AI in Indian agricultureIndia is a nation with immense economic potential. In 2021, the World Bank ranked the nation first among the world’s seven largest emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs). India boasts an economy expected to grow by 7% in 2023. Despite this, its agricultural sector has struggled to keep up with the productivity levels in other comparable nations. A host of persistent structural issues inhibit irrigation, communication and a general understanding of crops.

AI, however, is increasingly helping innovate India’s agricultural economy. With the promise of abundant near-future investment, it could hold the key to a breakthrough in Indian agriculture. This, in turn, could yield a breakthrough in the battle against poverty.

The Importance of Agriculture to India’s Economy

For India, agriculture is key to its socioeconomic welfare. It is crucial to both its economy and food security, employing some 200 million people. The industry makes up 18% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of the total rural net domestic product.

General poverty rates in India have halved between 2006 and 2016, but India’s agricultural system suffers from acute structural issues. It is markedly behind the worldwide average in key areas, such as yield productivity in essential crops, water availability and market access.

These issues depreciate farm incomes and significantly worsen livelihoods, ultimately increasing indigence. India, however, finds itself at an inflection point, at which new technologies are showing the potential to galvanize productivity and alleviate poverty.

How AI is Causing Positive Change

In recent years, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence have allowed farmers to better understand their land, soil and crop health as well as neighboring environments. Two teams at Google are leveraging AI in Indian agriculture in order to develop a “unified ‘landscape understanding.” The AI works by employing satellite imagery and machine learning to draw boundaries between fields, crucial to forming meaningful calculations. Following this, the AI can determine the acreage of farm fields, as well as irrigation structures like farm wells which can help create tools for drought preparedness. This can also help calculate previous water availability over the past month, three months or year, all critical in establishing water security and drought management strategies.

Another promising advance for AI in Indian agriculture has come from the World Economic Forum’s Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI). This is led by the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) India. By promoting the use of artificial intelligence, the AI4AI aims to “bring… together government, academia and business representatives” to develop innovative solutions for the agricultural sector. As of January 2023, 7,000 farmers, primarily chili producers, have been using the technology to monitor their crops. They also use it to perform quality control and test soil, which helps them access new customers in different regions.

An Even Brighter Future

The positive effects of AI in Indian agriculture have two dimensions. For farmers today, the accurate understanding of field performance and environmental conditions it provides allows them to reduce land and water waste while increasing crop yield. Yet, even more promising is the potential benefits it could bring to future farmers. As more information is gathered on farm performance, agricultural loans will become more available. This will allow state governments to provide increasing support for farming districts at scale. AI in Indian agriculture, led by companies such as Google, will support its rapidly growing technology industry. New artificial machinery is also increasingly undergoing development to make farming practices more efficient and sustainable.

Domestic investment indicates a positive future. At present, there are more than 1,000 agri-tech startups in India. They offer a range of services, including digital finance, quality testing and market connect platforms. As agri-tech develops, these businesses should exponentially increase agriculture productivity and sustainability, improving food security for some of India’s poorest people.

Some Challenges AI May Face in Agriculture

Though AI presents a very exciting prospect for Indian agriculture, it is not free of potential challenges. Foremost among these is the fact that AI systems require a great deal of data to train machines and make accurate predictions. For large agricultural areas, learning models would take time to mature. Though solutions are emerging, there may be a significant delay until farmers can reap their full benefits.

Nonetheless, recent developments of AI in Indian agriculture herald a fundamental change in productivity that should continue revolutionizing the yield, communication and water access of farmers over the coming years, and perhaps even decades. This will provide vital economic assistance to India’s farmers, many of which live below the extreme poverty line, and crucially stabilize food security to help feed the country’s 1.4 billion people.

– Gabriel Gathercole
Photo: Flickr

Investments in India
Foreign direct investments in the only unpenetrated highly populace market have proven effective in improving the U.S. economy. With Microsoft and Google investments, India curtailed poverty and encouraged economic growth.

Microsoft and Google Investments

Since 1990, Microsoft has invested in various operations in India, including Intelligent Cloud and Artificial Intelligence to facilitate the quick delivery of digital transformation. More recent operations in 2021 entail Microsoft’s collaboration with Invest India to support the build-up of 11 technological start-ups. In 2022, Microsoft led the largest India data center region investment worth Rs 15,000 crore across a 15-year period.

Since 2004, Google has also invested in India to enhance the country’s digital economy. The tech giant’s most contemporary investment announced is a $10 billion investment in 2020, known as the “Google for India Digitization Fund” to fuel the digitization of India. In 2022, Google also publicized support to Airtel, India’s second major telecommunications operator, in a $1 billion investment, according to the Economic Times.

Impact on Reducing Poverty in India

Today, Microsoft operates in 11 different Indian cities with around 16,000 employees. The International Data Corporation estimates that Microsoft’s data center region contributed to economic gains worth $9.5 billion from 2016-2020 and unlocked 1.5 million employment opportunities, The Times of India reported.

Tech start-up companies generated around $6.5 billion in the second quarter of 2021, according to Business Today. This is indicating improved economic growth and poverty reduction, especially as start-ups represent a significant aspect of economic development.

Following Google’s $10 billion investment in 2020, the number of employees it holds doubled from early 2020 to late 2021, and over the following two years, projections show that the workforce is likely to double. This underlines Google’s impact on promoting economic growth through the reduction of unemployment on the national level, declining by 4.2% from 2020-2021.

Human Development Index (HDI) value in India rose from 0.429 in 1990 to 0.645 in 2019. GDP growth improved from 3.8% in 2000 to 8.9% in 2021 and extreme poverty declined by 12.3 percentage points between 2011-2019. This illustrated the overall impact digital technology has on encouraging equality and financial inclusion across India.


In 2019, estimates have stated that Indian trade accounted for 2.3% of total U.S. imported goods, standing at a worth of $57.7 billion. A U.S. government report confirms that service products such as telecommunication and research and development accounted for a large proportion of such imports and in 2019 it stood at $29.7 billion.

Acknowledging the role of imports in relieving U.S. households from increased good prices, this highlights how high-tech investments in India Improved the U.S. economy. As evidence of the latter, a 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report has highlighted that with imports, the typical American household uplifted its purchasing power by $18,000 per year, thereby equating to greater value for money.


In 2019, exports from the U.S. to India accounted for transactions valued at $34.3 billion, corresponding to 2% of total U.S. exports in that same year, and 2020 World Bank data shows that exports contributed to 10.16% of U.S. GDP. Agricultural products captured a considerable share of exports, totaling $1.8 billion in 2019, and each $1 billion from agricultural exports in 2019 required around 7,784 full-time U.S. employees. This illustrates eminent economic activity in terms of productivity, efficiency and employment domestically.

Importance of Microsoft and Google to the US Economy

The 2021-20 fiscal year illustrated economic gains for Microsoft (India) in terms of revenue growth valued at 7%. For the 2021 financial year, it is also estimated that Google’s revenue from India improved by 38% in terms of profit.

Such financial profits equate to greater corporate security and enhanced growth prospects and considering the impact both tech giants have on the U.S. economy this illustrates an unprecedented gain for improved economic growth via repatriated profits. For instance, Microsoft paid $13 billion in tax to the U.S. economy from its overall overseas operations. Similarly, Google in a 2018 announcement publicized its $38 billion payment in tax on its foreign cash and confirmed its intentions to offer 20,000 new employment opportunities. Knowing that India accounts for a large sum of both corporations’ overseas operations, this signifies the importance of investments in India to the U.S. economy.

In an era of globalization, economic gains in one country would demonstrate financial benefits in another. Efforts such as those of Microsoft and Google show how India can build a stronger infrastructure that strengthens its position in tackling poverty, while also highlighting how high-tech investments in India improved the U.S. economy.

–  Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Flickr

 Africa’s Small BusinessesIn June 2022, Google announced a new initiative that targeted small businesses in Africa. The initiative was part of the company’s month-long celebration of International Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Business Day. Micro, small and medium-sized businesses, make up a large portion of the global economy, “[accounting] for 90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment and 50% of GDP worldwide.” The significant role that micro, small and medium-sized businesses play internationally as the backbone of economies holds true, especially in Africa. Consumers “buy more than 70% of their food, beverages and personal care products” from Africa’s small businesses.

Loyalty to Small Businesses

This loyalty to small businesses has continued despite the insurgence of corporate supermarkets and retail chain stores. Transitioning this loyalty to e-commerce holds incredible promise for economic development throughout the continent. South Africa posted online sales of $1.8 billion in 2020 and countries like Nigeria and Kenya where the retail sector is a major component of GDP posted 30% and 40% growth rates respectively in 2021.

The framework for e-commerce in Africa has been laid out. Internet coverage, access to credit cards and bank accounts and mobile phone usage have all increased substantially in Africa in the last decade. Google has noted this opportunity for growth in Africa, with Google’s country director for West Africa Juliet Ehimuan noting that “E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.”

However, the online market has remained untapped for many small and medium businesses in Africa. Technical know-how, as well as concerns over cybercrime, has impeded online market penetration by small and medium businesses in Africa, according to a report by World Trade Organization (WTO). Fortunately, Google’s new initiative is helping build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses, aiming to “…assist small businesses in Africa to gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base and scale-up,” according to Ehimuan.

Google is accomplishing this strategy through a three-pronged plan. It includes the Shopping Small Business Summit, an online career certificate course, and the Local Opportunity Finder.

Shopping Small Business Summit

In late June 2022, Google hosted a Shopping Small Business Summit. According to The Guardian, this event was a one-hour virtual training session to help small and medium business owners develop the skills they need to compete in the online marketplace. This training session covered both e-commerce trends as well as digital marketing tools and skills.

Online Career Certificate Course

The second portion of Google’s plan to help build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses is an online career certificate course, as The Guardian reported. Unlike the Shopping Small Business Summit, this course has limited availability and is not free. However, Google has offered 1,000 scholarships to Africans who wish to participate in the course. This course will cover digital marketing and e-commerce trends in a deeper capacity than the Small Business Summit, and it aims to prepare Africans for entry level-jobs in e-commerce.

Local Opportunity Finder

Google also launched the Local Opportunity Finder in June 2022. The Local Opportunity Finder is a free online tool for small and medium business owners that aims to improve their online presences. This new tool can analyze a Google Business Profile and then give personalized recommendations for improvement. These improvements are geared towards making e-commerce sites more appealing to consumers and overall more consumer-friendly.

Google’s commitment to growing small businesses is helping build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses. The large African retail sector is dependent on small businesses. However, the continent has lagged behind in terms of digital market space until now. If African businesses can take advantage of Google’s initiatives and work through the impediments holding back e-commerce in the continent, they could scale their businesses up and expand their consumer bases.

Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Addressing the Indonesian Oxygen CrisisIndonesia is currently a major COVID-19 hotspot. In light of the Delta variant’s arrival, Indonesia’s total number of coronavirus cases significantly increased in June 2021 and continued to grow in July 2021. The outbreak is one of the worst in the region. As a result of the outbreak, oxygen is in short supply in Indonesia. With many Indonesian hospitals at full capacity, it is difficult for Indonesia’s COVID-19 patients to access adequate medical treatment, including oxygen. The provinces of Java and Bali are particularly impacted by the Indonesian oxygen crisis.

The Indonesian Government’s Response to the Oxygen Shortage

The Indonesian oxygen crisis is causing oxygen prices to rise due to scarcity. With oxygen cylinders now costing approximately $120, oxygen is becoming inaccessible for people with low incomes. As coronavirus cases increase, the discrepancy between the number of oxygen tanks available and the oxygen tanks needed is growing.

