SAN FRANCISCO — The traditional methods of fighting poverty – like building infrastructure, curing diseases and giving access to education become more effective with innovation. Organizations that utilize new technology to help solve global problems change the way the world fights poverty. Here are five of many groups using modern techniques to enhance the efforts of other NGOs, improve governance and build economies in developing countries.
Composed of statisticians from around the world, DataKind is an organization that helps analyze data and make recommendations about various problems, including global poverty. With advanced technology, DataKind’s analysts can accurately assess trends in developing nations and evaluate the success of existing programs.
NGOs like the World Bank use DataKind’s services to get information about poverty’s distribution and causes. For example, DataKind used satellite images to look for a relationship between poverty and illumination from electric lights. During a 2009 food shortage in Kenya, DataKind also helped the World Bank get precise estimates of inflation. With a stronger grasp of poverty through statistics, the World Bank can work more effectively.
2. Innovations for Poverty Action
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) tests the strength of potential new measures to fight poverty. To see how new programs help developing countries, IPA helps partner organizations select trial communities and then applies the proposed treatments to half of the communities chosen at random.
This system of randomized controlled trials, which is used in modern medicine, makes it much easier to demonstrate how much good a program can do. Ongoing IPA studies look at the effectiveness of cash loans and food aid around the world to see how well they stimulate economic growth. This information would help aid agencies distribute resources in a way that reduces poverty the most.
Mobile phone use is rising in developing countries and organizations like GeoPoll can utilize this trend to get information about poverty directly from citizens. GeoPoll sends custom surveys through text messages, and governments and NGOs can use the results to help fight poverty.
Many existing government agencies like USAID commission and use GeoPoll surveys to adjust their programs. A recent USAID-requested study about loans to farmers in Nigeria found that 60 percent of respondents did not know how to apply for loans. USAID could then implement outreach programs and help small farms get additional funding.
Swahili for “testimony”, Ushahidi is an organization that uses mobile technology to connect citizens, NGOs and governments. The group’s first initiative was to provide a network for journalists in Kenya working to cover post-election violence in 2008. This helped political activists to organize themselves and demand good governance.
Today, Ushahidi provides a variety of mobile services in addition to promoting government accountability. For example, Ushahidi’s interactive map imaging used to keep journalists in touch also gives USAID information about where local aquifers are, information which helps it manage its African water distribution programs.
5. Kiva Microfinance
Kiva uses the innovative practice of micro-lending to allow people in developed countries to help businesses in developing ones. To supplement sweeping projects by foreign aid providers, Kiva’s donors give low-cost loans to small businesses in poor areas. Successful loans get paid back and the repaid amounts can go to other small businesses. Kiva’s system helps economic growth while sustaining its donation cycle.
These five organizations represent only a small portion of groups using innovative methods to change how the world fights poverty. With continued technological advances, NGOs can increase information availability, optimize aid distribution programs and mobilize more donations. These new methods will help millions of people and bring the world closer to eliminating poverty.
– Ted Rappleye