Policy, poverty, and technology


January 2015 — As new technologies are developed around the world, governments, foundations, and social enterprises seek to identify those with the richest transformative potential and champion them as tools for social change. From solar-powered homes and businesses to inventive uses of Internet and mobile technologies, high-impact solutions tend to combine technological innovation with community-centered communication and implementation efforts.

This month's discussion focuses on how actors in cities across the Global South harness, develop, and scale new technologies to address critical challenges facing the urban poor. Follow the conversation as it unfolds over the course of January and add your thoughts in the comments below.

Promover a inclusão digital ainda é um desafio em Curitiba

Curitiba, 28 janeiro 2015 — Desenvolvimento social não é possível sem inclusão digital. Ciente disso, um grupo de mães da Vila das Torres, bairro carente e estigmatizado de Curitiba, abraçou o compromisso de promover o universo online na região, até então negligenciada. Com uma pequena ajuda, elas já levam internet a mais de 700 pessoas. Leia mais.

تکنولوژی اطلاعاتی در خدمت فقرا

Tehran, 27 January 2015 — مالکیت مسکن در ایران یک دهه پس از انقلاب سال 1357 به تدریج از دسترس اقشار پایین جامعه خارج شد. در سالهای اخیر این محرومیت در حال افزایش است. مسکن مهر یکی از ایده های دولت برای کم کردن اثرات بدمسکنی در میان این اقشار است. اما سیاست های مالی غلط مربوط به مسکن مهر، تنها 5 سال پس از آغاز این طرح، مسئله مسکن را بدتر کرد. ادامه مطلب.

Chai Mặt Trời: Thắp sáng nhà người nghèo thành thị

Ho Chi Minh City, 26 Tháng Giêng 2015 — Năm 2012, Chai Mặt Trời, một dự án sử dụng nguyên lý vật lý đơn giản để chế tạo bóng đèn từ ánh sáng tự nhiên, đã được khởi xướng để cải thiện hệ thống chiếu sáng cho các hộ nghèo trong 7 quận của TP. Hồ Chí Minh. Hai năm sau đó, dự án đã đạt được nhiều thành công nhưng đồng thời cũng đặt ra nhiều câu hỏi dài hơi hơn cho vấn đề giảm nghèo và quy hoạch đô thị. Xem thêm.

Aliando tecnologia e solidariedade, cooperativa de construção civil protagoniza luta pela inclusão social

Rio de Janeiro, 23 janeiro 2015 — Movido pelo lema "Produzir e Partilhar", grupo desenvolve plano de educação ancorado em tecnologias ecoeficientes de baixo custo e muda a vida de centenas de famílias. Entre inúmeros benefícios, dois se destacam: o empoderamento da comunidade e o potencial de multiplicação do conhecimento. Leia mais.

Fishing for jobs, not houses: Fish farming in a shipping container in Cape Town

Cape Town, 22 January 2015 — Converted shipping containers have become increasingly synonymous with experimental architecture. Now a new concept has developed a prototype for a fish farm in a 12m-long shipping container. Rather than building houses at a distance from economic opportunities and livelihood options, the typical model of state-subsidised housing in South Africa, the Fish Farm model looks to do the reverse, by focusing on job and livelihood options and inserting these into existing contexts. See more.

Posyantek mendorong kemandirian ekonomi masyarakat miskin kota

Jakarta, 21 Januari 2015 — Masyarakat yang melek terhadap teknologi akan mampu melakukan inovasi dan diverisfikasi usaha mereka. Namun tidak demikian dengan masyarakat miskin perkotaan yang selama ini masih belum tersentuh oleh teknologi yang murah dan dapat diaplikasikan hingga tingkat rumah tangga. Keberadaan Posyantek diharapkan mampu menjembatani kesenjangan teknologi ini. Baca lebih lanjut.

ICT for knowledge sharing and healthcare

Delhi, 20 January 2015 — Millions of stories loom on the fringe of India's surging technological boom. This article examines two technological innovations that have permeated this fringe and touched the lives of the urban poor in Delhi — eNRICH and Mother and Child Tracking System. See more.

Programa TITA: fomentando la educación digital en Cali

Cali, 19 enero 2015 — Permitir el acceso a las TIC a los estudiantes desde los primeros grados es un requisite imprescindible para combater la desigualdad y la pobreza. Iniciativas privadas como el reparto de tabletas, o públicas, como la construcción de aulas digitales, buscam cumplir ese objetivo. Sin embargo, estas iniciativas deben ser sostenibles para ser existosas. Leer más.

Mobile surveys: The innovative human microphone

Dar es Salaam, 16 January 2015 — This article explores how technology is providing insight into the lived experience of Dar es Salaam's residents. Mobile technology is now enabling residents to share their perceptions, giving citizens a voice in the city and a way to express their needs and concerns. Mobile technology is not only changing how the city can be navigated but is providing a tool for collecting information and enabling monitoring and evaluation of the urban experience. See more.

Accelerating social innovation: Lagos' hub of technological progress

Lagos, 15 January 2015 — A number of initiatives are emerging to promote and support technological and social innovation in Lagos. Two stand out: a technological and social enterprise hub for startups, and the largest West African IT market. Both introduce an unique element to Lagos' world of technology and social enterprises. See more.

New technologies for the differently abled

Mumbai, 14 January 2015 — Statistics show that the number of disabled in India is on the rise, particularly in urban areas. Increasingly toxic living conditions in slums put these populations at higher risk. Mumbai-based Barrier Break has been experimenting with creative technologies to assist disabled people. The question is — can the technology be made affordable enough for those who are in greatest need? See more.

The schoolbag from Rustenburg, and the project of Ethical Imagination

Johannesburg, 13 January 2015 — While there has been enormous technological innovation over recent decades, the idea of technology has also narrowed, in many cases now referring almost exclusively to information technology. But not only should the concept be broadened again, it should also strive to be contextually relevant and meaningful. Launched with a trendy backpack design, one young business named 'Rethaka' is part of a small but growing number of innovators in South Africa who are making technology speak the language of 'other' contexts. See more.

المجتمعات المحلية في القاهرة: استخدام التقنية كأداة للتنمية

Cairo, 12 January 2015 — طالما كانت التقنية مقصورة على الأكثر ثراءً، عندما نعلم أن عدد مستخدمي الإنترنت حول العالم يبلغ فقط 35% من إجمالي سكان العالم حيث أن أكبر عدد من المستخدمين يوجد في قارة آسيا، بينما يتراجع عدد المستخدمين في الدول العربية. لا تقتصر التقنية فقط على الترفيه والتواصل بل يمكن أن تكون أداة لتحسين الدخل ودعم معدلات التقدم .. اقرأ المزيد هنا

Entre la tecnología y la política pública

Mexico D.F., 9 enero 2015 — 'Yo Propongo' es una plataforma que permite la colaboración entre personas e instituciones para convertir las problemáticas de la ciudad en proyectos específicos, a través de la recopilación de ideas y la valoración de propuestas integrales y viables. La plataforma está creando alianzas con actores claves y responsables de las políticas de desarrollo, por lo que se están implementando tecnologías para reducir la brecha entre los ciudadanos y el gobierno con el fin de tomar acción ante los problemas. Leer más.

Collaborative hubs and hackspaces leveraging high-impact technology for poverty eradication

Nairobi, 8 January 2015 — Nairobi has long been at the forefront of the movement to leverage technology to address poverty challenges. Innovative social enterprises, nonprofits, and public-private partnerships continue to be formed and incubated by a number of diverse collaborative working hubs and hackspaces around the city. See more.

E-government mendekatkan pelayanan publik ke masyarakat

Surabaya, 7 Januari 2015 — Keterbukaan menjadi sebuah keniscayaan dalam pemerintahan yang demokratis. Dalam kondisi masyarakat yang makin tidak percaya kepada pemerintah, keberadaan e-government mencoba menjembatani hal ini dengan harapan adanya perbaikan pelayanan publik dan meningkatkan transparansi pengelolaan pembangunan. Baca lebih lanjut.

Solar power for better water

Lilongwe, 6 January 2015 — Access to water in Lilongwe could be improved by a relaxed regulatory landscape and promotion of alternative means to provide potable water. Unfortunately, neither seems to be on the horizon. See more.

Fomentando el acceso a las nuevas tecnologías entre los estudiantes de estrato 1 y 2 en Bogotá

Bogotá, 5 enero 2015 — El acceso a las nuevas tecnologías, como las tabletas y el acceso a Internet, son ya un componente esencial en el proceso educativo. Un acuerdo entre la Alcaldía de Bogotá y ETB va a permitir la distribución gratuita de 337000 tabletas y el acceso a Internet de alta velocidad en la mayoría de las escuelas. Leer más.

Solar-powered energy centers power more than Bangalore's slum households

Bangalore, 2 January 2015 — Many of Bangalore's poorest slums still lack access to regular, reliable energy. They are forced to use expensive, black-market kerosene to power everything from a mobile phone to a small cook stove. Two years ago, the rural-focused solar company Selco launched its expansion in urban India by opening Integrated Energy Centers — hubs of solar-powered activity for slum residents that go far beyond lighting up local households. See more.

 

Join the discussion on policy, poverty, and technology in the comments below.

 
You can also join our December discussion on urban equity, informality, and financial inclusion.


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Comments

Hilaryzainab's picture

Thanks for this interesting article Nora the frustrating and precarious situation faced by residents without access to clean water is complex and impacts on community health, economic development and sustainability. I recently saw a statistics published that in Africa women spend a collective 16million hours a day in the hunt for water. The use of innovative pay-for-water services is increasing in a number of communities and this particular tech approach is interesting but as you point out presents a challenge to residents who now pay for a service that used to be free. Implementing a technological solution such as this should be complimented by some sort of community outreach that provides information on the incentives to clean water that paying creates. In addition, many social projects of this nature fail because they neglect to account for the dynamics of ownership. The question of where the money goes is a valid one and social divisions should not be increased because those perceived as benefiting [the kiosk operator] may be the target of resentment as a result. At the end of the day everyone still needs access to water and finding sustainable and realistic delivery mechanisms is critical, however once the LWB pipes to the area, won't this innovation become obsolete?

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Hi Hilary,

Thanks for your thoughts. That 16 million hours statistic is pretty mind-blowing. Don't suppose you remember where you saw that?

I think all the issues you raise are very valid and mimic my own. What drew me to the project was that I think there is something very interesting about using solar power to provide potable water. So there is probably some tuning needed, but the idea is solid and with the right approach... On the issue of obsolence - I don't think it will be obsolete as an innovation given that WaterMissions (and others) can use the technology in other areas, particularly rural ones. Unfortunately I don't know what the law/regulations say (if anything) regarding the presence of the kiosk once LWB (hopefully) extends services to the area.

Hilaryzainab's picture

The statistics was from a tweet coming out of Beijing20 by @UN_Women https://twitter.com/UN_Women/status/552940348096667648

This is a link to the main site I can not confirm the study as I have not seen it but likely it is a estimate based on data from individual countries. http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/in-focus/poverty#facts

Hilaryzainab's picture

Carlin, this article was really interesting and highlighted a unique approach to providing integrated services to individuals living in slum areas. The dynamic factors that affect livelihoods are can to often be overlooked in planning infrastructure and connectivity projects and it is important to see clear examples where these factors are taken into account. It appears due to their continuing scale-up that Seleco Foudnation's Urban Community Lab is able to address a complex challenge faced by slum dwellers while also providing critical services and education opportunities. Great piece

jorgebela's picture

Tariq is correct in pointing to the need of new thinking on what innovation and technology can bring in a local context. On his article, and in several other this week, we have seen how the plummeting cost of solar panels is allowing for the solution of problems that were too expensive to solve before, by using traditional technologies. Without cheap panels and bright LEDs the solution he identifies to the lack of electric supply at night would not have been possible. And I am talking about only a few months ago.

Carlin Carr's picture

Thanks for your comments, Hilary. I think it's so interesting to see an organization that has been so rural focused for so long to launch such a thoughtful and integrated idea in urban communities. I like the rural-urban cross pollination here and I wonder if it would inspire more organizations to cross that line. Are the two really so different? How much do models need to transform? I do think the Urban Community Labs are different from Selco's rural initiatives, but the underlying sensitivity and responsiveness to community needs runs through them both.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Widya you bring up a really important point in your article that of political will. Through transparency initiatives are widespread many face significant road blocks due to lack of community buy in and lack of political will. Particularly when working to increase the effectiveness of services the willingness of public officials to be open and responsive to feedback can have a positive impact on bringing citizens into the conversation on governance. This undoubtedly also has distinct benefits on service delivery as a more informed and realistic picture of community needs and preferences increases the efficacy of service provisions. It is encouraging to see that in in Surabaya these approaches are proving useful in developing sustainable and inclusive cities.

widya anggraini's picture

It is very interesting to read on how communities are able to utilize technology for improving their live and increasing their political participation as can be seen from Indonesia and Mexico case. Those are interest me because there is an action by government and community reacts to those policies. Improving political participation is difficult and took a long time for the process of increasing awareness on how participation can actually transform their live, but of course it has to be supported by strong political will from government. However I am curious about sustainability of several projects such as Water Missions that I think is very promising but apparently they haven’t made a strategic cooperation to support their work, or is it because political situation that prevent water mission goes further?

Jorge is also present an interesting case as it is also similar to Indonesia, but I think my country is a little bit lack of plan in implementing it and forget about the fact that providing tablet should come with the connection and educational program within the tablet, and also they do not involve private in the process. If I can ask Jorge, how long did the plan it and who is reviewing the plan and as much as I am happy that this program tough many schools and children, what is the biggest challenge this program face besides your question about sustainability after the program ends?

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Wydia, I totally agree with you that to close the gap between government and citizens is needed to reinforce participation, in Mexico City I may say that citizens are very active in challenge politicians but there is still work to do in order to empower citizens to make them appropriate the process of participatory policy building. Civil society may play an essential role in order to trigger this participation.

jorgebela's picture

Hi Widya,

the tabled distribution programs I describe in Colombia do mimic the problems you point out in Indonesia. First of all, the tablets are being paid for by private telecommunication companies that were awarded cell phone licenses. Thus there are serious doubts bout their long term sustainability. Once the programs are over, they are currently ongoing, new funds will have to be found in order to continue the free tablet distribution.

The biggest problems, in addition to sustainability, are the availability of content and the need to raise awareness on teachers of the teaching potential these new educational tools offer. Even though the tablets are purchased by the telecom companies, they are then given to local educational authorities who determine the criteria for distribution, and do the actual distribution. The IT ministry, which awarded the licenses, is supervising the process.

In one previous experience, the lack of coordination between the IT ministry and educational ministry resulted in insufficient content for the tablets. This time the local educational and IT authorities appear to be more coordinated.

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Carlin, I like how you've highlighted technology and disability in your piece this month. The massive increase in the number of disabled people in India however seems a bit over the top. Do you think it's possible that it's a result of better data collection techniques or perhaps a sign of more disabled people out in the public (vs e.g. locked up in their homes by family members) as opposed to an actual increase? And if it is an actual increase, why?

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Very interesting human development aspects to technology highlighted in Johannesburg and Mumbai.

It is very interesting to see the multifaceted impact of technology. I have to agree with Tariq often the concept of technology and its use is parochial. More often than not, its revolves around innovation that is exclusive in its use (e.g Google glass, apple mosquito killing ac's etc). The rethaka innovation demonstrates technology in an inclusive manner. Also fascinating is how increasing hub spaces are springing up across the developing south for both entrerpenurial and social innovation purposes. The CChub hub for instance have been able to contribute to the upcoming Nigerian election, by creating an online platform making voting polls and registration information easy in support of the electoral body.

Using technology for more than commercial gain holds a lot of promise and as Tariq noted, this lies in expanding the scope and concept of technology.

jorgebela's picture

Hi Olatawura, the CcHUB is a purely private initiative, or is it a public-private partnership? You do mention that it is supported by several private companies, but I wonder if it also gets some public support.

Shaima Abulhajj's picture

Hi Maria,
Great article. I have a question on Yo Propongo.. Does this initiative cover only the Mexico city- the capital only- or it expanded to other underprivileged villages and towns in the country. Also, are there specific statistics indicate the development and the impact of this initiative in terms of increment of actual participation and gender diversity?
Thanks a lot for the great information.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Olatawura, I enjoyed your article on hack spaces and tech hubs in Nigeria. Kenya and Nigeria are great examples of regional leaders working to promote these collaborative tech environments that have been popping up all over the world. I find the CcHUB example especially inspiring because they explicitly focus on high-impact social technologies. Like Jorge I am interested in their public support and how they leverage the private donations/funding to reinvest in the companies and initiatives they incubate?

Hilaryzainab's picture

Priyanka, this article was great touching on a critical maternal and child health as well as a number of cross-cutting gender issues that affect quality of care, access to information and continuum of care. The eNRICH application is a tool that can be applied across a number of sectors as well and is a good learning example for organizations and communities looking to increase access to traditional and indigenous knowledge, something that has been a a priority in many communities in Kenya especially as the loss of languages continue. Also the Tracking system is really revolutionary for targeting an under-serviced demographic and also increasing the importance of midwives and other health care workers that have been shown to have a direct positive impact on reducing maternal mortality and child/infant mortality. I really enjoyed your article!

Andréa Azambuja's picture

Hi Jorge,
It makes total sense and seems very right that the (huge amount of) money moved by cellular/ internet operators is directly invested in digital inclusion, doesn't? Digital inclusion is fundamental to the promotion of social development and to overcome the poverty framework that large part of the population still faces. I was curious: was the donation of the equipment part of the deal with the government, was it in the contract, or came from a parallel initiative?

You pointed out something very important in your article: the role of education, the engagement of the educational community. Digital inclusion is not synonymous with social inclusion. In Brazil, for example, 166 million people already have web access (which means that about 30 million still don't), but the network is significantly underutilized, because people don't know how to do it, because of the lack in guidance and educational improvement. Giving access to the Internet is fundamental, but equally are the programs that inform how people can use it to improve their lives, that show how it can be useful. Technology and education need always to run together, otherwise the results should be innocuous – that's why Tita's programm is indispensable.

Andréa Azambuja's picture

I'm sorry, what I wanted to say actually is that web access (not digital inclusion) is not synonymous with social inclusion.

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