How Does Technology Help Reduce Poverty?

How Does Technology Help Reduce Poverty?

Technology is transforming the world, but its benefits aren’t reaching everyone. To address this, we need to identify where poverty occurs, and find ways to use new technology for good.

Identifying poverty requires access to data, which is often collected through household surveys or censuses. But gathering this information on a large scale can be difficult and expensive in poor countries.

1. Education

Educated individuals and families can acquire skills and knowledge that lead to economic growth. However, education needs to be accessible and affordable for people in poverty.

Online learning can offer opportunities to people who cannot afford in-person education services. However, this technology must be culturally sensitive and adapted to specific regions of the world for it to be effective.

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AI specialists at Carnegie Mellon University are using drone technology, robotics and artificial intelligence to help farmers grow the crop sorghum better. This could help reduce poverty in the developing world, where many people make their living from agriculture.

2. Health

Vaccination, medical procedures and better medicines can help reduce poverty by keeping people healthy. Similarly, improved cookstoves reduce indoor air pollution and fuel consumption, which can improve health.

While ending poverty is a huge challenge, reducing it to a manageable figure can be achieved through technology. Countries need good poverty data, which can be collected using digital devices. It is now possible for families in slums or rural villages to self-diagnose their poverty levels in 30 minutes, giving governments the data they need to target services and programs.

However, technology is not always used for the best purposes. For example, rickshaw pullers prioritize talk time over family nutrition. Also, sociologist Kathleen Diga found that some poor households prioritize mobile phone use over productive intentions.

3. Income

If affordable and easy to use, technology can reduce poverty by catalyzing job skills development and facilitating economic progression. But it can also widen the gap by differentiating access through three mechanisms. First, technology costs money to acquire, operate, maintain and upgrade. This “digital divide” is reinforced by other barriers, such as leisure time and transportation costs.

Second, even when poor people gain access to technology, they often lack motivation or capacity to use it for advancing their lives. For example, studies of rural telecenter surveys reveal that when poor people have ready access to computers, the dominant use is entertainment (playing games, watching movies, adult content). Third, technology producers naturally cater their products toward the largest and wealthiest groups. This creates digital divides and amplifies income inequality.

4. Food

Millions of people live in poverty around the world, but the global economy is generating enormous amounts of food. Modern technologies can help subsistence farmers build agribusinesses, increase production and improve nutrition.

But technology alone won’t help reduce poverty if people can’t afford to buy the tech. Globally, mobile connectivity costs an average of two months’ salary for someone living in poverty.

The first step is knowing where poverty exists – which is impossible without precise data. In developed countries, household surveys and census data can identify poor neighborhoods. But in developing nations, this information is often difficult or prohibitively costly to collect. Thankfully, digital devices have the potential to change this. One example is Hello Tractor, an app that connects farmers with mechanized farming equipment. It allows them to plant 40 times faster and at half the cost.

5. Employment

A country’s employment rate is a key factor in reducing poverty. If individuals don’t have the skills to secure a job, they can’t support themselves or their families. Technology that provides opportunities to work and earn a living can help reduce poverty.

Governments can stimulate job growth by creating a business-friendly environment, and businesses can do so through investing in their own communities. Socially responsible companies that incorporate poverty alleviation into their core strategy can have an even greater impact.

The challenge is to identify which regions need the most help. Researchers are utilizing satellite imagery to identify poverty-stricken areas. For example, the Carnegie Mellon University research team is using drones and artificial intelligence to study how a crop called sorghum can be used for food and energy production in Africa.

6. Access to Information

The convenience, low cost and easy usage of mobile electronic devices can greatly facilitate access to information by poor families. This improves family income, helps them overcome multidimensional poverty to a certain degree and enhances their development capabilities.

For example, digital technology can help reduce poverty by providing farmers with real-time market information and weather forecasts. This can help them make better decisions about how to optimize their resource use and increase their agricultural production, which in turn will help to alleviate poverty.

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However, not everyone can benefit from new technologies. According to a report by the Pathways for Prosperity Commission, entrenched gender norms mean that women are less likely than men to own smartphones or Internet connections. Moreover, when they do have these resources, they don’t always know what to do with them.

7. Environment

The environment is everything that surrounds a living thing. It includes the living and non-living things that affect them, such as water, air, sunlight, etc. Non-living things are called abiotic, while living elements are known as biotic.

Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical aims. It can include anything from the conversion of natural resources to hand tools to modern computer chips.

There are many ways that technology can help reduce poverty, including improving access to energy and healthcare. For example, solar technology can provide clean energy for homes, while improved cookstoves can cut indoor air pollution and fuel consumption. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also tackling poverty by improving agriculture in regions where poverty is rife. For example, Carnegie Mellon researchers are using drones and robots to study how best to grow the crop sorghum.

 

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