Moving America Forward

Could Technology Provide Solutions to Global Poverty?

April 18, 2014
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Could Technology Provide Solutions to Global Poverty?
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Tapping American ingenuity can help the poor around the world.

Think about these facts:

At least 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day.

22,000 children die each day due to poverty.

1.6 billion people live without electricity.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which works to reduce global poverty and hunger, and its representatives think America has powerful assets — scientists, research institutions, and technological innovations — that are the keys to drastically decreasing the number of people who live in extreme poverty. Last week, the USAID announced a groundbreaking collaboration with 31 colleges and universities, as well as several corporations and foundations called the U.S. Global Development Lab. And they’ve set an ambitious goal: For this tech-oriented program to spur the end of extreme global poverty by 2030.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator and former undersecretary for agriculture, believes America can lead the way in harnessing technology to fight poverty. Shah told Maya Rhodan and Elizabeth Dias of Time, “If we could get and invent new seeds, new mobile technology and open new data centers to help farmers connect their crop prices and understand weather variability we can do something transformational against hunger and not just reach a small percentage of the people that are hungry with food.”

To finance the program, USAID hopes to raise $30 billion through corporate funding and other sources.

So far, those involved with the U.S. Global Development Lab include Stanford grads that are creating inexpensive, energy-efficient lighting solutions for the 22 million people in Africa who use kerosene lamps, and Berkeley scientists who wrote a mobile app that uses iPhone photos and parts built by a 3-D printer which detect impurities and disease in water. USAID hopes this new collaboration and financial support for inventors will accelerate the development of these kind of ideas.

“We see this as a transformation in how you do development,” Lona Stoll of USAID told  Time. “By tapping into things that really make America what it is, which is our entrepreneurial spirit, our scientific expertise, and our real commitment to help people, you have a real ability to accelerate our impact.”

MORE: This Former Teacher Brings Technology Directly to Low-Income Preschoolers

 

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