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Social Media Affected Global Poverty
Social media has become a powerful presence in today’s world, with 3.48 billion people, 45 percent of the world’s total population, using social networks. Because social media can help get a message across or start many campaigns, people often use it to spread the word about things they are passionate about, including global poverty. Here are the five times social media affected global poverty.

Jonathan Acuff

Jonathan Acuff is an American author who runs a popular blog, StuffChristiansLike.net, that over three million people read. He has amassed a couple hundred thousand followers over all of his social media platforms, and they read his content daily. In 2010, Acuff garnered attention after he used his blog, Twitter and Facebook to raise $60,000, enough to build two kindergartens in Vietnam. His daughter saw a picture on the internet of an impoverished boy that shocked her, and he decided to post about needing $30,000 for a kindergarten in Vietnam as a result. He anticipated that it would take six weeks to raise the money. Through the power of social media, however, he managed to raise the money in a mere 18 hours, showing how powerful social media can be to spread awareness and help reduce global poverty.

Catapult

In 2012, Maz Kessler launched Catapult, the first crowdfunding platform for projects aimed at women and girls. Crowdfunding is when people fund a project by raising small amounts of money many people via the Internet. As the Guardian reports, “Catapult connects supporters to projects through social sharing, encouraging users to donate and track the progress of their donations.” Donations help women and girls living in global poverty around the world—from money going to building birth waiting homes for mothers in Sierra Leone to many global initiatives in Africa. So far, 432 projects have received crowdfunding and close to two million girls and women have received support. Catapult has a large following on social media with over 32,000 followers on Twitter, which shows how big of an impact crowdfunding through social media and the Internet can really have to make an impact to change the lives of those living in global poverty.

#ministermondays

In 2011, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda’s minister of health from 2011-2016, announced Monday with the Minister, or #ministermondays. This announcement meant that Rwandans would have the opportunity to ask Binagwaho and the Ministry of Health directly every other Monday and get responses about health programs in Rwanda. This hashtag serves as an example of how social media can be effective as a tool to educate and inform others about poverty happening around the world and in their own countries.

Omran Daqneesh

In 2016, a picture of a 5-year-old boy with his face drenched in blood and covered head to toe in a thick layer of dust surfaced online. This picture was of Omran Daqneesh, who had escaped a building in Aleppo that an airstrike hit. The Aleppo Media Center posted a YouTube video that contained the image and millions of people on social media quickly viewed, posted and shared it. The attention that the photo garnered on social media led to major news companies, such as NPR, picking up the story and sharing it. This picture raised awareness for the Syrian Civil War and how brutal the conditions were for innocent people and children living in Syria. This likely would not have happened without social media.

Global Citizen

Global Citizen is a movement with the goal to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. On its website and social media platforms, Global Citizen supporters, called Global Citizens, can learn about the causes of extreme poverty and take action by tweeting or sharing global issues happening in the present. By sharing and helping the global poverty cause, Global Citizens in return earn rewards, such as tickets to concerts or shows. So far, Global Citizen has impacted 650 million people worldwide, showing truly how social media can make an impact on causes such as global poverty.

These are just a few examples of how social media affected global poverty in a positive way. In today’s world, thanks to modern technology, people have the power to help others like never before.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Social Media and Poverty ReductionThe U.N. first asked “how can the international community best harness the power of media…to educate and transform?” in a 2017 conference. Although this requires a complicated answer, social media and poverty reduction can be connected by harnessing the power of information to foster development in a technologically advancing world.

The link is clear: the U.N. recognizes that there are many “opportunities for the media to play a strategic role for eradicating poverty.” This rests on the media’s ability to inform the public about poverty, in many cases by disseminating information through the voices of who have truly experienced it. This provides “an inclusive platform and an open forum to share the views and concerns of people living in vulnerable situations.”

 

Media and Poverty Reduction: Syrian Civil War

 

But what does this look like firsthand? When a video of a young Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh covered in rubble surfaced in 2016, millions of people disseminated the video through their social media channels hours after its publication. The New York Times called the video “an image of civil war,” as for many it humanized the violent events taking place far from home.

Sharing these shocking images can spur quick action. A different image, that of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned while leaving Syria for Greece, gained similar attention. Sharing it via social media had real outcomes: MercyCorps garnered $2.3 million for Syrian refugees in one month, compared to the $4.5 million raised in four years before.

The information-sharing that took place with these images spurred discussions about poverty and war on social media. In many cases, the power in information-sharing means that “the media can play a major role in developing public understanding of economic, social, and environmental issues: the three pillars of sustainable development,” according to the U.N.

 

Governments Utilize Connection Between Media and Poverty Reduction

 

Many organizations and governments are harnessing the power in social media and poverty reduction. Rwandan health minister Agnes Binagwaho provides an example with #Ministermondays. Every other Monday, Binagwaho opens a discussion via Twitter for people to voice their concerns about health in the country. Listening to real voices, she is able to craft policies using the experiences she absorbs through social media.

Others are doing similar work. An online social media platform called Digital Green provides farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia a network to discuss best practices for farming. Similarly, the World Bank Finances app ensures that sustainable development initiatives put funding into the correct hands, preventing fraud via social media.

Unlike other media sources, social media gives a voice to those who have lived in poverty by creating public platforms to spread experience. In this way, the media “affords individuals and communities the possibility to become active in the development process” by using social media platforms as safe spaces for discussion, according to the University of Namibia. Over time, this is generating “long-term suitability and sustainability” for poverty reduction.

Social media and poverty reduction works for other forms of development. Success for the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals largely rests on the power of the media, according to the U.N., based on its ability to instigate change with credible information sharing. And media hides other tools for poverty eradication; the University of Namibia explains that it also “creates a platform for non-violent discussion and issue resolution” to prevent conflict.

Social media and poverty reduction can be linked through holding guilty parties accountable for their actions. An established social media source known as I Paid a Bribe is doing just this; it creates a space to safely expose corruption in developing countries by text or email. Stories are shared without fear of retaliation, exposing illegal actions and fighting corruption.

 

Media and Poverty Reduction: Shortcomings

 

Even so, media does not always work in favor of poverty reduction; many argue that poverty is often given little coverage time via traditional media sources. For example, a study of three prominent U.S. nightly news sources found that in 14 months, an average of only 2.7 seconds in every 22-minute program mentioned poverty. And not all people are able to access social media channels; ending the digital divide that leaves four billion people without internet can harness the power of social media to share stories for reducing poverty.

In some cases, “the knowledge and experiences of people living in poverty are often undervalued” in the media, and “solutions to their own problems are ignored.” This can improperly portray real world experiences. Giving little recognition to those who have lived in poverty, according to the U.N., ultimately plays a role in distorting public perception and negatively influencing policies about poverty reduction.

Despite barriers, the U.N. explains that “the time has come for all policy actors to recognize and support the vital contribution of the media” in reducing poverty. Developing the tools that social media provides to reduce poverty, when done effectively, is gaining traction for development today.

And although Omran Daqneesh’s video alone can not end a civil war, his impact is igniting progress for sustainable development. In a world like today, change stems from diverse voices, making way for progress that was impossible only decades ago.

Cleo Krejci

Photo: Flickr