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Four Tech Investments
Technology advances at a blinding rate with new innovations popping up every day. People can use these new technologies to make life easier, save lives, entertain the masses in new, creative ways and serve countless other purposes. In this age of technology and instant access to information, a consumer will find dozens of different companies vying for their money with thousands of different advertisements, promising new features and faster internet. If a consumer investigates further, they will find people around the world using the bleeding edge of technology to reduce poverty by increasing access to medical facilities, providing more energy to those in need, aiding struggling farmers and innovating on the use of technology in the classroom. Here are four tech investments to lower poverty.

4 Tech Investments to Lower Poverty

  1. TEAMFund: The organization Transforming Equity and Access for MedTech (TEAMFund) invests in companies that can increase medical access in impoverished areas. TEAMFund usually invests in companies that specialize in digital health or artificial intelligence in hopes that these innovations will help with the shortages of doctors and other health care specialists. Some investments that TEAMFund has previously selected include Forus Health, an Indian organization dedicated to using technology to lower cases of preventable blindness, and digital ophthalmology, the use of technology to prevent diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. On September 18, 2019, TEAMFund closed a budget of $30 million to invest in low-income areas. As TEAMFund invests this money, many of those in impoverished areas will feel the benefits of easy medical access.
  2. The Rockefeller Foundation: Energy poverty is also a major problem around the world. Many developing nations do not have electricity with almost a billion people worldwide lacking the ability to live in comfortable temperatures or store food for long periods. On September 12, 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This commission will explore the many sources of electricity, including microgrids to provide total energy access by 2030. One method it will use to achieve this goal is setting up solar microgrids in developing countries around sub-Saharan Africa, as suggested by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
  3. BICSA: Agriculture is a necessary gamble in any community. Long droughts could cause the loss of fields of crops, and without them, people could starve. Currently, no risk is greater than planting crops in India. Many farmers in India rely on monsoon rains to feed their crops, but the rains have been patchy and unpredictable recently, raining 35 percent below the predicted amount. Luckily, organizations like the International Water Management Institute and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have combined their strength and formed the Bundled Solutions of Index Insurance with Climate Information and Seed Systems to Manage Agricultural Risks (BICSA). This organization will work with the farmers of India and try many different strategies to avoid massive crop loss and protect farmers from bankruptcy. BICSA claims that they will provide services like drought or flood insurance, more seed varieties, new methods to forecast the weather and different farming practices that suit the climate better.
  4. Education Technology: Education is arguably the most important factor in a developing country. Nevertheless, over 260 million children worldwide do not receive an education. Education Technology (EdTech) companies dedicate their resources to providing more access to quality education. They achieve this goal by teaching programming to young students, providing online college courses to those who cannot afford them, teaching foreign languages and much more in places like Nigeria and Kenya. These EdTech companies, like Andela, Coursera and Kramer have been receiving record-breaking investments in recent years. In 2018, EdTech companies received over $16.3 billion in funding from countries like the United States and China. As these companies grow and reach more people, the world should crawl closer to the total education of the entire world.

The use of technology to reduce poverty brings an age-old problem into the modern world. These four tech investments will not eradicate poverty overnight, but they show that the superpowers of the world are willing to give more for the benefit of the world’s poor. With easier access to medical facilities, energy, agriculture and education through technology, countries with a large poverty rate could move forward on the path to a developed, flourishing society, strengthening the global economy with their commerce and aiding other countries that require assistance.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

EdTech in India
Education Technology, also known as EdTech, is a current driving force for major improvements to education in India. The information and communication technology placed in school systems throughout the country helps bring outside knowledge to classrooms that would have been previously inaccessible. Edtech has recently dropped in pricing, making the equipment and technology easily accessible in less developed areas and easier to implement in impoverished schools.

Four Key Facts About India’s Educational System

  1. India has one of the largest populations of school-age children, with an estimated 270 million children between the ages of 5 to 17.
  2. The country has four main levels for education: pre-primary from ages 3 to 6, primary from ages 6 to 10, secondary from ages 11 to 17 and tertiary from ages 18 to 22.
  3. Children must attend school from ages 6 to 13.
  4. School systems have seen a major increase in student enrollment in recent years, with a 15.37 percent increase of total gross enrollment in secondary education between 2009 and 2016.

While enrollment has increased, education in India is still behind with teaching methods and test scores. Many students test poorly in math and reading skills and teaching quality decreases in rural areas. In 2015, the mean achievement scores for math at a national level for rural areas was 247, while the urban score was 256. Urban areas also scored 19 points higher in English, with a mean score of 263. With less access to teachers and educational materials, the rural school systems face more deficits than urban areas.

Education technology is a relatively new concept for foreign countries, but the benefits to technology-infused classrooms are well known. Below are three benefits of increasing EdTech usage in Indian school systems.

Three Benefits of Increasing EdTech Usage in Indian Schools

  1. EdTech Bridges the Gap Between Rural and Urban Education: EdTech incorporates text, audio and video to teach and elaborate on classroom subjects. This technology fills in knowledge gaps when teachers are absent or less educated with certain materials. The language in these materials is also more streamlined, making topics easier to understand for a multitude of students. Video lessons make classes more consistent in all schools, eliminating the variation of teaching materials around the country. These programs also make student data more accessible to teachers, with some methods collecting and compiling data on student progress for teachers to be able to track progress and note areas that need improvement.
  2. EdTech Programs Emphasize Specialized and Individual Learning Plans: Education in India has previously been less effective at aiding students individually; through the implementation of EdTech, schools are better able to cater to students’ needs and adapt specific programs to better suit individual learning styles. Mindspark, an Indian based company that delves into education through videos, games and questions, is working to pique students’ interest in non-traditional ways. The software takes the basic values of comprehension for each student and adapts lesson plans to better fit their needs. The company recently worked with over 600 students in Delhi, citing increases in understanding of math and Hindi.
  3. EdTech Forms a Collaborative Space for Education: As more teachers begin to incorporate the newer technologies into the classroom, lesson plans will become more consistent in each region. Teachers will also be able to share effective teaching strategies using newer technology to benefit classrooms with less access to EdTech. This technology also makes information about students’ success more accessible to parents. Automated messaging to parents regarding progress can increase test scores for students overall.

While Edtech is benefitting education in India, foreign investments heavily fund the current ventures. Further development into education technology would require extensive partnership with the government, but some are taking steps to bring more technology into Indian classrooms. Prices for tablets and computers have decreased in recent years, making these educational programs more accessible to the multitudes. Many state-run schools have some access to these newer programs, and India is making more strides towards providing EdTech for students in all regions.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

Five Microsoft Initiatives Improving Education in India
With 372,601 people under the age of 14, India’s school-age population demonstrates a massive market for scholastic innovations. The country has been working to build the level of technology-infused education throughout the eight years of compulsory education. Only 3.8 percent of India’s GDP is currently being used for education, so outside companies also work to contribute to the educational system.

Microsoft initiatives have influenced STEM education throughout the country. Microsoft has partnered with many schools and government programs to improve education in India. Five Microsoft initiatives improving education in India include Project Shiksha, Project Shaskam, Showcase Schools, Microsoft Academia Accelerator and Microsoft Innovative Educator.

Project Shiksha

Project Shiksha was founded in 2003 to target classrooms lacking technology to aid education. Teachers participate in a six-day intensive program to build computer skills for classrooms and administrative duties. Incorporating technology into Indian classrooms helps to build a more effective learning environment and engage a wider range of students.

As of 2018, Project Shiksha has impacted more than 430,000 students in India. The program has trained 9,246 teachers throughout the country to better incorporate technology into the daily curriculum. Additionally, in the Karnataka region, Project Shiksha has impacted eight districts, 992 schools, 5658 teachers and 3,13,748 students since the project began. In that region alone, the program has instilled three different IT centers to improve computer education and technology literacy.

Project Shaskam

Project Shaskam helps fund professional development classes to train faculty in technological skills for the classroom. The program helps educators to digitize classrooms and bring more technology-based learning lessons to students. This can drastically improve the level of education in India. Less than one in five teachers in India are qualified to teach, as demonstrated through the dwindling numbers of teachers passing evaluation tests in Maharashtra. In 2015, only one percent of teachers tested passed the end of year evaluation tests. Project Shaskam ensures teachers in public education sectors are sufficiently trained to educate students in India.

Since 2011, Project Shaskam has trained more than 4,228 teachers in more than 148 Indian universities. The educators that participated in the program have since trained 1,126 other teachers in these skills. Teachers are trained to use multiple Microsoft programs, including Microsoft Office, Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook, Sway and other programs. The institutes involved in Project Shaskam include SRM University, Geetanjali Girls College, NIMS University, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Jai Narain Vyas University and Integral University. As of 2018, the program impacted 931 teachers at 25 universities.

Showcase Schools

Showcase Schools focuses on building and maintaining leadership skills throughout globally recognized schools to enable educators to create a more effective learning environment in Indian classrooms. The program emphasizes one to one learning techniques. This helps teachers build more personal relationships with students in the classroom and push students to be more successful. Showcase School leaders work together to create a collaborative space to explore teaching ideas and methods to heighten the usage of technology in Indian schools.

More than 126 schools are currently working under the Showcase Schools initiative to impact more than 4,000 students. The Microsoft Showcase School Leaders Forum, hosted in 2016 through a partnership with The Aga Khan Academy, featured multiple Showcase School leaders who shared new ideas for innovative education platforms using technology. One example of the program’s impact on education in India is the two-day INFINITUS Fest held at Delhi Public School in Ghaziabad. The event, in collaboration with Microsoft India, also impacted 17 other schools.

Microsoft Academia Accelerator

The Academia Accelerator program began in 2014 to create a long-lasting relationship between Microsoft and programs benefitting education in India. The program helps facilitate developments in Indian schools and universities to ensure the programs continue to modernize. Furthermore, Academia Accelerator works to improve student understanding of newer technology and ensures that computer-based skills are retained throughout classes.

Academia Accelerator has partnered with 18 different schools throughout India to improve education systems. Microsoft sponsors Code.Fun.Co, an annual event featuring a 20-hour hackathon for the students at partnered universities. This event allows students to address real-world issues through technology and coding programs. The program also hosts AXLE, a Microsoft Academia Accelerator showcase in India, to discuss the impact of AI and technology in learning. This showcase includes keynote speakers, the Code.Fun.Co competition and innovative new technology designs. These activities help inspire students to dive further into STEM education in India and tackle large-scale issues in the community.

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Of the five Microsoft initiatives improving education in India, Microsoft Innovative Educator program seeks out educators who are going above and beyond using technology to reach students in new and exciting ways. The program works as an advocate for technology-infused schools, bringing in outside sources to merge the traditional educational system with more modern technology to strengthen the level of material in schools.

Innovative Educator reached 443 teachers in 2018 to create an educational group that encourages technology use in Indian classrooms. At the 2019 Education Exchange (E2) conference in Paris, India’s representative group was the largest to date with 10 Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Experts, six school leaders and three MIE Fellows. Six of the Indian educators and fellows also participated on winning teams at the conference, showing their unique approaches to adding technology into the classroom.

Five Microsoft initiatives improving education in India are Project Shiksha, Project Shaskam, Showcase Schools, Microsoft Academia Accelerator and Microsoft Innovative Educator. These programs reinforce technology-based education and improve the level of materials in classrooms throughout the country.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr