The purpose of the Global Development Lab is to provide a space for NGOs, researchers, universities, businesses and USAID employees to work as a team to develop answers to global problems. By bringing professionals together from various fields, the lab will allow for the cultivation of new ideas for issues such as clean water, food, health and sanitation. The more open forum will allow USAID to examine various ideas about these issues in a cheaper and more efficient manner.
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Last month USAID began a new program aimed at developing a solution to extreme poverty. Their new strategy to tackle this issue is called the Global Development Lab. To help the world’s poor, USAID hopes the shift in focus to technology and innovation will create new practical solutions.
The lab’s stated focus is addressing six problems to help bring an end to extreme global poverty. The problems include: food security, child and maternal health, access to clean water, literacy and education, financial inclusion and energy access.
The opening of the Global Development Labs marks a big shift in the way USAID addresses creating a solution to extreme poverty. Throughout the year, it plans to devote over 150 personnel and $151.3 million of its budget to the lab. To optimize efficiency, the lab is divided into different sectors in an effort to create and develop solutions to global issues. It has centers based on Data Analysis and Research, Development Innovation and Global Solutions.
With the U.N. millennium goals nearing an end, a set of new global goals for 2030 will begin this September. Included in the new U.N. goals is a plan to develop a solution to extreme poverty, or people living on less than $1.50 a day. The Global Development Lab is USAID’s innovative approach to help achieve this end.
Despite all of the lab’s promise, many still express doubts about the program. USAID currently works with companies such as Cargil, Cisco and Microsoft, to name a few. But some are concerned that the corporations will not focus on what is best for the nations with whom they are working, and will instead focus on self-interest.
USAID holds that working with corporations is beneficial. For example, they are currently working with companies Sygenta, DuPont and Monsanto to develop drought-resistant maize in east Africa. Bringing food security to the poor enables companies to gain influence in future markets.
However, other protests, for example by Claudio Schuftan, the founder of the People’s Health Movement, critique the new role of corporations in decision making as a result of the lab. Schuftan argues that the primary goal of all companies is to make money and with their newly elevated influence within USAID, the focus will be based less on the poor and more on money.
Another concern with the Global Development Lab is about its top down approach to aid. The collaboration of professionals may not be listening to the poor and instead act on what they think is best. The focus on technology may also draw focus away from the underlying political and social factors, which are the cause of poverty, in favor of quick-fix technology-based solutions.