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Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan’s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan’s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

ZubaBox: An Innovation Bringing Internet to Remote AreasFor the technologically privileged, access to the Internet is considered a tool of our everyday lives. But out of the world’s entire population, only a third of people in developing countries have access to an Internet connection, according to a 2015 report by the International Telecommunications Union. Countries with no access to the Internet are disadvantaged economically, as they are do not have the knowledge and resources to widen their professional opportunities.

But the appearance of a container in remote areas, including refugee camps, has changed the lives of several marginalized communities. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe were finally able to bring digital literacy into their neighborhoods through a shipping container, also called ZubaBox, converted into a “solar-powered Internet café or classroom”.

“Zuba” means “sun” in Nyanja, a common language spoken in Malawi and Zambia, which refers to the solar power by which the Internet hub functions. In addition to being environmentally friendly, solar power is crucial for remote populations who often lack the electricity to benefit from standard technologies. The ZubaBox constitutes an innovation that benefits the most remote communities with no access to a stable power supply.

The organization fueling this technology is Computer Aid International, who decided to design the ZubaBox to enhance the online presence of remote rural areas. In each container, they provide refurbished PCs, visualisation cards, monitors, keyboards, mice, an Internet connection, mobile chargers, a ventilation system and benches.
The box can contain enough components for up to 11 individuals, which brings isolated communities together and develops a sense of inclusion. It also enables every individual to grow personally and professionally, which ultimately benefits the neighborhood as a whole. In fact, David Barker, former chief executive of Computer Aid, spoke about the technology as beneficial for doctors who need to contact specialists in the nearest city hospital, school children who want access to educational material or even local people who are looking for ways to expand their professional outlets.

By May 2016, Computer Aid had already placed its 12th Zubabox in a suburb of Bogota, Colombia. Another project on Computer Aid’s agenda is to build a box in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where 150,000 people found refuge after fleeing 20 different African nations. For the largest refugee camps in the world, having a ZubaBox could enable them to open up to the world and provide them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and find work once outside the camp.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

The Broadband Connectivity Gap: How the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Is Closing the Connectivity Gap in Developing Nations.Broadband and the World Wide Web as we know it are over 20 years old. The ability to go online, search among multiple URLs (or Uniform Resource Locators) and hyperlinks and find information with a few clicks is a relatively new phenomenon that has changed the world. But still, according to the International Telecommunications Unit (ITU), some 52 percent of the world’s population does not have access to the internet. The broadband connectivity gap arises due to the lack of broadband connection in developing nations.

In lacking broadband, developing nations are also lacking Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which enable communities to engage with others around the world. ICTs provide ease of cross-national communication and transfers of information and have been successfully implemented by multiple industries including education and healthcare. A study by Ericsson found that social and economic indicators of a country’s sustainability are closely correlated with ICT maturity, suggesting that investing in ICTs can drive social and economic development worldwide.

In 2010, UNESCO and ITU established the Broadband Commission for Digital Development to “boost the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda”. In 2015, the commission evolved into the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in response to the U.N.’s inception of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). In recognizing the importance of global broadband connection, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development targets four of the seventeen SDGs (education, gender equality, infrastructure, and partnerships) with the objective to reach these goals by 2030.

The Broadband Commission met on September 17, 2017, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly. In the State of Broadband 2017 Report, the ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao recognized “that accessibility to broadband is increasing with more affordable prices worldwide (but that) by the end of 2017… 3.9 billion people will still not be online and only 17 percent of people in developing countries will be connected.”

While it is projected that 3.58 billion of the global population will be online by the end of 2017 (up from 3.4 billion at the end of 2016) the disparity between developed and developing countries is apparent. Global household connections, for example, display a disparity with “rates varying between 18 percent for Africa and 84.2 percent for Europe in 2017.” But closing the broadband connectivity gap can bring immense benefits to the world: the ITU’s 2017 annual report details that every additional $1 of ICT infrastructure investment could bring a return of $5 in global GDP by 2025.

The developing world accounts for 95 percent of the people facing this coverage gap. In order to address this, the Commission facilitates a discussion between UNESCO countries and leaders across multiple industries on how to achieve global broadband access by 2030. In response to technological advances, the Broadband Commission enforces policy implementation that allows technologies to bring broadband to the benefit of countries experiencing a connectivity gap. Major cities in developing nations are seeing the first effects of broadband because their infrastructure can support it. Of the people who are not currently connected, 1.25 billion live in an area without 3G or 4G mobile coverage. In rural areas with minimal access and insufficient infrastructure, installation of broadband connectivity is necessary for developing technology to support further connectivity and finding solutions for future installations.

Mobile broadband networks, combined with the capabilities of smartphones, have enabled billions of people around the world to connect to voice and internet services. Now, nearly 50 percent of the world’s population has access to the technology needed to use these mobile networks. Leveraging this existing mobile infrastructure, according to the annual report, is the most cost-efficient way to bring more people online. Since 2010, mobile operators have invested $1.2 trillion in capital expenditure as they look to deploy mobile broadband networks and increase capacity. Much of these expenditures focus on developing the necessary infrastructure in remote areas to address the broadband connectivity gap. Digicel, for example, launched 4G services in Papua New Guinea in 2011 and now provides telecommunication services to nearly 500,000 previously unserved people.

The establishment of coverage in areas seeing a broadband connectivity gap is one thing, but bringing effective ICTs to the global community also requires the necessary speed and connection capabilities to encourage a sustainable user habit and contribute to affordability. Stronger connections to broadband networks support faster speeds and ease of access to the internet, which is where the fixed broadband networks come in. The ITU’s annual report highlights two specific satellite technologies that are “challenging conventional assumptions about speed, capacity, and latency.” High-Throughput Satellites (HTS) and Non-Geostationary Orbit Satellites (NGSO) support increased broadband capacity, faster speeds and lower costs for rural, non-connected areas.

HTSs are small satellite devices like balloons or drones that “fly just around 20 to 50 kilometers off the ground and deliver ‘surgically precise’ connectivity to specific locations.” Many established satellite companies like Intelsat, Inmarsat and Eutelsat have already developed connections using HTS technology. NGSOs operate anywhere from 500 to 2,000 kilometers above the earth in clusters that deliver a steady stream of broadband.

Reaching the goal of complete global connectivity by 2030 needs a combination of complementary technologies and policies enforcing their implementation. Notable companies like Facebook and Google have partnered with satellite companies to provide connectivity to some of the hardest to reach areas on the globe. Each new development, partnership and plan of action advances access to broadband for developing countries. These capabilities go further than just providing access to the internet: broadband connections also lend towards developments in maritime research, aviation technologies and energy developments, to name a few. Global connections lead to breakthrough developments in other sectors and will bring developing nations into a new era of invention and close the broadband connectivity gap.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

How Is Poverty ReducedMost modern technology is marketed towards the world’s wealthy, but that should not inhibit its potential to help the world’s poor. As prices fall and production increases, affordable and basic technology may be the solution for eradicating global poverty.

How is poverty reduced through basic technology? First and foremost, by understanding the realistic and productive uses for technology in a community and ensuring that it is relevant.

Too often there are stories of computers collecting dust in African classrooms, or new smartphone apps that can help impoverished people find work — in places where smartphones are unattainable. Despite the vast amount of information on the internet, it is hardly relevant to a rural family in a developing country and will rarely help them escape poverty. In reality, the technology that will help end poverty is more basic.

The United Nations is at the forefront of this vision, with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) working towards the global spreading of information and communications technology (ICT). Founded in 1996, the IICD has come a long way in understanding the pragmatic strategy needed for implementing modern technology in developing countries. The IICD has learned that “it is not the technology itself that makes the difference but rather the people who own it and apply it.” Therefore, helping people get the most out of ICT is now as equally important to the organization’s mission as introducing it.

The IICD works to apply ICT to health, economic and education sectors in different communities around the world. It’s main focus is in the context of helping the U.N. meet its Millennium Development Goals — an effort that the IICD has been at the center of. In short, the IICD works to instigate large-scale social change through low-tech, relevant technology.

Other organizations, such as Kopernik, work on a smaller scale to improve the lives of many through simple technology. Kopernik connects poor, rural families with basic, life-altering technologies that not only save lives, but also save money and time. These simple technologies include water filters, fuel-efficient stoves and solar lights.

Technologies such as solar lights are affordable and sustainable, and their usage is linked to positive behavioral changes and higher household productivity. Investing and distributing this basic technology should be a major priority, for it is fundamental to increasing human development and reducing poverty.

It is not to say that computers and the internet are not infinitely useful and powerful, but we should keep in mind that the internet won’t help a child if they only have access to contaminated water. So, perhaps the question of how to eliminate poverty has a simple answer: distribute relevant, basic technology.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Google

Healthcare in NigeriaIn Nigeria, the ratio of healthcare workers to citizens rests at 1.95 per 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. The unequal distribution and inadequate production of such workers create systematic challenges for healthcare in Nigeria.

One possible solution shortly, as put forward by Vodacom, is the Internet of Things (IoT). Vodacom is a communication company based in Africa and majority owned by Vodafone, one of the largest communication companies in the world. Kaduna, one of Nigeria’s 36 states, has recently partnered with Vodacom to launch a state-wide technology based healthcare system called SMS for Life 2.0.

This technology-based system is grounded in the Internet of Things, or the idea that “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” Technology is moving towards a future in which any given device can have a switch to the internet or other devices, including items like lamps, washing machines and other devices that historically have nothing to do with communication. The idea is that there will be increased opportunity for efficiency, productivity and safety.

What this looks like about healthcare in Nigeria, specifically the state of Kaduna, is more than 250 facilities currently using this digital form of healthcare with plans to implement it throughout the rest of the country, especially due to increasing chronic illnesses. Vodacom’s future goals include making essential medicines more available to citizens and more efficient healthcare delivery.

Lanre Kolade, managing director of Vodacom Business Nigeria, says, “IoT can be used to increase access to healthcare by extending the scope of care services to rural and hard-to-reach areas and ensuring that essential medicines are available where and when they are needed. This technology is powering connected medical services that enable healthcare professionals to diagnose and consult with patients and first responders remotely, no matter where they are.”

While systems implementing this idea of the Internet of Things allow for endless connections, it also includes challenges that society will have to wade through, such as security and privacy. The boundaries between helping people and monitoring their every move have yet to get explored.

Ellen Ray
Photo: Flickr

Activism on YouTube
Most of the millennial generation might remember the splash that “Kony 2012” made on the Internet, a video about Joseph Kony forcing child soldiers to fight his wars for him in Uganda. Regardless of the resulting conduct of the filmmaker, the film was a digital phenomenon, shared from every social media platform known at the time. There’s no mistaking the amount of awareness that the video generated. Kony 2012 was one of the first and most viral examples of activism on YouTube.

While bingeing on Netflix or finding the latest funny videos on YouTube can waste the day away, platforms such as YouTube also provide a unique space for creativity, art and passion that can easily be tied to activism and global issues. Whether it is a specific person or an organization, a YouTube channel can be the means to a movement. Below are some channels to get started with bineging on activism on YouTube:

  • Jacksgap: While this channel isn’t currently active, all of Jack and Finn Harries’ previous videos remain online, detailing their work and travel to support different charities and issues. Their videos showcase a blend of art and activism that is very well done. Jack Harries is currently traveling in Somalia to study the effects of climate change on the impoverished country.
  • The Uncultured Project: Now a charity, this is a channel run by Shawn Ahmed, designed to raise awareness about global poverty, initially while traveling around Bangladesh. He focuses his videos on a problem as well as a solution. Ahmed sends pictures to donors so they can see the direct impact of their donations.
  • Vlogbrothers: Brothers Hank and John Green, the latter being a famous young adult author, achieved their YouTube success with the idea of Nerdfighteria, which fights the stigma of “the nerd.” However, they also created the Project for Awesome, a way for their subscribers to advocate for charities by making their own videos.
  • Engage by Uplift: This channel advocates against sexual violence in all of its different forms. It seeks to educate and raise awareness for the various aspects of the issue and calls its viewers to action in every video. In terms of activism on YouTube, this channel is upfront and consistent.
  • Tyler Oakley: Oakley focuses on LGBTQ activism by working with The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention. Besides its activism on YouTube, his channel includes plenty of fun and light videos as well as collaborations with other users to keep viewers entertained.

While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, this list provides a basic starting point for seeing what activism on YouTube has to offer. Social media is a major part of life in modern society, and these channels have used it to make a change.

Ellie Ray

Photo: Flickr


One sign of growing wealth in merging markets of developing nations is the increase in use of the internet and digital devices. To provide a picture of the size and scope of this change, here are 10 facts about the internet in emerging markets.

  1. Between 2000 and 2017, internet use in Africa grew by 7,500 percent. In the Middle East, the increase was 4,200 percent, and in Latin America, 2,000 percent.
  2. By the end of last year, 47 percent of the world’s population had internet access; by the end of next year, 51 percent will be internet users, for a total of 3.82 billion people going online.
  3. The number of people going online through use of their mobile phone is increasing. More than 72 percent of internet users last year connected through a mobile phone, up 11.9 percent from 2015. Emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America are driving the growth of smartphone internet usage.
  4. The countries experiencing the most rapid growth in smartphone ownership are Turkey (at 42 percent) and Malaysia (34 percent), followed by Chile and Brazil, both at 26 percent.
  5. At the end of 2015, 54 percent of adults in emerging economies were on the internet, an increase of nine percent from 2013. That same year, 21 percent accessed the web through a smartphone. That percentage rose to 37 by the end of 2015.
  6. Internet penetration is especially strong in large emerging countries. At least 72 percent of adults in Russia and Turkey are online. The percentage dips slightly to 68 percent in Malaysia, then again to 65 percent in China and 60 percent in Brazil.
  7. The growth rate for the internet in emerging markets is particularly rapid in these large developing countries. Internet use in Turkey increased by 31 percent between 2013 and 2015. In that same period, Jordan experienced a 20 percent bump. Malaysia followed with a 19 percent increase. Chile, Brazil and China all experienced growth of 10 to 12 percent.
  8. Once online, internet users in emerging markets are more likely to use social networks than internet users from the U.S. and Europe. In the Middle East, 86 percent of internet users visit social networks; in Latin America it is 82 percent. By contrast, 71 percent of Americans online use social networks. The percentage drops to 65 in Europe.
  9. Social networking in emerging countries is especially strong in Jordan (90 percent of adult internet users), Indonesia (89 percent), the Philippines (88 percent), Venezuela (88 percent) and Turkey (87 percent).
  10. The rise in social networking as the use of the internet in emerging markets grows has been particularly swift in China. There, 63 percent of internet users in 2015 reported being social networkers, up 15 percentage points from 48 percent just two years earlier.

Increasing wealth in developing countries, especially large developing countries such as Russia, China and Turkey, is making it possible for more and more of their people to be connected. Continued growth will result in continuing communication and internet use around the world.

Robert Cornet

Photo: Flickr

Africa computer
More than one-quarter of Africa’s population, in excess of 341 million people, had access to the internet in 2016. This amazing advancement highlights and outlines the support for Africa’s industrialization, including improving its economy, education and attempt to decrease poverty.

A report released by the Internet Society (ISOC) during the Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue stated that African nations have been given the privilege to connect their people to incredibly useful resources, such as educational opportunities and healthcare.

ISOC is dedicated to ensuring development, evolution and use of the internet. It collaborates with other global community chapters and members to help promote technologies and keep the internet safe and secure.

The report entitled “The Internet for Education in Africa — Helping Policymakers to Meet the Global Education Goals” explains the significance of this improvement and how policymakers should consider the advancement in their educational systems.

“This represents a significant opportunity to use the Internet to provide education and learning opportunities,” the report said. The internet in Africa has begun to grow, and this report shows no signs of it slowing down.

On average, 49.6 percent of the world is connected to the internet. Now, 27.7 percent of Africa is on the internet, showing that the continent is taking the right steps to help connect with the rest of the world.

What helped this increase? Besides the international interest in Africa, mobile broadband and developments of submarine cables have allowed connectivity to expand and provide educational opportunities for thousands of children living in impoverished nations.

This advancement would not only advance education in Africa but also allow for a more competitive edge in Africa’s global economy.

“A skilled workforce that can use Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) effectively to solve Africa’s problems will also determine Africa’s competitiveness in the global economy,” explains Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society. “And policymakers have a critical role to play in creating the necessary ecosystem for integrating ICT in education.”

The report gives a framework of the advantages of the internet in Africa, such as getting rid of certain economic and social barriers to education (geography, race, gender and disabilities) and reaching a broader audience to educate students. This report highlights the possibilities that the internet in Africa can have on the continent and the world.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

How Global Internet Access Can Alleviate Poverty
In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg proposed that global internet access could be the answer to eradicating extreme poverty. From there he pledged to work with the U.N. in acquiring internet access for refugee camps and has continued to launch campaigns and work alongside organizations such as ONE in gaining further global support.

On November 19, Zuckerberg proposed policy recommendations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru where he addressed numerous world leaders and politicians. The summit concluded with unanimous support in implementing “accessible, open, interoperable, reliable and secure” global internet access.

Statistics have shown the dire need for internet access in developing countries and has compared accessibility to those in wealthier countries of which 81 percent of the population have internet access compared to a mere 15 percent in poorer countries. As much as 75 percent of Africa is disconnected and as a result, the issue has devolved to sexism in which women and adolescent girls are being further discriminated against with internet access. In fact, women in developing countries are “a third less likely” to receive internet access than males and the difference continues to increase.

ONE has recognized the separation in internet access that has been deepened by sexism and has created the Connectivity Declaration which will gather support for equal, global internet access. Thus far, 76 percent of ONE’s goal for backer support has been reached— that’s 75,839 names pledged out of 100,000.

By creating a way for global internet access, lives can be enriched and the effects of poverty lessened. At stake for individuals in poor countries with no internet access is a lack of education, limited health information and weakened job opportunities. In wealthy countries such as the U.S., the benefits that come alongside internet usage are taken for granted. In Africa, for example, a pregnant woman could benefit from having internet access in order to receive pregnancy advice and farmers could utilize the internet to predict weather forecasts in order to optimally maintain their crops and income.

Zuckerberg has been a long-standing advocate for widening internet access and has joined the U.N. initiative in eradicating poverty by 2030. The Facebook CEO supports the need for global internet access by claiming that the Internet gives “a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.”

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Global educationEdmodo is an online leader in global education networks for students, teachers, administrators, and parents across the world. Often referred to as “Facebook for school,” Edmodo bridges borders and continents to globally connect educators and learners.

Edmodo was launched in 2008 in Chicago, Illinois by two school district employees working in their respective technology departments. Now, according to their website, the program has over 65 million users in 370,000 schools worldwide.

Jeff O’Hara, one of the founders of the project, noticed the number of social networking and media sites he had to block while working for his school’s Information and Technology Department. He wanted to find a way to integrate the social media aspect of students’ lives back into the classroom. O’Hara and Nic Borg designed Edmodo to give teachers and students a safe and productive tool in social learning.

Edmodo constructs its features with teacher input. Every year the company holds a professional development conference, called EdmodoCon, for its international community. The online platform even partnered with Sony Global Education, Inc. to launch a global math literacy campaign. Twice a year, the partners hold a worldwide math competition which is available to students and teachers in 190 countries.

The network adheres to its global community by being available in six different languages and providing in-post translations. Edmodo has features that facilitate discussions between educators, consolidate assignments for students, and provide a marketplace for teachers to share or sell resources.

Through Edmodo, teachers are able to connect their classrooms with classrooms across the globe. Students learn about other customs and cultures in lessons that deeply engage their interests. Edmodo has been used for modernized ‘pen-pal’ projects – students in different countries share their hobbies and classrooms partner online to delve into a subject from another perspective.

Edmodo gives teachers around the world free access to educational resources and a platform for global communication with other teachers. Bringing together the global education community, Edmodo allows teachers from across the globe to share ideas, receive feedback and grow professionally by learning from one another.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr