connect people5G is a new telecommunication technology that allows cell phones and other smart devices to communicate with one another much more efficiently. It will replace the highly successful 4G LTE network, which provides millions of people around the world with access to high-speed internet. Not only will 5G networks bring faster internet speeds and clearer voice calls to customers, but the new technology will connect people in a much more sophisticated way, especially in rural and developing areas.

5G Devices

While major telecommunication companies are investing in 5G and doing their part to make a new service available, technology companies will be responsible for designing devices that are compatible
with the new networks. Samsung, Apple, LG, and other large technology companies will need to make sure that their smartphones and tablets support 5G. It will be essentially useless to build a 5G network if devices cannot utilize the new network.

Smart Devices Becoming a Reality

5G networks will lay the groundwork for smart devices to better “talk” with one another. 5G will support significantly higher bandwidth rates than 4G networks, which will make it possible for cars and other devices to communicate with one another, meaning that these technologies may become available within the next decade. Tesla, Ford and Google have already begun developing self-driving smart cars, and it is rumored that Apple is also developing its own smart car.

Connecting Residents in Rural and Developing Communities

4G LTE has significantly increased internet speed and has allowed millions of people to access smartphone technology. In 2015, Ethiopia launched its 4G network around the capital city of Addis Ababa, which provided high-speed cellular service to over 400,000 people. Nearly 650 million people have been connected to 4G in Africa, which has increased economic and educational opportunities.

Unfortunately, some rural communities and developing countries throughout Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been left out of 4G LTE. These areas are still relying on 2G and 3G networks, which are
significantly slower and much less reliable. The older cellular technologies also make it impossible for these communities to use new smart devices. Experts hope that 5G networks will be available to these communities and will allow access to new technologies.

Investments in rural and developing areas will also benefit businesses and global economies. The new technologies will help people gain access to new markets for buying products and services. 5G rollout will be particularly important in Kenya, as the country anticipates that greater access to the internet will help grow the economy and expand access to global markets. 5G can also help rural and developing areas grow businesses, further helping economies by connecting people to high speed internet.

5G Companies

Ericsson, a cellular provider that serves the Middle East and Africa expects its 5G network to be widely deployed in 2020 and 2021. Vodacom, the African-based section of Vodafone, began deploying 5G technology in August 2018. The South-African based cellular provider, Rain, announced Africa’s first commercial 5G network, which is being developed in partnership with Huawei.

Elsewhere, major telecommunication companies have already begun a 5G rollout in major cities. American cellular providers such as T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T have all pledged to bring
5G technology to New York City and Washington D.C, with significantly expanded access in the coming years. Other telecommunication companies such as Deutsche, Telekom and Orange are doing the same in Europe, and Rakuten in Japan as well. It is also possible that American companies may collaborate with African-based carriers in the future to best serve customers on both continents.

T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere discussed 5G coverage in a recent blog:

“Let me be clear. These aren’t just words… they’re verifiable, enforceable and specific commitments that bring to life how the New T-Mobile will deliver a world-leading nationwide 5G network – truly 5G for all, create more competition in broadband, and continue to give customers more choices, better value and better service.”

Looking Ahead

5G is a revolutionary technology that will connect millions of people to smart technologies such as smartphones, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence devices. While the 5G rollout will not be completed until at least 2025, new technologies will emerge before then that will significantly change the ways in which we interact with the world. In essence, 5G networks will connect people, accelerate the adoption and access to high-speed networks, which will open up endless possibilities for millions of existing cellular customers.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

blockchain technology for rice farmers

In 2018, Oxfam, a global organization that works to end the injustice of poverty, introduced a Blockchain technology for rice farmers in Cambodia called Blockchain for Livelihood from Organic Cambodian Rice or, more simply, BlocRice. This blockchain technology will connect rice farmers in the Cambodian village of Reaksmei, in the Preah Vihear province, with other people in the supply chain to ensure that poor farmers get a fair deal.

Rice in Cambodia

Rice is Cambodia’s major crop with roughly 80 percent of Cambodian farmers cultivating rice. Many small-scale rice farmers lack the necessary information to negotiate prices and conditions with middlemen and others in the supply chain. Oxfam is hopeful that this pilot project, which will include 50 organic rice farmers, will expand to other provinces and varieties of farming.

While rice farming accounts for 25 percent of Cambodia’s economy, the average monthly income for these farmers is only $108. It is particularly tough when farmers do not have return customers or vehicles to take the product to a market. With these small-scale farmers struggling, the application of BlocRice will hopefully enhance their bargaining powers and selling prices.

Implementing Blockchain

Bitcoin is digital money that is stored in the digital wallet app on any smart device. Blockchain, a public list, records each transaction to make it traceable. No government issues blockchain, nor are banks required to manage accounts. This makes BlocRice a cheaper payment system with a transparent recording of transactions.

This project will focus on introducing the blockchain technology to rice farmers. In doing so, it will register all participants in the rice chain with a unique identification code. These include agricultural cooperatives, export and import companies, retailers and consumers. A contract between these actors will ensure proper payment and transparency. This connection between actors allows for a better chance for farmers to alleviate themselves from poverty.

The farmer will sell their rice through the cooperative called Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor who then forward the rice to AmruRice, the exporter. AmruRice will then sell and ship the rice to SanoRice, the importer in the Netherlands. SanoRice will then make rice crackers out of the rice and sell it to retailers. The BlocRice application will allow farmers to ensure they get correct payments, are paid on time and that the conditions of the contracts are kept. Consumers are also able to see this data through the same app. The app provides transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed decisions regarding fair production standards and conditions. As a result, the app helps contribute to fighting global poverty.

The Need for Smartphones

While the BlocRice project has helped Cambodian farmers, there is a downside. Access to smartphones presents one obstacle in bringing blockchain technology to rice farmers. Most farmers do not own smartphones, which are needed to access the BlocRice application. However, agricultural cooperatives, such as Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor, do own smartphones that can be used to assist farmers to access the application.

While this pilot project was implemented from April 2018 to March 2019, the success could allow BlocRice to be expanded to other provinces and used with other crops as well. Regardless of any minor setbacks, BlocRice could be an important step in helping rice farmers in Cambodia out of poverty.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Pixabay

AI Improves FarmingOnce a far-fetched, abstract idea, artificial intelligence is now proving to be a valuable asset in solving world hunger. Although AI is still in its earlier stage of development, progress is being made by corporations and university programs such as Google and Stanford University’s Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Lab. No longer merely science fiction, now AI improves farming, helps identify disease, predicts crop yields and locates areas prone to scarcity.

FarmView Increases Sorghum Yields

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University created FarmView to help solve the issue of a rapidly increasing population. By 2050, over 9.8 billion people will live on the planet, making food scarcity a topic of increasing importance. Additionally, CMU wants to help current farmers grow more food using the same amount of crops. And as AI improves farming methods, CMU believes it’s a possibility.

CMU is working with plant scientists and agricultural leaders to develop and deploy a system of AI, sensing and robotics technologies to improve plant breeding and crop management. One aim is to increase yields of drought and heat resistant sorghum–a crop that can thrive in famine-stricken countries. Researchers first collect data with drones, robots and stationary sensors. Then, machine learning technologies analyze the data to determine what factors yield more sorghum.

Agricultural Improvement with Google’s TensorFlow

Another AI technology created to help the agriculture industry is PlantMD. Created by high school students Shaza Mehdi and Nile Ravanell, PlantMD is an app that allows a farmer to detect plant diseases.  Mehdi and Ravanell built the app using Google’s TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning library.

Inspiration for PlantMD came from Nuru, an app built by a research team at Penn State University called PlantVillage in tandem with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Nuru was created as a solution to disease and pest susceptibility in cassava, a crop that feeds half a billion Africans daily. Because it is difficult for farmers to inspect and manage every crop, machine learning is being used to increase efficiency. First, a machine learning model was trained using thousands of classified cassava images. The model was then turned into an app where farmers can send images of their crop and receive information not only identifying diseases but also giving options to manage them. With this information, vital African agriculture can be better sustained to feed people.

Stanford University’s Research

Similar to PlantVillage and the IITA, Stanford University is utilizing machine learning in order to understand and predict crop yields in soybeans. But these models may be expanded to help underdeveloped countries.

Marshall Burke, an assistant professor of earth system science at Stanford, said: “If we have a model that works for U.S. soybeans, maybe we can train that model for areas with less data.”

Machine learning can also identify areas in underdeveloped countries suffering from food scarcity. Because these countries often lack reliable agricultural data, machine learning technology is extracting information from satellite images to discover areas where agriculture is suffering.

Solving the World’s Problems with AI

Google’s open-source TensorFlow allows machine learning technologies to be applied to agriculture. Moustapha Cisse, lead of the new Google AI center in Accra, Ghana, mentioned how farmers use TensorFlow-based apps like PlantMD and Nuru to diagnose plant diseases. Cisse said: “This wasn’t done by us but by people who use the tools we built.” Although not everyone owns a phone, it’s an excellent step in demonstrating the possibilities of AI in reducing poverty. And as AI improves farming, it brings us another step closer to reducing world hunger.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Apps That Help Fight HungerHunger is a crisis facing many countries and communities around the world, with about 821 million people experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, the biggest risk to worldwide health is hunger and malnutrition. Several programs already exist to help fight this issue such as food banks, food stamps, shelters and agencies like World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. However, there is an up and coming way for anyone to be able to provide assistance—smartphone apps. These five apps that help fight hunger offer various ways to give help with little more than the tap of a finger.

Five Apps That Help Fight Hunger

  1. Share the Meal – The U.N. World Food Programme created Share the Meal. The WFP helps 80 million people with food assistance and is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting against hunger. Download the app, donate $0.50 or more and feed a child for the day. The WFP then receives the funds, provides the meal and will even show in the app where the meal will go.
  2. Feedie – Feedie is an app that partners with the Lunchbox Fund to provide a meal to underserved children around the world. Over 12 million meals have been given through the app as well as through donations. Download the app, find a participating restaurant, take and share a picture of the meal and the restaurant will make a donation that equals the cost of one meal.
  3. OLIO – OLIO is a food-sharing app based in the UK that allows people and local businesses to post food items nearing their best-by or sell-by date for other people to pick up. To date, over 1 million people have joined the app and 1.8 million portions of food have been shared. To post items, download the app, add a picture and description of the item, list when and where it can be picked up and wait for someone to claim it. To request items, scroll through the local listings, request what is needed and arrange to pick up through a private message.
  4. Chowberry Chowberry is an online app, similar to OLIO, based in Nigeria that allows consumers and organizations to find food products listed by retailers that are nearing their sell-by date. Chowberry works with orphanages and faith-based organizations, as well as everyday customers. Sign up for the website and scroll through several participating stores and listed items to find needed items.
  5. WeFarm WeFarm is a farmer-to-farmer digital network that allows farmers to connect to other farmers in various parts of the world, without the use of the internet. More than 1 million farmers have been helped using WeFarm and over 40 thousand questions and answers are sent in each day. Farmers can text their local WeFarm number a question they have, and other connected farmers can respond with their answers and suggestions.

Hunger is an ongoing issue that millions of people face every day. These five apps that help fight hunger offer several different solutions to both those in need and those that are able to help. From donating a few cents, to listing discounted products, to connecting farmers around the world and more, helping those dealing with hunger can be a quick and easy process requiring nothing more than a cellphone.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Software Platforms in Developing Countries  The creation of mobile phones is not only beneficial for everyday usage but also for the livelihood of communities in developing countries. As mobile phones continue to advance, the creation of software applications that are easily accessible can make a difference in the developing world. Whether it be a mobile banking platform, a market information system or an EMS service for desolate regions in developing countries, these types of mobile software are undoubtedly effective in helping those they serve.

3 Mobile Software Platforms in Developing Countries

  1. M-Pesa: In 2007, Kenya launched the mobile banking platform, M-Pesa, with the help of a one million pound grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. M-Pesa is a money transfer service dedicated to allowing its users to transfer money to relatives in other locations through text, pay for everyday necessities and take out and repay loans. This software plays a significant role in reducing poverty. Studies show that there was a “6 percent increase in per capita consumption, enough to push 64 (or roughly 4 percent) of the sampled households above poverty levels.” Often referred to mobile money, this software gives the opportunity to separate cash and manage a source of income, especially for women. Considering most of the households are male-headed, women who are secondary income earners are unable to save adequately since most of the cash is used by the house. But M-Pesa creates financial independence and allows women to start their own businesses, bringing more money into families.
  2. MISTOWA: Market Information Systems and Traders Organizations in West Africa, MISTOWA for short, is an application created to provide statistics on agriculture to connect small farmers in remote areas with potential buyers at a fair market price. Created by the United States Agency for International Development and launched in March 2005, MISTOWA uses a web platform called TradeNet where buyers and sellers can upload and send agriculture information through text and SMS subscriptions. MISTOWA is partnered with a company named Esko in Nairobi, Ghana where rural farmers are sent price information, weather alerts and crop advice. After launching this mobile software, there was a 9 percent increase in profit for the farmers who used the software.
  3. Beacon: In rural areas, such as the countryside of the Dominican Republic, many citizens are unable to dial 9-1-1 for a medical emergency due to emergency services being too far away. Trek Medics International, in partnership with Google and Cardinal Health, created a lifesaving software program called Beacon. Through this mobile software, residents in the Dominican Republic can contact the nearest firehouse station where an alert will be sent via Beacon to a volunteer dispatcher who is first-aid trained. This volunteer travels to these regions on inexpensive motorcycles and transports the injured person to the nearest hospital.

Thanks to the masterminds behind mobile software, communities in developing countries are beginning to make use of the technology that is available to them through their mobile phones. Although these mobile software platforms in developing countries don’t tackle every issue, it is just the beginning of how advanced technology can make an impact.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

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

Women-led CompaniesWhen women work, they help engage and encourage more women to get into the workforce and thus drive the cycle of helping to lift women and their communities out of poverty. A 2016 McKinsey report estimated that advancing global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add up to $28 trillion to the global GDP per year.

In addition to reducing poverty, a United Nations study found that businesses with a higher proportion of women executives and directors saw an increase in profits and returns on invested capital. Not only do women in business help reduce global poverty and increase the global market, but many of their companies provide services directed at those in poverty. Here are six women-led companies that give back to the poor.

6 Women-Led Companies that Help Poor Communities

  1. 10Power: CEO Sandra Kwak founded 10Power in 2016 hoping to bring power to communities without access to the electric grid. Kwak and her company work with local partners in Haiti to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for places that need it most. Only a third of the island has access to the electric grid, but 10Power hopes to change that. By teaching local installers and engineers about solar power and panel installation, 10Power give more people access to clean, renewable power.
  2. CloQ: In 2016, co-founder Rafaela Cavalcanti helped launch the app CloQ, with the mission to provide access to cheaper and easy-to-use formal nano-credit to the lower-income and unbanked population in Brazil and to include them in the formal credit system. Since CloQ caters to a poorer population who may not necessarily have financial data, their credit model is based on client evaluation, behavioral and reliability, rather than solely on financial records. The app focuses on providing micro-loans, usually around $25. As the connection and relationship between the user and CloQ grows, loans up to $150 can be awarded. As 33 percent of the Brazilian population does not use or have a bank account, this app is a great solution for taking out small loans and preventing people from falling victim to loan sharks.
  3. Laboratoria: Co-founder and CEO Mariana Costa Checa began Laboratoria in 2014 in Peru. Laboratoria’s main initiative is to provide low-income and poor women with access to education with free web-development and coding instruction. The 6 month-long boot camp focuses on front-end development and UX design. Students also learn a variety of coding languages including JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The company also helps place their graduates into jobs by hosting hackathons to connect companies with students. More than 1,000 women have successfully completed Laboratoria’s program and more than 80 percent of those women went on to work in the technology industry. With over 450,000 unfilled tech jobs expected to arise in Latin America, Checa hopes her company will give low-income women the skills and opportunities to fill those jobs.
  4. Unima: Co-founder Laura Mendoza helped start Unima in Mexico in order to provide cheap, efficient diagnostic testing to poor and remote communities. The organization developed a fast and low-cost diagnostic and disease surveillance technology, particularly targeting tuberculosis (a highly contagious disease prevalent in poor communities). Patients put a drop of blood on a specially-designed paper. The result of the chemical reaction on the paper is evaluated by a smartphone app. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and each paper costs around $1. Due to its simple design, Unima’s technology does not require a lab to evaluate blood samples, so the diagnostic testing is easily transportable to remote communities. The Unima also stores all results from the smartphone app in a cloud server for real-time data surveillance. While large-scale testing of the technology began in Mexico, Unima hopes to expand its reach to remote and low-income communities in Africa as well.
  5. Vunilagi Book Club: Started in 2017, founder Adi Mariana Waqa’s book club provides books and a passion for reading to kids in Fiji. She and her volunteers encourage kids to read and ask questions. By inspiring a love of learning in youths, the book club’s mission is to help kids avoid the generational cycles of poverty by tackling illiteracy and encouraging them to pursue education and employment. Vunilagi has donated over a thousand books to six different rural villages and is run by around 30 volunteers.
  6. Wazi Vision: Founded in 2016 by Brenda Katwesigye, Wazi Vision provides affordable eye care. In Uganda, home of Wazi Vision, 1.2 million people are visually impaired, but eye care (testing and corrective lenses) is very expensive. Wazi Vision designs and provides eyeglasses at 80 percent of the cost of other glasses on the market. Wazi Vision also trains and employs women to design glasses, perform eye tests and manage delivery logistics. In order to provide low-cost eye care, Wazi Vision, supported by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and Greentec Capital Partners, developed an eye testing software that uses Virtual Reality. The technology does not require an optometrist, helping Wazi Vision reach more remote communities that may lack an optical center. Since its inception, Wazi Vision has tested over 5,000 children in schools across Uganda, donates glasses to children who cannot afford even their cheaper version, and continues to donate 10 percent of every pair of glasses bought toward the purchase of a pair of glasses for a child in need.

These six women-led companies are helping those in poverty, as well as providing inspiration and empowerment for other women looking to own and run businesses. These companies not only benefit the women who have helped establish them but countless others in need.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

technological InnovationsTechnology has the ability to change the way the world works and assist people currently living in poverty. Developing countries are often plagued by issues in sanitation as well as energy and medicine shortages that can hinder their economic security. Listed below are 4 new technological innovations that have the potential to reduce the effects of these issues and reduce poverty.

4 Technological Innovations That Can Reduce Poverty

  1. Sewage-free sanitation systems: There are roughly 2.6 billion people in the world without access to proper sanitation infrastructure. Some of the countries most affected by poverty, including India, Kenya and Pakistan, have millions of people living without proper sanitation systems. Without these systems, human waste is improperly disposed of into lakes and rivers, which can lead to health problems in the local population. Issues resulting from improper sanitation kill an estimated 1.4 million children each year. Researchers at Duke University, the University of Florida and Biomass Controls have been developing an energy efficient toilet that does not require a sewer system to operate. These toilets look like ordinary toilets. As of now, several different prototypes have been developed. One prototype, developed at the University of Florida, is able to filter out pollutants. Another prototype, developed by Biomass Controls, is able to heat waste and transform it into a carbon-rich material that can be used as fertilizer.
  2. Advanced fusion and fission reactors: New forms of nuclear power are expected to become available in the coming decades that will be both safer and cheaper than current nuclear power sources. Approximately 1.3 billion people live without access to energy. Energy poverty is unique because it is both a cause and a consequence of economic poverty. New nuclear designs that could help alleviate the issue of energy poverty include generation IV nuclear fission reactors, small modular reactors and fission reactors. Two companies, Terrestrial Energy and Terraworks, are hoping to use generation IV fission designs for grid supply in the 2020s. Small modular reactors are cost effective and reduce safety and environmental risks. While fission reactors seem to be a long way off, there has been some progress and they will be less controversial for public use since they create less long term waste and are safer than current nuclear sources.
  3. Blood testing for premature birth: Premature birth is a healthcare problem that disproportionately affects the developing world, particularly countries in Asia and Africa. Premature birth is linked to numerous health problems in newborns including increased risk of cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and respiratory illnesses. Recent blood tests are now analyzing RNA instead of DNA, and scientists have identified seven genes linked to premature birth. This discovery of the genes related to premature birth could lead to future treatments for the problem.
  4. New desalination tech: Water scarcity is a huge problem that is linked to poverty. It is estimated that one in nine people (844 million) lack proper access to safe, clean water. Over the past few decades, scientists have developed a new method called desalination to turn saltwater into consumable fresh water. This process, however, is very expensive and requires a high amount of energy. New technology uses reverse osmosis for desalination. This process is not new, but instead of being powered by a battery, the new technology can be powered by solar energy, which is significantly more cost-efficient.

New technology has the potential to address many of the issues relating to poverty. Issues including energy, health and sanitation have long afflicted those in poverty and have hindered efforts to alleviate economic impoverishment. New technological innovations that are being developed today have the potential to be vital tools for reducing economic poverty in the future.

-Randall Costa

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