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Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and is home to more than 210 million people. As of 2020, almost 7 million people in Brazil are living in poverty, approximately 3% of the total population. While this is already a significant decrease from previous years, recent innovations have helped lower poverty rates even further. Here are the most notable innovations in poverty eradication in Brazil.

Going Low Carbon

It is no secret that greenhouse gases have a significant environmental impact. Brazil has taken responsibility by rethinking its economy and discussing some potential solutions, including going low carbon. This change targets big infrastructure by encouraging green investments in industrial buildings, cutting down deforestation rates, as well as promoting the growth of agriculture.

Economically, by eliminating carbon emissions, more than $500 billion will go towards Brazil’s gross domestic product. These new funds will create around two million new jobs for the unemployed population. Because Brazil is an underdeveloped country, it relies heavily on foreign aid to boost its economy; attaining foreign investments from private companies has allowed for the creation of new environment-friendly markets. Through promotion of low carbon emissions, Brazil’s economy increased its GDP, indicating an improved economy.

Educating Brazil’s Future

In Brazil, 70% of children attend public schools. An average school day is around four and a half hours, but dilatory activities such as passing papers out or attendance often decrease the valuable time that could be dedicated to education. Only around 2% of impoverished Brazilian students will obtain enough education to improve their opportunities and livelihoods.

In 2017, the Connected Education Innovation Programme was started in order to provide technological resources for students. These resources include screens and reliable internet to help children achieve better quality education. In 2018, over seven million students profited from the Connected Education Innovation Programme. As the world progresses technologically, including these innovations helps improve a child’s likeliness to willingly participate in learning. Expanding these resources would go a long way in fostering a fun and safe learning environment.

Conditional Cash Transfers

In Brazil, the main conditional cash transfer program is called Bolsa Familia, or BFP. Conditional cash transfer programs are used in developing countries to provide welfare services for impoverished communities. BFP has helped Brazil’s impoverished population by improving the electronic monitoring of social services and the eligibility of low-income families.

BFP reduced Brazil’s extreme poverty rates by almost 60% and poverty by 30% between 2004 and 2014. By 2018, the program had reached more than 45 million people and created more than 20 social programs. By improving cash transfers, low-income individuals are able to gain access to services that benefit them financially.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence in Brazil is a recent addition to the country’s innovations. By the year 2030, Brazil predicts that around $15 trillion will be contributed to the world’s economy by the use of artificial intelligence technologies. Public transportation is a big factor where artificial intelligence comes into play in Brazil, as well as disease control.

In 2035, Brazil hopes to increase its gross value to more than $430 billion. Manufacturing makes up 12% of Brazil’s economy, which is another category in Brazil that is experimenting with new artificial intelligence machinery to benefit the economy. Through the usage of artificial intelligence in Brazil, higher levels of productivity are seen which helps increase the flow of Brazil’s economy.

 

These four innovations in poverty eradication in Brazil will help the nation further reduce its poverty rate. Increasing jobs, providing high quality education, offering cash options and bolstering the economy are all essential to this goal. Moving forward, it is essential that the Brazilian government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize poverty reduction.

– Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Mapping TechniquesHow many people live in poverty? The answer a search engine might give overlooks the complexity of the issue. A great deal of poverty data comes from the World Bank, which still relies on household surveys. These household surveys can be very inaccurate, and statistics like these are critical in the fight against poverty. Thankfully, many organizations are working on creating better poverty mapping techniques to help fight global poverty.

The Need for Poverty Mapping Techniques

Governments, private companies and NGOs must know who needs help, what works and how much they need in order to fight poverty. With more accurate data, aid programs can be rolled out more effectively, directly targeting populations who need it the most. Accurate data also determines the effectiveness of aid or other interventions, which helps agencies discover what works. It is important for the missions of many agencies to have accurate data on poverty, but methods for collecting this data are flawed.

One issue with current data collection is the amount of data available. The World Bank is a leader in the fight against global poverty, and it compiles many official statistics on poverty rates. Historically, the main way the World Bank typically measures poverty is through household surveys. However, these surveys do not reach as many people as they should. For lower-income countries, an annual investment of $1 billion would be required to expand these surveys to generate consistent, accurate data.

Not only are these surveys too narrow, but they are also not frequent enough. Surveys typically happen every few years and even every decade in some countries with lower capacities. Between 2002 and 2012, no poverty data was collected from 29 countries.

The Problems with Current Poverty Mapping Techniques

The most common surveying method employed by the World Bank is the household survey. Unfortunately, household surveys have built-in inaccuracies and miss many people, usually some of the poorest. This method tries to measure poverty by sending surveys to households, but these surveys are ill-suited to measure an atypical home environment. Many people trying to avoid poverty live in open households, whose membership is usually in flux. These households operate to reduce poverty collectively in ways that a typical survey cannot easily measure. When data from these households is not interpreted differently from other household data, overall data on poverty can be skewed.

Satellites Mapping Poverty

This dearth of accurate data was the inspiration for a team of Stanford researchers. Marchall Burke, David Lobell and Stefano Ermon have spent the better half of the last decade creating better poverty mapping techniques. The solution they are working on now is satellite mapping.

The team has used artificial intelligence to map poverty using publicly available satellite imagery. The system examines poverty by analyzing the wealth of assets in a given area as seen from space. By indexing images of wealthy areas and poor areas, the program can identify levels of poverty in other areas. It uses a variety of factors like lighting at night, roofing, infrastructure, roads and other easily recognizable traits to do so. Utilizing deep learning, the program is able to correlate factors and create an idea of poverty in an area with fairly high accuracy. The model explains about 70% of asset wealth variation at the village level. This means the model can predict more accurately than other attempts at mapping poverty using higher resolution imagery and mobile phone mapping. The ability to distinguish poverty at a village level also means that the program can identify levels of poverty in places that surveys never go, with much less cost and time required.

Household surveys have become obsolete compared to more modern and effective methods. Better poverty mapping techniques like the Stanford researchers’ will enable organizations to fight poverty with a greater level of accuracy, which will make this decade of poverty-fighting more efficient than the last.

– Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence and Disaster ResponseNatural disasters are a phenomenon that affects countries around the world. The World Health Organization reports that more than 160 million people are affected by natural disasters annually. Estimates from the World Bank also suggest that 26 million people are forced below the poverty line annually due to natural disasters. Technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI) aiding natural disasters may help countries with their response to such catastrophic events and help reduce these detrimental effects.

Natural Disasters Contributing to Poverty

Across the globe, poorer communities are more negatively affected by natural disasters than wealthier communities. Natural disasters have the potential to cause a major loss of income due to damage to infrastructure, crops, or a decrease in demand and tourism. This loss of income is more significant for those in the low-income category as they have fewer resources to begin the rebuilding process, potentially causing long-term poverty.

History shows that major natural disasters widen income inequalities. After the 2011 floods in Australia, low-income individuals lost an average of $3,100 AUD ($2,141 USD) per year. This lower income was typically maintained for five years after the natural disaster. Contrastingly, middle and high-income individuals gained over $3,300 AUD ($2,280 USD) annually for those five years. This was because emergency aid was more oriented to businesses rather than households, and the wealthy are more likely to own businesses. This example illustrates how low-income individuals are more vulnerable to being pushed into poverty due to a natural disaster.

The U.N. reports that, globally, the largest loss of life due to natural disasters occurs in poor communities. This may be a result of the fact that low-income individuals tend to live in geographical areas that are more prone to natural disasters. Additionally, those who are low-income tend to live in poorly constructed, fragile housing. This was observed in 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti, where the largest loss of life was in a fragile and over-crowded housing facility, located in a poor community.

Artificial Intelligence Improving Disaster Response

AI is skilled at analyzing and tracking weather patterns to help predict the course and severity of natural disasters. However, technology has previously struggled to accurately predict earthquakes. Geophysicist Paul Johnson has assembled a team to use machine learning to predict these natural disasters. Machine learning uses technology to track data and identify similarities and patterns that occur prior to an earthquake. AI technology will then be able to analyze these characteristics to preemptively detect earthquakes. Johnson’s team has successfully used AI to predict earthquakes in a controlled laboratory setting. This technology would allow the opportunity for civilians to evacuate prior to an earthquake, decreasing injury and loss of life.

The application of this technology will resultingly allow for improved personnel and resource management once the natural disaster is detected. AI technology can now use geospatial observations to identify locations where people may move to during the natural disaster. This will allow officials to accurately complete rescue missions and send supplies to people who have relocated.

This technology will also help model which areas will be most affected by a natural disaster. AI can predict which buildings and roads will sustain the most damage throughout the disaster. This knowledge allows officials to re-route resources and response personnel to more appropriate areas. AI modeling will result in faster response times and more strategic access to affected areas.

McKinsey and Co. is an organization that uses technology to aid disaster relief efforts as a part of its Change That Matters initiative. McKinsey and Company’s AI uses satellite data and an algorithm to assess the damages sustained to a certain area. This allows for the responsible distribution of resources to help rebuild vital community services such as schools and medical facilities.

AI and Poverty Relief

AI is a tool that can be applied to many areas of life. The use of technology and AI is crucial in predicting natural disasters and improving aid responses after the disaster. These abilities and their effects lead AI to have the potential to play a major role in decreasing the number of people who are forced into poverty due to natural disasters.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Pixabay 

Tea Farming in Sri LankaSri Lanka is a small island off the southeastern coast of India. The country is home to around 22 million people and to a long and vibrant history. Sri Lanka has gone from an early Buddhist settlement to a colony under the control of major European powers to, finally, its own independent republic in 1972. Throughout its secular history, tea farming in Sri Lanka has remained a constant activity and has played a massive role in the development of culture on the island.

Sri Lankan tea gained global prevalence after British colonial rulers transformed tea agriculture into a plantation-style economic powerhouse. With the economic success brought on by the explosion of tea farming in the country, the British began pushing peasants and subsistence farmers into producing tea to capitalize on the global interest in the beverage.

Tea Farming in Modern Sri Lanka

Plantation-style agriculture still makes up a notable volume of Sri Lanka’s economy, and tea is the “preeminent crop of the plantation sector” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The global demand for tea has not diminished in modern times and seemingly neither has Sri Lanka’s role in providing it. The country exports hundreds of millions of kilograms of tea every year. For example, from January 2020 to May 2020 Sri Lanka exported over 100 million kilograms of tea to its trading partners.

Therefore, much of the country’s agricultural workforce is devoted to tea farming. More specifically, two million Sri Lankan farmers rely on tea farming and tea production to provide for their families and households. With tea ingrained in so much of Sri Lanka’s culture and economy, modern solutions need to be embraced to soothe the working conditions of the many poor farmers who work to meet the global demand for tea.

How Microsoft is Improving Tea Farming in Sri Lanka

To do so, Sri Lanka has turned to technology and confided in companies to assist the government in finding these solutions. For Sri Lanka specifically, Microsoft has been a superb partner in this goal.

One broad way Microsoft has helped is via a survey conducted with local business leaders to determine if they have an interest in integrating artificial intelligence (or “AI”) as a business solution. The survey discovered that 80% of those business leaders surveyed found AI to be essential to maintain their business’s competitiveness. Acknowledging this, Microsoft is investing millions of dollars into enhancing tech skills for businesses in Sri Lanka, as well as starting programs and providing hardware to assist tech startups rising in the nation.

The implications of this initiative are massive. Considering the vital status of tea farming to Sri Lanka’s culture and economy, Microsoft’s assistance in pushing more technology into businesses can lead to more efficient farming. As a result, there will be more valuable data available to increase crop yields and more companies will engage in tea farming as their enterprise of choice. The introduction of these tools can also lead to an improvement in the lives of millions of tea farmers in Sri Lanka in both safety and economic terms.

The Colombo Tea Auction

Such efforts have already begun to take hold in Sri Lanka. One major example of Microsoft’s valuable assistance to tea farming in Sri Lanka can be found in the Colombo Tea Auction. The Colombo Tea Auction is a weekly event that takes place in the nation’s capital involving the sale and export of tea from farmers. The event is vital to the tea farming community’s success as it is a major method for how the country’s tea is prepped and sold for export around the world.

