March 2020, Ghana has cut down on costs for ventilators while reducing importation needs and sustaining the current quality of production. The sooner the case numbers fall, the sooner citizens and students of Accra can get back to working on more technology to sustain and grow the region. Technology in Ghana has only progressed during the COVID-19 era, and is working toward helping the nation get rid of the virus.

– Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Nepal is a beautiful country and mountains make up most of its terrain. Though the topography of the country adds to its magnificence as it sits atop the Himalayas, it also complicates travel, communication and distribution of resources. Nepal is mostly rural, as more than 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture for survival. Social evils like caste discrimination, youth delinquencies, socially excluded indigenous people and sex and human trafficking also plague the country. Consequently, measures to alleviate poverty in Nepal are increasingly challenging to implement. One heartening fact is that technology is slowly creeping into this vastly rural country and gradually aiding the mitigation of poverty in Nepal. Here are the top four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal.

The Top 4 Technological Developments to Alleviate Poverty in Nepal

  1. Medical Cargo Drones: Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death due to infectious diseases in Nepal, and it affects 70 percent of the country’s population. Most of the health care facilities are remote and inaccessible by road, and the testing labs are only in the major cities. Hence WeRobotics teamed up with Nepal Flying Labs and various other funding organizations to develop medical cargo drones. These cargo drones collect sputum samples from the affected people in remote areas and send them to distant health care facilities for rapid testing. These drones delivered the samples in 25 minutes, whereas it took two to three days before. By October 9, 2019, 150 drones had carried more than 1,000 samples from health posts in remote villages to two central health care facilities. These drones have helped diagnose and treat the disease quickly. The government is seeking to develop this technology to control TB in other remote areas of the country soon.
  2. Baby Warmers: In the initial days after birth, babies need to keep warm to avoid contracting pneumonia or hypothermia. Between 63 and 85 percent of newborn deaths are due to hypothermia. Hence a group of biomedical engineers has put together a baby warmer using a ceramic heater connected to a parabolic reflector to reflect the heat towards the bassinet. The assembly parts and the developers are local to the region, and hence these baby warmers are affordable and easy to manufacture to maintain the neonatal health of newborn babies even in rural areas of the country. The Kirtipur hospital in Kathmandu has implemented this technology since January 4, 2020. The National Innovation Center of Nepal is working with the government on manufacturing and distributing more baby warmers soon.
  3. Krishi Gyan Kendra: Krishi Gyan Kendra is a research center located in the Agricultural Development Offices of various districts to connect the researchers with the local farmers. It follows the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of India as a model. Teams of researchers do onsite research on locally cultivated crops and soil to find new ways to improve cropping, processing and marketing practices. These centers act as knowledge resource bases for the local farmers so they can learn how to use modern technology. These also serve as open laboratories for the farmers themselves. Additionally, they also act as information centers providing pieces of information such as what crop might offer a better yield at a particular season and location and what the amount of rainfall will be at different times. This has helped the farmers make informed decisions and adopt better farming practices and pieces of equipment. This idea is still in the starting stages in Nepal, but many expect that it will be as successful as it was in India.
  4. Interactive Digital Soil Maps: Initiatives in Nepal have collected extensive data regarding the soil nature of the country and digitized it into interactive maps using satellite imagery. Certain types of soil are more suited for certain kinds of crops, and the land usage pattern and groundwater table levels can also determine the fertility of a region. Using these digital maps, a person standing in any area within the data range can instantly know about the soil properties of the soil he is standing on, such as its nature, its fertility, the ideal crops that might give the maximum yield in that soil and the soil management techniques ideal for that soil. Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, along with the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), developed this mobile-friendly technology. They are actively gathering soil data for more regions of the country in order to update it.

