Personal Technology and Poverty in IndiaTechnology is often associated with poverty in regard to agricultural or water-retention devices. This is because poverty precludes many people from securing access to fresh food and clean water. While these types of technologies successfully increase crop yield and food access for land-scarce countries, they don’t necessarily provide people with opportunities to actually lift themselves out of poverty. One of the most pervasive forms of technology in society today is the cellular phone, especially smartphones. Cellular networks cover nearly three-quarters of the globe now. However, cost and other access barriers leave much more of the population without adequate technological access. Personal technology and poverty are becoming increasingly related as more and more features on smartphones enable people to become more connected with other people. This also includes banks and lending institutions.

According to the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development, only one in four people in developing countries utilize smartphone technologies for digital financial services. Digital financial services can allow small businesses to grow through online lending, thus resulting in sustainable economic development.

Digital Financial Services

Encouraging the usage of digital financial services is one way that personal technology and poverty must be addressed . In order for this to occur, there needs to be more widespread access to smartphones and cell phones in developing countries. Melinda Gates, co-chair on the Pathways for Prosperity Commission, cited that a phone costs at least two month’s salary for someone living below the poverty line in Tanzania. If businesses and governments prioritize expanding access of smartphones to developing countries, then costs may be lowered. As a result, citizens wouldn’t need to fall deeper into poverty in order to harness the power of personal technology.

Invest in Tech

Founded in 2010, Go-Jek is a transportation network company located in Jakarta, Indonesia. Go-Jek was able to change the market of ride-sharing in Indonesia. They accomplished this by utilizing technology to expand where ride-sharing services were available. Additionally, they facilitated communication between drivers and riders. CNN reports that Go-Jek has helped drivers see a 44 percent increase in income.

Offering incentives to businesses and governments to subsidize personal technology in developing countries is one-way access can be expanded. Policymakers must also address the inequitable technological access between men and women based on social inequality. Many developing countries do not grant women the same social and political rights as men. This means fewer women would likely gain access to personal technology than men. The Pathways for Prosperity Commission stated that in many developing countries, women are 40 percent less likely to have used the internet than men. While tech companies work to expand access to personal devices, there is still more that can be done. It is imperative that governments are working simultaneously to grant women equal political and social rights. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Digital Global Access Policy Act of 2019, which seeks to increase investments in expanding internet access across the world.

Beyond the iPhone

Phones are one way for people in developing countries to utilize personal technology to lift themselves out of poverty. Still, there are other “low-tech” opportunities for sustainable growth and development. Susan Davis, in the Harvard Business Review, points out that small, localized tech solutions often prove to be more beneficial than large-scale, generic tech investments. Implementing technological solutions requires more than businesses giving personal tech devices to those in need. With regard to personal technology and poverty, proper training, policy implementation and assurance that barriers to access are broken down are ways that personal technology can be an effective solution to help end poverty.

-Erin Grant
Photo: Flickr