However, the auction tends to involve a lot of close-quarters contact between attendees; a reality that has proven impossible given the current global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, with the help of Microsoft’s Azure team and their Azure cloud and AI products, a local tech company was able to develop an e-commerce platform that allowed sellers and buyers to trade tea from the safety of their own homes. This was developed with extreme speed, and it allowed the tea economy (and two million poor tea farmers) to avoid economic disaster and flourish amongst a dangerous pandemic.

Now that the benefits are starting to become more tangible, and economic success is within reach for Sri Lanka’s farmers, technology may become more and more prevalent in the Sri Lankan tea industry. With the success of the Colombo Tea Auction’s move to digital commerce, along with Microsoft’s continued efforts to support Sri Lanka’s growth in tech and economic fulfillment, the world may see a better-equipped, safer and more successful Sri Lanka in the near future, perhaps beginning with their high-quality tea.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

BlueDot, a Canadian artificial intelligence company, alerted its customers of an outbreak more than a week before the WHO notified the public of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company uses programs driven by artificial intelligence to analyze large amounts of information with the goal of discovering disease outbreaks. This company – and many others like it – could be key in helping thousands of people navigate COVID-19.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science focused on intelligence displayed by machines. There are both pros and cons associated with the development of artificial intelligence. However, with the possibility of COVID-19 pushing 50 million more people into poor households in 2020, many countries are doing everything they can to harness this developing technology.

Artificial Intelligence, COVID-19 and Poverty

People in impoverished communities are facing a serious dilemma: should they continue to work and potentially catch COVID-19 or stay home and face hunger or malnutrition?

There is currently no vaccine for the virus, and lockdowns and social distancing measures are effective but economically harmful. Most people in poverty do not have the financial savings to support themselves. Similarly, restrictions have the potential to push already unstable economies in less developed countries into a recession. Fortunately, artificial intelligence is providing new ways to support people in such challenging times.

4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Help Impoverished Communities During COVID-19

  1. Satellite images and phone data are assisting in identifying communities in need of financial assistance. Policymakers in Togo, a West African nation, teamed up with UC Berkeley to find ways to use satellite images and phone data to identify the country’s most impoverished communities and provide aid. A similar program is already in use in various African countries. The NGO GiveDirectly partnered with a local phone company to give governmental assistance to subscribers who live in impoverished communities. The government contacts citizens and offers them a cash transfer. In March alone, GiveDirectly made payments totaling over $2.5 million to 13,806 recipients.
  2. The technology could help researchers analyze COVID-19 data and make clinical decisions. A doctor from Kashmir is using artificial intelligence to detect patterns in large amounts of COVID-19 data. Currently, there is an overwhelming influx of public health data surfacing. In addition, with the virus’s potential to push more people into poverty, there is a need to analyze and evaluate the data quickly. The doctor is also working with local professionals to discover innovative ways to provide healthcare in the country.
  3. Developing countries have started using artificial intelligence for surveillance and social control. Nations like Ecuador, Kenya, Peru and South Africa are using surveillance technologies to ensure citizens are using social distancing measures. South Africa implemented a “real-time contact tracing and communication system.” The software used to create the system was originally intended to detect rhinoceros poaching hotspots in national parks.
  4. Artificial intelligence makes it possible to accurately screen many people at a time from a distance. China has used the technology to install distanced fever-screening systems in railway and subway stations. Beijing’s Qinghe Railway Station houses one of the systems, which can “examine up to 200 people in one minute without disrupting passenger flow.” Many developing countries are densely packed, and many people in those countries have poor access to healthcare. Screening large numbers of people in a short period of time can have a positive impact on the fight against COVID-19 in developing countries.

The race to harness artificial intelligence is on around the globe. Artificial intelligence has the potential not only to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on developing countries but around the world. The public database Kaggle is sponsoring the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge. Its hope is that experts around the world will come together to find new ways to use artificial intelligence techniques. Ultimately, this will produce new insights to assist in the global fight against COVID-19.

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr

Trees of KnowledgeSub-Saharan Africa continues to face high rates of education exclusion. Across the region, nearly 34 million children do not attend school due to inadequate funding, geographical distance and lack of educational staff. Children living in impoverished areas often have treacherous commutes to school and may experience teacher absenteeism upon arrival. Other children cannot attend school because they must work to support their family or tend to their livestock and land. Trees of Life is working to address the issues limiting access to education.

Education Challenges in Zimbabwe

In countries like Zimbabwe, the problem is pronounced. Most children in Zimbabwe receive primary education but only 49% of high-school-aged Zimbabweans attend secondary school. Furthermore, economic challenges have tightened funding for public and boarding schools, causing a steep increase in the cost of attendance. As a result, communities have taken to creating make-shift alternative schools run by locals to save on expenses. These schools remain unregistered in order to avoid fees and therefore do not undergo government inspections.

These challenges, however, are not unique to Zimbabwe. There is an urgent need to improve access to education in many communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Experts have suggested that the implementation of technology into educational services may be a more cost-effective route than building physical infrastructure. Additionally, much of the population has access to basic smartphones or mobile devices. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region in terms of smartphone adoption, estimating an addition of 167 million subscribers by 2025.

However, inconsistent and expensive data coverage as well as limited electricity for charging limits internet connectivity for many devices. Zimbabwean AI expert and entrepreneur, William Sachiti, has recently taken up this challenge with an idea for improving access not only to the internet but also to educational tools in rural areas. The project is entitled Trees of Knowledge, which reflects the common practice of gathering under the shade of a tree for class.

Technological Solutions

The Trees of Knowledge technology allows a tree or other landmark to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal. Any device within a 100-meter radius can connect to the network and access a pre-loaded server of educational content. The signal is produced by a micro-computer molded into the tree to protect it from damage. The module is powered by a small rechargeable battery that can run for several years without maintenance. The system also includes a solar-powered charging station that users can plug their devices into.

Any content can be uploaded to the educational server, but Sachiti hopes to eventually transition toward including lessons from local educators, making the content specific to each region. This would allow teachers to work with each country’s department of education to ensure that the curriculum is appropriate.

Trees of Knowledge has the potential to improve educational opportunities for rural and excluded communities. This highly integrated solution could mitigate long commutes to school, which can span from five to 1o kilometers. The system provides access to educational content as well as guidance for those unfamiliar with these new resources. As an open-source technology with no patents or intellectual property regulations, the logistics behind Trees of Knowledge are available to be shared and replicated. Since its publication in 2019, several large NGOs in Africa have picked up the idea.

Future Steps

The concept behind Trees of Knowledge is highly adaptable and can be applied to other uses. Similar technologies have recently been implemented by some national parks and nature preserves, who are using interactive digital programs to teach visitors about the ecology of an area. In rural communities, this technology could provide tutorials on first-aid skills, health and hygiene. On remote trails or routes, it may be used to offer critical safety information and orientation.

By removing the obstacles of cost, data coverage and power consumption, Trees of Knowledge is a highly sustainable idea aligned with the goal of minimizing climate change and habitat destruction. This new technology can provide a variety of educational resources by seamlessly integrating into the environment, yet leaving it unchanged.

– Sylvie Antal
Photo: Wikimedia

Health Technology in India
With India’s population nearing 1.4 billion, its health care system must be equipped to meet the needs of its people. The health care industry has struggled to keep up with the burden of disease and various health issues in the country, but has significantly expanded its reach in recent years, facilitated by almost doubling the investment in health technology in India. Some of the health challenges that India faces include inequalities resulting from access issues and inadequate resources.

The Ayushman Bharat program, launched in 2018 by the government, has aimed to move toward comprehensive health care with the end goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Included in this program is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the largest health insurance program globally. The health coverage provided by PM-JAY targets the poorest 40% of the Indian population. This health insurance plan is cashless and paperless, with all information accessible from IT platforms. These improvements have grown the Indian health care industry, which is expected to be worth $372 billion by 2022. Here are other ways health care in India can be improved by technology.

Telemedicine and Disease Mapping

Investment in health technology in India can help address issues such as access gaps, the shortage of health workers and low doctor-to-patient ratios. Smartphones and online programs, such as messaging services, are being used to facilitate communication between doctors and patients, tackling geographical barriers to access to doctors and allowing easier access to consults, appointments and medical information.

Disease mapping is another aspect of health technology in India that is crucial to gaining an understanding of the largest health issues in various geographical areas and providing a visual representation of health disparities across the country. The Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), founded in 2002, is co-sponsored by the University of Toronto and Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. CGHR does epidemiological research for the world’s poorest population. In addition to conducting many studies in India, the CGHR has created an interactive health map of the country to aid government and health officials.