These four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal show incredible promise for the country. Irrespective of the drawbacks that might hold Nepal back, its people’s untamed spirits are always on the path to catch up with the scientific and technological innovations and developments of the modern world to better their country and themselves.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj
Photo: Unsplash

Technological Innovation in Sierra Leone
After a civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s and an Ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone is slowly recovering by investing in its future through technological innovation. The President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, stated that “Science and technology is the bedrock for the development of any modern economy.” With its labor force consisting of more than 60 percent of subsistence farming and its GDP being agriculture-based, the West African country has its sights on technology to help diversify its economy. UNICEF, Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) and businesses are working together to improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

UNICEF and DSTI

President Bio created the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in 2018 to further his vision of developing a technology sector in the country. Dr. David Sengeh is the first Chief Innovation Officer of DSTI. UNICEF and DSTI have partnered to support the use of digital data. One result of the partnership is the Free Quality School Education Initiative. The initiative uses data science to help grant free education to every child and give fast feedback on test scores and the quality of education. MagicBox is an open-source data-sharing platform that UNICEF is investing in which includes partners such as Google and IBM. People can use MagicBox to map epidemics in order to reduce the spread of disease and it has helped Sierra Leone since 2014. Its first use was during the 2014 Ebola Crisis in West Africa. It can also collect private and public data on education and poverty.

Drone Medicine Transportation

UNICEF and the DSTI are also testing drones that could deliver medicine and vaccines. Drones could also send pictures and digital data of natural disasters to mitigate hazards to the public. Sierra Leone is the fourth country that UNICEF drone-tested. Aerial imaging, used for mapping infrastructure, transportation and agriculture, helps elevate the country’s development. Since it is one of the least developed countries in the world, drone data pertaining to infrastructure is a good first step in development. For example, only 10 percent of the roads are paved, making transportation slow and difficult. During the rainy seasons, rural floods cut off communities for up to six months. Drones could reach the communities, especially those with HIV and AIDS.

GEN-350

The GEN-350 is a new technological innovation in Sierra Leone that produces drinking water out of the air. Watergen created the generator called GEN-350 in its mission to provide affordable water to countries that lack clean drinking water. The generator simply needs electricity to operate. The GEN-350 can produce up to 900 liters of water a day. About 50 percent of the population lacks clean drinking water, so the generator reduces the possibility of waterborne disease. Waterborne diseases are one of the main causes of death in the country. Water sources for Sierra Leoneans include ponds, puddles and wells that chemicals from mining and agriculture have contaminated. Watergen’s GEN-350 is a long-term solution to clean and affordable water for those in poverty in Sierra Leone and the world.

Technological Innovation Ongoing

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $773,000 grant to DSTI’s GIS Portal in 2019 expresses increased interest in Dr. Sengeh’s goal to provide “real-time information for timely access and receipt of services, and optimize service delivery specifically in the provision of maternal healthcare services.” Although technological innovation in Sierra Leone is in its infancy, the government shows initiative with the creation of the DSTI.

A civil war between 1991 and 2002 tarnished its economy, but the country is seeing development as companies such as Watergen and organizations such as UNICEF provide solutions to alleviating the effects of poverty, such as poor education and polluted water.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Improving Ghana's Local Health
Ghana is a small West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Agricultural and mineral outputs mostly make up the country’s income. Ghana was the first African state to gain independence in 1957 and has a population of approximately 28,102,471 people. Although Ghana is one of the more stable countries in Africa and has one of the lowest reported HIV infection rates, the country still faces a multitude of health care issues. However, there has recently been a partnership between the Ghanian government and a tech company to work towards improving Ghana’s local health.

Illnesses in Ghana

A variety of illnesses in Ghana are similar to those occurring in developed countries, however, some of these illnesses can be more potent in areas like Ghana. These illnesses include trauma, women’s health issues, pregnancy complications and infections. HIV/AIDS hit Ghana slightly less than other African countries, but it still caused the deaths of 10,300 people in 2012. HIV/AIDS now stands at number six on the list of the top 10 causes of death in Ghana after malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, ischemic heart disease and stroke.

The anopheles mosquito can transfer malaria, but people can also transmit the illness through organ transplants, shared needles or blood transfusions. Malaria most commonly affects pregnant women and children. In 2012, malaria caused the deaths of 8.3 percent of the Ghanian population. It was also the leading cause of death among children under 5, dealing fatal damage to 20 percent of children in that age group. One of the primary reasons for visits to the hospital is infections. Medical professionals can easily treat most malaria cases with three days of pills from the government, however, some may suffer repeated bouts of malaria and it can be fatal is they do not receive treatment.

Ghana’s Medical Drone Delivery Program

In April 2019, Quartz Africa detailed that a community health nurse at the New Tafo Government Hospital in Ghana’s Eastern Region, Gladys Dede Tetteh, ran out of yellow fever vaccines. Mothers and their babies had to wait in a long line in the hot weather. The facility made an order for more vaccines, but in the past, deliveries often took two hours or more to arrive by road from the central medical stores. However, 21 minutes later, from 80 meters in the sky, a drone released a box onto a small lawn quad in the hospital. New Tafo Government Hospital was the first to sign up for Ghana’s new medical drone delivery program to receive medical products from unmanned aerial vehicles. The aim of this program is to reach hard-to-reach communities quickly and efficiently.

The Ghana Health Service’s Partnership with Zipline

The Ghana Health Service recently began a partnership with Zipline, a drone company with the mission of giving every person instantaneous access to medical supplies. Ghana’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, officially launched the medical drone program on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Zipline is a partner of the United Parcel Service (UPS), which also provided support when it opened its Rwanda program. Zipline also gained support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pfizer. Zipline’s Omenako center in Ghana is the first of four centers that the company plans to construct by the end of 2019. Zipline also plans to provide supplies to 2,000 health care facilities in order to serve 12 million Ghanaians once it completes all four centers.

Each distribution center will have 30 drones that will work together to make 500 deliveries a day. Zipline approximates that it will be able to make 600 delivery flights a day in total. Many claim that the drones are some of the fastest delivery drones in the world. The drones can fly up to 75 mph, transport around four pounds, fly as high as 99 miles and operate in various types of weather and altitudes.

Zipline’s Role in Reducing Deaths and Providing Vaccinations

The World Health Organization states that “severe bleeding during delivery or after childbirth is the commonest cause of maternal mortality and contributes to around 34% of maternal deaths in Africa.” Ghana’s policymakers expressed that they believe that this new drone delivery system is the first step to improving Ghana’s local health by decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates.

The drones will deliver to 500 health facilities from the Omanako center which has vaccines and medications. With the aid of Ghana’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), Zipline drones will be able to provide support to those suffering from yellow fever, polio, measles & rubella, meningitis, pneumococcal, diphtheria, tetanus and more. Gavi provides the vaccines, which is an international organization with the intention of improving children’s access to vaccines in poor parts of the world. Drones will be able to pass where ground vehicles cannot, such as where there is underdeveloped or poorly maintained road infrastructure. Many also expect that the drone delivery program will reduce wastage of medical products and oversupplied hospitals.

Zipline aims to improve access to vital medical supplies, which in turn will hopefully reduce mortality rates and add to efforts in improving Ghana’s local health. Zipline’s mission in Ghana has only just begun, but so far it has been able to significantly reduce the time it takes to deliver important health supplies. Getting medical supplies and vaccines faster may be able to save a few lives in the future as well. Health issues and diseases like malaria continue to be the major causes of death in Ghana, but Zipline and the Ghanian government are making steps towards improving access to health care.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty-Solving TechnologyWhen thinking of drones, the image that comes to mind for many people is of warfare drones and precision strikes. This is not all drones can be used for, however. WeRobotics is an organization that uses drones for humanitarian practices. This organization utilizes the positive impacts of robotic technology to address global problems such as poverty, health and post-disaster reconstruction.

WeRobotics established itself as a not-for-profit organization in December 2015. Since then, their progress has been astounding. WeRobotics and its Flying Labs work with NGOs, government agencies and universities in over 20 countries to spread this beneficial poverty-solving technology.

The company sets up Flying Labs in various countries that serve as a “hub of robotics technology, where staff host training sessions, webinars and teach people how to use technology.” These labs are also “incubators” for the formation of new, local businesses. There are now flying labs in Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Réunion, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

The robotic technology in these Flying Labs is used for a variety of purposes.The drones can be used for mapping, cargo delivery, drone journalism and conservation. In Nepal, for example, the drones were used to map out the damage done to a region after an earthquake. The map made by the drones was then printed out and annotated by locals to determine strategies and priorities for reconstruction. They also used swimming drones to better understand glacial lakes, which lakes formed by the melting of Himalayan glaciers. These lakes, when forming, have a “tsunami” effect on the areas around them. The swimming drones are used to understand how these lakes are formed and to predict new formations and determine vulnerable areas.

In Peru, the drones are primarily used for cargo delivery of important medicines and vaccines. In the Peruvian Amazon, many people live in areas that are not close to roads or highways. Thus, the main form of transportation is river boat, which can be slow, unreliable and costly. The drones are able to make deliveries of important medicines, such as anti-venom, in a fraction of the time it takes the river boats. In one example, anti-venom was delivered by a drone in 35 minutes, when it would have taken a river boat 6 hours. This can be the difference between life and death. In this way, the drones become poverty-solving technology as they remove barriers created by regional poverty.

One of the most important tenets of WeRobotic’s work is their focus on democratization and localization of technology. This means giving the technology and training to locals with no strings attached. They train locals to be able to use the technology themselves so that the project is respectful of local communities’ autonomy and is also sustainable. Locals in Nepal were able to complete an unfinished map on their own after the WeRobotics team left the site. Because the locals are given access to the information that makes the technology work, they are able to come up with solutions to problems themselves.

Some things that the company notes can be improved are the affordability, repairability, durability, simplicity and battery life of the drones.

This poverty-solving technology has a promising future. It has already provided local communities with means of mapping and transportation, things that are underappreciated in well-off countries, but necessary for civilian life. The possibilities for these humanitarian drones are far-reaching. With more and more people being trained around the world at these Flying Labs, there is more possibilities for improvements and innovative solutions.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Pixabay

drones can save livesThird-world development programs use drones to advance projects more quickly and with fewer expenses. Pilots can volunteer for projects that provide humanitarian aid to remote areas, such as delivering medicine, blood, specimens for lab testing, vaccines and anti-venom. A skilled drone pilot can provide support across the globe to help people in need. Drone pilots can support relief efforts after major natural disasters, and civilian drone pilots (who have the proper authorization) can work with officials in search and rescue missions, provide aerial photography data to help find lost persons, map out disaster areas and help assess damage to an area. Here’s how a drone pilot can use their skills to help save lives around the world.

Four Ways Drone Pilots Can Save Lives

  1. Volunteer Organizations: One of the most well-established humanitarian drone pilot associations is the UAV Aviators Organization founded by Dr. Patrick Meier. This group has more than 3,300 members worldwide and represents 120 countries. Of those members, more than 600 are drone pilots. A drone pilot can find out about volunteer opportunities by registering with the Humanitarian UAV Network and agreeing to the UAV Humanitarian Code of Conduct. There is no cost to join this association. Another volunteer organization is S.W.A.R.M. More than 7,500 SAR pilots volunteer with this organization, serving more than 40 countries. It has an active Facebook group with more than 4,400 members. 
  2. Third-World Development Projects: The World Bank reports there are many benefits when using drones for development projects in third-world nations. Some benefits include easier planning, faster project implementation, less risk to local workers and communities, lower operational costs and surveying before access infrastructure is built in remote areas. The World Bank seeks drone pilots as volunteers and interns for drone flying projects to work in land use administration, forest management, coastal zone protection and environmental risk assessment. Drone pilots can help with medical deliveries, firefighting, contamination sensing and weather prediction. They can also help with guarding endangered animals and natural resource conservation.In 2016, the World Bank executed a drone project to conduct mapping in Kosovo. This mapping occurred after the Balkan wars ended in the late 1990s. The $13.86 million Real Estate and Cadastre Project was operated by the Global Land and Geospatial Unit of the World Bank. Women from Kosovo, who lost their husbands and sons in the wars, worked alone or with other women to rebuild their homes. The wars made it impossible to prove the land was theirs because all the documentation was lost. Without the ability to prove ownership, they could not work the farmland or get loans from the bank. These women had no ability to pay for traditional surveyors. Surveying the land through the use of drones helped them register their rightful ownership to their family’s land.
  3. Disaster Relief With Search and Rescue: Coordinated efforts with local authorities create the most beneficial effects. It is important for pilots to avoid any unintentional consequences of drone deployments in disaster zones, which might interfere with official rescue and relief efforts. Following Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013, four key drones were launched by different local and international groups to support the relief efforts. They were used to discover safe and effective areas for NGOs to set up camp, identify passable roads, assess the damage from the storm surge and flooding and determine which villages were most affected by the typhoon. Drone surveillance determined some of the most affected areas, and the data was given to different humanitarian organizations to aid the relief efforts. In Dulag, aerial imagery was used to determine which areas had the greatest need for new shelters. This allowed Medair, a Swiss humanitarian organization, to identify how much material was needed and better allocate their resources to help people as quickly as possible.
  4. Vaccine and Medical Supplies Delivery: In December 2018, a drone delivery brought a life-saving vaccine to a remote part of the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific near Australia. With funding for the humanitarian project supported by UNICEF and the government of Australia, volunteers working with a company called Swoop Aero were able to deliver vaccines through 25 miles of rough mountainous terrain. Drone use helped the vaccines maintain the proper temperature due to the speed available through drone transport and delivered them and other critical medical supplies to remote areas.In Africa, UNICEF funds a company called Zipline. The staff of volunteers delivers vaccines and other medical supplies by using drones. The deliveries have been made to remote villages in the countries of Rwanda and Ghana since 2016. UNICEF sponsors other projects of a similar kind in Malawi and Papua New Guinea. It may take days to reach these remote villages by car or on foot. A drone can fly to them in minutes and land in a small jungle clearing a plane or helicopter could not use. UNICEF also sponsors programs that use drones to transport specimens from remote locations back to laboratories for testing. This helps health care practitioners make the correct diagnosis and administer life-saving treatment to patients quickly.

Drone pilots have plenty of ways to use their skills to help fight poverty and get involved in global relief efforts. Pilots are encouraged to volunteer to help out locally and/or internationally. As Dr. Peter Meir says, “The best use of a drone is to save a life.”

Mark Sheehan
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare Technology in South Africa

One of many struggles associated with living in poverty is the inaccessibility of health care. Just as health insurance coverage and the costs of health care are common topics of debate in the United States, other nations have their own difficulties with providing medical care to their citizens living in poverty.

In South Africa, ranked by the World Bank in 2018 as one of the most economically unequal countries in the world, 40 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2015. Poverty’s impact on the population is clear; in 2014, the life expectancy at birth in South Africa was 64.1 years, with the country ranking 190 out of 223 countries. Clearly, access to health care in South Africa is lacking. Recent innovations in health care technology in South Africa are helping to provide medical care to those living in poverty.

