Poverty Today

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.” -Muhammad Yunus

More than three billion people live off of $2.50 a day. More than 80% of the world’s population lives off of $10 a day (Global Issues). Most Americans would easily spend $2.50 on a Starbucks coffee without even thinking about it. In the United States most people could not imagine living on that amount of money, but in the rest of the world that is the norm. Extreme poverty is not understood globally because most Americans live in a bubble where they do not know whats going on outside of there world. Attention needs to be brought to this issue because there is a lot that individuals can do to solve this problem.

The research that I have completed over the course of the semester has brought to light all the things that individuals can do to donate to the cause. It can be money, time, or other resources. Technology is the key factor in changing the poverty stricken world. There are so many resources that can be created to solve the communities problems in the terms that they want. Innovation is important in communities because they know what needs to be changed and what technology can make that happen.

All the work that organizations like Practical Action and Prochorus do, are leading the way for an extreme poverty free world. This is a global issue that faces a lot of countries around the world. We need a solution and we need one now. As we join together we can change the face of poverty. This blog has shown me how far we have come in eradicating poverty yet how far there is still to go in this fight. Join with me and others in order to change the lives of those who are living on less than $10 a day by getting involved in a organization that was previously mentioned.

Help people like this child today. This picture is from here.

Advertisements

Innovation

This is the key word when considering the role of technology in impoverished nations. Innovation is “the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices of methods” (Merriam-Webster). Innovation is important in every aspect of technology be it for computers or water purifying technology. People often lose sight that technology is greater than what our minds think of it. We must open our minds in order for innovation to truly succeed and for poverty to be a thing of the past.

Innovation can come from the simplest of places. It is just finding a new and better way to do an every day task. This is key in poverty because it is the little things that will change people’s lives. The innovation can be done by those outside the community but it is best achieved when it is done from within. This is because they know the problems that need to be fixed. What needs to be provided in order to enhance this type of thinking are groups that sole purpose is to come up with innovative ways to think of old problems.

One example of innovative thinking comes from Malawi. William Kamkwamba realized that there was an energy problem in his community. With that knowledge and his passion to learn, he checked out a book from the library on energy. After reading the book, he wanted to build his own windmill in his community. He did not have the materials necessary to build a traditional windmill so he got untraditional materials including PVC pipe and a bicycle frame. His windmill powered four lightbulbs and cell phones (End Poverty Now). It is innovating thinking like this from within a community that will change their world and end poverty. Traditional thinking needs to be thrown out the door in order to end global poverty one community at a time.

Taken from End Poverty Now.

Open Education Resources

Moving back to the idea of traditional technology, I will be exploring the concept of Open Education Resources. This allows for sharing of educational tools. According to Hewlett, “Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge.” These resources are in the public domain or they have been released under intellectual property license that allow free use (Hewlett). Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the first university to release their lessons to the public for free.

There are many organizations involved in making Open Educational Resources available to those teaching in the developing world. One of these companies is the Hewlett Foundation. Their purpose is to “improve education globally by making high-quality academic materials openly available on the Internet” (Hewlett). More of these organizations include Khan Academy, OER Commons, and Open Courseware Consortium. Another organization is Shine4Kids. This is a group from UGA that has created a website that has lessons in educational literacy, health, and english. They went to Haiti to check on their implementation of this website and the real life workings of a program like Open Educational Resources. They found that the one problem to this idea is the lack of computers in the countries that would benefit most from these resources (Shine4Kids).

These resources are important to continuing the education of those who do no have access to the same education in other parts of the world. The drawback to OER is the lack of computers in the areas that would benefit the most. This goes back to the need for others to pitch in and donate so others can receive the same education as children and young adults in the US and other developed countries. While in South Africa, we had the chance to teach young adults how to use computers. With these skills and the lessons, they would be able to teach themselves and help bring themselves out of poverty.

computer

A “New” Type of Technology

What are the first thoughts when you hear the word technology? Computers. Smart Phones. Technology goes past these traditional thoughts. Innovation in science and technology will allow people to help themselves in areas they see fit. Science can lead to developments in fighting disease, reducing the child mortality rates, and increasing agricultural productivity. The things we take for granted including clean water and sanitation are major problems that continue poverty in developing countries. Proper implementation of new technologies could alleviate poverty in many countries.

A child in India surviving on dirty water due to lack of access. Picture taken from here.

So what exactly do these “new” technologies include, you ask? They include ways to allow people access to clean water, energy generation, and agricultural productivity. For water purification, research is being completed to take particles out with magnetic iron oxide. The solution is created with iron oxide and coconut oil, which is easy for people to implement. Cooking over an open fire also contributes to pollution. Researchers are looking for a way to create a smokeless stove that could reduce the number of health problems people have from pollution.

