Artificial Intelligence is Helping Developing Countries
Developing countries often suffer from a lack of good teachers and schools. As a result, they frequently do not have very good academic standing and their people are less educated. With this lack of learning and cultivation comes a worse economy as well. The developing world needs to find a way to academically catch up with the developed world. Not only is it lacking in educational resources, but health care is a problem as well. Medical professionals are rarely available, especially in places further from the city. Individual appointments use up human resources fast, leaving others with no help. Even things like farming are getting to be more difficult. With the changing climate, farmers cannot use traditional farming cycles and predictions to determine the best time to plant their crops. Luckily, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries tackle some of their present challenges.

 Artificial Intelligence Can Make a Difference

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can solve many of the problems that developing countries face. Not only can it do more than a human, but it can also learn and adapt as it goes. AI takes the data it receives and uses it in the way it is told but also finds ways to optimize the process. The more that people use artificial intelligence, the more it improves.

Disaster Relief

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs used a system called Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) to gather all information about the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and its damage, emergency needs and disaster response. AIDR was able to pinpoint the location of actual and potential victims and determine which workers were available. Artificial intelligence can also create digital maps of the area to identify which places need the most assistance. It is able to identify humanitarian aid needs automatically and sort any given data into different categories, such as infrastructure damage, urgent needs and response efforts. Based on this categorization and captured data, available responders could quickly focus their efforts and supplies on the right places.


Artificial intelligence is helping developing countries because it has the power to bring education to those who formerly never dreamed of accessing it. With over 750 million adults unable to read and write, most of them in developing countries, AI could enact big change in their lives. Currently, there are two large learning platforms that utilize artificial intelligence in Africa: Daptio and Eneza Education. Daptio helps students to study remotely. It gathers data on the student, such as their strengths and weaknesses, and adjusts its curriculum accordingly. Eneza Education is a mobile learning platform that gives lessons and assessments to over 860,000 subscribers. Students receive these through web communication or SMS messages. It has quizzes, offline access to Wikipedia, a dictionary and its own feature where users can “Ask-A-Teacher” questions live.

Improving Crop Production

The AI Sowing App, made by Microsoft and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), pinpoints the best time to plant seeds, prepare land and use fertilizer. It also has a function that finds the moisture adequacy index, both in real-time and the future. The app works by gathering data from past climate trends, usually around a couple of decades, and applies it to the present. AI can also assist in weeding; Harvest CROO Robotics created a device that can analyze each plant individually and determine whether it needs pesticides or not, greatly saving on pesticides and their costs.

Improving Health Care and Hastening Economic Development

AI can perform accurate diagnoses, give treatment plans and predict disease outbreak. This saves on human resources and gives those that live farther from civilization the same access to medical care. It can also make basic health care cheaper for those who cannot afford to travel to an actual doctor for medical attention. As for economic development, with AI taking care of menial labor like factory work and educating the public, humans will be able to focus on doing more complicated jobs like working as entrepreneurs or engineers.

Although many developing nations suffer from poor education, lack of health care and economies, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries solve many of these problems. From disaster relief and education to improving crop production and providing medical assistance, artificial intelligence applications have the potential to greatly improve the lives of countless individuals within the developing world.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of the Somalia Famine in 2011The Horn of Africa is the easternmost region of Africa. It is comprised of four countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In 2011, the countries in the Horn of Africa were severely impacted by what was known as the “worst drought in 60 years.” Somalia was affected the worst due to a combination of extreme weather conditions and civil disorder. On July 20, 2011, the U.N. declared a famine in southern and central Somalia, specifically in Lower Shabelle, Mogadishu and the Bay area where acute malnutrition rates among children exceeded 30 percent. People were unable to access basic necessities. More than two people per 10,000 were dying daily. Inevitably, the famine led to high mortality rates. Nearly 260,000 people died by the end of the 2011 Somalia famine with more than half of the victims being children under five years old.

Cause and Effect of the 2011 Drought

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cited poor rainfall for two consecutive seasons was the cause of the severe 2011 East Africa drought. Crops in Somalia are typically planted when the first rain of the season occurs in either March or April. However, the rains were late and inadequate, which caused late planting and harvesting.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network had predicted the harvest in southern Somalia to be 50 percent below average. In addition to this, pastures were sparse due to the intensifying drought, which ultimately led to the rapid loss of livestock. Crop failure coupled with poor harvests and limited livestock reduced food availability. As a result, food prices increased substantially. This ultimately intensified the severe food crisis in Somalia.

Government vs. al-Shabaab

Due to limited resources, a conflict began to grow over food and water. Additionally, civil disorder worsened the famine conditions as the militant Islamic group, al-Shabaab, was at war with the government over control of the country. Food aid was delayed in south-central Somalia—two al-Shabaab controlled regions—because the terrorist group banned numerous humanitarian agencies from distributing food and assistance to starving citizens of the region.

Al-Shabaab threatened citizens with brutal punishment, including execution, if they dared try to escape the region. Despite these terroristic threats, 170,000 citizens of southern Somalia fled to Kenya and Ethiopia to escape the famine conditions that plagued the country. Unfortunately, this resulted in a substantial number of deaths due to severe malnutrition, overpopulated and unsanitary living conditions.

Foreign Aid to Somalia

The United Nations estimated that 3.2 million people in Somalia were in need of immediate help. At least 2.8 million of those citizens were inhabitants of south Somalia. Numerous United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), united to provide relief to the victims of the 2011 Somalia famine. Although the conflict between rival groups initially left the south-central region of Somalia isolated from foreign aid, humanitarian agencies persisted in helping the citizens of Somalia.

The United Nations assisted in raising more than $1 billion for relief efforts across the region to reduce malnourishment and mortality rates. In addition to this, heavy rains in the fall season replenished the land, allowing a successful crop season and a bountiful harvest. In February 2012, the lethal conditions that once swept across the nation had improved. The United Nations declared the famine that plagued Somalia was finally over.

Where Does Somalia Stand Now?

In June 2019, the United Nations declared that countries of the Horn of Africa were at risk of another famine due to another drought. Five million people were at risk of this potential famine with Somalians accounting for a majority of the at-risk population. The Under-Secretary-General and emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock, stated that he allocated $45 million from the U.N. emergency relief fund to help purchase food and other basic necessities. A majority of the $45 million was allocated for Somalia as 2.2 million people could face another severe food crisis similar to the 2011 Somalia famine.

The United Nations recognized that Somalia has suffered from several occurrences of food insecurity. The organization has taken the initiative to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia by acting early, allocating funds and raising awareness about the issue.

Arielle Pugh
Photo: Flickr

Peace in Mali
The Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation between Malian parties and Algeria-led Mediation Team was signed in early May 2015 in Mali’s capital city Bamako. The spokesperson for the United Nations, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, implored Malians to reinstitute peace in Mali and anticipate a long-lasting ceasefire. On 20 June 2015, a member of the Arab Movement of Azawad, Sidi Ibrahim Ould Sidati, signed his name to the amended version of the Algerian Accord on behalf of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in the presence of northern Mali’s community leaders and international sponsors.

According to Ban Ki-moon, the official signing of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation was 15 May 2015. The Agreement received a signature from the CMA on 20 June. Pleased with the addition and recognition from CMA, a coalition of armed groups, Ki-moon wants to remind participants that Mali and Malians must adhere to reconciliation efforts and ensure accountability to maintain promising endeavors toward peace.

The Secretary-General’s statement in Bamako reassures Mali that the United Nations supports both parties under the enactment of the Agreement. Ki-moon congratulates the parties and their momentous achievement toward securing peace. He also recognizes the neutral amity expressed by the text of the document.

Conflict has stirred unrest since the 1960s as Tuareg rebel forces fought with the Malian government over discourses relating to ethic discrimination and misrepresentation. The modified Algerian Accord has aligned Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita with Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, vice-president and spokesperson of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad.

Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, a senior member of CMA, feels mediation tactics are close to resolving divisional conflicts between northern and southern Mali. The nation wants peace for each side of the conflict. The purpose of the Algerian Accord is to revitalize the country’s north, which stationed Tuareg revolts against governmental forces.

The Accord’s connections aim to mend national struggles with diversity and radical Islamist movements. Both aspire to end turbulence altogether with the Accord standing in good-conscience with the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation.

CMA was waiting for amendments to the Accord until 5 June. Marking their commitment to the Accord required provisions that will allow Tuareg armed groups to create partnerships with security in the north and grant representation for northern inhabitants in governmental institutions. As of 19 June, unity in Mali provokes members of the coalition to withdrawal from the town Menaka.

The mistrust began in 2012 when censure formed against southern sub-Saharan groups for not upholding the interest of northern factions. Tuareg separatists confiscated several northern towns and cities before Al-Qaeda radicals further exploited hostility. The Islamist radicals were overthrown by French military efforts.

The gap between the north and south deepened with nearly five hundred thousand seeking refuge in other countries according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) monitored by Jens Laerke. The ceasefire, known as the Ouagadougou Preliminary Agreement, was reinstated on 23 May 2014 to end hostilities in Kidal. Rebelling armed groups break the original contract by carrying out militaristic and administrative positions of power in several towns.

Albert Gerard Koenders, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, and Abel Aziz, Mauritania’s President and current Chairman of the African Union, pledge to end the hostility. Armed groups who originally applied their signatures to the document agree again to a ceasefire as humanitarian conditions worsen when attacks against UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization (MINUSMA), the Malian government forces and France’s Operation Serval amplify.

Nearly 400,000 original inhabitants returned to the north since the signing of the Ouagadougou Preliminary Agreement. The will for peace is evident with miles still to trek. Mahamadou Djeri Maiga will continue to scan for evidence of positive results on the ground after the signing. In the meantime, Ki-moon hopes the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation is an inspiration to others in the political process.

Katie Groe

Sources: UN 1, UN 2, GN Network, UN 3,

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

humanitarian aid
What tools and actions are humanitarian organizations overlooking while in developing countries? According to a recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs presented at the Humanitarian Innovation Conference at the University of Oxford, aid agencies often do not use the talent and skills of those they are helping to overcome challenges.

The report urges international organizations to give the people who have been affected by conflict a chance to be involved in the process of coming up with ideas and creating products that meet the needs of their community.

The most important way to shift the focus of aid is to change how the international community thinks about administering humanitarian aid to refugees and people affected by conflict. When the mindset that refugees are vulnerable and in need of help is replaced with the fact that they are people with unique skills and ideas who have unfortunately been affected by conflict, then the way aid is approached can be fundamentally changed in a positive and more affordable way.

User-led innovation has already begun in places like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, where people are using technology in various ways, such as to sharpen tools, make sanitary pads and produce radio shows.

The Oxford conference report is meant to serve as a conversation starter, something to build on as international organizations and countries rethink how they distribute aid as both costs and the amount of people affected by conflict continue to rise. Advocating for more bottom-up solutions from refugee communities, as opposed to top-down ideas from international organizations, can lead to more efficient aid and stable situations for both the refuge and host communities.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: SciDevNet 1, SciDevNet 2, UN-OCHA
Photo: Global Communities