Poverty With AI
With the rapid emergence of widely accessible Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots, such as Chat GPT, it is getting easier for small organizations to leverage the power of AI in everyday use as technology becomes less expensive. Charities can now take advantage of the accessibility of AI to greatly benefit philanthropy and fundraising to effectively carry out their roles and aid in the fight against global poverty.

Fighting Poverty with AI

Artificial Intelligence has already helped combat global poverty around the world. The founding director of the Sandford Poverty & Technology Lab, Elisabeth Mason, says that technology and the emergence of AI “puts us in a better position to solve issues we’ve never been able to solve.” While Mason claims that technology alone may not be able to fully eliminate poverty, the involvement of other factors such as low education levels, lack of workplace skills and unaffordable food and resources could help the world fight poverty with AI.

Some researchers are using AI to track impoverished zones most in need. One impactful example of how AI has helped combat global poverty is in 2020, when Marshall Burke, David Lobell and Stefano Ermon led a team of researchers at Stanford to develop a powerful tool that uses AI to track the development of poverty levels across villages in Africa. They managed to achieve this by combining AI with satellite imagery that is both free and accessible to the public, which allowed them to be able to predict poverty in these areas with an accuracy between 81% and 99%.

Another way scientists have integrated AI into techniques for combating poverty is by improving agriculture. According to the World Bank, almost 65% of working adults living in poverty rely on agriculture, as there is an intricate link between global poverty and agriculture. Sending aid and resources can only do so much for helping the world’s poor, and thus it is vital to invest in the agriculture sector to give farmers a way to elevate their financial status, as investments in the agricultural sector produce four times more effective results in poverty reduction than any other economic sector.

Agricultural development is a powerful poverty-reduction tool, and therefore, Carnegie Mellon University launched FarmView as a project to solve the global food crisis and fight poverty with AI. FarmView essentially uses robotics that AI powers to improve the agricultural yield of certain staple crops and plant breeding, especially sorghum. Sorghum is tolerant of both drought and heat, which is valuable in developing countries like Nigeria, India and Ethiopia as it thrives in famine-prone parts of the world.

Taking Advantage of AI

These new emerging techniques to fight poverty with AI could mean significant developments for charities that are advocating for the world’s poor. Here is a list of measures that charities may take to adopt AI into their battles against poverty and better improve their organization and techniques for fundraising and philanthropy:

  1. Targeted Outreach: As seen with the example from Stanford, charities can use AI to analyze past and current data on poverty levels to provide helpful information by identifying individuals and communities most in need and delivering services and necessities to the poor. This allows charities to target their efforts and reach a wider range of people living in poverty more effectively.
  2. Virtual Assistants and Chatbots: Charities can use AI-powered chatbots and other types of virtual assistants to aid in technical tasks that would make the operation of the charity smoother and more effective. For example, chatbots can help answer frequently asked questions, provide information on different services and collect donations.
  3. Predictive Modeling: Charities can help analyze poverty-related factors, including unemployment and rising costs of living, to predict future trends and needs. This can help with planning for future challenges and allow charities to allocate resources accordingly.
  4. Fraud Detection: Detecting fraud can be easier than ever, as accessible AI is able to analyze patterns of donations, identify suspicious activity and prevent charities from losing funds.
  5. Automation: Charities can also automate certain manual labor tasks to fortify the process of running a charity, including data entry, which allows charities to redirect funds and savings to other poverty-related efforts, and ensure the smooth operation of the charities.

The Beginning of a New Era

Charities have already begun adopting AI into their operations, and they will only continue to explore the possibilities technology can bring to fight poverty with AI. Tech giant IBM, for instance, has partnered up with the nonprofit organization St John’s Bread & Life to establish the Emergency Food Best Practice project. With the organization helping “serve more than 2,000 meals a day” in New York, IBM plans to develop a tool based on the data and distribution model of St. John’s Bread & Life and share it with other organizations to produce results benefiting those most in need.

– Noura Matalqa
Photo: Flickr

Cryptocurrencies, online banking and mobile phones are the tools of the 21st century to combat global poverty. For Africa, these technological innovations may be the help necessary to get the world’s most concentrated area of impoverished people out of poor living conditions. Here is some information about Africa’s tech industry.

Tech Hubs in Africa

Africa’s tech industry has picked up pace in development over the last few years as international companies invest in local start-ups, creating technological hubs throughout the continent. With these tech hubs sprouting up throughout Africa, some of the poorest countries in the world are now able to access the internet, online banking and other digital enterprise advantages. There are more than 600 tech hubs across Africa providing jobs, resources and digital technologies. The three largest tech hubs in Africa are in Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya.

In Nigeria, there are 90 tech hubs providing internet to 122 million people accounting for 20% of all of Africa’s internet use. South Africa is home to 78 tech hubs with nearly 30 million people having access to mobile internet. As for Kenya, there are 50 tech hubs within the country, where more than 200 startups are operating with a total combined value of more than $1 billion.

The Necessary Basics

Although tech hubs provide internet access to many areas in Africa, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that some countries like Rwanda and Nigeria have a high percentage of access to the internet. However, only 28% of Africa’s overall population uses the internet. 

This hurts the potential benefits that people can gain from these advancements because with all the innovations sprouting up throughout the world today, the first tool necessary in technological economic advancement is access to the internet. Without internet access, many programs such as online banking apps or AgTech innovations could not function. For Africa to utilize the growing tech industry on its home front, basic technological infrastructure must undergo intercontinental establishment.

Technology, Not Poverty

With such a large number of developing countries on one continent, the issues surrounding global poverty are ever-more pertinent. Africa is home to the top impoverished nations in the world, with nearly 70% of all the world’s poor people living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Innovation, and the digital information technology that accompanies it, has become a necessary component of any effort to address such challenges as food security, education, health, energy, and competitiveness,” IMF reported. “Africa must shift its focus to retaining and creating wealth, better managing its resources, fostering inclusiveness, moving up on global value chains, diversifying its economies, optimizing the energy mix, and placing human capital at the center of policymaking.”

In many African nations, the poverty rates are increasing due to COVID-19. However, the pandemic has also provided the opportunity for these countries to accelerate their technological advancement in areas such as health, education and financial technology. As the pandemic pushes Africa’s acceleration in technological advancement, it has affected FinTech.

New Tech Programs to Help Develop Africa

One of the most significant investment programs happening in pan-Africa’s technological ecosystem is through the Global Innovation Initiative Group (GIIG), which recently started a $100 million program funding local tech start-ups in Africa. It aims to bring Africa up to speed in global network connectivity within the borders of Africa.

IBM, a global powerhouse in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), has recently expanded its operations for cloud services in Africa, working with the pan-African bank, Ecobank, to provide online banking services to 33 countries.

A blockchain currency banking start-up in Africa, called KamPay, will soon launch in seven countries allowing more than 50 million potential users to make daily transactions with businesses and individuals. The company will be launching an “e-voucher system” for farmers to access means for growing crops more affordable, as a recent Forbes article has explained.

With the push from outside investors, international monitoring and local support, Africa’s tech industry is beginning to implement into the lives of the poor, giving them the tools and resources to lift themselves into a better standard of living. Only time and future investments and development into Africa’s tech world will prove how its innovative solutions in the fight against global poverty will spread.

Ali Benzerara
Photo: Flickr

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

Technology in Mexico
Mexico’s image tends to receive negative portrayal in news reports depicting violence and crime. However, advancements of technology in Mexico provide an alternate image of the country as a pioneer in the Latin American technological scene. Here are five key facts that represent the country’s incredible achievements.

Guadalajara is a Growing Tech Hub

Located in Jalisco, Guadalajara presents itself as Mexico’s own Silicon Valley due to its massive community of 600 tech companies, 35 design centers and four research centers. With this cluster of tech companies, Jaslico exports more than $148 billion tech products to global consumers.

Guadalajara houses 13 universities such as Tecnologico de Monterrey, which graduates 85,000 students in IT yearly. This is especially notable considering that the city has 78,000 employed IT professionals, 57 percent of whom come from Guadalajara, presenting an excellent investment into the growth of the Mexican IT community for a sustainable tech hub.

Technological Outsourcing and Nearshoring Favors Mexico’s Location

Up until the 1990s, outsourcing in Mexico existed mostly in manufacturing capacities, such as Ford manufacturing at the south of the border. Now, thanks to the startup movement in the 2010s, Mexico is also an outsourcing hub for nearshoring. This is the process of conducting business operations in a nearby country that shares the same time zone. This results in convenience, consistency and better collaboration. For example, border neighbors such as the U.S. and Mexico adopt this relationship in software development companies such as ITexico, which have relationships with U.S. clients such as McDonalds and IBM. With low labor costs and a thriving technological community, companies such as ITexico with revenues of $5 million view Mexico as a great source of outsourced nearshoring.

Technology in Mexico Receives Vast Amounts of Venture Capitalist Investments Yearly

From 2014-2016, the U.S. invested nearly $120 million into 300 Guadalajara startups. In 2017, out of all Latin American countries, Mexico received one-quarter of total investment at $80 million in funding for 59 venture deals. Viewing investments from a grander scale, nearly 1,900 venture capitalists received $22 billion in investments between 2010 and 2018.

Investments per company vary between $80,000 – $120,000. Companies such as Voxfeed provide investors with a great return on investment considering its $2 million in revenue.

Such financial growth benefits the Mexican economy as it is currently the world’s 11th largest economy. It has the potential to gain $245 billion GDP by 2025, and the possibility of being the world’s largest economy by 2050.

Fintech Growth in Mexico Surpasses Other Latin American Countries

In 2017, Mexico led Latin America with the growth of 80 Fintech companies in 10 months, amounting to a total of 238, and ahead of Brazil which had 230. In 2018, Mexico retained its lead with 394 Fintech startups, still ahead of Brazil which had 380.

Fintech is continually growing thanks to entrepreneurship to create Fintech startups, as well as low banking and lending. For instance, 44 percent of the population does not use any banking products.

In this sense, growth not only increases the size of this sector but also aids the Mexican population in becoming more financially secure with platforms like Konfio that assists individuals and businesses with access to affordable loans.

Aside from Fintech expanding the function of technology in Mexico, investors such as Goldman Sachs view the sector as an opportunity for growth. Just recently, in September 2019, Goldman Sachs invested $100 million into Konfio, a small business loan lender. This allows $250 million in loans to 25,000 companies.

Technology in Mexico Advances With New Urban Landscapes

As Mexico advances technologically, the city landscape in Guadalajara does so to sustain a future generation of tech. As part of the 2012 Ciudad Creativa Digital project, the city has undergone construction to reinvent the historic district of Parque Morelos with the aim of creating a more urban, media/tech center and a 21st-century creative workspace. Developers envision Guadalajara with new educational and cultural institutions such as the Digital Creative Institute, as well as a Middle School in Visual Arts. On a cultural scale, institutions such as The Mexican Marketing Museum and Media Center engage the public to learn more about media. Outdoor theatres, pools and playgrounds provide a recreational experience.

By investing in this new landscape, Mexico will tap into the $1.5 trillion media and entertainment sector. Allowing more revenue, jobs and new technology to overall ensure a durable urban fabric to foster the growth of media in Mexico.

These five facts prove the successes of technology in Mexico in the forms of a new tech hub, nearshoring, venture capital investment, Fintech growth and a media/tech-oriented environment. Such successes in investing and growing a solid tech foundation will allow the country to sustain a future in the continuously digitizing world.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Artificial Intelligence and Poverty

Artificial intelligence (AI) has forever changed the way society interacts with technology. It has provided limitless opportunities for problem-solving in the last decade, and the relationship between artificial intelligence and poverty reduction may be one worth fostering.

In 2007, the iPhone had first made its appearance on the world stage. Since its release, phone-based computer programs (apps) have evolved from simple games like Space Invaders: Infinite Gene, to industry-upsetting business models like Uber.

Since apps began to use algorithms to create relatively simple artificial intelligence (AI), computation has become vital to leading businesses and organization. Ten years ago, AI was almost entirely task-based, but a new form of AI—known as deep learning—has garnered more attention in the past few years.

Instead of a programmer telling how a certain machine should do a task, deep learning AI uses neural networks which actually teach the computer (or other deep learning AI) how to complete tasks in the most efficient manner. What makes it so special is that deep learning is faultless, and, with enough computation resources, can learn things faster than humans.

Does this finally mean that the age of robots is upon us? The easy answer is yes. Deep learning machines have now outplayed people in chess, Go (widely considered to be the most complex game in the world) and are possibly are going to try to beat humans at StarCraft, a multiplayer video game. But AI can disrupt the world’s economy in significant ways. Corporations use it to trade in the financial sector; write articles for newspapers; diagnose health disorders and diseases and do manual office work. It has even recreated a Nobel prize-winning physics experiment.

In the last decade, we have discovered that deep learning AI and AI has infinite potential. So, the question goes, how will artificial intelligence and poverty correlate? Can AI reduce poverty? In general, it should. Never in the history of mankind have we let machines do this type of work for us, so we have no precedents to build off of. Additionally, because deep learning machines are only just coming onto the marketplace, new obstacles may appear as we continue AI research.

However, people are beginning to harness this extremely powerful tool for the poor, and the work sounds promising. At the moment, AI is especially useful for data mining simple statistics: which areas need more development, which people require more education and how they can receive it, etc. Having to collect this data manually would be a time-intensive task that would also be incredibly expensive.

However, there are also more complex uses for AI, such as agricultural research for poor farmers. Tech giant IBM is working on an operations research robot that will optimize transporting food aid around the globe. Improvement of artificial intelligence and poverty reduction are thus parallel goals for these major corporations.

In addition, IBM is also working on a novel illiteracy project. If eventually implemented, it will allow people to learn how to read without the assistance of a teacher by having a computer analyze something that a student of any age might find in their daily life (such as a flower). The computer would then display the written word while playing the sound for it. This would allow people to learn how to read wherever they are, whenever they have time.

Of course, these are all leading edge uses when talking about artificial intelligence and poverty. While engineers continue to work on the technical aspects of the technology, the U.N. is preparing for the change in methodology in battling poverty by holding AI summits. Twenty U.N. agencies have and will continue to discuss issues pertaining to the Millennium Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals in relation to AI.

The potential to significantly diminish poverty with these new technologies is very high. It might take humanity decades before AI is actively fighting poverty, but when it does, it will most likely help eradicate it.

One main challenge of AI is to make sure that we can control it. Futurologist Elon Musk, along with world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and many AI experts have signed an open letter warning the U.N. against the use of AI-powered weapons, as they can potentially develop their own ethics standards and kill humans ceaselessly, regardless of their affiliation. Even though this warning specifically targets militarized robots, it is a cautionary tale: we need to tread carefully when using new technology, which is why AI will only truly take off several years into the future.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

IBM is investing $70 million in building digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills among youth in Africa in order to support a 21st-century workforce. The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa,” will provide a cloud-based learning platform offering free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youth over the next five years. The IBM investment is part of their global push to equip the next generation with the skills needed for “New Collar” careers, a term used by IBM to describe non-traditional careers that require sought-after skills in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science, cloud and more, rather than a traditional four-year college degree.

The IBM investment will offer programs ranging from basic IT literacy to advanced IT skills development to enable digital competence and sprout innovation in Africa. The platform is geared to raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs to grow businesses around new digital solutions.

The program will run through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix and will allow users to learn a wide range of skills, from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills. Users will even have access to career-oriented topics including programming, cybersecurity and data science. The initiative aims to empower African citizens by giving them the educational tools to design, develop and launch their own digital solutions. The program will run in English and is completely free of charge.

In Africa, just 25% of people have a bank account, but 75% have access to a mobile phone. There is no doubt that technology plays a huge part in Africa’s future development, and that with this much-needed technological revolution will come an influx of job opportunities. Programs such as that from the IBM investment will ensure that the youth of Africa are equipped for such opportunities that are quickly arising.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Investing in Developing Countries
While some view developing countries as hopeless, others see in them the potential for investment. Despite their struggles, many developing countries are growing at faster rates than wealthy and middle-income countries as their working age populations increase and larger shares of people gain access to education. Below are five American companies that are investing in developing countries.

  1. Amazon
    In June 2016, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos pledged that Amazon would up its planned direct investment in India from $3 billion to $5 billion. Amazon has already built 21 fulfillment centers and has employed large numbers of Indians in positions ranging from courier to researcher and developer. According to Bezos, India is Amazon’s fastest growing market.
  2. Enviro Board
    Enviro Board is a New Jersey-based company that specializes in producing cheap and environmentally friendly panels, “e-boards,” that can be used to construct houses. In 2014, Enviro Board agreed to launch a joint venture with a local Zambian corporation, Africapaciti Investment Group. The agreement involved building over 6,000 houses a year and re-investing a significant portion of the profits into worthy causes.
  3. Cummins
    Cummins is an American manufacturer of power generation equipment. Since 1962, it has been present in India via a joint venture, and today it employs almost 10,000 workers there. It also has a broad footprint in Africa, with representation in 51 out of 54 African countries. It has supported technical education and gender equality in Africa as well.
  4. IBM
    In 2012, IBM set up a global research lab in Nairobi, Kenya. The lab’s researchers focus on finding solutions to the challenges Africa faces, particularly those relating to education, human capital development and sanitation. In 2015, IBM Research Africa added a South African branch through collaboration with a local university. The researchers there are making use of Watson, IBM’s signature cognitive computing system, as they address the continent’s major issues.
  5. Coca-Cola
    Reduced to being one of the poorest countries in Asia by decades of autarkic military rule, Myanmar has courted foreign aid aggressively since it began to open up to the outside world in 2011. In 2012, Coca-Cola entered Myanmar after a 60-year hiatus by opening a new bottling plant there. The plant put the cap on an ambitious plan for $200 million in direct investment in the country over five years.

Whether it be through research and development, direct investment in production facilities or support for training programs, American companies investing in developing countries can help improve people’s lives. As potential consumers, people living in developing countries may also become major assets to the American economy in the future.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Flickr

Machine Learning
In today’s information age, the most abundant resource has quickly become information itself, more specifically data. By 2010, the world had created 1.2 zettabytes (1.3 trillion gigabytes), an equivalent to 75 million 16 GB iPads. By 2016, the world completely surpassed this, creating 90 percent of all data in just the last two years. 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day.

These numbers are much too large for any single person to comprehend, but with the help of technology and machine learning the data can help optimize transportation in cities, predict the stock market and diagnose diseases, along with a vast amount of other tasks. Big data has largely been a tool for the developed world; however, there is plenty of potential for it to become a key factor in ending poverty.

In August, Stanford researchers published a paper on using satellite imaging and machine learning to track and measure poverty throughout Africa. Accurate measurement of poverty in Africa was extremely lacking as “39 out of 59 African countries conducted fewer than two surveys to measure poverty” between 2000 and 2010, according to The World Bank.

Previous strategies for measuring poverty also included tracking mobile phone usage and satellite photos of lights at night; however, phone data was not always available and nighttime light data could not differentiate between poverty and extreme poverty levels.

Instead, the Stanford researchers used daytime images of development, such as paved roads, farms, metal roofs, along with nighttime light intensity data to measure poverty. They input the data into a computer model to map out poverty levels throughout the test countries, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Rwanda. Using methods such as these, African governments and NGOs will be better equipped to design policy and find areas most affected by poverty.

Furthermore, one of the most famous machine learning tools is IBM Watson, a supercomputer that uses advanced software to answer questions. In 2014, IBM launched Project Lucy, a mission to bring Watson to Africa and use the artificial intelligence to help solve the problems surrounding “health care, education, water and sanitation, human mobility and agriculture.”

More generally, scientists predict that machine learning has the potential of predicting the future and keeping watch over society. More specifically, the technology has the capability of forecasting underperforming crops in developing countries and situations that will call for an international convention.

Using biometric data, governments, especially that of India, hope to identify all citizens and ensure they can receive subsidies and benefits, helping to end inefficiency and corruption.

Machine learning is clearly a revolutionary technology, but its true potential is still unclear. So far, it acts as an aid to researchers, aggregating data and producing summaries.

However, machine learning could even advance to levels of innovating on its own. For example, instead of diagnosing a disease, machine learning could help find the cure to one. In the next decade or so, the world will wait and see where this amazing technology can take it.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

African Skills Initiative Receives US $60 Million Investment
International Business Machines Corps (IBM) has announced its investment of $60 million in the African Skills Initiative. This investment will fund the development of the next generation of technical experts for the next three years.

With this investment, IBM plans to expand its Africa University Program and the Africa Technical Academy to more than 20 countries.

Dr. Naguib Attia, IBM Chief Technology Officer and VP Technical Leadership MEA says, “With a research laboratory, innovation centers, offices and other advanced facilities in more than 24 African countries, IBM has the highest concentration of technical talent on the African continent. As the leader in science and technology in Africa, we see it as IBM’s responsibility to make a strategic investment in skills development helping to lay the foundations of the Africa of tomorrow.”

IBM is teaming up with the Kenya Education Network to deliver certification courses to students and faculty studying and teaching in the 50 universities already in the Africa University Program network. In such a fast-paced and growing market such as Kenya, the African Skills Initiative will benefit the population greatly.

These courses will develop and enhance the students’ readiness to enter the job market. With a focus on what happens in the work world, students will be prepared and feel more qualified for the technical workspace.

The expansion of the program will benefit IT professionals in Africa. The program focuses on teaching skills in cloud, analytics and huge data technologies. This kind of training is an important step for the next phase of social and economic development in Africa.

It is very likely that IBM may offer employment to students who graduate from these courses with impressive scores. This would give incentive to people in Africa not only to receive an education but to also start their careers as IT professionals.

IBM’s latest project is focused on the next generation of technology and experts than its current business. With its current services such as software development, assistance and software products, IBM foresees that more IT professionals will be beneficial in the future.

With the expansion of the Africa University Program and the Africa Technical Academy, IBM is encouraging individuals to receive an education. With this education, they gain a greater chance of being employed by IBM.

The movement toward technology can already be seen today. As IBM predicts, the world will only become more dependent on technology. With this surge in technology, more IT professionals will be needed.

IBM’s investment of $60 million in the African Skills Initiative will fund the education of the IT professionals of tomorrow. But it will also educate people that are in need of the many jobs to come in the IT world. This initiative will further not only the world of technology but the lives of people.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Bidness, KTen
Photo: IT News Africa

IIBM's Solar Sunflower
IBM has worked with Swiss company Airlight Energy to create an advanced solar electricity generator called the High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system. The prototype was officially unveiled in Zurich in September 2014.

The system looks like a solar sunflower, shooting 33 feet into the air and topped off with a massive dish consisting of 36 wafer-thin aluminum mirrors and a lattice of tubes carrying coolant throughout the device. What is especially notable about the system is that not only can it produce electricity, but it can also desalinate water for sanitation and drinking purposes.

Featuring an advanced sun tracking system that angles the dish to optimize its solar capacity and an effective hot-water cooling system, the device can convert up to 80 percent of the sun’s radiation into electricity. Each chip produces up to 57 watts and each generator about 12 kilowatts of electricity, up to 20 kilowatts on a sunny day; enough energy to supply numerous homes. In comparison, typical flat panel photovoltaic solar systems, also known as solar panels, have conversion efficiency ratings of only 15 to 20 percent.

Currently approximately 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and while 2.5 billion people have no access to proper sanitation. What is even more alarming is that the number of people who lack access to proper sanitation is estimated to increase by nine percent each year.

IBM’s solar sunflower can combat both issues by making electricity while also providing clean, drinkable water. The cooling system is particularly useful for the desalination of water. The device utilizes hot water in combination with the desalinators to boil salt water and distill the liquid into potable water. As such, an installation featuring several generators is estimated to be able to provide enough desalinated water to supply an entire town.

Areas of interest for the device include southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Southwestern part of North America, South America, Japan and Australia. In addition, the system could be used at remote hospitals and medical facilities, and even for commercial purposes such as for hotels, holiday resorts and shopping centers.

Designed to keeps costs low, manufacturing costs will be a third of the cost for similar current solar converters and, because many of the materials will be sourced locally, the device can provide work for local communities. The device is projected to be released by 2017. IBM has announced that it will install the first two devices for free in 2016 and has asked for towns around the globe to submit their names for consideration.

– William Ying

Sources: IBM, The Guardian, Forbes, Computerworld NewScientist
Photo: Flickr