Tech and Solutions – BORGEN http://www.borgenmagazine.com Humanity, Politics & You Sat, 17 Feb 2018 18:28:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Google’s Tech Initiatives in Africa http://www.borgenmagazine.com/tech-initiatives-in-africa/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:30:58 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=124673 SEATTLE — In 2017, Google expanded its tech initiatives in Africa. Through training programs, the company is aiming to help African youth acquire digital skills, making them more self-sufficient. With powerful technical skills, African youths can help uplift the lives of the impoverished across the region and assist the unemployed in Africa in navigating digital jobs. The company’s efforts [...]

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SEATTLE — In 2017, Google expanded its tech initiatives in Africa. Through training programs, the company is aiming to help African youth acquire digital skills, making them more self-sufficient.

With powerful technical skills, African youths can help uplift the lives of the impoverished across the region and assist the unemployed in Africa in navigating digital jobs. The company’s efforts could strengthen the jobs market, reducing the growing skills gap.

For starters, the usage of mobile phones in Africa has increased from 5 percent in 2003 to 73 percent in 2014. With as many as 650 million mobile phone owners in the continent (more than the U.S. and Europe combined), the 3G mobile network is also growing rapidly.

By 2034, Africa will have the world’s largest working population, totaling 1.1 billion people. So far, only 22 percent of African university students are graduating with degrees in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, and this creates a huge skills gap on the continent.

In order to employ this working-age population, significant investment needs to be made to support the digital revolution in Africa. These are three of Google’s tech initiatives in Africa that could help youths navigate the potential digital opportunities in the region.

Digital Skills for Africa

In 2017, Google stepped forward to train 10 million people in Africa in online skills over the next five years. The company’s effort to make the people in the country more employable came after it successfully trained one million people in Africa.

It plans to carry out the training in different languages, including Swahili, Hausa and Zulu, and will primarily focus on Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Additionally, as many as 100,000 Africans will receive mobile developer training to develop world-class apps.

The training will be both online and in-person and will ensure that at least 40 percent of people trained are women. In Africa, females make up more than 50 percent of the population of most African countries, yet there is a huge shortage of women working in STEM roles. Such programs could allow more women to gain STEM employment once they have the technical skills.

Education and training from Google have already triggered a domino effect. Through a case study, the company highlighted how after acquiring Google’s digital skills training program, a young digital expert trained 5,000 young Africans in 2016.

Google.org Grants

Google’s funding of professional development grants for computer science educators enables educators of universities and nonprofits in Africa to receive grants. So far, educators of 61 such organizations have received grants, impacting 5,000 educators from more than 15 countries in Africa. Such efforts are allowing educators from non-profits to teach computer science in classrooms.

Albert Opoku, a 2017 Google grantee, developed Code4Girls, a project that focused on professional development for teachers. As a training program for student champions, Code4Girls has been co-delivered in school workshops in 12 senior high schools in Ghana.

Launchpad Accelerator Africa

According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8 percent compared to 2015. Google has stepped forward to support more than 60 startups from Africa spanning three years. The company is helping them build technology companies and products by providing more than $3 million in equity-free funding, mentorship, working stations and access to expert advisors. The new Google Launchpad Space in Lagos will be a three-month intensive program to be held twice a year and will be the program’s first location outside of the U.S.

Besides the above tech initiatives, Google is also improving its own products and services in Africa like YouTube Go, Google Search and Google Maps. The company is ensuring that even with a 2G connection, people in Africa can load more information despite poor internet connectivity.

Challenges and Responses for Tech Initiatives in Africa

These huge initiatives are dwarfed by the number of challenges faced on the continent. For many reasons, tech initiatives in African countries are still slow when compared to developing Asian countries like China and India. Firstly, parts of the African continent face huge wealth gaps, meaning that much of the population in places like Nigeria have little disposable income. In addition, mobile adoptees tend to favor more basic phone models, which, when combined with bad telecommunications infrastructure, means slower and less internet surfing.

Hence, it is not surprising that more and more tech initiatives in Africa like Google’s are being launched in the region. In 2017, the World Bank Group launched XL Africa, a five-month acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising digital start-ups in sub-Saharan Africa. Executives such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s chairman Jack Ma also recently toured countries in Africa.

