Ukraine's IT and software
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, many believed Ukraine would climb quickly up the economic ladder. Until recently, government corruption and political instability kept the country in a state of economic stagnation. Over the last two decades, however, the nation’s information technology and software development sectors grew rapidly, helping immensely to boost Ukraine’s economy.

Ukraine Becomes a Major Player

People did not fully recognize the potential of Ukraine’s IT and software industries until 2011 after service exports nationwide exceeded $1 billion. This large revenue also helped the country gain its rank as the 26th most attractive country for outsourced tech services. The following year, the Ukrainian Hi-Tech Initiative conducted a report which ranked Ukraine among the top 10 countries with the most certified IT specialists. Out of the 250,000 Ukrainian IT specialists employed in 2014, over 40,000 of them were certified. Ukraine continues to gain global attention and its rapidly growing IT sector made it one of the most attractive nations for investors and venture capitalists.

The Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association recorded that between 2013 and 2018, venture capitalist companies invested $630 million into Ukrainian tech start-ups. Lviv, another major IT city in Ukraine’s Innovation District IT park recently received a $160 million grant. The generous grant provided 14,000 new workplaces in the park. Among the workplaces were tech-labs, hotels and restaurants. This expansion created an array of employment opportunities, which helped to boost Ukraine’s economy even more.

The successful growth of these industries had so much impact that Ukrainian universities had to create specialized degree programs to cater to them exclusively. As of 2018, there were 13,836 students studying at universities with tech programs. Out of the 13,836 students, 5,000 will graduate with the skill-set needed to become IT professionals in Ukraine’s cluster of tech-centered cities. The IT Future Survey from 2018 indicated that 82 percent of all Ukrainian students wanted to pursue a career in IT or software development. To be specific, in 2017, the Lviv IT cluster launched four new tech programs including robotics, cybersecurity, business analysis and life safety. In addition, the cluster also opened four new innovation labs for IT students. The labs should help students master their skill sets in AI tech, machine learning, data science and an array of other cutting-edge technologies.

Outsourcing Services and Real Estate Demand Boosts Ukraine’s Economy

In recent years, the demand for Ukraine’s IT and software services increased exponentially. Consequently, this creates a demand for firms to buy real estate to house their growing businesses. A Cushman & Wakefield property market analysis indicated that in the first half of 2017, IT companies accounted for 50 percent of all office transactions in the city of Kyiv. Tech companies also account for 60 percent of all office rentals in Kyiv’s Gulliver Business Center, a major hub for the city’s tech industry. Other Ukrainian tech-hub cities like Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv helped boost Ukraine’s economy through these same areas.

Ukrainian tech companies do a majority of their business through outsourcing services. A report conducted by the investment firm AVentures Capital indicated that at least 500 firms provided tech services to the global market. As of 2018, software development became the second largest export service in the world with Ukraine being responsible for 20 percent of those exports globally. With a current market growth of 26 percent, and between 160,000 and 172,000 Ukrainians being software and IT professionals, Ukraine boasts the largest and fastest growth of these industries in all of Europe. Experts speculate that services of this nature are well on their way to becoming the number one export in the country.

Ukraine’s IT and Software Sectors Create Jobs

This growth helped boost Ukraine’s economy and has also provided Ukrainian people with employment opportunities from clients abroad without the direct involvement of their corrupt government systems. The exports of Ukraine’s IT and software services were worth $3.6 billion. In addition, outsourcing companies provided more than 100,000 software development jobs in the country’s IT sector in 2018.

SoftServe, an American outsourcing company, provided 6,000 employment opportunities for Ukrainian IT specialists. The firm also accepts 800 new recruits annually for a six-month training program. A recorded 70 percent of the program’s participants graduate to gainful employment in IT and software development. Moreover, for every software and IT professional that a company hires in Ukraine, four more jobs in various industries open from that one employment opportunity. The growth of these industries had such a large impact on Ukraine that tech companies can almost guarantee a steady inflow into the country’s economy within a few years.

Although Ukraine has a long road to becoming a fully developed country, its people have made impactful improvements over the last couple of decades. Despite the tireless oppression it faced, Ukraine proved that it has the potential to be a world superpower in innovation, creativity and technology.

Ashlyn Jensen 
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Kenya

In recent years, a focus on technology crept through cables and bloomed within the country of Kenya. Mobile phones, an item sought after in developed countries, conveys a deeper significance for Kenyan citizens, establishing digital communities and managing the majority of payments. Other programs have been created in Kenya, focusing on artificial intelligence and information technology and communication.

AI Kenya & Artificial Intelligence

Devoted to the learning of artificial intelligence, AI Kenya acts as a growing community of data science practitioners, government officials and enthusiasts. The organization provides “tracks” regarding coding and machines, claiming whether “you’ve just learned to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner,” information will be provided, free to learn.

AI Kenya’s tracks are lessons, introductions and resources that aid the visitor on the path to digital learning. For the introduction to artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s AI Business School and a self-directed online course from Babson College are presented. For an intermediate track, a group of videos reviewing Statistical Machine Learning is listed, provided by Carnegie Melon University.

Across Africa and in various international countries, AI Kenya shares upcoming expos and conferences regarding artificial intelligence and digital technology. Podcasts join the organization’s information as well, spotlighting businesses and research or documenting Code Maktaba, a training event series improving community members on concepts.

VMWare & Information Technology

Besides artificial intelligence, other skills involving learning through technology prove valuable in careers. VMWare, a software company, leads an information technology (IT) academy with a program dubbed “Virtualize Africa.” The company commits to supply students with the technical skills and techniques needed to pursue jobs created by the digital age. They explain that to combat the rapidly changing and advancing technology in Kenya and other countries, skill sets must also be honed.

Strathmore University, located in Nairobi, Kenya, incorporates courses developed by VMWare which cover cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IOT), virtualization and other subjects. Students access online resources as well as in-person lab experiments. In partnership with VMWare, students may earn certifications by the company and chances to work as part of it.

Mobile Transactions

Kenya currently endures a hefty transition from cash to submitting payments with money-transfer systems on mobile phones. 70 percent of the country now use their phones to give money to each other, which is more than any other country. The interest inspires entrepreneurs to take advantage of cell phones and invent creative programs interweaving their technology.

Blogs have arisen, documenting technology in Kenya and how it is attracting others to the country. An environment fostering technological revolution supports the emergence of VMWare and AI Kenya, along with communities such as iHub, a center for creative professionals and influencers, hosting sessions for ideas and competitions.

While leading in mobile rankings, Kenya still wishes to rise up to developed countries with other aspects of technology. Currently, artificial intelligence and IT boast an abundance of programs and organizations. An increasing focus on technology in Kenya and schools also prepares students for the digital age and allows a head-start in the pool of technological revolution. Finally, the technological hub offers untapped sources of economic advantages, allowing companies to spread their programs outwards to the rest of the globe; the research on artificial intelligence allows for a web of further ideas, creating drones and services to aid the economy further.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

The Butterfly iQ

Two-thirds of the world lacks life-saving access to medical imaging. However, new technology — such as portable ultrasound machines — brings modern medicine where it might not otherwise take root. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 70 percent of technology designed in developed countries does not work in still-developing nations. Fully-equipped hospitals can be hours, or days, away from villages, leaving conditions undiagnosed and untreated.

A Handheld Ultrasound Finds A Wide Variety of Uses in Africa

In recent years, multiple companies have developed portable ultrasound technology, often with these remote areas in mind. The Butterfly Network, a Connecticut-based company, is one such organization, which launched its prototype known as the Butterfly iQ in 2017. The device costs approximately $2,000 and is around the same size as a cell phone. The company’s founder, Jonathan Rothberg, has donated scanners to 13 low-income countries, partnering with organizations like the Canadian Charity Bridge to Health and Uganda-based Kihefo. The organization also has backing from USAID to help further its reach.

Portable ultrasound machines like the Butterfly iQ, are largely being used to test for and treat pneumonia, which causes 15 percent of the deaths of children under 5 years old, killing more than 800,000 children in 2017 alone. The technology has also been used to examine goiters, tumors and other conditions that were otherwise difficult, or impossible, to assess.

In 2014, portable ultrasound machines in Africa took on a new life. Bridge to Health and Kihefo worked to offer women the opportunity to see their unborn children. They brought suitcase-sized ultrasounds to clinics and pulled in six times the normal number of visitors, among them women who had only seen traditional healers before.

In addition to its uses in ruling out tuberculosis and helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, ultrasound technology is also an important diagnostic tool for patients with HIV.

Portable Technology Carries Back Into the Developed World

The Vscan Access from GE Healthcare was originally intended for frontline health care workers in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, the portable ultrasound machine has now found a place in developed countries such as Norway, where it offers an unobtrusive ultrasound in the maternity ward.

Compared to standard ultrasounds, which can not only be uncomfortable but also intimidating to expectant mothers, the Vscan Access is small, deterring worry. Its screen is still large enough to provide a full view of the womb, including the fetal position. Dr. Birgette Kahrs of St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway also notes how easy it is to teach midwives how to operate Vscan’s touchscreen technology.

An App Expands the Reach of the Portable Ultrasound

In 2018, Philips launched Lumify, an app-based portable ultrasound system in Kenya. The new tech was announced at the launch of Beyond Zero Medical Safari, an event hosted by Beyond Zero, an organization founded by the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya that aims at preventing child and maternal deaths.

Lumify unifies portable ultrasounds and mobile devices, creating channels for secure image exchange and processing. It is primarily designed for emergency centers and urgent care centers. The app would, through a subscription service, connect health care professionals around the world. Lumify will additionally offer support, training and IT help.

Lumify is compatible with soft and hard tissue scans. It allows for audio-visual calls, which can connect doctors to remote patients, allowing for diagnosis and treatment across the body and across the globe.

Portable ultrasound technology is still relatively new, so long-term benefits are still unmeasured. Still, portable ultrasounds in Africa, like the Butterfly IQ, already show massive potential in improving the medical status of people without access to first-world medical care. With supporters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Butterfly iQ and devices like it, are only just getting started.

Katie Hwang
Photo: Unsplash

Development of India

Thirty years ago, India was considered by many to be the poster child for global poverty, with what the CIA World Factbook described as “environmental degradation, extensive poverty and widespread corruption.” However, in the decades since, India has grown tremendously, threatening to eclipse existing global superpowers, in fact, the country is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2025. Here are five reasons for the rapid pace of development in India:

5 Reasons for the Rapid Pace Development of India

  1. Risk Management in Farming – Farmers are the backbone of a thriving society. However, the field of agriculture is full of risks, as bad crops, bad weather and other unexpected circumstances can lead to ruin for a would-be farmer, particularly in a country like India, which experiences ongoing monsoons that can completely ruin a farmer’s crops. This is why India has begun to implement risk management programs that insure farmers’ crops against monsoons and other disasters, a practice common in developed countries. When the Indian government implemented the PMFBY risk management scheme in 2016, the country saw the market premiums for agricultural goods increase by 300 percent.
  2. Quickly Growing Cities – A large part of India’s development has taken place in its cities. Two-thirds of the economic growth of the country comes from its cities, which are projected to have economies the size of small countries by 2030. This is largely due to the large influx of new citizens to the cities, which is projected to add 300 million residents by 2050. This comes at the cost of tremendous overcrowding in the cities, but India is working to develop new methods of urban sustainability that will keep the growth provided by its massive cities going.
  3. Investing in Renewable Energy – When India began to take off as a world power, the country was able to quickly develop its energy systems due to a rapid and early adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. This is because, due to the lack of preexisting infrastructure and the country’s sunny climate, it is cheaper for the Indian energy industry to harness solar energy than to harness energy from coal and gas. Today, solar energy alone makes up 30 percent of the energy produced in India and has the capacity to produce 30 GW of power in 2019. This access to cheap and reliable energy has helped India’s development by allowing the country to power its cities and even export energy to other countries. With that said, many households in India still lack access to electricity, which has caused many in the country to criticize the government’s export policies.
  4. Increased Focus on Breastfeeding – Although this point may seem oddly specific, it is vital to India’s development. The ability of children to breastfeed has been shown to improve their overall nutrition and reduce child mortality. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of babies who are breastfed in India has increased from 46.4 to 54.9 percent. This is partly due to a government program called Mother’s Absolute Affection, which works to make mothers and health care providers more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the nutritional needs of a developing baby.
  5. Thriving Tech Industry – In recent years, India has become almost ubiquitously known for being one of the largest tech powerhouses in the world. Most of this growth has been concentrated in start-up companies, turning India into a gigantic Silicon Valley. Of note, Bangalore, India’s biggest tech city, is considered by experts to be the second-fastest growing startup city in the world (behind Berlin) and the country has been rated the world’s top exporter of IT services.

Overall, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries and it is because of smart government policies, targeted economic development and stronger social services that help ensure that people aren’t left behind.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Technology and PovertyTechnology advancements have made it easier than ever to participate in global poverty reduction efforts. From smartphone apps to browser extensions and charitable websites, keep reading to learn the easiest ways to help fight global poverty.

Apps That Help Fight Poverty

Smartphone apps may be the easiest form of providing assistance. Most people carry a cellphone with them wherever they go, so the ability to connect and help others is literally right at their fingertips. The five apps listed below are just a few examples of how technology can help to reduce poverty.

  • OLIO – OLIO is a food-sharing app based in the U.K. 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.
  • ChowberryChowberry is an online Nigeria-based app, similar to OLIO, that has the goal of “reach[ing] millions of food-deprived individuals with affordable nutrition through innovation and enabling technologies”. Chowberry works with orphanages and faith-based organizations, as well as everyday customers to deliver soon-expiring food products to those most in need.
  • Share the Meal – Share the Meal was created by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP helps 80 million people with food assistance and is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting against hunger. Download the app, donate 50 cents (or more) in a few seconds and feed a child for the day. You can even check the app to see where the meals will be distributed.
  • 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 40,000 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.
  • Donate a Photo – Donate a Photo is an app created by Johnson & Johnson that allows users to “donate” a photo for a cause. Simply take a picture of any subject, choose what cause to donate it to and upload it. For every photo donated, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to a certain charity. So far, there have been more than 4.5 million photo donations benefiting more than 200 causes including Save the Children, RED (fight for AIDS) and A Leg to Stand On.

Browser Extensions That Help Fight Poverty

Browser extensions are another easy way to help others. Unlike apps, which require a little effort to use, extensions require none other than downloading them. Although there are several extensions to choose from, Tab for a Cause is probably the most well known. As creator Alex Groth says, this is a way “where everyone can be giving to charity regardless of your monetary worth at that time.”

Tab for a CauseTab for a Cause is a web app/browser extension that works off of opening new tabs. Each time a new tab is opened, the page displays blogs and articles related to various issues to help raise awareness and education as well as ads to help generate revenue which is then donated to different organizations and charities. Tab for a Cause has partnered with Water.org, Room to Read, Human Rights Watch, Conservation International, International Peace Institute and Save the Children. To date, Tab for a Cause has raised $791,766 for various charities.

Websites That Help Fight Poverty

The following sites offer ways to help fight global poverty in the easiest ways possible in many cases at no additional cost to the website user.

  • FreeRice – FreeRice is a website that allows users to essentially play a game to donate food and money to those in need. Each question answered correctly refreshes the page and provides a new sponsored ad which in turn generates money donated to the World Food Programme. Although most donations go towards providing grain for vulnerable families, the company also provides other types of food assistance, “depending on where needs are greatest.” So far the organization has donated the equivalent 202 billion grains of rice to families experiencing hunger.
  • The Hunger Site – The Hunger Site is a partner of GreaterGood, an organization that raises money through online auctions for charities around the world. Although The Hunger Site works like a store with items available for purchase with proceeds being donated, they have a quick, easy and free way to help as well. At the top of their page, they have a “Click to Give” button. Clicking this button donates a specific amount of money from sponsored advertisers to provide food for areas in need, and since 1999 the organization has funded more than 714 billion cups of food. GreaterGood has several offshoots of this campaign, with similar sites for breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes research, literacy awareness, animal shelter donations and a few others. Overall, since 1999 and through the use of these websites and their online auctions, GreaterGood has raised and donated over $50 million to charities around the world.
  • Amazon SmileAmazon Smile is a project of Amazon that works exactly the same and offers the same products. The difference is that when shopping through Amazon Smile a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a charity of the shopper’s choice, without any additional cost to the shopper. As of 2018, Amazon had announced that it had made over $100 million in charitable donations since the Amazon Smiles program was launched in 2013.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan’s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan’s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

Technology to promote literacyPapua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

How Technology is Improving Africa
Africa is the poorest continent in the world with every second person living below the poverty line. From extreme hunger to illnesses and to insufficient agricultural infrastructure, Africa’s population is suffering. Fortunately, groups of researchers and people are continuously creating solutions to change these conditions. Here are four inventions that show how technology is improving Africa.

NEWgenerator Sanitation Systems

Since 2002, a group of researchers at the University of South Florida have been working on a new type of wastewater treatment system that will address sanitation issues in poor countries. They invented the NEWgenerator, which is a solar-powered generator that turns wastewater into recyclable clean water, nutrients and energy. Waste from the toilet enters the tank and it treats the water in a manner that is similar to a coffee filter. As a result, chlorinated water releases that people can use to flush the toilet and irrigate for agricultural purposes. The breakdown of organic material in the waste produces biogas, a form of energy. Lastly, this method releases nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste that people can use as fertilizer for agricultural purposes.

The NEWgenerator stays inside a container that batteries power, allowing the unit to be completely self-sustainable. Solar power and biogas from the waste power these batteries, making this device completely independent. The NEWgenerator received initial testing at a school in South India, where the invention succeeded in recycling thousands of gallons of water for 100 people per day. In 2016, the NEWgenerator’s lead professor, Daniel Yeh, earned a $1.14 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to install an improved version in Durban, South Africa. The generators will connect to Community Ablution Blocks (CABs), facilities comprised of toilets and showers. This will multiply the NEWgenerator’s ability to produce water by 10 times and serve up to 1,000 people per day. The research group is currently working on this installation and its dedication illuminates how technology is improving Africa.

SafariSeat Wheelchairs

One in 200 people in East Africa has a disability that affects their mobility, forcing them to remain in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Janna created SafariSeat and a small group of designers who wanted to help people regain their independence and livelihoods. It is a new wheelchair design that can navigate rough terrain found in South Africa and other developing countries. It works through a lever system, where the person can pump hand levers to control the wheelchair’s speed and power. SafariSeat’s goal is to implement an open-source toolkit in developing countries where the blueprints are free and the resources necessary to build these wheelchairs come from bicycle components at a low cost for local workshops. An open-source toolkit has three components that contribute to its success: the use of diagrams for building purposes, a communication network and a design portal where people can submit ideas for improvement.

In the past two years, SafariSeat set up two workshops, one in Kenya and one in Tanzania. It initially produced the first 50 wheelchairs in Kenya and the first 150 wheelchairs in Tanzania. After these successes, it implemented the SafariSeat Outreach program, which is a team that identifies people with disabilities in Kenya who live in isolation and need SafariSeats. Currently, the founders are working on building a third workshop in Uganda in hopes of expanding their reach and number of wheelchairs. Their ultimate goal is to broaden their impact on the rest of the world, specifically to countries undergoing wars.

Mazzi Cans

Africa has five times as many dairy cows compared to the United States with a total of about 49 million cows. Millions of farmers rely on cow’s milk as their income and source of nutrition for their families. However, if milk does not receive proper handling or storage during the time people transport it to markets, it can develop harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. Since milk contains important nutrients, vitamins, calories and minerals that can fulfill healthy dietary needs, it is necessary for farmers to be able to safely transport their milk. Mazzi is the answer to this problem. It is a 10-liter container system that makes it more efficient for the collection and transportation process. It provides a milking funnel over a durable container stronger than normal Jerry cans and its shape makes it easy to clean, preventing bacteria or soil from accumulating in the container.

Mazzi emerged by partnering with the Global Good, an organization that works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Intellectual Ventures. Currently, Mazzi is available in Kenya and Ethiopia, with the goal of expanding to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. It will continue working on making this product more cost-affordable for small farmers.

Lucky Iron Fish

Another technology that is improving Africa is the Lucky Iron Fish which a group of researchers in a Canadian university created in response to the 2 billion people suffering iron deficiency. Iron is a crucial nutrient that helps blood transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. Without a sufficient amount of iron, people experience fatigue, weakness, lack of concentration, shortness of breath and headaches. People can put the Lucky Iron Fish in the pot or pan in which the food is cooking, releasing 6 to 8 milligrams of iron that the food absorbs. This is about 40 percent of a person’s daily iron intake levels. With the return of iron to a child’s diet, they can focus better in school, leading to higher performance results. For working persons, their improved concentration gives them a chance to earn higher incomes.

Once someone buys an Iron Lucky Fish, the organization contributes an equal amount into its Impact Fund. The company uses its Impact Fund to donate Lucky Iron Fish to developing countries and improve educational resources in communities. Women and men receive training to deliver Lucky Iron Fish within these countries and raise awareness about how to solve iron deficiency. In 2018, 54,000 people around the world received a Lucky Iron Fish. Many people (5,175) in Benin, a country in West Africa, were among these individuals. Currently, the organization is looking for more partnerships with NGOs to expand its impact from 88 countries to the rest of the world.

New technology is proving to be one of the crucial answers helping Africa out of extreme poverty with the dedication of numerous research groups and motivated people. These four inventions show how technology is improving Africa each year.

Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr

Eradicating Poverty Through ICTs
Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) are social networking websites, instant messaging programs, cell phones and other technologies that allow people to communicate quickly and globally. Information emanates through these technologies allowing developing countries to step into the digital world. Eradicating poverty through ICTs now seems plausible as citizens include themselves in new economic and coordinated opportunities.

ICTs’ Range of Impact

In the Asia-Pacific, governments utilize ICTs to expand markets and introduce services. They have adapted to using e-commerce, supporting businesses that allow more people to become engaged with the government and programs. New strategies constantly emerge as Asian-Pacific authorities and organizations address poverty.

Bangladesh

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provides solutions globally for poverty and these differ depending on the country. In Bangladesh, the UNDP pushed an initiative called the Access to Information Act or the a2i. The main focus of this act is to offer citizens the right to public information, allowing multiple interpretations for data such as records. By implementing this act, Bangladesh has reduced the costs of access to health and education information services. The amount of time it took for residents to receive information on their phones or computers dropped by 85 percent and the cost dropped by 63 percent. Digitization of rural areas has saved the local residents half a billion dollars.

Vietnam

The UNDP focuses on e-government policies. According to the United Nations, e-government encompasses the delivery and exchange of information between government and citizens. Vietnam now supports online businesses and allows people to pay taxes over the computer. Services, as an effect, run more efficiently and people have more ready access to transfers or deposits. The number of internet broadband subscribers reached 11.5 million and many expect it to grow 9 percent annually along with 47.2 million on cellular data due to the rapid growth of applications. ICTs affect the way the country runs as well; towns have adopted ICTs, using them in creative ways to provide water and electricity.

Taiwan

Recently, Taiwan has grown into a major manufacturer of ICTs, leading to the export of its products. The Cloud Computing Association of Taiwan (CCAT) devotes itself to making the country an exporter of cloud software. At home, these developed cloud systems save service providers 50 percent, avoiding the need to purchase from overseas. The country’s National Communications Commission proposes to provide all of its citizens with ICTs. It appoints companies to offer universal broadband access to mountain villages, projected to make Taiwan the first country with complete internet coverage. Rural peoples have access to data, and the government offers programs to teach rural residents how to properly use technologies, adapting more to the digital age, helping the goal of eradicating poverty through ICTs.

How ICTs Affect Poverty in the Long Run

The UNDP believes that ICTs should create a direct change in the economy and welfare of various nations. However, failure to address the issue to all people in a country, globally too, creates a gap between those accustomed to technology and those who are not. To continue on the path of eradicating poverty through ICTs, governments must continue to pledge support and work with organizations. The countries above benefit by having their governments providing opportunities to learn new technology as well as adapting technology for other everyday services.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr