Can Technology Eradicate Poverty & Hunger?

This is part of our year-long series “Millennium Development Goals Tech Roadmap”

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Target 1A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day
  • Target 1B: Achieve Decent Employment for Women, Men, and Young People
  • Target 1C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

According to a 2013 UN update, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty globally has been reduced by half.  In many developing countries the number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day fell from 47 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.  Also, the proportion of undernourished people worldwide decreased from 23.2 percent in 1990-1992 to 14.9 percent in 2010-2012.  While these are significant gains, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty, while another 870 million are going without proper nutrition.

Over the last 14 years, we have seen how technology has lifted many people out of poverty.  Access to better ICT tools help to develop infrastructures that stimulate job growth and the economy.  More governments are investing in programs that encourage innovation and technology use by funding ICT training for both young adults and older workers looking to switch careers.  There has also been a spike in trying to encourage women and girls to pursue ICT careers.

In recent years there has been a growing movement around technology justice, which is the practice of making tech accessible and useful to humanity as opposed to only meeting consumer needs in Western countries.  Poor access to regular electricity continues to be a problem in many parts of the world.  However, we have also seen a number of entrepreneurs who are turning to alternative energy to reduce the power gap, like Afriq-Power and Solar Mamas.

Practical Action, a UK charity that specializes in technology justice, has worked on and seen successes in bridging the tech gap with human needs like electricity, as well as clean water, small farm agricultural yields and preparedness for natural disasters.  Many of their projects have achieved more economic and food security for those in extreme poverty.

Mobile banking has also played a big role in reducing poverty and hunger.  As a matter of fact, the developing world may be ahead of the West when it comes to mobile money.  M-Pesa, a system that allows for mobile money transfer to happen as quickly and easily as text messaging, has been all the rage throughout Africa and Asia.  Furthermore, it reduces the need to carry around paper money, which can be a dangerous problem in many countries.  Today a farmer in rural Kenya or India can check how much is in his bank account and send money to his family and friends miles away all with a click on his mobile. M-Pesa has also helped more women entrepreneurs get out of poverty and develop thriving businesses.  And it is no surprise this innovative banking system was created by a woman.  Lately, the new conversation about whether or not Bitcoin will be the new currency in the developing world has gained traction.

Can technology totally eradicate extreme poverty and hunger? Since there are many other factors that contribute to these problems, probably not.  Nonetheless, technology will continue to play a big role in supporting the development framework.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Global, Mobile Phones, Tech Life, Text Mesaging and tagged , , , , , .

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