According to the World Economic Forum, technology can help end poverty. In developing Africa, digital skills can help the country fight poverty, along with addressing other challenges like lack of education and healthcare, poor living conditions and food scarcity.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

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3F Program Coding Education in China http://www.borgenmagazine.com/3f-coding-education-in-china/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 09:30:15 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=124901 SEATTLE — One out of every four children in China’s cities is considered a migrant. A survey done by the United Nations Children Fund stated that 35.8 million children fall into this category. China’s economic boom has unintentionally produced a generation of children who are left behind. Rural workers in search of better-paying jobs migrate [...]

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SEATTLE — One out of every four children in China’s cities is considered a migrant. A survey done by the United Nations Children Fund stated that 35.8 million children fall into this category. China’s economic boom has unintentionally produced a generation of children who are left behind. Rural workers in search of better-paying jobs migrate to cities and often leave their children with little adult supervision or access to education.

Workers who are continuously moving to different jobs in manufacturing, construction, hospitality, etc., place children into charity child care facilities that lack sufficient educational resources.

The average public school registration in China costs upwards of $4,800, equal to a year’s salary for a rural worker, and even when they do have the proper funds, government regulation and policies make it difficult to get rural children enrolled. Regulations placed on public school systems have created enormous hurdles for rural workers who migrate to urban cities. According to Guangzhou Daily, the town’s public school system cannot exceed 10 percent of non-local students registered.

3F is small startup project using a creative, low-cost approach to develop coding education in China’s impoverished areas, helping to erode poverty through an inclusive digital economy future. China is facing a digital gap between urban and rural schools. Even in urban areas, children have unequal opportunities to access digital education, particularly in coding and programming.

As big cities are overpopulated, the limited resource of public schools goes to local children first. Coding education at a young age is fundamental for the artificial intelligence era, as an increasing number of workers without digital capability quickly get replaced by smart machines.

Adam Li, the founder of 3F, started the project in 2016 to help deliver coding education in China to migrant children from rural areas. The program taught them how to leverage technical resources like programming, which opens the door for kids to create and deliver applications in the future, helping these communities find creative ways to join the digital economy.

Adam is a multi-talented individual currently enrolled in the Master of Social Enterprise Management program, a brand new MBA program at Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, which according to Time Magazine is one of the top 30 academic institutions in the world and the leading body for progressive thought in China. Adam possesses degrees in engineering and English literature and is exchanging at New York University’s Stern MBA program, NYU, a partner of Peking Universtiy.

Although Adam reached the upper echelon of academic and professional credentials, he is concerned with the lack of opportunity given to children in rural China. Inspired by his father, who was a teacher from rural China, and his professional experiences as a volunteer at a Junior Achievement program in China advising high-school students, Adam set out to pilot a program that could help both children and parents learn how to code.

Adam led a team to create a coding curriculum for children before attending the China, U.S., and India Rural Preschool Education Forum at the Stanford Center in Peking University. The forum led to an epiphany for the young founder in 2016 where he first listened to Weixia Hou, the Operations Director at Vibrant Communities, a local non-governmental organization which focuses on disadvantaged children’s development in China, describe the difficulties faced by children from rural China.

As routinely experienced by most developed nations, resources are abundantly allocated to urban sectors of the country, at times ignoring an entire segment of the populace. Interest in further developing coding education in China led to a partnership between Vibrant Communities and the Tsinghua University lab for lifelong learning.

In 2016, 3F and its partners launched a curriculum that was delivered to 12 migrant children after an anonymous information technology company provided 13 iPads. The curriculum included the parents, since they could also learn how to code and hopefully monetize their newly acquired skills in the future.

3F’s small pilot program delivered twenty hours of curriculum. One coding project of traffic lights by three boys was shared and recognized at the Scratch Junior Workshop during the 2016 Scratch Conference at MIT in Boston. Using technology and creativity, 3F took a simple idea and after a successful proof of concept encouraged companies to implement similar programs to help bridge the digital gap faced by migrant children in China.

Ingenuity and compassion for others led Adam to have an immense impact in his home country. Expanding coding education in China by using his passion for technology and people created a startup that will have a positive long-term effect on these often forgotten children.

– Hector Cruz

Photo: Flickr

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Alibaba’s Plan to End Poverty in China http://www.borgenmagazine.com/alibabas-plan-to-end-poverty/ Tue, 13 Feb 2018 15:30:18 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=124897 SEATTLE — Alibaba is a Chinese multinational tech, e-commerce and artificial intelligence conglomerate that was founded in 1999 and has since become one of the ten largest companies in the world. Alibaba’s plan to end poverty in China stems from corporate social responsibility as an integral part of its business model. In 2008, an earthquake [...]

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SEATTLE — Alibaba is a Chinese multinational tech, e-commerce and artificial intelligence conglomerate that was founded in 1999 and has since become one of the ten largest companies in the world. Alibaba’s plan to end poverty in China stems from corporate social responsibility as an integral part of its business model.

In 2008, an earthquake in Sichuan province in China prompted huge individual donations to charities, which accounted for 54 percent of total giving. The earthquake was the second highest in absolute numbers in history, and led to a huge death toll and significant economic losses and brought many corporations closer to philanthropy.

Alibaba is one such firm. Over the course of time, Alibaba has introduced programs and models to end poverty across counties in China. With its “Internet + Poverty Reduction” model, the company plans to boost development in affected areas and move people out of poverty using the internet.

Alibaba’s Plan to End Poverty Through Its Poverty Relief Fund

In December 2017, Alibaba’s plan to end global poverty established a fund, the Alibaba Poverty Relief Fund, which commits $1.5 billion over five years. Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma will remain the chairman of the fund. The tech giant will offer its expertise and technology to help the rural poor to use the internet to improve their lives. It will focus on programs in the fields of education, entrepreneurship, empowering women and environmental protection.

Alibaba’s Plan to End Poverty Through E-Commerce

On January 18, 2018, Alibaba announced its blueprint to lift Chinese farmers out of poverty in southwest China’s Chongqing using internet technologies. The company will build ten model counties to find tech solutions to help poor farmers fight against poverty. Additionally, it will set up relief service stations to promote local produce.

CEO Daniel Zhang said, “The company will mobilize all resources to enable 800 poverty-stricken counties to gain prosperity through e-commerce.” The plan is a part of the numerous initiatives that Alibaba has launched as the country moves towards eradicating poverty by 2020. Poverty in China is defined as having an annual income below ¥3,000 ($450) and ending it by 2020 has become a signature campaign of President Xi Jinping.

In October 2014, Alibaba announced an investment of $14.8 million over the next three to five years to develop local e-commerce service systems for 1,000 counties across 100,000 villages and provide easy and affordable access to goods and services in poor areas.

 

Alibaba’s Plan to End Poverty via Taobao Villages

The development in rural e-commerce provides a platform for young workers to return to their villages to run their own business. Alibaba’s initiatives have paved way for online shopping that has created two type of jobs – as farmer online shop owners and Rural Taobao partners. Taobao is a Chinese online shopping website operated by Alibaba Group that is similar to eBay and Amazon.

Known as Taobao Village, a community of rural online entrepreneurs are able to open shops on the Taobao marketplace and sell industrial or handmade products using the e-commerce platforms. By 2015, 780 Taobao villages in China had 200,000 active online shop owners and had a total employment of one million people.

The Rural Taobao Program allows Taobao partners to help farmers in buying and selling online, for which they earn a service fee. Additionally, Taobao helpers assist Taobao partners. By mid-2016, Rural Taobao registered 18,000 partners and 8,000 helpers across China.

Alibaba’s Plan to End Poverty Through Expansion of Financial Services

Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial offers online micro-lending to farmers, online shop owners and small enterprises. By mid-2016, with the average loan size at $6,533, the microcredit program covered 234 counties and 4,852 villages.

For farmers with no online presence or credit history, rural Taobao partners assist in determining their financial needs along with creditworthiness. Lending decisions are then made based on agricultural microcredit business model using online and offline data.

Ant Financial jointly launched the insurance program Poverty Reduction 100 to tap into poverty reduction funds and crowdfunding insurance. This will allow more coverage and help the poor to avoid falling into poverty due to illness, disability, natural disaster and education-related fees. By August 2017, a pilot scheme in Jiangsu Province had settled 284 claims and paid $111,350 in total insurance compensation.

Alibaba’s Global Initiatives to End Poverty

The struggle to end poverty in China remains a long one. According to estimates, nearly 800 million people in the world still live in extreme deprivation and 25 million of these live in China. But the good news is that charity laws are being relaxed to fight corruption and fraud as China’s first-ever Charity Law was put into place in 2016.

Alibaba’s contribution is not only benefitting China but Africa too. On his first visit in 2017, Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma announced the creation of a $10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund and a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.

Such efforts by huge corporations can surely be a positive step in the right direction to end global poverty and end global corruption.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

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Unlikely Solution Reducing Air Pollution in Peru http://www.borgenmagazine.com/air-pollution-in-peru/ Mon, 29 Jan 2018 15:30:08 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=124253 SEATTLE — With a population of just over 30 million people and counting, Peru, like many overpopulated developing countries, is facing trouble with its environment. Air pollution in Peru is a serious problem that is constantly being studied in order to understand the cause and how to reduce it. Some of the environmental factors attributed [...]

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SEATTLE — With a population of just over 30 million people and counting, Peru, like many overpopulated developing countries, is facing trouble with its environment. Air pollution in Peru is a serious problem that is constantly being studied in order to understand the cause and how to reduce it.

Some of the environmental factors attributed to the decline in the population’s health include air pollution from the use of firewood for cooking, lack of access to clean water and exposure to lead from pipes. These environmental issues cause 12 million cases of illness yearly, affecting the lives of the young, the elderly and the poor.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Lima, Peru ranks as one of the worst cities in Latin America for air quality. A normal level of concentration for inhalable particles (PM), classified by the WHO, is an average of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. If the concentration exceeds this number, the contamination will cause the air to become polluted and harmful to breathe. Lima received a rating of 38 PM micrograms per square meter, which is more than three times the limit recommended by the health agency.

The Peruvian government has not been able to quickly respond to these serious environmental challenges because the country does not have any governmental organizations that have a clear sense of responsibility for environmental preservation and lacks a reliable system of information to support the government’s decision-making process when it comes to environmental concerns.

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) has taken a step towards reducing air pollution in Peru with the incorporation of an innovative air purifying billboard in Lima. Located at a construction site, the air-purifying billboard filters 3.5 million cubic feet of fresh oxygen a day, which is equivalent to about 1,200 trees. The technology attached to the structure absorbs the air pollutants, filters it using thermodynamics made possible by a water system, and returns pure oxygen back into the atmosphere.

The billboard also conserves resources, running on recycled water and at about 2,500 watts per hour. Its design absorbs construction materials like dust and metal particles. which improves the air quality for construction workers and the surrounding residents.

UTEC’s innovative contribution may prove to be a model that can be replicated in urban centers in order to tackle the challenges related to air pollution in Peru. By using a platform that is mainly used for advertising, UTEC has created a reason for private companies to want to invest in the billboard technology and also a marketable way for companies and construction sites to take ownership of the pollutants they produce.

Strengthening some of the environmental laws and regulations in Peru, paired with private investments and contributions from dedicated organizations, like that of UTEC, may help to achieve recognizable advancements in a number of environmental standards.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

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Protecting Rainforests Using Old Cell Phones http://www.borgenmagazine.com/protecting-rainforests-using-old-cell-phones/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 15:30:21 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=124060 SEATTLE — Rainforests consisting of tall and dense jungles are considered the oldest living ecosystems on Earth. Rainforests are a place of biodiversity, containing more than half of world’s plant and animal species while covering only 6 percent of the Earth’s surface. These huge stretches of dense forests are mainly found in the Amazon basin in [...]

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SEATTLE — Rainforests consisting of tall and dense jungles are considered the oldest living ecosystems on Earth. Rainforests are a place of biodiversity, containing more than half of world’s plant and animal species while covering only 6 percent of the Earth’s surface.

These huge stretches of dense forests are mainly found in the Amazon basin in South America, the Congo basin in Africa and Indonesia. They require plenty of sunshine and rainfall and thus regions near the equator are the ideal place for their growth.

Rainforests maintain the balance of climate and water cycles and are a key source of oxygen. Disrupting their functions may disrupt the very existence of human lives. However, at present, rainforests need protection from illegal loggers and poachers who cut down trees and kill animals for personal benefit.

Although experts use satellites and drones to protect rainforests, these technologies are not sufficient to keep away illegal loggers, as they do not respond in real time. However, one man came up with an innovative technique of protecting rainforests by using old cell phones.

Topher White is an engineer, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and founder of Rainforest Connection, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization. On one of his hiking trips in the rainforests of Indonesia, he came across an illegal logger who was cutting down trees in plain sight as the sound of his chainsaw was concealed by the mixture of sounds from nature. After that incident, the idea of protecting rainforests with the help of discarded and old cell phones crossed his mind.

White developed a system using recycled cell phones with the ability to listen and distinguish suspicious noises from the sounds of the rainforest. Each cell phone is supplied with sensitive microphones and is charged by a small solar array. They are attached to large trees and protected with a plastic case.

The cell phone detects and transmits sounds to the cloud, where it is analyzed by Rainforest Connection’s monitoring system in real time. If any suspicious activity is found it is reported via SMS to the relevant authority for interception in real time.

Rainforests play a pivotal role in the survival of the local tribes, giving them food, shelter and medicine. About 25 percent of modern medicines originate from plants in the rainforest. They also supply many foods, like cocoa, pineapple, vanilla, turmeric, ginger, bamboo and sugar.

Rainforests act as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 and supplying enormous amounts of oxygen to the environment. Protecting rainforests also helps to reduce poverty, according to a study done by researchers at Georgia State University. However, it has not yet been verified whether this is the result of increased numbers of tourists visiting the biodiversity or the development resulting from donor investment in that area.

The listening device of Topher White acts as a gift for the conservation of rainforests in a cost-effective way, as almost 90 percent of tropical deforestation is caused by illegal loggers. It has so far been deployed to forests in Indonesia, Cameroon, Romania, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

The technology has been enhanced to detect sounds of engines and gunshots so that poachers can be prevented from killing animals. It is already being applied by authorities of Bolivia to protect endangered jaguars. This shows the far-reaching benefits of the system and how they can be harnessed to protect flora and fauna all over the world.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

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Bempu Bracelets Improve Newborn Care in India http://www.borgenmagazine.com/bempu-bracelets-improve-newborn-care-in-india/ Tue, 23 Jan 2018 15:30:08 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=123998 SEATTLE — Hypothermia is a leading contributor to newborn deaths that occur after hospital discharge. Bempu bracelets monitor a newborn’s core temperature and sound an alarm if the infant’s temperature drops too low. Since its inception, Bempu Health has helped 10,000 infants with its temperature-monitoring bracelet. In 2009, the number of newborn deaths decreased to [...]

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SEATTLE — Hypothermia is a leading contributor to newborn deaths that occur after hospital discharge. Bempu bracelets monitor a newborn’s core temperature and sound an alarm if the infant’s temperature drops too low. Since its inception, Bempu Health has helped 10,000 infants with its temperature-monitoring bracelet.

In 2009, the number of newborn deaths decreased to 3.6 million. Of the 3.6 million deaths, half occurred at home and nearly 100 percent occurred in developing countries. The average newborn mortality rate in developing countries is 33 of 1,000. In developed countries, this rate is only 4 of 1,000.

Bempu Health was founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth to find problems in newborn healthcare. The organization met with more than 100 pediatricians and neonatologists to assess newborn care in India and isolated hypothermia as a major concern. To combat this threat, Bempu Health rolled out the Bempu bracelet.

The Bempu bracelet is a temperature-monitoring device worn by newborns that alerts parents if the baby’s temperature drops to critical levels. If the baby is too cold, the bracelet flashes orange and sounds an alarm that only stops when the core temperature increases.

Bempu bracelets have batteries that last a month. Most newborn mortalities occur immediately after birth; between 25 and 45 percent of newborn deaths happen within the first 24 hours of life and 75 percent happen within the first week of life. Bempu monitors babies during the critical first month of life.

The bracelets are used by intensive care units and at home after the infant is discharged. Each bracelet costs only $28.

Hypothermia is rarely the direct cause of death for newborns. However, hypothermia contributes to severe infection, complications from premature birth and asphyxia. Severe infection causes approximately 36 percent of newborn deaths, complications from premature birth cause 29 percent of newborn deaths and birth asphyxia causes 23 percent of newborn deaths.

Low birth weight babies are particularly susceptible to hypothermia. Each year, approximately 18 million babies (14 percent) are born with a low birth weight. These infants account for between 60 and 80 percent of newborn deaths.

India has the highest number of newborn deaths caused by premature birth. Each year, eight million premature, underweight babies are born in India. Bempu Health has focused on improving newborn care in India; most of the 10,000 infants helped by Bempu bracelets live in India.

According to Gini Morgan, head of public health at Bempu Health, chaotic government hospitals mean fewer resources dedicated to newborn care in India. Babies are often discharged early to relieve overcrowding or because rural families need to return home.

An independent study conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bhat from the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in Pondicherry found Bempu bracelets gave an accurate temperature reading between 85 and 90 percent of the time.

The Bempu bracelet was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2017. The company was also awarded a $2 million grant from USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth to expand distribution. With important support like this, the company can continue to grow and reach many more infants around the world.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

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How Technology Improves Refugee Aid http://www.borgenmagazine.com/how-technology-improves-refugee-aid/ Sun, 17 Dec 2017 09:30:00 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=122639 SEATTLE — Nonprofits, charities and international institutions help refugees through donations. In refugee camps, that money is transformed into healthcare, new shelters and school supplies. But most of the time, it is difficult to give money directly to the people who live in the camp. Moden technology improves refugee aid by making this process easy [...]

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SEATTLE — Nonprofits, charities and international institutions help refugees through donations. In refugee camps, that money is transformed into healthcare, new shelters and school supplies. But most of the time, it is difficult to give money directly to the people who live in the camp. Moden technology improves refugee aid by making this process easy and efficient.

Phone technology is bringing positive change to refugee camps. Thanks to donated mobile phones, refugees in Bidi Bidi, the world’s biggest refugee camp, and other refugee settlements around the globe are able to buy food and other essential needs.

To make the electronic transactions possible, NGOs, private companies and international organizations work together. DanChurchAid and Mercy Corps have donated 21,000 basic phones to Bidi Bidi refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has distributed 1,500 smartphones in areas of Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This technology improves refugee aid because refugees have access to mobile phones and receive cash transfers through an application on the phone. Refugees are able to exchange that money at stores located in the camp. With that money, people purchase medicine and food, two essential goods that save lives.

It is expected that this aid will generate more economic activities such as opening small businesses inside the refugee camp. Most people in refugee camps depend on international economic aid and charity donations. Phone technology empowers refugees, giving them an opportunity to be self-sufficient. In addition, thanks to donated mobile phones, refugees are able to store their money, a matter that was harder when cash was distributed in camps.

However, one problem that international organizations have to resolve is Internet access. Most refugee camps do not have Internet antennas, or the antennas cannot cover the camp’s territory, making phone technology useless.

UNHCR has reached agreements with the mobile network operators MTN, Africell and Airtel to provide connectivity to thousands of refugees. Thanks to a new permanent antenna, 500,000 people in Bidi Bidi can access the Internet. In the Imvepi camp, another antenna was installed to help 200,000 refugees.

Mobile phone use in refugee camps is not limited to cash assistance. For instance, they are able to call their families in nearby countries. In addition, refugee representatives can report different issues like protection and goods supplies to UNHCR.

Technology improves refugee aid in refugee settlements around the world. For instance, in Za’atari, Jordan, the world’s second-largest refugee camp, 86 percent of young people own a mobile phone. Refugees use phone technology for translations and maps, which they need when crossing borders. Through these varied uses, mobile technology is transforming the lives of 22 million refugees worldwide.

– Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

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The Technovation Challenge Fights for Women in Tech http://www.borgenmagazine.com/the-technovation-challenge/ Wed, 13 Dec 2017 09:30:35 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=119257 SEATTLE — Stereotypes and assumptions about women have perpetuated a decline in participation within the field of technology. These pre-existing biases continue into a logical revolving door that confuses causation and consequence. Are there fewer women in tech because they cannot compete or are they led to believe they cannot compete because there are fewer [...]

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SEATTLE — Stereotypes and assumptions about women have perpetuated a decline in participation within the field of technology. These pre-existing biases continue into a logical revolving door that confuses causation and consequence. Are there fewer women in tech because they cannot compete or are they led to believe they cannot compete because there are fewer women in tech?

Women hold 57 percent of all professional occupations but only 25 percent of computing positions. Only a small percentage of those women are minorities. The percentage of women in computing occupations has been declining since 1991. These statistics are not indicative of a decline in capability, only interest and opportunity. Groups all over the world have been working to foster interest and highlight opportunities for young girls to join the tech industry as entrepreneurs and leaders.

Dow Jones determined that startups that were considered successful employed more women in senior positions than companies that were considered unsuccessful. According to a study performed by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile in terms of gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective industry medians. Despite efforts to eliminate gender inequality in teaching curricula and materials, biases still pervade and blind young girls to their own possibilities.

Here to change the game is the Technovation Challenge, which invites young girls from around the world to identify problems in their communities and challenges them to devise a solution. Technovation provides women mentors to help each team build a mobile app and write a business plan to launch it.

Sponsored by the Adobe Foundation, Salesforce.org, Google.org, Oath: For Good, ON Semiconductor, Walmart Giving and 3M, it spans more than 100 countries. In the eight years that Technovation has been around, 15,000 girls around the world have developed mobile apps and startups to solve community problems from food waste management to nutrition and women’s safety.

Technovation’s curriculum consists of four stages inspired by the principles of design:

  • Stage One: Ideation
    Identify a problem in the community
  • Stage Two: Technology
    Develop a mobile app solution
  • Stage Three: Entrepreneurship
    Build a business plan to launch the app
  • Stage Four: Pitch
    Bring the business to market

Throughout these stages, teams must complete nine assignments:

  1. Pitch Video
  2. Demo Video
  3. App Name and Description
  4. Team Photo and Summary
  5. Source Code
  6. Business Plan
  7. Screenshots of the App
  8. Code Checklist
  9. Pitch Presentation

After completion, these contestants are judged using a rubric outlined by the four stages mentioned earlier. In each category, students have a chance to earn a certain number of points. For Ideation, the maximum is 25 points; Technical, 20 points; Pitch, 20 points; Entrepreneurship, 20 points and a total of 25 points for Overall Impression.

The Technovation Challenge exposes these young women to resources that foster creativity within a technical context that many girls who compete would never have encountered or even considered. Even teams that do not win are still equipped with the knowledge to make themselves part of a global economy while solving the problems of their own communities.

Data has shown that the experience of participating in the Technovation Challenge has led these young women to win startup and app competitions, speak at public events, attend coding workshops and receive various internships with prominent technology companies, universities and government agencies. Introducing more women to technology has the power to promote innovation, improve financial outlooks and show young girls what they are capable of.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

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6 Things to Know About Microfinancing in Developing Nations   http://www.borgenmagazine.com/6-things-to-know-about-microfinancing-in-developing-nations/ Mon, 04 Dec 2017 09:30:56 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=120659 SEATTLE — The need for innovative provisional financial service is here, especially since 2.7 billion people are still living on less than two dollars a day. Microfinancing is a banking service that allows impoverished individuals to borrow money in developing nations, and often serves as a popular alternative approach to remedying extreme poverty around the globe. [...]

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SEATTLE — The need for innovative provisional financial service is here, especially since 2.7 billion people are still living on less than two dollars a day. Microfinancing is a banking service that allows impoverished individuals to borrow money in developing nations, and often serves as a popular alternative approach to remedying extreme poverty around the globe.

Modern microfinancing began in the 1950s and has since evolved into a web of multi-lateral financial institutions comprising a sixty-billion-dollar market of which $450 million is remittance. There are roughly 1,500 microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world and over 200 million borrowers; non-profits, credit unions, co-operatives and commercial banks are each likely to offer microfinance services.

As with numerous well-meaning aid programs, there are both benefits and drawbacks of the institution. Here’s the 6 things you should know about microfinancing.

Benefits of MFIs: 

1. Full Range Financial Services
Microlending, microinsurance and microsavings — lending, insurance and saving programs are all services offered by MFIs. “[MFIs are] meant to provide a full range of financial services to help low-income individuals meet their household needs to generate income, build assets and manage risks,” says Clara Lipson, a member of the Board of the Microfinance Club in New York.

Learning how to build assets, prepare for emergencies and risk management are all built into the MFI ideals. Kenneth Warwick of Finance & Development explains that “one of the most important requirements for an improvement in the medium-term growth performance of the indebted developing countries is a recovery in domestic saving and investment rates.”

2. Money Retention in Communities
Many of these microloans are dedicated to start-up local businesses. When major businesses are local, money is retained, used within the community and helps to support other local enterprises. “Income generated by a micro-entrepreneur can be used to purchase goods and services in the community thus leading to an improved business climate,” says Lipson. The board member also mentions an improved educational climate as community members are enabled to invest more money in resources for their children, thereby enhancing the overall scholarship of the community.

3. Financial Inclusion
Microfinancing in developing nations was created to fill the gap in banking services for financially excluded groups. MFIs were designed to stabilize and strengthen the bottom of the economic pyramid. A study from the Journal of Financial Inclusion in Asia found that microcredit interest rates were 30 percent lower than traditional moneylender institutions in Bangladesh, Bolivia, India and Indonesia.

“Microfinance served as a means for financial inclusion because regular banks tended not to lend to the poor,” co-author Rajesh Chakrabarti of Financial Inclusion in Asia says of microfinancing in rural India. The same study revealed that microfinancing provided households with more choices in the way that they invested, made, consumed and managed risks.

Drawbacks of MFIs

4. Debt & Mental Health
Microdebt is also in the lexicon of MFIs, and microfinancing in developing nations took a turn for the worst in 2010 and 2011. MFIs were blamed for many of the suicides following the recession with predatory lending practices acting as the accused offenders.

Despite opposing claims, average interest rates have been reported to be as high as 30 percent annually. This represents an unforgivable fraction of the population, and applies to members such as Rama — a woman from southern India who lives on less than one dollar a day. Rama told National Public Radio she was harassed by collectors suggesting suicide. A suggestion which Rama’s daughter took seriously, taking her own life in hopes of alleviating the debt.

5. No Reported Substantial Effects
A meta-study administered by Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab suggested that access to microcredit did not, in general, benefit women’s empowerment, investment in children’s education, or lead to a substantial increase in income.

Many of those living in extreme poverty aren’t reached by aid. Professor of Economics at Yale Dean Karlan explains that many MFIs are unwilling to scale back loan sizes. “We also see unwillingness among borrowers to even participate …The poorest people are individuals that don’t have an activity that would even count as a microenterprise,” says Karlan.

6. Lack of Knowledge and Little Preparation
“It turns out that microfinance usually ends up making poverty worse,” Dr. Jason Hickle an anthropologist at the London School of Economics says. Microfinancing loans are typically used for consumption, and some even take loans out to pay off their other loans, picking up tandem debt along the way.

According to some experts, many borrowers don’t have a plan as to how they’re going to make the money back and they aren’t held accountable for such a proposal.  The trend of unpreparedness is what led Dr. Anurag Priyadarshee and Dr. Asad K. Ghalib to describe the microfinance industry in India as “a poster child of exploitation of the vulnerable.”

The Future of Microfinance

Some argue that microfinancing in developing nations is a movement toward financial inclusion, others claim the  movement is untenable and further cause distress and debt. While still others say it does nothing at all. With MFI practices mushrooming, the full reality of microfinancing is sure to reveal itself soon.

– Sloan Bousselaire
Photo: Flickr

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The Rapid Development of Infrastructure in China http://www.borgenmagazine.com/rapid-development-infrastructure-china/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 09:30:13 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=120597 BEIJING — Infrastructure is comprised of transportation, communications, electricity and sanitation for both urban and rural areas. Infrastructure secures the operation of main urban facilities, provides the basis of working and living for all people, and is crucial for all productive industry. The development of domestic infrastructure in China has seen great progress in the past decade. In 2016, [...]

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BEIJING — Infrastructure is comprised of transportation, communications, electricity and sanitation for both urban and rural areas. Infrastructure secures the operation of main urban facilities, provides the basis of working and living for all people, and is crucial for all productive industry.

The development of domestic infrastructure in China has seen great progress in the past decade. In 2016, investment in fixed assets saw an increase of 7.9 percent on the previous year. Total value of fixed assets reached $9.1 billion, among which industries of water conservancy, environmental and public facilities contributed just more than one billion.

Regarding transportation, by the end of 2016, the mileage of national railway was 124,000 kilometers, including 22,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. Among the 4.7 million kilometers of roadway, the mileage of highway made up 131,000 kilometers. There were 30,388 berths at harbors for production, and the number of airports for civil aviation was increased from 210 to 218.

Urban infrastructure in China is an important support for urban development and society. The urban population of China is approximately 790 million, and the country has an urbanization rate of 57 percent. As urban population increases, the demand for infrastructure is also on the rise. According to the twelfth five-year development plan (2011-2015), the following growth in urban infrastructure was facilitated:

  • Drainage pipes increased from 414,000 to 540,000 kilometers
  • Water supply pipes increased from 574,000 to 710,000 kilometers
  • Natural gas pipelines increased from 30,000 to 50,000 kilometers, while traditional gas pipelines were reduced from 37,000 to 21,000 kilometers.
  • Urban areas, in general, grew from 183,600 to 191,800 square kilometers
  • Green spaces in urban areas increased from 22,400 o 26,700 square kilometers.

Between 2016 and 2018, the Chinese government approved a host of infrastructure projects from railways and highways to watercourse and airports, totaling roughly $710 billion. Among these, 103 newly opened projects are urban rail transits with a total new mileage of 2,385 kilometers and investment equal to $248 billion.

The remaining investment budget is concentrated on 86 projects of high-speed, central and western and cross-city lines; for roadways, investments are focused on 54 projects of highways; the remaining large projects are oriented for constructions of airports and watercourses.

While some scholars questioned whether infrastructure investments in China would put a potential strain on the economy, efficient spending on national infrastructure remains strongly advocated. These continued investments in future prosperity is a mark of success for infrastructure in China.

– Xin Gao
Photo: Pixabay

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