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

Kopernik: Using Technology to Improve the Developing WorldBillions of people all over the world lack the technology allowing them access to light, fuel friendly cooking and clean drinking water. This is why Kopernik, a nonprofit technology company, is working to distribute simple, life-improving technologies to the world’s poorest communities.

The company provides these communities with items such as water filters, solar power lights and cooking stoves. Nicolaus Copernicus is the organization’s namesake since Kopernik is meant to be a catalyst for change and new ways of seeing the world. Kopernik distributes the best technology for the developing world through sourcing, connecting and reinvesting.

Kopernik uses its website to spread awareness about its technology. In response, countries submit proposals for the items they need the most. Then Kopernik publishes projects on the website in order to raise funds.

Once the projects are fully funded — usually by donors — Kopernik ships the technology to its local partners. People then buy that technology at an affordable price through those local partners.

Next, the local partners repay the money from technology sales to Kopernik. This money is then reinvested into new technology. Kopernik also works with local partners to assess the technology’s impact and share feedback with technology producers.

Kopernik is a nonprofit organization with a for-profit arm. The for-profit part of the organization is a consulting firm that works with technology companies in product development. The profits from the consulting business are then channeled toward the nonprofit operations.

Kopernik receives funding from companies, government development programs and individuals. Its partners also provide in-kind support such as free or discounted services. This keeps the organization’s operating costs low.

Kopernik is helping women access clean birth supplies and information about safe birthing practices. For example, in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh as well as Laos, the nonprofit provides JANMA clean birth kits to women. These birth kits contain sterile tools to reduce the risk of infection during childbirth.

In Vietnam, the organization has also connected 90 families with hearing-impaired children with affordable hearing aid technology. This makes it possible for children to learn to speak and form a better bond with their families and communities.

So far, Kopernik has served 396,325 people and distributed 90,359 technologies. It has funded 170 projects and reached 26 countries, among them Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ghana and Nigeria.

According to Patrick Vinck of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, “New applications of technologies to humanitarian action may be the most important factor influencing humanitarian effectiveness over the next decade.” In this regard, Kopernik’s emphasis on technology distribution represents great gains for the world’s anti-poverty organizations with only more progress to come.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Wonder Women Initiative Takes Off in Indonesia
For decades, the iconic comic book superheroine Wonder Woman has been a representation of justice, strength and all that is right in the universe. Today, the spirit of Wonder Woman is as present as it has ever been, but it has been breathed into the organization titled, appropriately, Wonder Women. In 2015, it is this plural variation of the legendary superhero’s name that resonates the most with global change.

The Wonder Women Initiative is a movement to revitalize poverty-stricken areas by teaching the women of these communities to sell new pieces of technology and equipment to their neighbors and members of their towns or villages. The effort has been especially successful in Indonesia over the last few years. Some of the items sold include solar lanterns, clean cookstoves and water filters.

An article by CNBC detailing the Wonder Women program recently said, “Since the program started in 2011, more than 300 women have become ‘micro-social-entrepreneurs,’ selling around 10,000 clean technology products to their communities.” The Wonder Women initiative has been extremely successful because of its grassroots approach to eradicating poverty. This project operates under the umbrella of the large non-government organization Kopernik.

Kopernik was founded on the belief that only a simple piece of technology can drastically turn around poverty situations all over the world. The NGO’s website provides certain statistics such as “780 million people live with dirty water, when a simple filter can provide safe, clean, convenient drinking water” and “1.3 billion people rely on dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene for lighting, when simple solar lanterns can provide clean, bright light at night.” Kopernik receives money directly from donors all over the world and in turn, uses these funds to produce cost-effective technology products that can be sent to third world countries and commercialized by an initiative like Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is impacting thousands of lives every year and revitalizing the way nonprofits work. By teaching women how to sell technology at cost-effective prices within their communities, Wonder Women is positively affecting the global economy. Kopernik has a quote on its site that reads, “Our namesake, Nicolaus Copernicus, changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.” Much like its namesake, Wonder Women is promoting justice and all that is right with the world.

Diego Catala

Sources: CNBC, Kopernik
Photo: Dorkly