Nanotechnology is Alleviating PovertyIn its most basic sense, the concepts behind nanotechnology were formulated by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman in 1959. Over the past four decades, nanotechnology has made significant advancements and research is expanding as costs are falling. Because of these innovations, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty worldwide.

Using Nanosensors for Water Management in Agriculture

Whether mechanical or chemical, nanosensors use tools to detect minor changes in chemical composition and relay information to change the dynamics of whatever they are monitoring. Nanosensors use artificial intelligence and computing to make adjustments as soon as any predicaments arise. Because of their sensitivity and small scale, nanosensors can detect problems well before other outdated instruments.

In a study for sustainable agriculture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts nanotechnology is alleviating poverty issues such as food insecurity. The OECD study concluded that nanosensors effectively detect changes in moisture across fields of crops. They then automatically adjust the disbursement of water and eliminate water waste while preventing crop losses. Farm machines outfitted with nanosensors detect moisture levels in different crops and suggest better-suited areas for specific crops allowing farmers to change planting patterns or change water allocations to other land plots.

Nanofiltration Membranes Provide Clean Drinking Water

Access to clean water is a crisis that many developing countries face. Usually, the first issue dealt with when fighting poverty is economic development so regulations are not often in place to protect against pollution. In some countries, scarcity of clean groundwater becomes problematic too. However, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in these areas by providing clean drinking water.

Ghana was the center of a study on the effectiveness of nanofiltration membranes conducted by the International Water Association (IWA) and members of the Indian Institute of Science. The IWA chose to test Ghana’s groundwater due to the high level of pollutants present. During the study, it tested the levels of contaminants, bacteria and natural materials that render water non-potable before and after utilizing nanofiltration membranes.

The results of the IWA study were impressive. Not only did the study determine that nanofiltration reduces pollutants to potable levels, but executed efficiently enough, rural areas could produce enough water for more than 100 households. Ultimately, the conclusion was that nanofiltration was a low-cost solution for drinking water access and production in impoverished rural regions worldwide.

Nanotechnology to Fight Infectious Disease

Most original concepts of nanotechnology’s usefulness focused on medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long been fond of utilizing nanotechnology in health care and fighting infectious diseases. The WHO now recognizes that nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations through scientific medical breakthroughs.

The first need for nanotechnology to address in developing countries is the diagnosis of disease. Nanobiotechnology allows for an inexpensive option to find multiple dangerous microbes using a single test. These technologies have improved over time and are being used in developing nations to detect most viral and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis.

The COVID-19 vaccine development shows the importance of nanotechnology in the prevention of disease too. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a nanocarrier system designed to activate the immune system to fight COVID-19 by assisting antibody production. The distribution of the vaccine to developing nations is now underway.

The Future of Nanotechnology for Poverty Reduction

Nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations, and with continued scientific inquiry and advancements in nanotechnology, new applications for poverty reduction will improve. Nanotechnology’s cost-effectiveness and versatility make it one of the most viable technologies to assist in the struggle against poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

The developed world is often seen as the beacon of scientific innovation, while the developing world seems to wallow in poverty and underdevelopment. In spite of the challenges that citizens of developing countries face, they have managed to achieve some impressive scientific breakthroughs that benefit the whole world. In this article, The Borgen Project highlights four scientific developments from the developing world.

Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine
Cuba is a small island nation where state workers are paid $20 per month, and there are shortages of everything from electricity to internet access. In spite of their lack of technology and their slim salaries, Cuban doctors have developed the world’s first lung cancer vaccine. The Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology in Havana developed CimaVax as the first treatment of its kind against one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Cimavax is relatively cheap to produce and store, has low toxicity and appears to cause only mild side effects. It is available in some Latin American countries and has already begun tests in the United States, the United Kingdom and other developed nations.

Sierra Leonean Breast Cancer Treatment
Sierra Leone is a poor West African country that has recently been ravaged by civil war and an Ebola outbreak. It is also home to Sandra Musujusu, the developer of an alternative treatment for breast cancer. The World Bank’s Academic Centers of Excellence project in Africa funded Musujusu’s research at the University of Science and Technology, Abuja, in Nigeria. The new treatment focuses on the development of biodegradable polymers for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. By treating this aggressive sub-type of breast cancer common in women of African descent, Sandra Musujusu is pioneering a treatment for women worldwide.

Kenyan App to End FGM
One in four Kenyan girls experiences the traumatic human rights violation of female genital mutilation. The self-named “Restorers,” a group of Kenyan teenage girls, have developed an app to stop this cruel practice. The app, I-Cut, offers numerous services, including connecting at-risk girls with rescue centers and providing medical and legal help to girls who have been cut. The app is so impressive and important for thousands of girls that the Restorers became the only Africans to be invited to Google’s international Tehcnovation competition in California.

Kenyan Toilets that Turn Waste into Fuel
Even though it was founded by two American students, Sanivation is now a Kenyan startup that employs 650 Kenyans and serves a vast East African population. Sanivation addresses the dangers of insufficient waste disposal and sanitation systems by installing special toilets in homes in East Africa. In developing countries like Kenya, 90 percent of waste is disposed of without treatment. These toilets not only provide safe and healthy sanitation but also turn human waste into sustainable and eco-friendly fuel. In this way, the special toilets provide sanitation and a fuel source to the impoverished population while working to stave off climate change.

These are just a few of the scientific developments from the developing world. While they do not negate the serious problems that plague people in these areas, they do paint a brighter picture for developing nations and for us all.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr

IMB Uses New Science for Social GoodThe International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is a major research organization that focuses on computer wear and consultations. They also study cognitive computing and information technology. As of 2017, IBM holds the most patents of any business in the United States, making it a hub for progressive thinking. Aware of their resources, IBM announced their new program, Science for Social Good, on June 6. This program encourages IBM to partner with scientists and nonprofit organizations solving social issues through a more modern lens.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is one of the organizations IBM is working with. The Cary Institute’s mission is to research and address the problem of the Zika virus in Central and South America. When the Zika virus arrived in Brazil through mosquitos, it gave babies many life-threatening diseases, such as brain under-development. Without a widely distributed vaccine in countries where only high-class citizens have access to health care, many unborn children are at risk.

Science for Social Good is assisting The Cary Institute in “applying machine learning and data science tools to identify primate species that could become animal reservoirs for Zika” in order to contain and combat the disease. In a short period of time, IBM technology helped pinpoint areas where Zika is most prevalent. Then, they created  through mobile phone apps that map out these locations, allowing citizens to stay more informed and cautious. This technology also identified primate species that carry the disease in the wild.

In addition to The Cary Institute, IBM is assisting the emergency food service St. John’s Bread and Life. IBM will create an artificial intelligence supply chain model of emergency food operations and share it with cloud computing technology. Thus, Bread and Life can share its most advanced practices with other organizations to better help those in need. The digitization of new organizations would make both education on hunger issues and providing aid to the needy much easier.

“Science for Social Good is built on the premise that applied science and technology can solve the world’s toughest problems,” reads IBM’s research page. With companies like these beginning to take a more globalized approach to problem-solving, we may see more research projects like Science for Social Good in the future.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Faith-based organizations make up about 20% of agencies working to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and are responsible for over 40% of healthcare in some developing countries. However, faith-based care is not discussed in the world of global health academia, because it is not coming from a strictly scientific angle. But in many ways, the compassion involved in these organizations allows them to work all the more effectively.

For example, the U.S. charity Catholic Relief Services has over launched 164 sustainable agricultural projects in 34 countries, built over 700 water sources serving 2.1 million people and has provided treatment to 700,000 HIV patients worldwide. They also strive for accountability and efficiency, priding themselves on their Guidestar status, their transparency and their Pledge to Donors.

The American Jewish World Service raises over $50 million a year. They sent emergency aid to organizations that educated over 30,000 households on how to prevent becoming infected with the Ebola virus.

Tearfund, a Christian organization, has helped over 17 million people through community development projects and has helped to change over 175 policies that kept poor communities from receiving justice.

Islamic Relief USA has received several awards from charity and business auditors, including GreatNonprofits and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

A recently published report called “Keeping the Faith” showed that religious leaders were able to reach many places that NGOs and governments could not reach during the Ebola epidemic because they were a trusted source of information. For example, many communities attached to the traditional burial practice were only willing to switch to the practice of cremation (to stop the spread of the disease) once faith leaders began to participate in this safer alternative. A UN staff member called their involvement “a real game-changer.”

Science and religion will always diverge on certain points. But they can absolutely work side by side. And despite the tendency for religion to be viewed as less practical and more archaic, there are areas in which religious principles can be applied quite practically.

For example, the concept of subsidiarity is the idea that help should be provided at the lowest level possible because situations can be handled more effectively by those who are closest to the problem.

Even with different ideologies, religious and secular organizations can work together towards the same noble goals (such as ending severe poverty and promoting sustainability). The truth of it is, they work best when taken together. Statistics, cures and data are important in a different way from how genuine kindness and heartfelt aid are. Both can transform the outlook and life of a person in poverty.

At a conference held in July which discussed building partnerships between policymakers and religious groups, Marin Mauthe-Kaeter, head member of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, said, “This has given us a chance to think differently about development– not just about financial and technical issues, but about values.”

Em Dieckman

Sources: CRS, Guidestar, Scidev, Tear Fund, The Lancet, World Bank
Photo: Newswire

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” And while my favorite government-hating, cigarette-smoking, religion-bashing comedian does have a point, scientists from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago are starting to prove that life actually isn’t a zero sum game. It turns out that people, contrary to popular belief, actually like other people.

Scientists are quickly figuring out that giving is inherently rewarding. The brain isn’t only looking out for itself, but for the well-being of others. Using tools like fMRI scanning, which highlights blood flow in different parts of the brain, scientists can pinpoint the areas of the brain that control these social impulses, making the “why” behind generosity clearer and clearer.

Neuroscientist Jordan Grafman hypothesizes that altruism exists because it helps ensure the survival of kin, and even more importantly, the well-being of a strong collective.

Dr. Grafman and his team have discovered that a part of the midbrain, the mesolimbic system, which controls cravings for food and sex, releases dopamine when people make decisions to donate to a worthy organization. And when asked to do the same thing anonymously, the subgenual area lit up, the section that plays a role in releasing oxytocin, the “love” hormone – the effect psychologists are calling “helper’s high.”

Some insisted that upbringing determined whether a person would be selfless or selfish: a person’s culture taught them and molded them into who they are. Others argued that selfishness didn’t exist as much as impulsiveness, and it is when we learn to control these impulses that we become altruistic. Analogous to the cliché of “actions speaking louder than words,” regardless of someone’s intentions, it’s what they do that matters.

While this feel-good chemical reaction has a clear association with altruism, it is not exclusive to it. Thus forcing Grafman to look further. There had to be other parts of the brain that the pleasure system partners with. The answer lay in the anterior prefrontal cortex, (aPFC) the region in the front of the brain used in making moral judgments.

The experiment found that participants who volunteered and were the most charitable showed the highest activity in the aPFC. Because it’s so difficult to be altruistic, especially when it’s at our own expense, the brain encourages this type of behavior by giving “rewards” in the form of chemicals released.

In fact, studies are showing that the more oxytocin is released, the more empathetic and generous people feel.

To all those cynics who argued that humans are inherently selfish creatures, you aren’t exactly wrong. Dr. Bill Harbaugh, an Economist from the University of Oregon, studied a group of law school graduates donating to their alma mater. His findings showed that they would donate just enough to earn the highest title in their bracket, and that giving with no expectation of pleasure or other reward is rare. While he acknowledges that this may be done unconsciously, at the end of the day, he argues, “people care about prestige.”

Astoundingly, it isn’t only to prove a point that this research provides, but the possibility to make people more generous. Stanford psychiatrist and bioengineer Karl Deisseroth has managed to take genes from algae, amongst others, and incorporate them into mouse neurons. The result: a “prosocial” mouse-a mouse that will literally cuddle you to death.

Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: PsyBlog, NINDS, The Wall Street Journal, PNAS

In this rapidly changing world, language continues to dictate relations. English speaking countries tend to display their close bond with one another, France shows affinity towards its former francophone colonies, and now, for the past decade, a growth in relations between Brazil and other lusophone African countries, such as Angola and Mozambique, has developed.

Linguistic ties are not all that bind Brazil with many African countries. While sharing a range of historical and cultural similarities, Brazil has sought relations with African states to strengthen its connection to the continent.

These relations began in the 1970s and grew more ambitious in the early 2000s. Starting in 2003 with the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil continues to invest in its relationship with African states, ranging from science and technology, to culture.

Despite boasting the 8th largest GDP in the world, Brazil is still considered a developing country due to enormous income disparities. Even with reductions in poverty during Lula’s Presidency, extreme poverty remains an issue.

Yet historical and cultural relations continue to make Brazil’s poverty reduction efforts stand out amongst other Latin American nations. It is this difference that Patrice Clédjo, professor at the University of Abomey-Calavi, points to as the difference between Brazil’s collaboration with African states and the traditional Western partnership. “Brazil’s cooperation with and aid to Africa is linked initially to a geopolitical ambition and economic interest, but also to the strong historical links and affinities with countries in Africa, relationships other emerging nations do not have with Africa,” states Clédjo.

With $9 billion in trade over the last decade, Harvard Professor Calestous Juma,  states embassies are vital to this trade. With 37 embassies out of 54 countries on the African continent, Brazil has combined diplomacy with scientific advancement.

Over time, Brazil has started to pinpoint health as a main focus of these scientific exchanges. One example of this exchange is the Brazilian foundation Fiocruz and its coordination in developing a Postgraduate Health Sciences program in Maputo, Mozambique. In order to accomplish this, Fiocruz has been working with the Mozambican National Health Institute to build capacity. In this example, post grad students in Maputo have an African and Brazilian supervisor and will later carry out an internship in Brazil.

With such partnering between countries, Brazil seems to be gaining both diplomatic and economic strength on the continent. As Brazil collaborates to develop facets of African industry, it is becoming an integral part of their economic independence.

– Michael Carney

Sources: SciDev.Net, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Africasti

South American STEM Jobs_opt
Guano, gold, silver, rubber, wool and other natural resources currently make up the largest exports of South America. However, due to the instability of natural resources, many economists believe that reversing the deficit in the STEMs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and focusing on research and development may solve the region’s poverty.

Currently, the average South American country spends 0.7% of gross domestic product on technological research and development. Economist Sebastian Rovira argues that economies based around natural resources without a focus on technological development are not sustainable. This will eventually lead to larger problems for South American economies.

Fortunately, Brazil has been leading the region in tech development with a large increase in patents and academic papers. Brazil intends to continue this development by providing  75,000 students with science and technology scholarships to study at top universities by 2014.

While many governments realize the benefits of South American STEM jobs, Rovira believes the private sector needs to do more to generate tech jobs and facilitate technological growth.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: MinnPost
Photo: Orlando Business Journal


Earlier this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 55 scientists from throughout the world met to discuss sustainable development solutions and how science can play a leading role in the fight against poverty. The goal is to explore the ways that science can help defeat such challenges faced by all human beings. Members of science academies who were involved in this meet are ones already involved in dealing with global warming, population growth, and evolution issues.

This meeting was organized most importantly to parallel the United Nation’s Millennium Goals of 2015 to end global poverty: “Based on the “Future We Want” document signed in Rio last June, the panel organized its meeting to find solutions for the welfare of mankind and for sustainable development.” Although industrialized developed countries were mainly prevalent to meet the Millennium Goals, recently there has been a need for input from developing nations as well.

According to the Brazilian representative of the U.N. Development Program, science’s role is to change the very path of development which would thereby lead the world to a better outcome. Thus, this meeting will elaborate on the ways that science reduces poverty.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Global Post
Photo: Google