New Health Care Technology in South Africa

  • Health Information for New Mothers: Vodafone, a phone service provider, has launched a tool called the Mum & Baby. The service provides free health information to pregnant women and new mothers. The service, which launched in 2017 and has more than 1.4 million users, provides access to articles, videos and tutorials about prenatal health and caring for a new baby. Although this service is available only to Vodafone users and thus is not accessible to mothers who do not have access to a cell phone or who use a different provider, it is still a step toward educating women about their health.
  • Drones That Transport Blood: The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) collects and provides blood for transfusions in South Africa. Although SANBS reports that less than one percent of South Africans are active blood donors, the organization’s work makes a huge difference in South African health care by providing medical treatment to people undergoing surgeries, trauma victims and those with anemia. However, blood collection can only do so much; if the blood cannot be safely and quickly transported to where it is needed, it cannot be used. This is particularly problematic in rural areas. In the past, blood has been moved from place to place by helicopter. Recently, SANBS has reported that it will begin using drones to transport blood. This will be faster and less expensive than helicopters and are designed to ensure the blood is kept safe during the journey. This technology will assist SANBS in saving lives efficiently in South Africa.
  • An App Fighting The Stigma of HIV: As of 2016, an estimated 7.2 million South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS, more than in any other country. Like in many other places, there exists a stigma around HIV/AIDS which can prevent people from getting the care they need. Zoë-Life, a local South African development organization, and Keep A Child Alive, an organization which provides support to children affected by HIV/AIDS, have launched an app together with the aim of helping health care professionals provide HIV/AIDS education to children in a way that does not stigmatize their experiences. The KidzAlive Talk Tool App recently piloted with great success, uses animations and games to help children understand HIV/AIDS in an age-appropriate way. In an interview with IT News Africa, Zoë-Life Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Thomas reported that “primary caregivers participating in the pilot study were more willing to give consent for their children to receive HIV testing and counseling.”

As large swaths of the South African population continue to live in poverty, these health care technologies are saving lives in South Africa. The South African government has laid out a plan, called the National Development Plan, with the goal of eliminating poverty in South Africa by the year 2030. The results of this plan are yet to be seen, but in the meantime, these organizations are making strides using technology to make health care in South Africa more accessible.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay

Non-military dronesIn the modern world, the term “drone” has developed two very different connotations. Media coverage about drones is either about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in war zones or about the recreational use of drones for photography or entertainment. But what about drones being used for serious purposes, excluding military combat. Around the globe, people are using non-military drones for humanitarian purposes and to support global development. Here are five ways that non-military drones are saving lives across the globe:

5 Ways Non-Military Drones Help People Globally

  1. Transporting Medicine and Medical Equipment
    Often faster than helicopters and other traditional methods, drones are ideal for carrying blood, vaccines and small pieces of medical equipment. The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) plans to begin using drones to deliver blood to rural areas for blood transfusions, and Ghana is already doing so. In 2018, Vanuatu was the first country to use a drone to transport vaccines to rural areas. Norway has begun using drones to quickly bring defibrillators to the scene of emergencies. In medicine, time is of the essence, and quick delivery can save lives.
  2. Assessing Disaster Areas
    Drones are a relatively fast and inexpensive way to obtain images of natural disasters so that emergency responders are aware of the situation and well-equipped to act accordingly. In 2012, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) used drones to assess the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Haiti. According to the IOM, when they used drones “The complete analysis specifying which houses had been destroyed and damaged was available four days after the flooding event, on November 1. In comparison, satellite imagery requested at the same time from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) was not available until one week after the drone analysis.” In addition, to the advantage of their speed, drone images are clearer than satellite images and drones are able to fly below the cloud cover, enabling them to capture images that a satellite might miss due to cloud obstruction.
  3. Fighting Wildfires
    Fighting fires is a dangerous job, and every year firefighters die in the line of duty. In recent years, California has used drones to assist firefighters from the sky. Fighting fire aerially is not a new concept, but in the past planes and helicopters have been manned by a crew, which is also a dangerous job. NBC News reports that between 2006 and 2016, 24 percent of wildland firefighter deaths were due to plane and helicopter crashes. Unmanned aircraft are safer for firefighters, can operate for long stretches of time, and are not limited by conditions as much as helicopters and planes are.
  4. Tracking Mosquitoes That Spread Disease
    Mosquitos are a frequent carrier of malaria in Peru. In a 2019 study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, drones in Amazonian Peru were able to identify bodies of water containing mosquito larvae. With this knowledge, scientists can intervene in these sites to control the mosquito population in an effort to curb malaria transmission.
  5. Bringing Internet Access To Remote Areas
    In 2016, Facebook launched a project to use drones to provide internet access to people living in remote areas. The Aquila drone, powered by solar energy, would fly at 60,000 feet and help people in isolated regions connect with others around the globe. The Aquila project was shut down in 2018 as Facebook shifted to other projects, but the idea of drones being used to connect people in remote areas to the internet remains a compelling one. Airbus is reportedly working on a similar project, the Zephyr S, which includes the capabilities of providing internet access.

While unmanned aircraft are relatively new technology, it is already clear that non-military drones are making a difference around the globe. As such technology continues to advance, more talk of these innovative uses of drones should be expected.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Flickr

Smart Agriculture Farming
In 2050, the population of the earth is expected to have exploded to 9.6 billion. Additionally, with the rise of extreme weather events under climate change and the decrease of arable land due to erosion, it has become increasingly crucial for farmers to become as efficient as possible. Smart agriculture farming is one solution to this problem. Through the utilization of modern technology, this can soon become a reality for many farmers residing in third world countries.

Smart Agriculture Farming

Smart Agriculture, also known as precision farming, is defined as the utilization of modern technologies, including:

  1. The IoT (internet of things)
  2. Soil scanning
  3. GPS
  4. Data management

All these innovations improve both the quality and quantity of agricultural goods. By having access to real-time data about the state of their crops, farmers can easily monitor the health of their fields. They can also maximize the effectiveness of resources such as water, pesticide and fertilizers. For example, in a smart agriculture regulated field, pesticide usage can be made custom to each corner of the plot, as opposed to the entire field or even farm.

Current Usage Status

Currently, precision farming occurs primarily in the developed world. North America, with 37.34 percent, has the lion’s share of the global smart agriculture farming market. Progress has been slower in developing countries, largely because of nonprofits funding pilot projects, such as the World Bank, rather than business venture capitalists. Presently, the largest smart agriculture provider in third world countries is PAD (Precision Agriculture for Development). The provider operates labs and partnerships in:

  1. India
  2. Kenya
  3. Pakistan
  4. Rwanda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Uganda
  7. Bangladesh

PAD has ambitions to improve the livelihoods of the 100 million smallholder farmers across the developing world by providing them with customized information about the local geography, climate and more.

Positive Impacts

By increasing the efficiency of the application of fertilizers and pesticides onto crops, the positive impacts of smart agriculture can easily be measured. For instance, an Iran case study revealed that the application of smart agriculture farming reduced input costs. Positive environmental impacts were also recorded. For example, 90.7 percent of the time when precision agriculture was utilized, energy sources were conserved. Furthermore, an impressive 99.2 percent of the time, underground and surface water consumption decreased. The case study also saw an increase in terms of economic prosperity, with 99.1 percent of smart agriculture ventures increasing profitability.

Future Directions

Smart agriculture is moving today at an increasingly rapid speed. It is a part of the movement that is ushering in what many are beginning to call the Third Green Revolution. Currently, the most exciting aspect of precision farming that is in the works is perhaps the usage of agricultural drones.

Through a combination of aerial imaging and near-infrared viewing, farmers can now easily survey the conditions of their crops. Some of these drones, such as the DGI AGRAS MG-1, are even capable of the custom SMALL-SCALE application of fertilizers and pesticides.

In recent years, a similar industry, precision livestock farming, has also sprung up. Similar to the systems found in precision agriculture, precision livestock farming is generally defined as the continuous management of the health, production/reproduction, the welfare of farm animals and their environmental impact through automation.

Smart agriculture farming has helped greatly increase efficiency and profitability for many farmers in both the developed and developing world. Today, it is taking on exciting new directions and there is no telling what the future holds for it.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Wikimedia

Drones Can Address Poverty

Technology is not inherently good or bad; it’s how it’s used. From music videos to saving lives, drone operations span the spectrum of ethics and morality. Drones are able to travel in minutes to places that would normally take hours or days by traditional methods. As a result, social entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations are utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies, survey the aftermath of natural disasters and even plant trees to combat deforestation. In developing countries, drones can be used to save countless lives. Here are five ways drones can address poverty across the world:

5 Ways Drones Can Address Poverty

  1. Delivering Medical Supplies
    Over one billion people in low-income countries do not have access to reliable roads, jeopardizing their access to proper medical care. Enter drones. Companies like Matternet are creating UAV supply highways that can quickly reach people in remote areas. By partnering with organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Matternet is running trials in Papua New Guinea and Haiti. These are trials to reinvent healthcare access and battle tuberculosis epidemics.
    Drones are also being used by the United Nations Population Fund to deliver contraceptives to remote regions of Ghana. This is a place where was almost no access to birth control. Approximately 225 million women in developing countries are in need of birth control but do not have access to it. Drones can cut contraceptive delivery times down from two days to 30 minutes.
  2. Reforesting (and Protecting) the Planet
    Approximately 1.6 billion people rely on forest resources for food, fuel, shelter, clothing and medicine. Yet, 15 billion trees are cut down every year.
    To reverse deforestation, drones are being used by companies like BioCarbon Engineering. They do this by planting tree seedlings, along with other microorganisms and fungi, to increase soil health. For instance, in just one day, BioCarbon planted 5,000 trees in Dungog, Australia, a region ravaged by coal mining. BioCarbon has planted 25,000 trees since the company’s inception. Additionally, it is working towards a goal of planting one billion trees every year.
    Not only can drones restore forest ecosystems, but they can also catch illegal loggers from destroying them in the first place. Indigenous communities in the Amazon and southern Guyana have employed drones to document illegal loggers and miners, using the proof to demand public officials to take action. In this way, drones can address poverty and also improve the planet.
  3. Assisting in Search and Rescue
    Search and rescue missions are one of the five ways drones can address poverty. In 2015, during the European migrant crisis, an estimated 5,000 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean. Certainly, many organizations found this completely unacceptable.
    The start-up NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) began employing drones in 2015 to find boats carrying refugees lost at sea. Christopher Catrambone, the founder of MOAS, has stated that drones are responsible for locating five of the eight boats that MOAS rescued in 2015. “Prior to using the drones, we felt like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” explained Catrambone.
  4. Providing Disaster Relief
    Another way that drones can address poverty is in how they are incredible tools for disaster relief. They allow organizations to map out the aftermath and locate target areas for immediate aid. After Super Typhoon Haiyan killed over 6,000 Filipinos and destroyed approximately one million homes, drones were deployed by aid organizations to assess the damage and bring relief.
    When every minute could be a life saved, drones can begin assessing disaster aftermath in three minutes. Helicopters, on the other hand, take up to an hour. From locating mines displaced after the Balkan floods in 2014 to functioning as mini-ambulances, equipped with defibrillators and EMS supplies, drones have the capability of saving countless lives.
  5. Helping Farmers and Local Businesses
    Drones are helping farmers around the world monitor the health of their crops by taking multi-spectral aerial images. Combine this information with weather data, and farmers can better understand how water, fertilizer and types of soil positively or negatively affect their crops.

Drones Testing in Malawi

USAID has been funding a project in Malawi. The project is employing drones to help farmers increase crop production and fight hunger. Malawi has also recently opened a Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor. This attracts industries, universities and individuals who want to test their drones for humanitarian and development work.

Fighting Poverty in China with Drones

In China, rural communities are being uplifted by being drones are being used to uplift rural communities by connecting them with the larger economy. Many villages are located in rough terrain, making it difficult and time-consuming to transport products to outside markets. JD, one of China’s biggest online retailers, has been using drones to help people deliver their products within a 150-mile radius. In fact, this method has a top speed of 62 miles per hour. JD is committed to fighting poverty. Additionally, it is operating in over 30 villages.

Positive Impact of Drones

These five ways drones can address poverty highlight what is possible when technology, social entrepreneurship and humanitarian issues collide. But at the end of the day, drones are one tool in the fight against poverty. However, they do have inevitable drawbacks and limitations.

Drone strikes have traumatized many communities. They may even invariably associate UAVs with the military. It is also important to be aware of the structure of privilege and deep-seated inequalities that continue to determine access to technology around the world. Overall, drones are little without people. Yet in the fight against poverty and inequality, it’s people who must embody change.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Pixabay