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Poverty in Nepal
Nepal is a beautiful country and mountains make up most of its terrain. Though the topography of the country adds to its magnificence as it sits atop the Himalayas, it also complicates travel, communication and distribution of resources. Nepal is mostly rural, as more than 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture for survival. Social evils like caste discrimination, youth delinquencies, socially excluded indigenous people and sex and human trafficking also plague the country. Consequently, measures to alleviate poverty in Nepal are increasingly challenging to implement. One heartening fact is that technology is slowly creeping into this vastly rural country and gradually aiding the mitigation of poverty in Nepal. Here are the top four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal.

The Top 4 Technological Developments to Alleviate Poverty in Nepal

  1. Medical Cargo Drones: Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death due to infectious diseases in Nepal, and it affects 70 percent of the country’s population. Most of the health care facilities are remote and inaccessible by road, and the testing labs are only in the major cities. Hence WeRobotics teamed up with Nepal Flying Labs and various other funding organizations to develop medical cargo drones. These cargo drones collect sputum samples from the affected people in remote areas and send them to distant health care facilities for rapid testing. These drones delivered the samples in 25 minutes, whereas it took two to three days before. By October 9, 2019, 150 drones had carried more than 1,000 samples from health posts in remote villages to two central health care facilities. These drones have helped diagnose and treat the disease quickly. The government is seeking to develop this technology to control TB in other remote areas of the country soon.
  2. Baby Warmers: In the initial days after birth, babies need to keep warm to avoid contracting pneumonia or hypothermia. Between 63 and 85 percent of newborn deaths are due to hypothermia. Hence a group of biomedical engineers has put together a baby warmer using a ceramic heater connected to a parabolic reflector to reflect the heat towards the bassinet. The assembly parts and the developers are local to the region, and hence these baby warmers are affordable and easy to manufacture to maintain the neonatal health of newborn babies even in rural areas of the country. The Kirtipur hospital in Kathmandu has implemented this technology since January 4, 2020. The National Innovation Center of Nepal is working with the government on manufacturing and distributing more baby warmers soon.
  3. Krishi Gyan Kendra: Krishi Gyan Kendra is a research center located in the Agricultural Development Offices of various districts to connect the researchers with the local farmers. It follows the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of India as a model. Teams of researchers do onsite research on locally cultivated crops and soil to find new ways to improve cropping, processing and marketing practices. These centers act as knowledge resource bases for the local farmers so they can learn how to use modern technology. These also serve as open laboratories for the farmers themselves. Additionally, they also act as information centers providing pieces of information such as what crop might offer a better yield at a particular season and location and what the amount of rainfall will be at different times. This has helped the farmers make informed decisions and adopt better farming practices and pieces of equipment. This idea is still in the starting stages in Nepal, but many expect that it will be as successful as it was in India.
  4. Interactive Digital Soil Maps: Initiatives in Nepal have collected extensive data regarding the soil nature of the country and digitized it into interactive maps using satellite imagery. Certain types of soil are more suited for certain kinds of crops, and the land usage pattern and groundwater table levels can also determine the fertility of a region. Using these digital maps, a person standing in any area within the data range can instantly know about the soil properties of the soil he is standing on, such as its nature, its fertility, the ideal crops that might give the maximum yield in that soil and the soil management techniques ideal for that soil. Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, along with the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), developed this mobile-friendly technology. They are actively gathering soil data for more regions of the country in order to update it.

These four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal show incredible promise for the country. Irrespective of the drawbacks that might hold Nepal back, its people’s untamed spirits are always on the path to catch up with the scientific and technological innovations and developments of the modern world to better their country and themselves.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty-Solving TechnologyWhen thinking of drones, the image that comes to mind for many people is of warfare drones and precision strikes. This is not all drones can be used for, however. WeRobotics is an organization that uses drones for humanitarian practices. This organization utilizes the positive impacts of robotic technology to address global problems such as poverty, health and post-disaster reconstruction.

WeRobotics established itself as a not-for-profit organization in December 2015. Since then, their progress has been astounding. WeRobotics and its Flying Labs work with NGOs, government agencies and universities in over 20 countries to spread this beneficial poverty-solving technology.

The company sets up Flying Labs in various countries that serve as a “hub of robotics technology, where staff host training sessions, webinars and teach people how to use technology.” These labs are also “incubators” for the formation of new, local businesses. There are now flying labs in Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Réunion, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

The robotic technology in these Flying Labs is used for a variety of purposes.The drones can be used for mapping, cargo delivery, drone journalism and conservation. In Nepal, for example, the drones were used to map out the damage done to a region after an earthquake. The map made by the drones was then printed out and annotated by locals to determine strategies and priorities for reconstruction. They also used swimming drones to better understand glacial lakes, which lakes formed by the melting of Himalayan glaciers. These lakes, when forming, have a “tsunami” effect on the areas around them. The swimming drones are used to understand how these lakes are formed and to predict new formations and determine vulnerable areas.

In Peru, the drones are primarily used for cargo delivery of important medicines and vaccines. In the Peruvian Amazon, many people live in areas that are not close to roads or highways. Thus, the main form of transportation is river boat, which can be slow, unreliable and costly. The drones are able to make deliveries of important medicines, such as anti-venom, in a fraction of the time it takes the river boats. In one example, anti-venom was delivered by a drone in 35 minutes, when it would have taken a river boat 6 hours. This can be the difference between life and death. In this way, the drones become poverty-solving technology as they remove barriers created by regional poverty.

One of the most important tenets of WeRobotic’s work is their focus on democratization and localization of technology. This means giving the technology and training to locals with no strings attached. They train locals to be able to use the technology themselves so that the project is respectful of local communities’ autonomy and is also sustainable. Locals in Nepal were able to complete an unfinished map on their own after the WeRobotics team left the site. Because the locals are given access to the information that makes the technology work, they are able to come up with solutions to problems themselves.

Some things that the company notes can be improved are the affordability, repairability, durability, simplicity and battery life of the drones.

This poverty-solving technology has a promising future. It has already provided local communities with means of mapping and transportation, things that are underappreciated in well-off countries, but necessary for civilian life. The possibilities for these humanitarian drones are far-reaching. With more and more people being trained around the world at these Flying Labs, there is more possibilities for improvements and innovative solutions.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Pixabay