The Indonesian national government sought to alleviate the oxygen crisis by seeking foreign aid. The Indonesian government requested aid from many countries to help with the oxygen shortage, which it received. The government also instructed oxygen producers to prioritize making medical oxygen and extended emergency COVID-19 procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Local officials are also working to minimize the shortage by preventing unnecessary oxygen acquisition. Seeking to prevent panicked stockpiling, officials in Jakarta asked residents not to hoard oxygen in order to prevent civilians from exacerbating the crisis by preemptively buying oxygen and artificially increasing the demand for oxygen.

Organizations and Businesses Step in

Private initiatives are also helping combat the Indonesian oxygen crisis. Action Our Indonesia Movement (GITA) is a volunteer-run group in Indonesia working to provide oxygen at a lower cost than hospitals. The organization allows Indonesians in need of oxygen to rent cylinders at a lower cost than what hospitals can provide. GITA owns 400 oxygen cylinders that it received through donations. Its work does not solve the problem of the shortage of oxygen to fill cylinders with, but it does help make oxygen accessible to Indonesians of all income levels.

Indonesian businesses are contributing to oxygen relief efforts in a variety of ways. Ranging from oxygen donations to assistance with oxygen transportation logistics, Indonesian companies and state-owned enterprises are providing vital relief during the Indonesian oxygen crisis.

Responses From Outside of Indonesia

Governments and organizations across the world are working to help resolve the Indonesian oxygen crisis. Several governments responded to Indonesia’s request for oxygen support, including the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the United States. The aid came in the form of much-needed medical supplies, including medical oxygen.

Corporations are donating to relief efforts in Indonesia. Google made a $1 million donation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Indonesia for COVID-19 relief efforts. Singapore-based companies, such as DBS Bank, Singtel and CapitaLand Hope Foundation, provided the Indonesian state with oxygen concentrators.

Nonstate actors are also providing vital support to Indonesia. UNICEF sent medical oxygen as well as vaccines to Indonesia to mitigate the current crisis and prevent it from worsening. The Red Cross is assisting with oxygen distribution efforts in Indonesia.

These collective efforts will ensure that the nation can overcome the Indonesian oxygen crisis, providing an inspiring example of a united international community amid a global health pandemic.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Unsplash

AI fights against COVID-19 COVID-19 has endangered the lives of millions of people around the world. Worse, the disease incites greater implications beyond itself. Its impact is threatening to turn back the World Poverty Clock for the first time this century. This would backtrack on the progress made in the past 20 years toward eliminating global poverty. However, artificial intelligence (AI) fights against COVID-19 in two very important ways.

A Basic Overview of AI

Originating in the 1950s, the field of artificial intelligence has become ubiquitous in our everyday lives: from determining our shopping habits to facial recognition to helping doctors diagnose patients before symptoms manifest. The computer performing tasks that we thought needed human intelligence is a very broad understanding of AI. Using a combination of programming, training and data, researchers who work with AI teach computers how to solve complex problems more quickly and efficiently than humans. In a similar process, AI fights against COVID-19.

The World Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock is a real-time estimate of the number of people living in poverty across the globe. Its interactive website provides a variety of statistics and demographics about those who are living in extreme poverty, including geographic locations and age ranges. Calculations are made using publicly available data to estimate the number of people living in extreme poverty and the rate at which that number is changing.

According to the World Bank, in a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 could push 100 million people into poverty. However, scientists are working hard to contain and eliminate the virus, AI being one of their strategies. AI fights against COVID-19 by predicting, detecting and eliminating the coronavirus in many parts of the world. In turn, protection from COVID-19 impacts lessens global poverty.

How AI Fights Against COVID-19

AI fights against COVID-19 in a two-pronged approach. It focuses on both detection of the virus and the development of vaccine options.

In late December 2019, the program BlueDot detected a cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses in Wuhan, China. This was the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The program detected the virus nine days before the World Health Organization announced the emergence of a novel coronavirus. BlueDot software has the ability to sift through massive amounts of data to find patterns in the location and movement of a virus. Further developments in virus detection have been made by Alibaba Cloud with the creation of analytical software for computerized tomography (CT) scans. The software can detect coronavirus pneumonia in seconds with approximately 96% accuracy.

AI systems, like Google’s AlphaFold, are aiding researchers by creating predictive models of the protein structure of coronavirus. Models like these can then be used by researchers to design novel vaccine prospects. Overall, these systems enable scientists to reduce the time needed to begin clinical trials and find viable vaccines.

Under human oversight, AI systems can potentially control the spread of the coronavirus. The longer it takes to control and eradicate coronavirus the greater the number of people pushed into poverty. The use of swift and efficient AI applications could not only help curb the spread of COVID-19 but, in turn, fight global poverty as well.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Project LoonInnovative 21st-century technologies have motivated NGOs and tech companies around the world to develop apps and other online ways for people in developing areas to stay connected. Information provided on the internet or transmitted through SMS assists people worldwide with acquiring resources and employing techniques to advance education, healthcare and agriculture. Unfortunately, some areas remain untouched by the benefits of staying connected because their remoteness prevents internet availability — at least until now. Google’s sister company, Loon, is rising to the challenge of providing internet to remote populations in Africa and recovering populations affected by natural disasters using solar-powered 4G balloons with Project Loon.

Project Loon

Project Loon, which became one of Google’s “moonshot projects” in 2011, began launching balloons by 2013 and partnered with Telkom Kenya in 2018. Following this deal, the solar-powered balloons were tested on 35,000 customers covering over 50,000 square kilometers. The goal was to provide adequate connectivity to underserved and disadvantaged communities, beginning with Kenya. Loon executives stress that providing creative, low-cost solutions is the greatest way to help people, particularly those in rural areas where connectivity could be life-changing. Their passion stems from an intense desire to “challenge the status quo” by “[relying] on knowledge and empathy to make wise decisions.” Initial findings suggest that Loon balloons cover up to 100 times more area than typical cell towers and deliver wifi strong enough for video callings, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, downloading apps and messaging other users.

How it Works

Loon 4G balloons are essentially flying cell phone towers but they are much lighter and more durable. They have the ability to withstand temperatures below -90°C and to remain steady amid violent winds. After being launched in the United States and traveling through wind currents across the world, the balloons begin their 100-day stays in Kenyan airspace, providing internet download speeds up to 18.9 megabits per second in partnership with AT&T.

Although the balloons heavily depend on wind currents as guides, they also have specially designed, state of the art Flight Systems that consist of three main parts: the balloon envelope, bus and payload. The envelope, made of polyethylene plastic, forms what people typically recognize as a balloon. The bus holds solar panels where the battery is charged, the altitude control system that navigates winds using GPS and the safety gear (parachute) for landing. The payload is the internet provider that houses the LTE antenna and the gimbals which liaise between the balloon and the ground. The balloons also depend on lift gas to loft them 20 kilometers into the air and to assist during the descent alongside local air traffic controllers. Loon specifically designates predetermined landing zones where the balloons are either recycled or prepared for reuse by on-site recovery teams.

After the balloons are collected, they are closely analyzed for holes and tears, allowing examiners to alter their designs and make the balloons stronger if necessary.

Disaster Preparedness

Resilient balloons can go a long way in addressing disaster preparedness and this also presents a significant opportunity for Project Loon to make a difference. Natural disasters often wipe out infrastructure, leaving populations disconnected when communication is more vital than ever. Because Loon balloons fly at such high altitudes and do not require activation within close proximity, there is greater potential for connectivity.

For example, Loon’s balloons were deployed during an earthquake in Peru where they covered nearly 40,000 square miles and were used following a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. The company’s role in connecting families in the wake of disaster “is a lifeline” for those affected and can have a life-changing global impact.

Loon Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth has expressed concern about the effects of COVID-19 on disconnected populations. Because the virus has obstructed normalcy, connectivity could be the only way to continue education in developing nations. There are numerous agriculture, healthcare and education resources that, with internet connection, can preserve progression, one of Loon’s immediate goals.

Future Flights

To date, Loon has launched 1,750 4G balloons that have spent more than 1 million hours in the stratosphere and connected over 35,000 users, with the most successful balloon remaining aloft for 300 days and counting. The ultimate goal is to maintain a permanent 35-member fleet over eastern Africa in the hope of connecting and empowering developing nations.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Loon Balloons
For many, the internet is a constant, invisible presence. This powerful network allows people to connect through social media, check the weather, or even further their education. For this privileged group, complaints about slow Wifi are commonplace and accepted. This constant exposure often produces an incorrect assumption that the internet is always available. In certain areas, however, connecting to the internet is impossible. In fact, almost half of the world’s population lacks basic internet and all of its subsequent benefits—informational, communication and entertainment. However, Loon, a subsidiary of Google, has developed a unique solution to this problem. Thanks to Loon, balloons can deliver an internet connection to remote areas from the stratosphere.

How It Works

From afar, Loon balloons look like high-tech hot air balloons. On closer inspection, it becomes clear just how complex the technology is. Each balloon is about as big as a tennis court; the material is a thin layer of polyethylene that allows the device to float above the clouds. The other components of the balloons are referred to as the “bus” and the “payload” by Loon. The bus contains navigational technology, while the payload is essentially a small cell tower that interacts with devices in the area.

Multiple balloons work together to create a network in the sky. This establishes the ability to communicate with ground stations thousands of miles away, making it possible to deliver an internet connection to remote areas without having to construct new infrastructure. The balloons’ maneuverability also helps to expand the area of coverage. Additionally, aerial coverage as opposed to ground coverage reduces operational costs. The result is an efficient network that has offered internet coverage across 40 million kilometers of the world.

Loon Projects in Kenya

As Loon’s CEO told the New York Times, Loon partnered with Telkom Kenya to “begin [a] new era of stratospheric communications.” With this partnership, Kenya aims to encourage technological advances in its nation as well as expand connectivity networks. Earlier this month, the results were encouraging. Over 35,000 people connected to Loon balloons and were granted internet connection, some of which were from remote villages previously cut off from the myriad of services on the internet. Internet connection has become more vital than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic; millions are staying home and relying on technology for work, education and entertainment. In these times of crisis, Loon balloons in Kenya offer an important solution for rural areas needing access to educational materials and virtual resources.

Natural Disaster Aid

Loon balloons can also be an important asset during natural disasters. This was exemplified in 2017 when Peru and parts of the Amazon experienced severe flooding. The rain and floods disabled ground infrastructure and left people stranded without communication. An internet connection was necessary to identify those who needed help and to bring aid to certain areas. The balloons, safe above stormy clouds, were then sent in to provide internet access during this natural disaster.

Extended launch hours allowed Loon balloons in Peru to be launched 40% faster to accommodate the emergency situation, and this solution was both successful and revolutionary. These balloons brought the internet to tens of thousands of people suffering in flood zones, allowing for the organization of aid efforts as well as communication between families.

Loon balloons have the ability to erase disparities in internet access. This technology can greatly increase the percentage of the world with access to the internet. This organization proves that help can sometimes come from the most unexpected of places: in this case, the clouds.

Abigail Gray
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Companies Fighting for Women's Rights
Women around the globe are still fighting for a world in which they can receive equal treatment. In many developing countries, women are more vulnerable to human rights abuses and others often deny them opportunities to reach their full potential. Here are three technology companies fighting for women’s rights.

3 Tech Companies Fighting for Women’s Rights

  1. IBM: The multi-national technology company has celebrated the success of women throughout its history. IBM has had a female CEO since 2012 and has been strategic in empowering women throughout the company and around the globe. For International Women’s Day, IBM Systems Lab Services created a #BalanceforBetter campaign. The campaign engages employees around the world to advocate for women’s rights. IBM employees held up signs challenging stereotypes and biases, celebrating IBM women and supporting gender equality. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) gives women and girls across the globe the opportunity to thrive. Additionally, the organization supports organizations that serve women in 40 countries. These organizations support economic growth, health care and violence prevention among others. In Ghana, an IBM team paved the way for educating girls in rural communities. In Kenya, India and Mexico, IBM has supported organizations preventing violence against women. Additionally, in Peru, IBM supports initiatives increasing cervical cancer screenings. Through these efforts, IBM hopes to empower and protect women, while continuing to bridge the gap between women and STEM.
  2. Microsoft: For years, Microsoft has used its research technology for good to protect vulnerable populations. For example, the organization has partnered with WorldPop to count every person on Earth. By using Microsoft Azure, organizations can track the location and distribution of vulnerable populations. Microsoft hopes to aid in the creation of programs and policy changes that protect vulnerable populations and empower women. Microsoft researchers recognize that women are more vulnerable to poverty. However, they also recognize that pulling them out of poverty has exponential effects on their families and communities. In January 2020, Microsoft partnered with Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to launch a women empowerment campaign. Through this initiative, all organizations hope to empower women through the development of practical skills necessary for the workforce. Since 2014, Microsoft has also had an ongoing partnership with the Central Department for Community Development, aiming to tackle unemployment and economic issues through the empowerment of women in Egypt.
  3. Google: Another prominent tech titan among companies fighting for women’s rights is Google. The company equips young women with skills they need to thrive in the tech world and advocates for gender equality around the world. For example, Google’s partnership with Technovation Girls empowers young women around the globe to learn and develop technology that will impact their community. Technovation is a tech education nonprofit that empowers individuals to problem-solve, create and lead. Each year through its Technovation Girls program, the organization invites young women from all over the world and equips them to solve real-world problems through technology. Google is a platinum sponsor and has hosted these young innovators to pitch their apps at the company’s main campus in California for the chance to win scholarships. Additionally, in Google’s Arts and Culture section, the company has created a “Women in Culture” page, celebrating women in a variety of different fields. The page highlights women like Dolores Huerta, creator of the United Farm Workers, who advocated for the rights of impoverished farmers in Central America. It also features the unheard stories of women in India who have impacted Indian culture. Above all, the page champions women’s equality around the world, highlighting many unsung female heroes who have fought against injustice.

Why It Matters

An increase in women’s rights around the globe can have drastic effects on the global economy. According to U.N. Women, there is a very strong connection between empowered women and thriving economies. Providing women with job opportunities increases productivity and growth within economies. Supporting women through health care and education can also protect them from potential violence and discrimination. Large companies fighting for women’s rights have the potential to use their prominent platforms to advocate for women and to reflect these values within their own companies.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Internet Access Helps Impoverished Nations
As of 2018, 4.1 billion people currently have internet access. This is roughly 95 percent of the world’s 7.1 million population. According to a data graph constructed by Our World in Data, the majority of this internet access is in North America and Asia. Comparatively, on average only about 20 percent of the population of Africa has internet access. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of India’s population lives under the poverty line and only 26 percent of the country’s population has internet access. Internet access can help impoverished nations, though, which is why there are efforts to bring it to places it is not available currently.

Connecting the Globe

Providing a country with internet access is more than just access to the internet. It is also about global connections. is an organization that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created, which explains that the internet should be a global right. This is due to the wealth of information that the internet contains. Global Citizen also asserts that if Africa had access to the information that the internet provided, it may be able to jumpstart its infrastructure.

Causes of Lack of Internet Access explains the following reasons for lack of internet access across the world:

  • Countries do not have the proper infrastructure to provide their people with an internet connection. According to the United Nations (U.N.), however, the establishment of 3G networks could be one effort toward improvement.
  • A 3G network currently covers only 60 percent of the world. By 2020, the U.N. expects that 97 percent of the world will have full 3G coverage.

  • Cost is also a major factor because 13 percent of the world’s population currently lives under the poverty line.

  • People in these countries do not always have the skills necessary to properly use the internet. Also, 13 percent of the global population is illiterate.

  • Eighty percent of internet content is only available in 10 different languages and less than half of the global population speaks these languages.

Looking Toward the Future

Internet access can help impoverished nations see major improvements. Google created a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country of Nigeria in 2018. Global Citizen estimated that this could generate $300 billion for Africa’s total GDP by 2025. The Nigerian government is taking notice of the efforts led by Google. President Yemi Osinbajo visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and attended the launch of the Google hotspots, according to Global Citizen. This shows that an increase in technology not only improves conditions for a nation’s people but can also help local governments understand how internet access can reduce poverty.

Another way internet access can reduce poverty is by providing support for those suffering from poverty. Telecommunications company Vodafone launched Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club. Esoko states that the organization provides over 1 million farmers with phones. This allows access to numerous services including farming tips, weather updates and nutrition tips. According to Dela A. Kumahor, who served as a design expert on the project, research showed that farmers often feel restricted by their low amount of technology literacy and lack of business sense. According to The Guardian, Vodafone has done the research to show that mobile-focused agricultural services could lead to a $34 billion increase in 26 different markets by 2020. The service has also rolled out in Turkey, where 500,000 farmers have signed onto the project. This has led to a $100 million increase in farmer productivity.

Internet access can help impoverished nations that need relief. The internet provides jobs, services and connections that allow people, governments and industries the opportunity to help their countries fight global poverty. Improving agriculture and providing services are just two of the ways that internet access can reduce poverty.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Unconventional Education ProvidersPoor infrastructure contributes to the fact that one in five children around the world lacks access to quality basic education. In general, supporting basic education in specific regions requires a massive increase in basic infrastructure, teaching staff and educational supplies. In Turkey, the gap between the demand for education funding for Syrian refugee children and the actual amount received reached 43 percent. Due to conflict in the region, 70 percent of children are out of school. With so much content created and shared online, the internet now is a reservoir of knowledge. These unconventional education providers are trying to bring education to struggling areas through technology.

Unconventional Education Providers

Internet companies dominate online resources and access. Companies such as Microsoft and Google frequently cooperate with non-profit organizations for philanthropic purposes. The primary goal for many of these organizations is to offer accessible education through innovative solutions. Google, for example, made a five-year, $1 billion commitment to improve access to education through partnerships. In particular, Google contributed $5 million to Learning Equality and its offline educational platform Kolibri as a way to promote an innovative way of providing primary education.

Funded by Google, Kolibri is a free education solution that includes both device and content for users who have limited internet access. Content like KA Lite has been installed in 200 countries and reached 4.5 million learners. Besides the widely spreading installations, training personnel in these regions is another major objective for this unconventional education provider. Kolibri project inspired the implementation of a similar platform in Jordan where 10 learning hubs trained 40 Syrian refugees to be Kolibri coaches or coordinators within 10 days.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence provides internet companies with a distinct method in their mission to reduce poverty. In 2018, Microsoft initiated AI for Humanitarian Action, a five-year program funded with $40 million that applies artificial intelligence in poverty-related issues. Artificial intelligence can help NGOs in disaster response, childcare and education, the livelihoods of refugees and human rights.

Companies are working on ways to make AI even more efficient. In many impoverished areas, there is a shortage of qualified teachers. As AI continues to develop and improve, it will be able to perform more complex grading tasks. Companies are already working on translation software to offer more content to children in a variety of languages.

Women in Coding

Women suffer from gender inequality all around the world, but more so in impoverished regions. One of the ways to combat this is through acquiring an education. Some unconventional education providers are giving these women a way out of poverty through learning how to code. The nonprofit STEMbees is giving women and girls in Africa the chance to learn to code. In Lagos, Nairobi and Kampala, women engineers make up 30 percent of their total employment.

In short, via funding or technological support to other non-profit organizations, internet companies have become unconventional education providers. The technology they are developing gives impoverished people access to more knowledge at a lower cost. With so many connected online, it may be a good time to start thinking about how to use the internet to help to fight poverty.

Dingnan Zhang