Mobile Gender Gap
Mobile phone usage directly correlates to social welfare, women’s empowerment and gender equality in households and society. Many sub-Saharan African and West Asian countries failed to meet the quota for gender equality in 2015. Additionally, South Asia has the most prevalent mobile gender gap.

There is a 28% difference in cell phone usage between men and women. On average, women earn less salary than men and are less likely to receive an education. As a result, many women are illiterate. This severely limits a woman’s sense of independence and financial liberty. Cell phone usage is one large indicator of gender inequality. According to GSMA Connected Women, women are 10% less likely to own a cell phone than men in low-to-middle-income countries.

Women’s Empowerment

Mobile phone usage directly links to a sense of empowerment and freedom. According to the Mobile Gender Gap’s 2019 report, women with access to mobile phones in developing nations are more involved in decision-making within the household and community. Furthermore, cell phones allow women to make decisions regarding contraception and easily find information on HIV testing. Many women living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are unaware of the opportunities that come with mobile phone usage.

There are numerous benefits to closing the mobile gender gap. Women become more empowered, connected, safe and are able to access information and services with ease. Additionally, closing the gender gap allows for considerable commercial and economic progress. Including women in technological advancements aids in building the society and economy substantially.

According to a Food Policy study conducted in Uganda, mobile phone usage directly connects to an increase in household income, women’s empowerment, food security and improved dietary quality. Small farm households that use mobile phones improve social welfare as well. Furthermore, the study found that eliminating the mobile gender gap increases economic and social development in developing countries. The GSMA reported that if the gender gap is closed by 2023, an additional $140 billion would be generated in revenue for the mobile industry.

What’s Being Done

Since 2014, 250 million women have obtained cell phones. While the gender gap is certainly shrinking, there is still a significant disparity. However, the GSMA Connected Women Program is working with mobile operators to combat this inequality. It aims to break down the barriers women face when accessing and using mobile internet services. The organization’s goal is to significantly reduce the mobile gender gap and provide commercial opportunities for the mobile industry. The Connected Women has reached more than 19 million women in the past three years.

Similarly, the Mobile Phone Literacy Project aims to sustain and spread mobile literacy interventions for women and girls. For example, female participants in the mobile-based post-literacy program in Pakistan have exhibited notable literacy improvements.

The benefits of mobile phones and internet services are momentous. Women experience a sense of safety, empowerment, financial independence and have increased access to learning services. Projects such as the Mobile Phone Literacy Project are helping to eradicate gender inequality. While the mobile gender gap is steadily closing, there is still much more to be done to maintain gender equality.

– Nina Eddinger
Photo: Flickr

Telehealth in IndiaIn 2017, around 60% of the population in India faced poverty, with around 1.3 million people living on less than $3.10 a day. India is one of the most populous countries, right behind China. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation, India was hard hit by the pandemic. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that with the economic halt in India, around 400 million people are at risk of falling into poverty. As people struggle with access to food and healthcare services, digital and technological resources are being  implemented to reach those most at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of telehealth in India.

Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India has had a substantial impact on communities. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Indian government initiated telemedicine to help healthcare professionals reach everyone in need, even those living along the lines of poverty and those in rural locations. Telehealth in India gives the poor a chance to receive adequate healthcare without an in-person visit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. India has made great strides in improving technological resources in the country. With these resources being improved, telemedicine can bring specialized care to even the most remote places in India.

There have been recent technological advances within India, such as the proliferation of fiber optic cables and the licensing of private internet service providers. These new technological advances have encouraged the Indian Space Research Organization to set up an exclusive satellite called HealthSAT that can bring telemedicine to the poor on a larger scale.

Telemedicine Systems

A telemedicine system in a small health center consists of a computer with custom medical software connected to essential medical diagnostic tools. Through the computer, digitized versions of patients’ medical images and diagnostic details are dispatched to specialist doctors through the satellite-based communication link. The information is received and examined to diagnose and suggest appropriate treatment through video-conferencing. With all of these services being offered, reaching the poor in the most remote places has become more of a possibility.

The Impact of Telehealth

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about negative effects for India, it has also compelled India to utilize more digital and technological resources to expand its reach. Telehealth in India has brought some relief to overburdened healthcare systems, relieving the pressures of increased caseloads due to the pandemic. Medical centers now have the ability and capacity to reach long-distance patients. The Indian government issued the Telemedicine Practice Guidelines in March 2020, allowing for registered medical practitioners to provide healthcare services using telecommunication and digital technologies.

The Future of Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India is bringing about new growth within the medical arena. The prolonged pandemic and the absence of a vaccine means telemedicine and telehealth services are integral and will be useful for the foreseeable future. Not only will the middle-class and the wealthy have access to healthcare but healthcare services will also be able to reach the poor in the most remote places.

– Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Raspberry Pi“Ciudad de Ariel” is an elementary school in the rural town of Duran, Ecuador. In this small school, people are studying a computer substitute that could change the world called Raspberry Pi. This life changing computer is a small chip that can fit in a hand.

The Technological Gap

For many developing countries, technology is out of the picture. The general growth in technology proficiency has evaded developing countries. They often cannot afford internet access and computers in all schools, so children and young adults suffer in technological skills. Furthermore, other challenges of poverty, like food insecurity and lack of water, take priority to learning how to use a computer.

The problem is that technology can actually provide large benefits for developing countries. The internet offers vast amounts of information and programming to serve any need. If developing countries have access to computers, the ability to decrease poverty levels can be more feasible. Unfortunately, most computers are specialized, expensive and hard to produce. Previously, developing countries lacked the budget for technology advancement and access. But now, the Raspberry Pi offers tech opportunities to people all over the world.

The Device

There are many unique aspects of the Raspberry Pi that separate it from normal computers. First, its price is affordable; it has a base cost of $35. This is significantly cheaper than any other computer chip on the market. As such, some schools in areas of poverty are using Raspberry Pis in their computer labs.

Another unique aspect of the Raspberry Pi is it’s small form. The Raspberry Pi 4, the most recent model, is only 3.37 inches high and 2.22 inches wide. An entire computer lab of Raspberry Pis can fit in a suitcase. Not only is the computer chip small, it is also incredibly light, weighing only 46 grams. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi is easily portable. This is an important factor as many schools in developing countries are in rural, hard-to-reach areas.

Finally, the Raspberry Pi is famous for its versatility. Most computers are made to do specific tasks. Whether it is running a server, rendering 3D graphics, or browsing the internet, each computer has distinct hardware for its purpose. The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is capable of handling almost any task. For example, it can be used as a traditional desktop computer, a server or as a basic computer chip to automate mechanical devices. This allows people to use the device for any function they need.

Due to the Raspberry Pi’s unique capabilities, it has the capability to be highly successful in advancing technology for developing countries.

Real-World Examples

A recent study found that the Raspberry Pi provides a cost-effective approach in building computer labs for schools in developing countries. The success of the pilot project conducted in the elementary school in Duran, Ecuador corroborated this finding. Computer labs have also been built in Cameroon and West Africa. It’s not an entire lab, but a project called Malinux Télé donated Raspberry Pis to children in Mali.

The computer has impacts beyond education. An automated loom was developed using a Raspberry Pi. The designers of this loom found it to be cheaper than traditional automated looms. Another project found a cheap way to purify water using a Raspberry Pi.

The little computer has been able to accomplish tremendous things. From computer labs in Ecuador and West Africa to automated looms and water purifiers, the Raspberry Pi has proven to be a force for good and can change how developing countries access technology.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

The Accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence in Alleviating Poverty
In the first half of the twentieth century, Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolved around just science fiction movies but it has come a long way since then. From presenting targeted ads based on one’s Google search history to SIRI and self-driving cars, AI has made progress in various socioeconomic issues as well.

Medical Accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence

One of the most remarkable breakthroughs of AI and machine learning is in healthcare applications. People are using various apps to learn more about themselves and lead a happier and healthier life.

  1. Autism & Beyond App: Recent research shows autism can be detected as early as 18 months old using AI, while previously the disease could not be detected before five years of age. The app Autism & Beyond can study a child’s emotions and behavior from their expressions and understand a child much better to provide early effective treatment.
  2. EpiWatch: This app has been very helpful for patients with epilepsy as it accurately helps measure the body’s vitals during the onset and duration of a seizure in real time. EpiWatch then learns from this data and can predict whether such seizures are imminent. Once the accelerometer and heart rate sensors are triggered, the caregiver or a family member is alerted so there is enough time for the patient to receive immediate help.
  3. Concussion Tracker: This app helps monitor a head injury for a consecutive six weeks by tracking the heart rate and recording other physiological and cognitive functions. It helps to figure out how fatal the concussion is and its possible consequences.
  4. Tumor Detection: Doctors can easily detect a tumor in the brain but quantifying exactly how big it has long been difficult. Microsoft’s Inner Eye has made this possible and has helped accelerate the time of the treatment.

Advancements in AI for Agriculture

Apart from Medical Science, accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence in the fields of agriculture have become widespread. Agriculture is not just old school farming anymore. High tech agriculture starts with variable rate planting equipment that helps identify where a seed will grow best and in what soil conditions it will grow better, thus making farming more efficient than it has ever been. Various AI-based robotic harvesting equipment has also been invented which helps to harvest crops like fruits and berries.

Global Fishing Watch is also one of the many accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence, which has helped stopped illegal fishing across the ocean. Over three billion people depend on seafood for protein in their diets. The global economy loses $83 billion every year to illegal fishing and poor fishery management.

Global Fishing Watch has brought more transparency on the fishing location and behaviors of commercial fishing fleets from every corner of the ocean through processed data sets and fishing activity maps with 95 percent accuracy. Indonesia is the first nation to show its results and, already, multibillion-dollar fines have been charged from the evidence gathered.

AI Combating Global Poverty

Artificial Intelligence has also been a game changer to help predict poverty and fight hunger. Tracking poverty in various places through household survey-based data collection was expensive so AI came to the rescue. In recent years, scientists have tried to identify rich or poor regions by studying nighttime satellite photos on the basis of which places glow brightly.

However, this approach came with a limitation: it could not differentiate between places suffering from near-poverty and those with absolute poverty. A research group at Stanford University recently fed the computer both nighttime and high-resolution daytime satellite images of five countries in Africa along with the household survey data. The device found features like concrete buildings, well-developed roads, agricultural regions and urban areas which helped predict poor places with 81 to 99 percent accuracy. United Nations claims this to be one of the biggest accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence.

Many times, the media focuses on the negative sides of AI but scientists are hopeful that the accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence will do more good than bad. With many more advancements to come, the socioeconomic status of the world is sure to change for the better.

– Shweta Roy
Photo: Google

Technological Advancements in Kenyan EducationNew technological advancements in Kenyan education are attracting students and parents to schools in the area. Such advancements not only aid the students’ learning, but also get them excited about going to school and getting a basic education.

Amaf Primary and Elim Academy in Kawangware, a low-income settlement in Nairobi, have already reaped the benefits of such technology. Since advertising their new computers, these schools both have waiting lists and excited students.

The M-Pesa Foundation Academy in Thika is also establishing itself as a benchmark for Kenyan education reform. Every student has their own iPad, allowing for free use of the Internet to nurture discovery and an interest in learning.

These efforts can be attributed to the eLimu project, which selected these schools to integrate interactive tablets into the classroom to allow them to use modern and advanced teaching methods.

Plan International Kenya is another organization that works alongside projects such as eLimu to advance literacy among children through the use of technology. After being piloted in 25 schools, Plan International Kenya is set to put its technological resources in 300 schools across the country.

With the help of such famous technical partners as Nokia, British Telecom and Lenovo, OSL works to help teachers create more interactive and inclusive learning methods and environments through information and communication technologies.

The main idea behind these new technological advancements in Kenyan education is to help teachers make school more exciting and interactive to attract more students.

After recognizing the success of the 16 pioneer teachers selected for training, the Kenyan government is now supporting the implementation of a project to work with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to train teachers to integrate modern technology into their teaching methods.

Tucker Hallowell

Photo: Google

Social messaging app, WeChat recently introduced a digital wallet service in Johannesburg, South Africa.

With WeChat Wallet, users can securely store bank cards and make instant cash payments just as they would with a physical wallet. The new service also enables users to electronically send cash to friends or family.

In addition, WeChat Wallet also offers the use of three chip, PIN debit and credit cards and the capability to transact via cards verified by Visa and MasterCard.

WeChat, which is owned by Chinese juggernaut, Tencent has partnered with Standard Bank for the launch of WeChat Wallet.

When registering for the digital wallet, users automatically become Standard Bank Instant Money users, which makes it possible for those without bank accounts to use the service. Accountholders at other banks are also able to access WeChat Wallet.

Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa told IT News Africa, “The service is another way WeChat is merging the online and offline worlds, providing people with seamless payment integration in a single application. Now they won’t be inconvenienced if they forget their purses or money at home because everything they need is at their fingertips.”

WeChat Wallet is available to South Africans who are sixteen or older with a Valid ID who use iOS or Android phones. To register for the digital wallet service, all they have to do is log into WeChat, tap “wallet” then follow the step-by-step instructions.

To use the digital wallet service for in-store payments, customers simply need to scan the QR code located in stores that support this mobile payment platform and then enter the amount of their purchase into their phone. Users can even “cash in” and “cash out” via Instant Money vouchers at Standard Bank ATMs and other participating retailers.

According to Tencent, more than 200 million customers globally have added their bank cards to the mobile payment platform in November 2015.

Jordan Connell

Sources: NFC World, It News Africa


GFIA 2014
Global populations are expected to eclipse the 8 billion mark by 2030. This will place an enormous strain on the global agriculture production and supply chain. The World Bank estimates that the rise in population will create a 50% increase in the demand for food. The world is in desperate need of innovative solutions in the agricultural sector in order to move into the future while raising approximately 870 million people out of hunger. The Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) is hoping to do just that. The forum, held in Abu Dhabi from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5 2014, highlighted over 30 agricultural solutions from leading entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The forum hosted 150 speakers from 28 countries, including Bill Gates.  Gates addressed the crowds via VideoLink to incite the urgency of unleashing innovation in agriculture. Here are some noteworthy presentations from this year’s GFIA: Accordion Photobioreactor: Developed by University of Arizona, this instrument is used to grow green microalgae, which can be engineered to produce biofuels as an alternative to petroleum based fuels. The photobioreactor resembles an accordion-like frame and is built with flexible plastics that help keep costs low. Automated Weather Protector: This innovation uses an automated roofing system to enclose hectares of fields in minutes. The system is controlled by a weather monitoring station that analyzes temperature, wind, rain, and barometric pressure to protect crops against the hazardous elements of nature. Crop yields in environments prone to extreme weather can increase by up to 50%. The roofing also protects crops during extreme heat, reducing water usage. 3-D Modeling of Crops: Development in spatial sensor technology is providing farmers with data on crop and environmental factors. The sensors allow the farmers to quantify the spatial variability of their crops in order to manage their farms efficiently. Farmers can see which plant yields best results under certain spatial, soil, and environmental conditions. Water Saving Foam: When the foam is mixed with soil as a substrate, or used on its own in a hydroponic environment, it slowly discharges the absorbed water content in amounts just enough to irrigate plants with hardly any wastage. The foam prevents excessive water run-off, reduces wastage and contributes to efficient water utilization. The foam can be used in landscaping as well as hydroponic gardens. Although many of the ideas presented at GFIA 2014 are in their early stages, they are rudimentary examples of what we can hope to achieve if we continue to focus globally on sustainable agriculture. – Sunny Bhatt Sources: GFIA, World Food Programme, Khaleej Times Photo: