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poverty alleviation through technology

Although breaking the cycle of poverty is difficult, poverty rates around the world have been improving. According to a report issued by the World Bank, 35 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty 1990. In 2013, that number was down to 10.7 percent, which means the U.N.’s first Millenium Development Goal, to cut poverty in half by 2015, has been accomplished.

However, while many have moved out of extreme poverty, statistics show that the end of poverty is far from over. As a potential way to help speed up the process even more, many companies are helping with poverty alleviation through technology programs.

Companies Tackling Poverty Alleviation Through Technology

  1. Microsoft 365: Microsoft teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme on Jan. 23, 2004, to help with poverty alleviation through technology in Africa. It strongly believes that technology is a crucial aspect that can bridge the gap between schools in urban and rural areas, eventually eliminating world hunger and poverty. Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates hopes to end poverty by 2030 by launching his software in more developing countries around the world.Microsoft set up a three-pillar model in order to make sure the technology was applied correctly in schools. The first pillar provided the appropriate service for the individual based on their technological ability or age group. The second pillar equipped more than 200,000 teachers with the software in order to make sure the teachers were trained and familiar with the technology before it was introduced to students. The third pillar encouraged participation and creativity. The students were introduced to programs such as Skype or OneNote.
  2. GeoPoll: GeoPoll is a company that is taking advantage of mobile phones becoming more common in developing countries. Since 2012, it has partnered with more than 85 mobile network operations and has had connectivity in 64 countries of the world. Its purpose is to send a survey text through those living in the developing countries. Once citizens fill out the survey, the results are sent to the government and NGOs, allowing them to help with poverty alleviation.An example of when a GeoPoll survey was used was during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. GeoPoll conducted food security surveys in countries that were affected and helped gather data on food prices and wages. From these results, it was able to decipher which areas needed more aid and which areas should continue to be monitored.
  3. Humanitarian Accelerators: Humanitarian Accelerators was launched in 2016 by the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It is meant to help with cultural, social and environmental issues in the region by connecting businesses all around the globe to United Arab Emirate’s humanitarian sector. Humanitarian Accelerators has set up its technology in over 116 different countries with the hopes of improving the lives of those in developing countries.In the past, the company has worked to provide educational technology to refugee students in order to ensure they receive the same level of education as other children. One of the company’s current initiatives is to employ technology in order to provide job opportunities to refugees.
  4. Poverty Spotlight: Poverty Spotlight is a program that is currently working in 18 countries and is most advanced in South Africa. It is meant to help with poverty alleviation through a mobile app that enables those in poverty to self-diagnose their own level of poverty. Its mission is to help individuals and families in poverty discover innovative solutions to lift themselves out of their situations.Individuals complete a survey about what they are in need of, then their neighbors fill out the same assessment and together they work on achieving them. The app allows individuals to become aware of their situation and build motivation and support from others to overcome it. The staff behind Poverty Spotlight also creates a personalized plan for every family.

Technology allows for many things today that were impossible in the past. The more technology advances, the more opportunities it gives us to learn, educate and help poverty alleviation through technology around the world.

– Negin Nia

camara_education
Does your computer process slowly? Are you in need of new software? These are two common reasons why people dispose of computers and laptops. Although they are still in working order, they are tossed away in garbage bins. Is there a sustainable solution? Camara Education thinks so.

Camara Education is dedicated to improving literacy and believes everyone deserves quality education. They collect technology such as computers, keyboards, tablets and smartphones and donate them to developing countries. They hope that by improving education, these communities will be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 2005, Camara Education has been highly successful. Because of their efforts, around 1 million children have had access to technology in classrooms. In the last 10 years, they have shipped 62,000 computers to countries in need.

The organization has donated eLearning centers to over 2,000 schools in Ireland, Africa and the Caribbean. They have installed 40,000 computers, trained over 11,000 teachers to use technology in classrooms and are currently in operation in Jamaica and seven countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia. They also have headquarters in the U.S. and U.K.

Camara Education believes that technology can open up an entirely new world of information for students and teachers. For this reason, they believe it is essential that all children have access to computers and information and communications technology (ICT).

This year, they plan to provide approximately 3,500 computers to students in Kenya.

“There’s no way the schools could afford this on their own,” Chief Technology Officer of Camara Education for Africa Aseidas Blauvelt says. “They could buy from their informal market, but they’d have no guarantee anything would work, they wouldn’t have training from us and they wouldn’t have a server.”

The team members erase all data from donated computers, keeping all personal information safe. The hard drive is wiped using a U.S. Department of Defense program, which makes it impossible to retrieve any data.

Recently, Camara Education has partnered with the Ministry of Education in Zambia to integrate technology and ICT into schools. On July 16, Camara Education in Dublin sent 1,110 computers to Lusaka, Zambia. With this new shipment, the organization has sent over 11,000 computers to Zambia.

CEO of Camara Education in Zambia says, “There is a strong demand from educational institutions for Camara services. Camara Zambia has been working with the Ministry of Education here to expand our reach to schools. The government this year added Computer Studies to the curriculum for grade 8 and 9 students, so there is much more interest in ICT and education.”

Ultimately, the Ministry of Education and Camara Education hope that the technology will teach valuable tech, communication and learning skills, alleviate poverty in Zambia and promote a prosperous and educated society.

Instead of throwing out old computers, visit http://camara.org/give-computers/ to donate and find drop-off locations.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Camara 1, Camara 2, Camara 3, LinkedIn
Photo: Camara

world_globe_borgen_africa
Earlier this June, several African nations came together to create the Regional Scholarship and Innovative fund to recommit to developing technology skills. The fund is a partnership that will help create thousands of new jobs across Africa, as well as develop specialized skills for African workers everywhere.

The fund is a project facilitated by the World Bank’s Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET). The initiative of PASET is “to accelerate the creation of a skilled, high-quality workforce in Africa to power Africa’s socio-economic transformation,” according to Ghanaweb.com.

The fund was created out of a $5 million investment from the World Bank back in 2013. Africa’s decision to commit itself to advancing skills in science and technology stems from a disparaging gap in work skills between African workers and workers worldwide.

The idea behind the fund is modeled after similar ideas done by Brazil, India and China years ago when their own economies were struggling. By deciding to invest heavily in science and technological research, these global powerhouses reinvented themselves by cultivating specialized skills for their workforces.

One specific area of reform targeted by the fund is the immediate training of 10,000 doctors across Africa to begin bolstering the continent’s health issues. By making an effort to modernize key industries such as medicine and engineering, Africa is preparing to step onto the same level as other major global powers.

The fund seeks to develop essential 21st century skills in Africans in the hopes that it will help “bring together all partners – public and private, traditional and emerging partners.” By allowing the African workforce to develop into a self-sustaining group, Africa can begin to move away from a heavy dependence on foreign aid.

PASET is the means by which Africa will enter a new era of social and economic development. The skills being taught to Africans will affect agriculture, infrastructure and modern medicine in a continent plagued by poverty and malnutrition. With the World Bank behind it, Africa is poised to leap into the 21st century as an economic power.

– Diego Alejandro Catala

Sources: World Bank, Ghana Web

Pollution_sensing_technology

Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis. One of these must be the biggest cause of deaths in the developing world, right?

Wrong. It is pollution, not diseases, that causes the most deaths in developing countries. Around 8.4 million lives are claimed each year by various kinds of pollution. That is three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, and four times as many as caused by HIV/AIDS.

India and Africa are areas where there are particularly serious problems. India, not China, is home to the world’s most polluted city: Delhi. The number of PM 2.5 particles, the world’s most dangerous, capable of penetrating the lung and therefore entering straight into the bloodstreams of millions, reached 21 times the recommended limit recently.

These levels are twice as toxic as those in Beijing, the accepted pollution capital of the world. The pollution in India causes 1.3 million deaths a year. It also cuts 660 million lives short by three years. Three years off a life simply because of where a person is born or happens to live.

Pollution is also a danger in Africa, where malaria and HIV/AIDS often take the headlines as the leading killers on the continent. Gaborone, Botswana, ranks eighth in particulate pollution among cities that provided information about their pollution levels.

Besides outdoor pollution being an issue, there is also the problem of indoor pollution in both Africa and India. This is generated mostly from cooking with wood and other sooty fuels that clog up the air. Regulations are lax, toward both indoor pollutants and corporate ones.

Never fear, however. New wearable pollution-sensing technology is on the way to save the day, or at least improve the situation. TZOA is producing a small gadget capable of informing wearers about the air they breathe by using “internal sensors to measure your air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV (sun) exposure all in one wearable device.”

The device can hook up to an app on a phone to give air readings. It is not alone in the small pollution-sensing gadget department. A device that doubles for a key-chain called Clarity can perform a similar task. Clarity tracks “personal exposure to air pollution via a smartphone app,” just like TZOA.

While these technologically advanced gizmos cannot reduce the drastic levels of pollution around the globe that are killing millions, what they can do is help provide data where it is lacking in areas where pollution is prevalent. Data is often not available or not provided in some of the areas with the worst pollution.

These gadgets also have the potential to raise awareness for the severity of the issue. Empowering those in the thick of the worst conditions has the potential to make the severity of the situation clearer to governments as well as ordinary people. Armed with this information, both could take action because of the data provided by devices like TZOA and Clarity.

Greg Baker

Sources: Tech Times, Inter Press Service, Huffington Post, BBC, Wired, New York Times
Photo:Flickr

new_tech
As we near the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, there needs to be something done to increase our progress towards ending poverty. Last month, the Frontiers in Development Forum had many visitors who had bright ideas about what would be best to try to achieve our main goal. Leaders like the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Secretary of State John Kerry attended the forum, along with many different innovators, who have been creating mobile apps to combat human trafficking.

What was decided at the forum was that bringing new technologies into play and creating new partnerships is essential in the plan to end extreme poverty. In the U.S., many new technologies have changed the way Americans communicate, work and earn with one another. But there was something launched about two decades ago called the Leland Initiative, which was an effort to help increase access to information for 20 African countries.

To build more onto this idea, USAID has partnered with the U.K., Google.org and the Omidyar Network to create something new called the Alliance for Affordable Internet. This was created in an effort to reduce the cost of internet access and to bring to the table new opportunities for doctors, entrepreneurs and local leaders across the developing world.

Another way that USAID is trying to speed up the process of ending poverty is by using mTrac in Uganda. mTrac is a tool that helps local health workers send the government reports via text message. For example, the Ministry of Health used mTrac to survey 10,000 health workers on whether their health unit had a fridge that was used to keep perishable drugs and vaccines cold. The survey ended up costing only $150 and was done in just less than three days.

New technology is something that many in the Western World are used to and often take for granted, but in Senegal, rice millers are learning about how important technology can be for their community. For example, the rice millers buy expensive Asian imports, while local rice farmers are having a hard time selling their crops. USAID is helping to build the supply chains and improve the quality of the harvests by teaching the farmers to share their information through Excel and Dropbox. This allows the millers to track the local crops, schedule shipments and collect payments online.

This is just the start of what technology can do for the world in helping end poverty, and there is still a long way to go. USAID iterates that creating apps just for the sack of having them is not what will help the world achieve the overall objective of ending poverty. But by looking at the need in countries where technology is not overflowing and creating a solution for that will be the key component in ending extreme poverty.

Brooke Smith

Sources: USAID Blog, USAID
Photo: Flickr