A woman in Ghana cooking over an open flame. Picture from ARG Blog

Although these solutions are not typically thought of as technology, they are and can be more effective. Taking care of basic needs is the first step in alleviating poverty because nothing can come from it otherwise. The technologies that are helping with basic needs are finding solutions to what the community views as important. IOP is an organization that is “devoted to increasing the practice, understanding, and application of physics” (www.iop.org). They reported the previously mentioned solutions by other researchers. Working together can create innovative and creative technologies to alleviate poverty.

Technological Justice

Now that we have addressed the problem of poverty in third world countries and learned about some solutions that are being used, it is time to spend some time on how individuals can get involved in eradicating poverty through technology. The big ideas are the groundwork of solving this problem but there is also room for individuals to give their time or money in order to help this issue. There are many organizations that one can get involved with to create technological justice. I want to spend the next couple of posts highlighting the importance of getting involved in an organization to help those in poverty so they can help themselves.

Technological justice is the right of people to decide which technologies will assist them in leading the life they want to. This means that they need the options in order to make these decisions. In order to have these decisions they need donations of technology so they are able to pick what would be best for their community. The donations need to be one of the first steps in the process and that needs money to accomplish. All the organizations involved in wanting to bring technology to poverty stricken communities accept donations. Although money is not the only resource necessary, it is a key component and a way for individual people to get involved.

Time is the other resource one can donate. The technology is the first step but in order for the technology to be used they need to learn how to use it. Volunteers can be the way to close the gap between the technology they have and the lack of technological knowledge. Individuals can make a difference in the poverty gap. Organizations are not the only groups that can make a difference in poverty stricken communities. Single steps at a time need to be taken. This is a long term process that takes time, money, and most of all desire. Technological justice needs to be the focus so the other issues can be helped once technology portion is there.

Practical Action

“This is a story about two billion people living in poverty and what we can do to help change their lives forever.” (Practical Action-our story)

Today I want to focus on an organization that saw the same problem that I have mentioned in my last two posts. So few people take action once they find a problem but Practical Action is different, they are taking a vision and implementing it in 45 developing countries across the globe. They are a non-governmental organization (NGO) based out of the United Kingdom. Founded by Fritz Schumacher over 40 years ago, this organization is working towards helping people alter their lives. According to their website, they “have worked alongside people and partner agencies to come up with new solutions to old problems” with the help of technology.

Picture taken from Practical Action.

Their main belief to developing a just world is technological justice. They have found that advances in technology increases income and productivity as well as improving the developing countries quality of life. Technology is aimed at citizens of developed countries and  new technology is being developed with those consumers in mind. A change could make it so that technological advances can meet the basic needs to people in developing countries. Their vision is “a sustainable world free of poverty and injustice in which technology is used for the benefit of all” (Practical Action-  Vision and Mission).

They fulfill this vision and mission they have created through a number of projects in the various countries they are involved in. They do that through working with the communities to find solutions that work for them. They have projects in four main areas including energy access, urban water and waste, food and agriculture, and disaster risk reduction (Practical Action- What We Do). Through these solutions, they help people, help themselves with some outside help from their organization.

This is a good example of taking the problem of poverty and using modern day technology to solve it. Technology has vast uses that can help the poorest people of the world. They just need to be empowered to use the technology that are given to them. This organization does more than just getting information out there about the need for technology in these countries.  They are doing something instead of just talking about it.

Empowerment

My experience in Kayamandi shaped my understanding of the use of technology in underdeveloped countries. The Non-Governmental Organization that we worked with had many programs in the community to help the people. Prochorus has programs in a variety of fields including childcare, emergency relief, and computer literacy. I was able to work in the computer literacy program, which teaches adults the necessary skills in order to take advantage of the donated computers. The class is a week long and for this period of time we were paired up with one student to explain one-on-one how to use the computer. We started with the basics including the various parts of the computer and their purpose, how to click and double click, and how to open programs. The next phase was to begin teaching them how to use these programs so they could benefit from them in looking for a vocation. We started with word and ran through the exercises that the program director gave us. At the end of the time, they opened a typing program and began to learn that skill.

Picture taken from Prochorus.

Computer literacy is something that can easily be taught with little effort. Once the students are given the tools on the basics, they can continue learning and growing with computers on their own. Most people view those living in poverty as less capable but I saw first hand that this is not the case. They were quickly picking up how to use a computer and did not even need our help to do their tasks anymore. It does not take much to radically change someones life through technological education.

Empowerment is the key to eradicating poverty. As outsiders, there is not a solution that can  be implemented. It is necessary to give them the skills so they can help themselves. The idle technology is pointless if the skills needed to operate it do not exist. Empowering the citizens to gain these skills is step one in eradicating global poverty.