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Computer Access in GhanaAs one of the world’s poorest African countries, Ghana has a poverty rate that touches roughly 55 percent of its population, with only 24% possessing internet access. This acute problem owes itself in part to a large number of its youth, who grow up in the absence education accessibility. However, educators have begun to combat the ailments of impoverished Ghanaian communities. To do this, they utilize the fundamental cornerstone of a globalized world- computer technology. Computers have empowered Ghana’s poverty-stricken youth. As a result, they gain greater access to future job security and change the course of their own lives, along with the communities they inhabit. Below are three ways that computers and new technologies are improving the standard of living in Ghana.

Teaching 21st-Century Job Skills to Teens

The inclusion of computer access within the Ghanaian education system allows teens to develop valuable 21st-century technology literacy. It stands to open critical doors to higher education. In an era that is inarguably dominated by mobile phones, laptops, and wireless communications, access proves paramount. Programs like those presented by Ghana Code Club, which has taught nearly 1,700 students and trained over 300 teachers, enrich Ghana’s youth specifically with computer science as well as coding languages classes, paving the way for future innovations, as well as national economic growth.

Increasing Earning Potential

A Pew Survey showed that computer users connected to the internet are more likely to have higher incomes. The University of Ghana offers a dedicated computer science course that nurtures software programmers, who have the potential to earn up to three times as much as their professors. However, only through expansion will these opportunities allow them to truly reach a wide demographic. Increased computer access in Ghana is difficult to ensure. Currently, only around 36 people graduate from the University of Ghana’s technology program annually. Vast areas of the country are still shielded from these positive impacts.

Breaking the Gender Stereotype

Despite the computer’s role in expanding social and economic standards in Ghana, many traditional African communities restrict women and girls on the basis of acceptable gender roles. Although, new non-governmental organizations like STEMbees, a Ghana-based organization, inspire and allow young girls to break the stigma and enter into the fields of coding science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Other organizations, like UNESCO’s Girls Can Code, also work to fight the ongoing battle against gender stereotypes in the African educational sphere. Methods that implement computer stations in Ghanaian villages and equip new schools with current technology continue to increase computer access in Ghana.

Ghana now finds itself in the unique position of being on the verge of a technological revolution that coincides with its industrial revolution. Each of the two transformational eras is set to drive the country towards a prosperous future. This future, additionally, carries with it the promise of greater opportunity for Ghanaian children. Average Ghanaian students gaining access to computer technology furthers the assurance of a better standard of living for Ghanaian citizens. Over time, this development can carry on for generations to come.

Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

photographing the worlds poorPhotography can inspire empathy and mobilize viewers to care more about the world around them. This is especially true for photography of the world’s poor. However, along with photography’s power comes an ethical responsibility to ensure that it does not objectify or exploit its subjects.

Photography of the World’s Poor: Inviting Empathy

Between a click of shutters and closed corner frames, moments freeze into ageless photographs. Photography invites the viewer into a new world and a new perspective through a single captured moment. Such invitation is essential to the impact of photography, as both an art form and a journalistic device.

Photography of the world’s poor is a powerful tool. Photographs offer a visual language, one that situates the viewer in a specific moment and allows headlines and statistics to become real and palpable. Many non-profit and news organizations have utilized photography of the world’s poor in order to inform, mobilize and inspire the public to further help those in need.

Studies: The Identifiable Victim and The Visual

Photography’s power stems in part from the identifiable victim effect, which “refers to peoples’ tendency to preferentially give to identified versus anonymous victims of misfortune.” The phenomenon connects one’s empathy with an ability to humanize and personalize another. A study in 2007 exemplified the identifiable victim effect by showing that people were likely to donate more when they were presented with a single individual, such as an image of an orphan that would benefit from their donation, than with a group statistic reflecting the millions in need.

Along with employing the identifiable victim effect, photography harnesses power as a visual medium. A 2013 study found that subjects were more likely to donate when they were given a photograph of an orphan than if they saw a silhouette of that child or her name. The study shows how the visual stimulation of an image generates a greater response in viewers than other personal but non-visual information.

Through its use of the identifiable victim effect and a visual medium, photography can inspire empathy and generosity in its viewers. Photography of the world’s poor can quite literally open the public’s eyes to the suffering and injustices that are taking place globally. It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the millions of people suffering from extreme poverty, but looking at a portrait of a single individual suddenly makes the issues a lot more personal and pressing.

The Dangers of Photography: Poverty Porn

With photography’s power comes consequences. Photography of the world’s poor has the potential to objectify and exploit its subjects. Some describe such photos as “poverty porn.”

Poverty porn can be difficult to define, but it seeks to identify exploitative images that strive to be as horrifying and pitiful as possible in order to shock the viewer into feeling sympathy and oftentimes making a donation. Sometimes photographers may even stage subjects, positioning them to look particularly poor and helpless in order to capture a specifically desired image.

This type of photography is not only one-dimensional, but it is dangerous. Poverty porn creates a culture of paternalism and objectification that paints the viewers as saviors and reduces the poor down to their struggles. Furthermore, poverty porn disregards a community’s capability, strength and resilience, and instead “evokes the idea that the poor are helpless and incapable of helping themselves.” Rather than intelligent and competent agents, the poor become disempowered individuals, stripped of their dignity, in order to invoke a guilt-ridden response from the viewer.

Utilizing Photography for Good

For all its power and potential, photography of the world’s poor brings with it an ethical responsibility. When done right, photography can provide an important look into the lives it captures, giving voice to the voiceless and inspiring viewers to care more deeply for the world around them.

Yet, in utilizing this precious tool, it is also necessary to understand what remains unseen in these images. As described in an article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “each image arises from a set of momentary, fragmented relationships embedded in asymmetrical power relations.” These “asymmetrical power relations” begin with the photographer’s choices and extends into the viewer’s perception of the image. It is important to remember that the individuals in the photograph do not always have a say in how they are depicted.

No photograph, no matter how justly done, can convey the full story: complex, intricate human lives cannot be completely captured by a two-dimensional frame. Yet, as written in the NCBI article, “our photographs — and [the] emotional reactions they produce — speak to both the very need for the image and the desire for it to capture what will literally ‘work’ for the agencies that commission their production.”

Photography’s ability to inspire empathy in viewers and connect the world through a single human moment is enough evidence that it is an art form worth utilizing in the fight against world poverty, when done correctly.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

UN Millenium Development MDGsThe United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000. World leaders and members of the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to set goals for eradicating world poverty focusing on eight specific aspects of poverty and how it affects people globally.

The campaign concluded in 2015 and at that time data was released to show the progress achieved. The eight UN MDGs are listed below, along with what was achieved in each category, per the results of the 2015 report:

    • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of this goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, both the number of people whose income falls below $1 per day and the number of people suffering from hunger. These goals were largely achieved. The number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries fell by nearly half.
    • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This goal began with the ambitious target of assuring that both boys and girls everywhere would have access to a full primary education by 2015. Significant strides have been made in this area. The number of out of school children of primary age, globally, dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the course of the MDG campaign.
    • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The goal, specifically, was to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary education no later than 2015. This was achieved in roughly two-thirds of developing countries.
    • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality. The goal was specifically to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate was not reduced by two-thirds by 2015 but it was more than halved. The 12.7 million deaths in 1990 were reduced to 6 million by 2015.

  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target of this goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. The result was that maternal mortality declined by 45 percent, largely after the year 2000.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. The primary target named for this goal was to have halted the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to have begun its reversal. Cases of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and there was an immense increase in the number of people who had access to the drugs that combat HIV. Additionally, the mortality rate due to malaria dropped by 58 percent, and 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in affected areas.
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability. This goal was to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.” Results included 1.9 billion people gaining access to piped drinking water between 1990 and 2015 and 90 percent of ozone-depleting materials being eliminated in countries included in the campaign.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Financial assistance by developed countries increased from $81 billion in 2000 to $135 billion in 2014. This is a 66 percent increase.

In many cases, the UN MDGs were achieved. Where they were not, great strides were still made towards achieving the goals. Some have criticized the campaign for falling short of its stated goals. But the data shows significant progress made for each one.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

SDGs
According to a study conducted by Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation that researches and advocates social responsibility, the United States is ranked among the countries least likely to complete the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs aimed at ending poverty and combating climate change by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals that were conceived at the 2012 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals in January 2016 and are based on six elements: dignity, people, prosperity, our planet, justice and partnership.

“The MDGs were about resource transfer from rich countries. The SDGs are universal—they’re supposed to apply to all countries and try to overcome the ‘West lecturing the rest’ dynamic,” said Sarah Hearn, associate director and senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.

While the U.S. struggles to meet SDGs, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have the best chances of completing the goals. The countries with the lowest rankings are the U.S., Greece, Chile, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico.

Even though the U.S. has a high GDP, clean air and abundant housing, the country struggles with income inequality, over-consumption and environmental protection.

“We in the rich nations, with our growing social inequality and wasteful use of resources, can no longer present ourselves as the world’s teachers,” said Aart de Geus, Bertelsmann Stiftung chairman. “Rather, the analysis shows us where we, too, have to do our homework.”

During his visit to the U.S., Pope Francis addressed Congress and the U.N. Council, discussing the urgency of eradicating world poverty and climate change and how a solution cannot wait for future generations.

President Barack Obama, whose plans for a climate change bill were denied by Congress early in his presidency, agrees with the pope and his efforts to make the U.S. more involved.

“Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet — God’s magnificent gift to us. We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations,” said President Obama.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: ABC News, Council on Foreign Relations, Huffington Post, The Daily Star
Photo: Turner

How Panera Bread Fights World Poverty
Panera Bread is known for its superb soups, salads and bakery items that might feed our appetites quite often. But Panera Bread has another, lesser-known side to their business. As one of the United States’ and Canada’s biggest food companies, Panera Bread also works to serve the less fortunate around the world.

The company previously enacted a ‘pay what you like’ method of paying to help those unable to pay the full price for food to have something to eat. The ‘pay what you like’ method allowed diners to pay more or less than $5.89 for their chili.

The purpose of this program was to encourage their customers to use what they were not paying to donate to charities and to provide food to those unable to pay. The method is still being used in locations such as Chicago, Illinois and Portland, Oregon. Other restaurants that have stopped using it are currently searching for new ways to support those suffering from hunger.

Another way Panera Bread gives back is through their Panera Cares Community Cafes. In the United States, 17 million homes are considered food insecure and 16 million children, meaning one in five children, do not have the means to receive proper nutrition every day. In these nonprofits locations, Panera Bread is willing to serve anyone for free. The aim of this project is to end hunger throughout the country.

In 2013, Panera Bread’s CEO demonstrated a style of living to promote hunger awareness. For one month, Ron Shaich collaborated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to enact a lifestyle to live on $4.50 a day to create awareness for those in need, even though he normally makes roughly 3 million a year.

To put this into perspective, $4.50 is the average cost of a McDonald’s Mighty Kids Meal. Ron Shaich noted that although he was buying foods to keep him full, he continuously missed out on the healthy foods that matter, like meat, vegetables and fruits. He also stated how eye-opening of an experience it was for him and how impactful it will be on his efforts of putting an end to hunger.

Panera Bread continues to help fight poverty by continuing to give back to their communities through programs like the Day-End Dough-Nation and In-Kind Donations, which provide unsold bakery items to hunger relief agencies. Panera Cares operates in multiple cities throughout the US and is continuously creating innovative ideas to end world hunger.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Time, CNBC, Panera Bread
Photo: Google Images

joint distribution committee
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee aims to serve those across the globe who are in the most need of immediate assistance. Whether it is a matter of confronting human rights violations or simply providing for the world’s poor, the goal of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is to provide relief.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is active in over 70 countries and works to aid those with persisting poverty issues, as well as those negatively impacted by factors ranging from times of war to unexpected and destructive weather. The organization has been active since 1914 and seeks to provide a worldwide community for those in need.

Although the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee works worldwide to aid those in need, they operate on three basic principles in order to sustain Jewish culture. The organization aims to “save the poorest Jews, to develop tomorrow’s Jewish leaders, and to revitalize Jewish life.”

The organization has most recently been active in aiding people in Israel who have been under constant rocket fire from Gaza. The American Jewish Distribution has “activated their emergency phone chains and are regularly checking in on those they serve, providing for their safety, and meeting their needs as the emergency continues.”

Plans of action include delivering meals to those unable to leave their homes in areas such as Be’er Tuvia, Merchavim and Sdot Negev. Through the Better Together program, they are working to establish alternative activities to keep children busy and to decrease their levels of fear and anxiety caused by the long periods of time spent in bomb shelters.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution has provided assistance during the Carmel fires, Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War. The organization is no stranger to providing assistance during times of conflict.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Holocaust Encyclopedia
Photo: Lastheplace

world's poor
Over half of the world’s population lives on $2.50 a day or less. Yet the world’s poor constitute the world’s largest untapped market.

CK Prahalad’s 2004 book, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,”  brought companies’ attention to the huge profits to be made by tapping into the bottom of the pyramid, as well as the benefits this move could yield for the poor. Yet, many companies still wonder, what’s in it for us? As it turns out, that is the right question to ask. Too many altruistic endeavors have failed because companies were not business-oriented or profit-minded enough.

For example, Hewlett Packard’s project, dubbed “e-inclusion,” was founded under the noble goal of providing access to all the available modern digital, social and economic opportunities to everyone in the world. The project was quickly abandoned because it did not fall in line with HP’s overall mission. Proctor & Gamble introduced a product called PUR, which was a water purification powder, aimed at bottom of the pyramid markets. The product failed commercially and Proctor & Gamble stopped distributing it. DuPont attempted to reduce the suffering of millions of people from malnutrition by selling soy-fortified food. After a test run in India, the company gave in because it seemed impossible to make a profit.

Mark Martin is the vice president of international marketing at SC Johnson. He points out what he believes is the biggest challenge of harnessing bottom of the pyramid markets: “each consumer makes a very small purchase. You need lots and lots of consumers.” Because of the small purchasing power of each consumer, it is vital that costs of production are kept low.

Despite these challenges, advocates of Prahalad’s book, as well as the general public, feel corporations have a role to play in alleviating poverty. In a poll conducted by The Guardian, 83 percent responded that they believe corporations have an important role to play in the poorest markets. Seventy-three percent believe there is money to be made by serving the poor, and 89 percent see the importance of financial inclusion to enable poor people to participate in the economy.

In a live chat with a panel consisting of Mark Martin and other professionals in similar positions at different companies, all agreed that the primary focus of a company tapping into the Bottom of the Pyramid should be making a profit. Getting carried away by altruistic theories is neither practical nor efficient.

“Our customers design our products,” explains Donn Tice, CEO of d.light, a company that provides solar energy to poor rural areas. By entering a new market with a focus on making profits and the willingness to adapt the product to fit the needs and wants of target consumers, success can be achieved.

As many companies have become disillusioned with Prahalad’s premise, the professionals participating in the live chat concluded that the bottom of the pyramid still represents a vast market of untapped potential. The key to success is in adaptability, patience and attention to details.

Martin describes one of SC Johnson’s strategies, in which adaptability, patience and attention to detail are utilized. Farmers in Rwanda are trained in agricultural practices, sustainability and financial management. SC Johnson sources pyrethrum, a product used in Raid, from these farmers. This is accomplished through partnerships with nonprofits in Rwanda.

SAB Miller has a similar technique of adapting to local needs. The company adapts the beer it sells in a particular region to the local crops of the region. For example, in Mozambique, the beer is made with cassava, and in Uganda it is made with sorghum. By using local crops it not only tastes better to the consumers, but also supports local farmers and keeps costs low.

“The reason for focusing on profits for us is so we can demonstrate sustainability and stay in the markets to truly make a difference in the area we are focused,” Martin explains. Businesses, after all, survive off profits, and financial needs cannot be sacrificed for social gains. It may seem counter intuitive to noble-minded companies, but focusing less on charity and more on making a profit will benefit both the company and the consumers in the target area.

— Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, Marketwatch, Reuters
Photo: Architonic

world poverty
Despite the ever-pressing need to lend aid to the global community, as of recently, world poverty has been declining-presumably from a convergence of factors such as foreign aid, economic stabilization and increased development. As a result of increased investment in education, health, housing and facilitated access to water, living conditions around the globe have undergone improvement, further contributing to the decline in world poverty. According to a development report by the United Nations, the decline of poverty in the developing world was surpassing predictions.

The UN reported that “The world is witnessing an epochal ‘global re-balancing’ with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new ‘global middle class.’ Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.” Furthermore, shortly after the release of the UN report, Oxford University conducted a study supporting the UN’s findings.

According to Oxford University’s poverty and human development initiative, poverty in many regions of the world is no longer as acute. According this initiative, acute poverty in the poorest countries could become eliminated within the short time frame of 20 years. Among the countries that could experience the eradication of severe poverty are Nepal, Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania and Bolivia.

Furthermore, the method of gauging poverty has also changed. Sabine Alkire and Maria Emma Santos of the UN engendered the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in 2010 to provide a more compressive measure of poverty. The MPI measures poverty along ten dimensions, such as nutrition, child morality, schooling, cooking fuel, water, sanitation, electricity and infrastructure. Unlike older measures of poverty that overlook critical indicators of poverty such as nutrition and health, the MPI is a far more thorough assessment.

Despite the economic crises of 2008 and 2009 that had catapulted the global economy into a recession, the world’s poorest nations are still able to rapidly approach the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. According to estimates by the World Bank, the global poverty rate is projected to fall below 15 percent by 2015, implying that other consequences of poverty such as hunger and death are also projected to decline significantly.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: The Guardian, UN
Photo: Dreambook

geospatial_worldpop_asia
Led by the University of Southampton, a team of researches have launched an online project, WorldPop, to map detailed population information of countries all over the globe.

With funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the website aims to provide open access to global demographic data which can be used to help combat challenges such as poverty, public health, food security and sustainable urban development. It combines country-specific data from national statistic services to construct detailed population distribution maps. Satellite imagery is also used to provide information on density, land cover and transportation networks.

“Our maps and data are helping charities, policy-makers, governments and researchers to make decisions which affect the quality of people’s lives. These could be as diverse as predicting the spread of infectious diseases, planning the development of transport systems or distributing vital aid to disaster zones,” said geographer at Southampton Dr. Andy Tatem, leader of the project.  “For example, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with devastating effect, international organizations were able to download information about population density from our website to help with estimating impact and delivering aid efforts.”

Each country possesses its own summary page that users can view high resolution maps showing population numbers, age distributions, births, pregnancies, rates of poverty and urban growth.. Currently, WorldPop provides free data for Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Researches now plan to expand the project to cover all continents of the world and stress that datasets are regularly updated as necessary.

“The global human population is growing by over 80 million a year, and is projected to reach the 10 billion mark within 50 years. The vast majority of this growth is expected to be concentrated in low income countries, and primarily in urban areas. The effects of such rapid growth are well documented, with the economies, environment and health of nations all undergoing significant change,” said Tatem.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Health Canal, Geospatial World, University of Southampton
Photo: WorldPop

world povertyThough information is now a button-click or Google search away, most citizens of first world countries tend not to concern themselves with facts and statistics about world poverty. Even the term ‘developing world’ implies that poverty stricken third world and transition countries are part of an entity somehow separate and removed from the ‘developed world’. Here are some poignant and eye-opening facts about world poverty that many first world citizens are not aware of:

1. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. In addition to this, around 3 billion people—almost half of the world’s population—live on less than $2.50 a day. While this is technically above the poverty line, it would be impossible an impossible task for most citizens of the developed world. To put this in perspective, poverty is defined in the United States as living on around $30 a day.

2. It would cost approximately $40 billion to offer basic education, clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women, and basic health and nutrition to every person in every developing country, according to dosomething.org. This is less than the U.S. Navy’s newest proposed aircraft carrier production program, which will produce three ships and cost $42 billion.

3. Out of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty. Children growing in poverty often end up stunted and malnourished. 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. The children that survive are forever hindered by their impoverished upbringing, whether from malnutrition, lack of medical treatment, lack of education, or countless other issues.

4. The biggest obstacle to ending world poverty is leadership from the White House and Congress. The US is the first country ever to have both the ability and political influence to end poverty and hunger; all that is needed is more action from the federal government in fighting poverty.

5. CEOs, economists, the business community, and the military all find ending world poverty to be a benefit to their agenda. As citizens of the developing world rise out of poverty and into the middle class, new markets open up for businesses, leading to greater profits. Poverty is also linked to instability and conflict. Military personnel see the importance in addressing world poverty to increase international security.

The developed world has the resources to end world poverty. In addition, it is in the interests of the first world to do so. Citizens of the developed world simply need to use these facts to pressure their government to address world poverty through aid and sustainable development.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Global Issues, The Borgen Project, Bloomberg, IRP
Photo: Needpix