Rural Development in Bulgaria
In a groundbreaking stride towards combating global poverty, Bulgaria is spearheading a transformation in its agricultural landscape by embracing the power of “smart agriculture”. With a vision to uplift rural communities and stimulate economic growth, this innovative rural development in Bulgaria is not only enhancing food production but also providing a potential solution to the global poverty crisis. 

Bulgaria’s Rural Challenge

Rural areas in Bulgaria have long grappled with economic disparities, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of employment opportunities, contributing to the persistence of poverty. It is calculated that nearly a quarter of Bulgaria’s population lives below the national poverty line, highlighting the urgency of effective interventions. 

Enter Smart Agriculture

Smart agriculture, often referred to as “precision agriculture”, involves leveraging cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to optimize agricultural processes. This approach minimizes resource wastage while maximizing yields, making it an ideal candidate for transforming traditional farming methods. 

With the pace of rural development in Bulgaria, the country is quickly adopting smart agriculture techniques, thanks to collaborations between research institutions and private enterprises. These partnerships are resulting in the development of tailored solutions to address the unique challenges faced by rural communities. 

Key Initiatives and Their Impacts

  • IoT-Enabled Monitoring: Remote monitoring of crop health, soil moisture and weather conditions is becoming commonplace in Bulgaria’s agricultural landscape. IoT devices collect real-time data, allowing farmers to make informed decisions about irrigation, fertilization and pest control. This precision increases the productivity of agricultural production, ultimately leading to higher incomes for farmers. For instance, the company ProDrone Sys22 uses drone technology to monitor up to 2,000 decares of land with time-accurate information on the condition of soils and crops.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: AI-driven algorithms analyze the collected data, providing insights into crop growth patterns and predicting potential issues. This proactive approach helps farmers take corrective actions promptly, preventing yield losses and ensuring stable incomes. In 2019, the Bulgarian government released its ‘’Strategy for the digitization of agriculture and rural areas’’ in which AI will be used to control production, protect plants against harmful organisms and reduce administrative burdens for farmers.
  • Diversification Through Vertical Farming: In regions with limited arable land, vertical farming is gaining traction. By utilizing controlled indoor environments, crops can be grown year-round, reducing the impact of seasonal fluctuations and democratizing access to fresh produce. In 2022, vertical farming entered the Bulgarian market with Ultragreens opening their first Green Hub there.

Global Implications

The transformation of Bulgaria’s agricultural sector offers promising insights into alleviating global poverty. The smart agriculture model enhances productivity and efficiency, which other developing nations facing similar challenges can replicate. By sharing expertise and technological know-how, the international community can create a domino effect that uplifts rural communities across the globe. 

Challenges and the Road Ahead

While the benefits of smart agriculture are undeniable, challenges such as digital literacy and equitable access to technology remain. Governments, NGOs and private sector players must collaborate to ensure that these advancements are accessible to all, regardless of their socio-economic background. 

As Bulgaria harnesses the potential of smart agriculture to revitalize its rural communities, the nation takes a significant step toward addressing global poverty. By leveraging technology, data and innovation, rural development in Bulgaria not only improves its own agricultural landscape but also provides a template for other nations to follow suit. As the world stands at a crossroads in the fight against poverty, it is solutions like smart agriculture that offer a glimmer of hope for a brighter, more equitable future. 

– Valentin Lyazov
Photo: Flickr

5G Internet Could Reduce Poverty
With the “fourth industrial revolution” underway as technology rapidly advances and changes the global outlook, fifth-generation (5G) internet has proved to be a breakthrough that could potentially pull millions out of poverty. One can characterize 5G internet by its high speed, high capacity and low latency with a bandwidth almost 10 times more than fourth-generation (4G) internet. Peak download speeds for 5G internet are around 20 gigabits per second, allowing users to download full movies, videos, advanced Internet of Things (IoT) software or artificial intelligence (AI) in minutes. 5G internet could reduce poverty significantly if countries implement the correct infrastructure for it.

Many countries have already begun building 5G networks. According to a report by Cisco, at the end of 2019, 26 countries were commercially selling 5G programs, 14 of which were developing countries. Countries with high rates of poverty could especially benefit from 5G internet as it would provide a stable internet connection and allow them to access a wealth of online resources. Below are seven ways 5G internet could reduce poverty.

7 Ways 5G Internet Could Reduce Poverty

  1. 5G internet could further advance the Sustainable Development Goals set for completion by 2030, especially surrounding “inclusive and equitable” education for all. The communities that live in rural locations most commonly face difficulties accessing educational resources. According to the World Economic Forum, construction of a school would have to happen every hour for 11 years in order to ensure enough schools for all of the children living in sub-Saharan Africa. 5G internet could connect those in unreachable locations to online teaching resources and remote learning opportunities. The speed of 5G internet could allow students to tune in live to classrooms globally.
  2. Healthcare, which has lagged far behind in many developing countries, could see massive reforms as part of 5G internet access. New AI and IoT devices could revolutionize the industry. New surgeons in training can wear haptic gloves that track hand movement to send to professionals across the globe so they can correct and mentor them. Virtual reality and 3D imaging allow medical professionals to aid in surgeries in rural areas. AI could even enable remote surgeries or checkups.
  3. Compared to 4G networks, 5G can reduce energy consumption by 50% to 95%, said the European Investment Bank. Energy poverty is already a prevalent issue, which is a lack of access to energy as a result of its high cost. Reducing energy usage further would allow 5G to be more affordable and sustainable.
  4. The internet has already allowed massive globalization to take place which has expanded global output by millions of dollars. 5G will continue this revolution – by 2035, IHS economics and technology has determined that 5G internet will enable $12.3 trillion in global economic output. In addition, it should allow the creation of 22 million jobs, meaning a vast new market could open up for employment in all countries.
  5. With new AI and IoT devices monitoring factors, such as rainfall, water content, nutrients in the soil, ground temperature and more, 5G internet should encourage the rise of “smart” agriculture. This technological push to increase farmer efficiency has already begun but faster data speeds and larger bandwidth that allow the installation of more sensors and larger-scale technology should accelerate it. Intel estimates that the global smart agriculture market will rise to $23.44 billion by 2025 and that 55% of data on farms will come from IoT devices. Impoverished countries could especially benefit from these advancements as they will allow higher crop yields, saving money and feeding a larger portion of people.
  6. People could use unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones) in combination with 5G internet to supply a larger area. Especially in rural areas where built-in infrastructure would not provide for all of the people who need it, traveling drones could circulate 5G networks to all that need it. A farmer who is trying to use a cellular device on a large plot of land could have a personal unmanned aerial vehicle that would travel with them as they inspect the whole field, ensuring that their 5G network never experiences an interruption.
  7. Emerging countries are especially willing to build 5G infrastructure as it is more affordable than previous internet structures and proves to have a large payoff. The implementation of 4G networks is often more expensive with less energy efficiency, sustainability and economic increase, causing developing countries to jump straight into adding 5G infrastructure. India, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, Qatar, Oman and Uruguay have been some of the first countries to modify their industrial transformation programs. In addition, due to the fact that many western developed countries have banned or restricted 5G data networks until recently, major 5G players such as China have increasingly marketed to developing nations.

Currently, 5G internet is accessible mostly in urban areas due to population density, but rural areas will not lag far behind if areas put the right infrastructure in place. South African cities and Cape Town were the first in Africa to see 5G due to the growth of Rain, a South African company. These seven facts about how 5G internet could reduce poverty show that it holds a bright future for many of the developing countries and will be a key player in the coming years.

Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Flickr

Advances in data collection and mass communication have defined the modern era, revolutionizing the ways in which peoples connect and learn from one another. While there are many barriers to the wholescale implementation of data technology in developing countries, organizations and policymakers are helping to grow the economies of countries trapped in the cycle of subsistence farming. These organizations are doing so through the implementation of IoT in agriculture.

IoT and Its Importance in Agriculture

IoT stands for “the Internet of things;” a general idea that refers to the global infrastructure that makes up a society defined by the collection and dissemination of information. With over 6 billion devices online (and growing exponentially) as of 2019, IoT will drive innovation in the 21st century through developments in mass communication and data analysis. Applying these developments to agriculture is important because global food production will have to rise by 70 percent in order to meet the expected demand in 2050. Developing countries will have the most mouths to feed, but also the most potential to grow their yields accordingly. 

How IoT Works in Agriculture

IoT in agriculture depends on innovative sensor technology employed with the goal of streamlining food production. These sensors can provide data on anything from crop health to vehicle maintenance. Typically, sensors are deployed on specific targets according to the farmer’s needs. People can access the data in the sensors wirelessly. Farmers then interpret the data and make manual adjustments as necessary. Depending on the chosen metric and sophistication of the sensor technology, farmers can automate and alter certain processes through companion mobile applications. In a traditional system, a farmer should be able to determine the overall health of their animals, crops, water, and soil through their mobile phone.

Benefits of IoT

IoT allows farmers to keep, track and optimize the countless data points and processes required for efficient agriculture production. Real-time and accurate data allow farmers to optimize inputs and adapt to extenuating circumstances. As a result, production costs decrease and yields increase. Applications and communicative technologies connect and educate communities about useful farming practices. In impoverished areas lacking education and connection, easy-to-follow modules and guidelines are especially helpful to farmers dealing with challenges posed by terrain and situation. The global farming market is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2017-2021, largely due to investment in IoT-related agriculture practices.

Roadblocks of the Digital Divide

Data technology, while cost-effective in the long term, has high upfront costs of capital acquirement and building up digital infrastructure. Obtaining accurate data in real-time depends on reliable connectivity – something lacking in many developing countries. In these areas, people can build an effective digital infrastructure only through outside investment and maintenance. Operating sensors and mobile technology also require a degree of digital literacy. While specific applications are increasingly easier to operate, farmers in developing countries are often disadvantaged by a lack of access to digital tools in education. Even if digital infrastructure and education programs can be successfully implemented, the digital economy opens up other issues of privacy and cybersecurity. Data can be destructive in the wrong hands, so accountability institutions must accompany infrastructure investment.

Bridging the Divide

The potential of IoT in agriculture has sparked the attention of outside organizations, ranging from international institutions to underfunded startups. The World Bank funds many IoT programs and hosts webinars focused on understanding the applications of IoT in agriculture. Mimosa Technology has instituted a hardware lease program to smallholder farmers in Vietnam with the goal of transitioning these farmers to IoT technology. Eruvaka, an Indian startup, uses IoT technology to solve pond management problems for impoverished farmers. Countries have also realized the potential of IoT applications in agriculture. While many developed programs are already transitioning pilot programs to mass production, countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have made meaningful investments in IoT as well. In fact, developing countries are expected to make up around 40 percent of IoT’s market value by the end of the year. 

Technological applications of IoT

As technology improves, IoT applications in farming are expected to move well beyond sensors and mobile apps. AI and machine-learning technologies will make the automation of tasks significantly easier. Combined with advances in robotics, automated precision planting could become commercially feasible. Advances in drone technology will allow for the real-time mapping of crops in order to gauge land condition and yield potential. Monitoring this technology will also incentivize sustainable farming practices, such as soil preservation and tracking of vulnerable animal populations. Specialized communication tech will make the collection and dissemination of information easier than ever before, connecting previously isolated communities all over the world. 

The meeting of agriculture and information technology can be a game-changer when attached to sufficient funding and well-intentioned policy. IoT agricultural technology can break the cycle of subsistence agriculture that prevents developing countries from growing economically. Breaking this cycle will contribute to ending global poverty while growing and furthering the global food market.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr