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poverty alleviation through technologyAlthough breaking the cycle of poverty is difficult, poverty rates around the world have been improving. According to a report issued by the World Bank, 35 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty 1990. In 2013, that number was down to 10.7 percent, which means the U.N.’s first Millenium Development Goal, to cut poverty in half by 2015, has been accomplished.

However, while many have moved out of extreme poverty, statistics show that the end of poverty is far from over. As a potential way to help speed up the process even more, many companies are helping with poverty alleviation through technology programs.

Companies Tackling Poverty Alleviation Through Technology

  1. Microsoft 365: Microsoft teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme on Jan. 23, 2004, to help with poverty alleviation through technology in Africa. It strongly believes that technology is a crucial aspect that can bridge the gap between schools in urban and rural areas, eventually eliminating world hunger and poverty. Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates hopes to end poverty by 2030 by launching his software in more developing countries around the world.Microsoft set up a three-pillar model in order to make sure the technology was applied correctly in schools. The first pillar provided the appropriate service for the individual based on their technological ability or age group. The second pillar equipped more than 200,000 teachers with the software in order to make sure the teachers were trained and familiar with the technology before it was introduced to students. The third pillar encouraged participation and creativity. The students were introduced to programs such as Skype or OneNote.
  2. GeoPoll: GeoPoll is a company that is taking advantage of mobile phones becoming more common in developing countries. Since 2012, it has partnered with more than 85 mobile network operations and has had connectivity in 64 countries of the world. Its purpose is to send a survey text through those living in the developing countries. Once citizens fill out the survey, the results are sent to the government and NGOs, allowing them to help with poverty alleviation.An example of when a GeoPoll survey was used was during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. GeoPoll conducted food security surveys in countries that were affected and helped gather data on food prices and wages. From these results, it was able to decipher which areas needed more aid and which areas should continue to be monitored.
  3. Humanitarian Accelerators: Humanitarian Accelerators was launched in 2016 by the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It is meant to help with cultural, social and environmental issues in the region by connecting businesses all around the globe to United Arab Emirate’s humanitarian sector. Humanitarian Accelerators has set up its technology in over 116 different countries with the hopes of improving the lives of those in developing countries.In the past, the company has worked to provide educational technology to refugee students in order to ensure they receive the same level of education as other children. One of the company’s current initiatives is to employ technology in order to provide job opportunities to refugees.
  4. Poverty Spotlight: Poverty Spotlight is a program that is currently working in 18 countries and is most advanced in South Africa. It is meant to help with poverty alleviation through a mobile app that enables those in poverty to self-diagnose their own level of poverty. Its mission is to help individuals and families in poverty discover innovative solutions to lift themselves out of their situations.Individuals complete a survey about what they are in need of, then their neighbors fill out the same assessment and together they work on achieving them. The app allows individuals to become aware of their situation and build motivation and support from others to overcome it. The staff behind Poverty Spotlight also creates a personalized plan for every family.

Technology allows for many things today that were impossible in the past. The more technology advances, the more opportunities it gives us to learn, educate and help poverty alleviation through technology around the world.

– Negin Nia

3D Printing Solutions
It may be difficult to determine what the World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP) does from looking at its name. One might assume the organization focuses on environmental issues or poverty reduction, which is essentially correct, but the way WASP operates makes it unique. WASP is a tech company that creates 3D printing solutions with a focus on sustainability.

Like many innovative tech companies, WASP specializes in building 3D printers. Taking things further, the organization produced a 3D printer capable of creating a house. The 40 foot tall printer, named “Big Delta” by its creators, is claimed to be one of the largest in the world. By simply putting a clay and straw mixture into the printer, Big Delta can create a shelter in a few days.

While this is exciting news, there are currently several other companies that are capable of building shelters, often in less than a day. Big Delta and WASP outshine other companies in their price point. WASP calculates that with the costs of clay, straw, water and energy, a shelter can be printed for around $55. Furthermore, if the clay and straw combination is manually mixed, it can reduce energy costs dramatically.

For many, the idea of living in a straw/clay hut may not seem very appealing, yet for many others, any form of structurally stable housing would be a dream come true. According to WHO, nearly 863 million people live in slum housing.

Slum housing is defined as housing that lacks certain characteristics that make it durable such as access to water, sanitation, adequate space or ventilation. Additionally, over 100 million people worldwide are thought to be homeless according to the most recent U.N. global survey.

Those who are considered homeless by the U.N., people displaced by natural disasters, political instability or a variety of other factors, could benefit tremendously from fast, cheap and stable housing. With the Big Delta, WASP is just one of many organizations working to provide reliable, yet affordable housing to those in need. A 3D printed shelter may not be the best form of housing for every situation; however, it could be a good option for those in developing countries who have extremely limited income.

As innovation advances and technology improves, it is good to see that some companies are shifting focus and addressing world issues like poverty and sustainability. Who knows, in the next decade, advanced technology may allow people to 3D print entire buildings or even hospitals for a relatively low cost.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

Life-saving technologies
To say that war has evolved is an understatement. The mobilization of large-scale armies in two-sided conflicts is no longer an appropriate definition of modern warfare. For example, consider the various ongoing wars in the Middle East; in many regions, ISIS is fighting against a combination of tribal groups, government forces and civilian militias.

The changing landscape of war, along with changes in war technology, leaves one thing clear: war is no longer country versus country, but rather a scramble for power in volatile regions. However, it is not just the technologies designed to kill that have evolved; life-saving technologies have also made incredible leaps in development.

Evolution of Warfare

As the parameters of war continue to change, so must foreign aid intended to help people caught in armed conflict. Most U.S. foreign aid falls under the “150 account,” a function of the federal budget that contains funding for all international activities. Though function 150 comprises just one percent of the federal budget, it’s responsible for providing all military assistance to allies and aiding in international peacekeeping efforts.

On-going conflicts like those in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran place a heavy strain on U.S. assistance, as the government struggles to provide cost-effective and efficient methods of assistance.

In 2014, president Obama asked Congress to fund a program in which American military personnel would teach Syrian and Jordanian rebels navigation, marksmanship and other skills, in the hopes that they would return to Syria and fight. They recruited about 15,000 men to train in Jordanian territory. One year later, U.S. defense officials admitted that just four or five recruits from the program actually returned to fight.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria continues to worsen. Recent estimates place the death toll in Syria at over 200,000 which includes adult civilians and children. About 28,000 deaths can be attributed to shootings and mass killings; often random events that happen with no prior warning.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, explains how “everyday decisions- whether to visit a neighbor, to go out and buy bread- have become, potentially, decisions about life and death.”

Maybe it’s time to rethink how the government can best support civilians and the Syrian National Coalition. Train and equip programs like that of 2014 seem to be a process of trial and error, as it takes time to access their efficacy and long-term sustainability.

Life-saving Technologies

Still, there are small steps the Department of Defense can take to save Syrian lives without sending in weapons or personnel. Two life saving technologies, the combat tourniquet and quick-clot, could drastically reduce the number of deaths associated with shootings and mass killings as well as organized fighting between the National Coalition and Assad’s forces.

The combat application tourniquet (CAT) is a 21st take on the conventional tourniquet and one of the most important life saving technologies. Generally speaking, tourniquet use in combat declined after World War II, when widespread misuse led to excessive blood loss and amputation. In most cases, tourniquets were either too tight or too loose, rendering them useless and inefficient.

In the following decades, field medics and soldiers barely used tourniquets in the Vietnam and Korean wars. Unlike its traditional predecessor, the CAT is incredibly easy to use and much more effective. A recent study by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found a 78 percent success rate when compared to alternative methods of stopping a bleeding.

The CAT’s out of the bag 

Designed to be used with one hand, the CAT features an adhesive band and friction-adapting buckle to fit anything from an arm to thigh. It also has a free-moving internal band that provides the circumferential pressure necessary for stopping blood flow.

The major difference between the CAT and the traditional tourniquet is that a traditional tourniquet needs to be tied. The CAT’s design makes it possible for a wounded individual to use the device on him or herself, without having to wait for a medic (although it’s still possible for one person to use the CAT on another).

The same study by the IDF claims that the CAT is easy to use and is relatively painless compared to other methods. Its one-handed and foolproof design makes it an ideal technology for war-torn regions where the majority of casualties are related to bullet wounds and blood loss. The U.S. military-issued CAT is priced at about $30.

Clots Begone 

Combat Gauze, colloquially termed “QuikClot” is another one of the life saving technologies at a lower cost (about $8-$40 per packet, depending on the retailer). QuikClot is a hemostatic agent, which means it stops blood loss by helping the blood rapidly clot. Kaolin, the primary clotting agent, works on contact with blood by initiating factor XII, which then transforms into Factor XIIa. XIIa is the molecular cascade responsible for clotting.

The physical gauze conforms to the wound and immediately triggers this process. The 2013 Journal of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists features a study that found QuikClot effectively stopped hemorrhaging — without complications — 79 percent of the time it was used by the Israeli Defense forces in Gaza.

The journal also features data to show that QuikClot allowed more effective fluid resuscitation (blood transfusions) and better helped the clot withstand movement compared to other methods.

Packaged in small pouches, QuikClot can be distributed in mass quantities and used without instructions besides those printed on the back of the pouch.

Foreign aid plays a critical role in the United States’ efforts to help people in war-torn regions. As such, it is imperative for aid packages to be cost-effective and fast-acting.

The Combat Application Tourniquet and QuikClot are two life saving technologies suited to meet the medical needs of many civilians and soldiers affected by armed conflict, especially those in Syria, where thousands of men, women and children continue to die because of blood loss.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Officer Survival

Facebook's internet drone
On June 28, Mark Zuckerberg and other members of Facebook’s executive team observed their newest piece of technology, a solar-powered drone, successfully complete its first flight. According to Yael Maguire, head of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, Facebook’s internet drone will use lasers to beam a signal to towers and dishes that will bring Wi-Fi to people within a 50-km radius.

The new drone is part of the company’s Connectivity Lab, which is focused on the development of innovative technology. It is one of many projects that make up Facebook’s Internet.org campaign. The campaign’s goal is to deliver “internet access and the benefits of connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have them.”

Many have criticized Zuckerberg’s mission because only certain parts of the Internet will be available to those in need. According to an article published by The Guardian, “Facebook, Wikipedia, weather, job listings and government info” will be the only websites accessible through Internet.org.

While this may seem limited, Facebook does not intend to dominate the market. In the future, the company aims to release all information about their drones and other technology so that both the public and private sectors will have the ability to bring the Internet to every corner of the Earth.

Aquila, the name of Facebook’s internet drone, took a little over a year to build. The prototype, which has a larger wingspan than a Boeing 737 but weighs only 880 pounds, is planned to eventually stay airborne for 90-day intervals at a top altitude of 90,000 feet.

Zuckerberg believes that a fleet of drones is the best option for connectivity because they will not be as expensive as building a grounded cellular infrastructure and they deliver a more powerful signal than satellites. Jay Parikh, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Engineering and Infrastructure, announced last year that their team in California developed and tested a laser that delivers data “10x faster than the previous state-of-the-art in the industry.”

While Facebook’s internet drone is years away from becoming fully operational, Facebook has already accomplished incredible scientific and engineering feats. The future is beginning to look bright for worldwide Internet access, as Facebook is just the latest of many companies and organizations attempting to make this vision a reality.

Mark Zuckerberg has long believed that the ability to access the Internet is as much a basic human right as water, food and shelter. Internet.org aims to help impoverished farmers, children and families through the connectivity and power that comes with the Internet. And thankfully, Aquila’s first flight proves that digitally uniting the globe is not out of humanity’s reach.

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr

Internet Traffic in Africa
Africa will experience a boom in IP growth, with Internet traffic in Africa increasing six-fold by 2020, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index.

Cisco’s forecast, which covers 2015 to 2020, has predicted that Africa’s IP traffic will grow at a rate of 41 percent, the fastest annual rate in the world. Fixed broadband speed is also expected to increase more than twofold, and average mobile connection speed will reach five megabits of data per second.

The projected rise in Internet traffic is partly a result of the spread of mobile personal devices across the continent.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center in 2015, cellphone ownership has surged in sub-Saharan Africa. Cellphones in South Africa and Nigeria have become as common as they are in the United States. People rely on their mobile phones for a variety of internet services, including browsing the web, mobile online banking and accessing social networking sites and political news.

Internet use through cellphones will likely continue to rise as 77 percent of networked devices in Africa in 2020 will be mobile-connected, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Advancements in the Internet of Things, which allow everyday devices to connect to the Internet, have also helped promote traffic growth.

Cisco said that applications, such as digital health monitors and energy smart meters, and machine-to-machine services are “creating new network requirements and incremental traffic increases.” Machine-to-machine modules will account for 22 percent of all network devices in Africa by 2020.

Yet, according to Mark Walker, the International Data Corporation’s associate vice president for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa lag behind in technological capability and cannot afford Internet of Things applications.

In order for Cisco’s predictions to prove correct, less developed countries must continue to address affordability issues and develop infrastructure that will allow for greater use of the Internet, Walker told ITWeb Africa.

An increase in IP traffic will put the continent a step closer to achieving the United Nations’ goal of connecting more people in underdeveloped countries to the Internet by 2020. With more Internet availability, people who live in poverty can take advantage of enormous economic and social opportunities that the web offers.

Farmers in rural areas can use the Internet to plan for unpredictable weather and determine what type of crops to grow based on the prices of goods and commodities. People can also rely on the Internet for mobile banking, to educate children and to stay informed about news.

The increase in Internet traffic in Africa will also help the continent become more technologically advanced. Several countries, including South Africa, will rely on the increased Internet connectivity to complete a digital migration journey that involves the transition from broadcasting with analogue cables to more efficient digital television signals.

Sam Turken

Photo: AKON