Medical Databases

Online databases improve access to health data for both patients and doctors. This allows patients to receive medical information and data from home. Doctors can also monitor their patients if they are traveling or if they are helping patients in a different region. Many companies including Microsoft, Google and Amazon have made cloud services available to health care providers. Public as well as private sector health providers have increasingly been using these features.

In addition to generally improving the flow and accessibility of health information, clouds and databases increase the efficiency of health workers. Through these aspects of health technology in India, hospitals can consolidate data, and patient transfers and referrals become more organized. Using databases can also improve diagnoses and treatments by allowing doctors to easily access previous cases to inform their decisions regarding new patients.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The Indian health care system is increasingly using more artificial intelligence. The aging population and growing rates of non-communicable diseases have resulted in a demand for technology that can help predict diagnoses and future health challenges in patients. AI and machine learning (ML) include algorithms that find patterns in large amounts of data.

These technologies allow doctors to benefit from thousands of patient cases and information that help in identifying trends. Doctors are then able to make more informed diagnoses for new patients and create effective treatment plans. By analyzing patient data, AI programs can help diagnose patients earlier than would otherwise be possible. They can also help identify patients that might be more vulnerable to certain conditions. This also increases the effectiveness of disease prevention programs.

The use of AI in health care also has the potential to improve doctors’ understanding of what risk factors contribute to disease. Heart disease and cardiac issues have become a leading cause of death in India and doctors hope to use AI to analyze data and gain understanding about the factors contributing to the trend.

Furthermore, AI has the potential to increase the affordability of health care. While increasing the use of health technology in India will initially be expensive, the costs will eventually diminish. The processes will become more streamlined and focused on each patient, improving overall efficiency and decreasing costs. Investing in technologies such as AI can also help make up for the lacking resources and increase the efficiency with which resources are used by improving the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment.

 

While health disparities in India are very pronounced, the increased use of health technology in India is promising and could potentially decrease the level of health inequity. Various uses of health technology can minimize the consequences of health worker and doctor shortages, facilitate access to medical services and information and improve doctors’ understanding of medical trends and social factors relating to health.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts about Technology in Kenya
Kenya is a small coastal nation in northeast Africa. Known as a popular tourist destination, people praise Kenya for its tea exports, beautiful landscapes and rich biodiversity. Currently, Kenya is engaged in a rapid expansion of its information technology sector. This makes it one of the notable tech hubs in the developing world. Here are seven facts about technology in Kenya.

7 Facts About Technology in Kenya

  1. Nicknamed the “Silicon Savannah,” Kenya is regarded as the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tech start-ups thrive in Kenya, due in part to the ready availability of credit lines and other forms of financing. 2019 was the ninth consecutive year Kenya exceeded the innovation relative to GDP figures expected from middle-income nations.
  2. Mobile financial transaction apps are especially popular in Kenya. Nearly 70 percent of the population uses these apps regularly. This is partially because the Kenyan government privatized the state-managed telecommunication services, leading to the eventual emergence of Safaricom, the now dominant face of telecommunications in Kenya. Safaricom debuted its first money-transfer app, M-Pesa, in 2007.
  3. M-Pesa is not the only successful mobile app in Kenya. Farmer Su Kahumbu Stephanou created iCow in 2011. iCow’s original function enabled farmers to monitor their cows’ breeding cycles and milk production. iCow gradually updated to feature advice and information for farmers to use to maximize their income potential. Since iCow runs on SMS, it’s available to farmers who can only afford older models of mobile phones.
  4. Kenya’s once outdated telecommunications networks are now some of the most cutting edge in Africa. Kenyans residing in urban areas have easy access to fast and affordable internet. The internet infrastructure in rural areas is catching up. Internet subscription rates increased from 29.6 percent in 2017 to 41.1 percent in 2018. As of June 2018, 97.8 percent of Kenyans owned a mobile phone subscription.
  5. iHub, a technology-focused co-working facility in Nairobi, opened in 2010. Today, it houses dozens of tech companies, researchers and entrepreneurs. iHub and Nairobi’s other tech incubators and innovation centers have enticed foreign venture capitalists and international companies like Google and Microsoft to invest in the local tech scene. Funding for tech startups rose 92.7 million USD in 2016, to 147 million the following year. In 2020, Nairobi will host the Next Einstein Forum, Africa’s marquee science and technology conference.
  6. A study conducted by the International Development Research Center in partnership with Oxford Insights determined that Kenya is well-equipped to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) technology solutions. Kenya employs some AI technologies, including sexual and reproductive health monitoring chat bots. While 78 percent of Kenya’s largest corporations have integrated modern IT solutions into business operations, only 20 to 40 percent of the nation’s smaller-scale businesses have done so.
  7. Kenya’s early success in tech enterprises encouraged the government to double-down in support of its new industry. The national Internet Communications Technology board worked with iHub on multiple projects. The government also instituted Vision 2030, a strategy to construct the infrastructure backbone necessary for further IT development. Plans are even underway to design and build a new city meant to serve as a national tech-hub. These plans are estimated to cost as much as 7 billion USD.

Although still in its early stages, Kenya’s emerging technology sector has quickly grown into a lucrative slice of the national economic pie. These seven facts about technology in Kenya show that the country is innovative and has made great progress in improving the availability of technology to its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
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

1Doc3There are less than two doctors for every 1,000 individuals in Latin America, making access to health information and medical guidance difficult to reach. Javier Cardona and Nicolas Duran Lopez created 1Doc3 in 2013 to change this, and the healthcare platform has already been making waves.

Background

1Doc3 (pronounced “uno doc tres”) is an online health platform that allows millions of Spanish-speaking users to ask health-related questions and receive professional medical guidance in real-time using artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, it provides data to health insurers and pharmaceutical companies to let them reach customers more efficiently. Furthermore, 1Doc3 is free and allows users to remain anonymous. It receives around $2 million in funding from investors like Wayra, TheVentureCity, Mountain Partners and Mountain Nazca.

The platform, which can be downloaded on computers and mobile devices, keeps a database of over 400 licensed doctors who are recruited, trained and monitored, ensuring that patients receive answers from the most qualified professionals. These doctors build their reputation online by providing personalized answers to users for free. This type of access is convenient, free and anonymous and allows users to make more informed choices regarding their health and wellbeing.

Helping Its Users

1Doc3 has served over 490 million Spanish-speaking users in 120 countries, 53 percent of whom are below 34 years old. Over 60 percent of the questions asked by these younger users are related to sex. While these types of questions may normally be too embarrassing to ask in person, the anonymity of 1Doc3 allows young patients to receive the right medical guidance and even provides coupons for products like condoms.

The platform uses AI to help these users navigate towards relevant information. For example, if a user were to ask a question related to their back pain, AI would ask where the pain is “above or below,” and if it is a “stabbing pain.” The personalized and innovative service is highly sought after and has even earned itself a partnership with Internet.org, a system that brings connectivity to users in places where internet access is spotty at best.

Helping Insurance Companies and Pharmacies

There is also a commercial aspect to 1Doc3. The platform’s AI serves as a data collecting module. Over 70 million questions are asked each year and this makes the database extremely informative. With this information, health insurers can provide cheaper treatment to patients by eliminating the necessity to physically go to a physician’s office – in fact, users save an average of 11 percent on treatment when they use 1Doc3.

The platform also helps medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies identify patients for rare diseases. For example, 1Doc3 helped a client pharmaceutical company find patients who were suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a relatively rare and difficult to diagnose. 1Doc3 identified back-pain along with the presence of three or four other symptoms to seek out those suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and provide resources for treatment. In this case, it connected patients to pharmaceutical companies who could provide the right medication and professional care.

The Future of the Health Industry

1Doc3 is described by Javier Cardona as a pocket-size doctor who is available to users at any time and provides integrated solutions to health issues. Although the bulk of its users are in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Peru, the administrative team is planning to expand globally and provide these capabilities to users all over the world.

While other healthcare platforms may also provide medical information to users, it is not always personalized. 1Doc3 is a revolutionary free service that changes the face of healthcare by connecting patients to doctors in a timely manner and pointing users in the right direction. It removes barriers like time, cost and inaccessibility and puts the health back in the hands of the user.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr