The latest technological innovations have the ability to make a powerful impact on reducing poverty across the globe. However, finding a way to support and develop the most promising ideas remains a challenge. To that end, The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California holds an annual awards program to spread the word about the best ideas in anti-poverty tech solutions. Here are five of last year’s Tech Awards Laureates:
- Equal Access International: This organization founded and run by CEO Ronni Goldfarb uses the power of the media to tell human stories about those in poverty, raising awareness and shining a light on those who would otherwise be ignored. Last year, this organization partnered with Nepal’s United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to produce the radio show “Chatting with My Best Friend.” This show combines entertainment with education, teaching young people how to prevent becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. “Our programs help people believe in themselves and gain the confidence and skills they need to improve their lives no matter what their circumstances,” Goldfarb said.
- International Development Enterprises-India (IDEI): IDEI designed a brilliant solution to tackle India’s lack of access to underground water. By creating an easy-to-use and cheap man-powered water pump resembling a tiered treadmill, farmers in India are able to extend their annual growing season with their own two feet. “We take what we call the logjam approach,” Shveta Bakshki, IDEI Vice President stated. “We identify that one, critical obstruction to remove so that good things start happening.”
- Design Revolution (D-Rev): Krista Donaldson’s organization is saving the lives of infants using the power of light. Her groundbreaking blueprint for an enduring yet inexpensive lamp, called Brilliance, cures jaundice in babies by bathing them in a strong blue light. One of the most accomplished anti-poverty tech solutions to date, D-Rev’s phototherapy breakthrough has saved more than 175,000 infant lives across 41 countries. “We believe that regardless of your income, you deserve access to high-quality medical devices,” Donaldson stated.
- Souktel: Hundreds of smartphone apps have been designed to serve smartphone users, but Souktel found a way to make older flip phones just as smart. Jacob Korenblum’s startup uses basic text messaging to link employers with candidates in regions where traditional communication is difficult, leading to job growth and greater economic gains. Derived from the Arabic words for market and telephone, Souktel turns text messages into miniature online job boards. “People might be from different backgrounds, but they are united in a common purpose for things like creating better healthcare and education,” Korenblum said.
- Angaza: Lesley Marincola’s idea to bring solar energy to those who cannot afford electricity was revolutionary for its outside-the-box thinking. Instead of forcing people to pay up front for solar lamps, Angaza accepts micro-payments over time for energy while offering immediate access, similar to purchasing minutes on a cell phone. Once the purchase price of the device is reached, the lamp becomes the property of the user. Angaza’s tech not only improves individual lives, it bolsters the local economy as well. As Marincola told The Tech Awards, “It gets super exciting when you think about putting all of these low-income consumers on the map. We have big plans.”
As Tech Awards Laureates, each of the above designers of anti-poverty tech solutions has been awarded $50,000 from PATH, a nonprofit for global health, to further develop their life-changing innovative ideas.
– Dan Krajewski