The Accessibility of Technology and Developing Economies:
The Digital Citizenship Series

In this installment of our  Digital Citizenship Series, we take a look at how emerging technologies and micro-loans in developing countries are improving conditions for people living off of the grid.

When asked the whimsical question of "What would you do with just one wish?" many of us selflessly respond: "Eliminate poverty." The sentiment is kind-hearted, yet in practice—and without magic genies—attaining that goal has been a tiresome haul for the international community.

However, progress is being made. Along with heroic efforts by philanthropic organizations and staggeringly dedicated aid workers, technology in developing countries has played a very serious role in bringing that wish to reality.

Help From The Masses
When thinking about that "one wish," many people feel frustrated that they can’t do anything to help, short of abandoning their lives for a while and traveling to a developing country.

Enter: micro-fiance. Leveraging the Internet and mobile ability to put anyone in touch, (almost) anywhere in the world, organizations like the Grameen Bank and Kiva have empowered citizens of richer countries with the tools to make direct donations to people in need.

Rather than hoping a donation finds its way to the right place, via government bureaucracy or a shady aid organization, people can now directly give to a woman who wants to purchase a sewing machine so she can make quality goods or a goat farmer so he can buy a spotlight to keep lions away. Kiva provides tools so donors can communicate and "feel" the affect that their giving has had on another person continents away—a feeling not possible 10 years ago.

Light the Way
When the western world hears of "technology," often the image of robots fusing microchips and cyclotrons smashing atomic particles come to mind. But what about one of the earliest modern technologies: man-made light?

Roughly one-fifth of the world’s population lives without electricity. Those without electricity are subject to higher rates of disease and injury (e.g., people can’t see what they’re touching or eating in the dark) and poorer education (e.g., people have less time to read or learn to read). Many homes are lit by kerosene that causes fires and smoke inhalation, not to mention the consistent cost incurrence of buying fuel.

Yet, even with these homes existing off the power grid, they are certainly not out of the sun’s reach. Solar powered LEDs have fallen in cost by over half in the last decade to below $25. For a poor family, that’s still a significant purchase (though it would displace the cost of buying kerosene), but as the technology develops, the prices in these developing countries will continue to fall. That, combined with the good work of philanthropic organizations like Lighting Africa, will mean an increased number of well-lit homes for those who can’t plug in.

Dialing for Information
Even some of the poorest countries in the world have astonishingly high cell phone usage. The long-storied history around mobile phones has watched this technology quickly become a practically ubiquitous technology around the world. Few corners of the planet are without a communication signal of some sort anymore. You could be at a distant, rural market in Cambodia and watch your Jackfruit vendor text a coconut vendor nearby. (Like I did.)

The technology has no doubt caused a powerful change in peer-to-peer communication in developing countries as well as granted new access to medicine and medical information. In 2008, VidaNET, an mHealth-launched project, was initiated so cellular customers could be texted free information that covers not only HIV/AIDS prevention, but also helps those afflicted with this disease manage their medications and treatments. Similar programs are being rolled out across Africa and other areas afflicted by communicable diseases that can be prevented with education.

All information flows to patients to manage a developing country’s health, and it flows from the patients as well. The Global Viral Forecasting initiative is among one of the many groups, asking remote villagers in Africa to text certain phone numbers when they are feeling sick. When a critical mass of texts from one particular area is noticed, aid workers and doctors can move more quickly to stem the spread of a disease.

As processors speed up and chips get cheaper, mobile phone signals get stronger and energy storage gets more efficient, new solutions for lifting developing countries out of poverty will arise. Through these digital advancements, emerging communities will get the hand up—not the hand out—that they’re looking for.

CONSUMER ARTICLES

Digital Family Life
2012 Olympics Apps
4 Ways To Backup Music
5 Weather Apps
9 New Years Apps
Apps for Baseball
Best Movie Apps
Buy Baby Domain Name
Children, Sleep & Technology
Facebook Parenting
Father’s Day Gift Guide
Foodie Mania
Free Mobile Apps
Gamification and Sports
Get in Shape
Graduation Gift Ideas
Lose Your Smartphone or Tablet
Mobile Apps & Natural Disasters
Mobile Device at the Ballpark
Music in The Cloud
Parent's Guide to Online Safety
Phishing Scams
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Sites
Social Media & School - #1
Social Media & School - #2
Social Media & School - #3
Social Networking
Summer Vacation
Summer Vacation & Tech Usage
Tech Savvy Teens
Technology & Music
Technostalgia
The Next Top Chef
Three Back-To-School Scams
Toddlers and Tablets
Tumblr Food Sites
Will Tablets Replace Laptops?
Wine & Mixology Sites
Mobile Security
3D Technology for Mobile
5 Phone Hacking Stories
7 Internet Security Lies
Best Apps for Vacation
Geolocation Services
Mobile Security Questions
Payment Technology
Prevent Phone Hacking
Smartphone & Tablet Security
Solar Powered Devices
Tax Refunds and Mobile
Voice Recognition & Security Threats
PC Security
5 Infographics
Computer Hackers & Predators
Computer Security Glossary
Computer Security Threats
Computer Virus Information
Credit Card Fraud
Email and Instant Message Activity
File Loss and Data Corruption
File Sharing and Downloads
Internet Browsing Safely
Internet Dangers
Internet Security FAQ
Interruptions from Popups & Spam
Malware Symptoms and Threats
Online Fraud Prevention
Online Identity Theft
PC Performance Problems
Phishing Scams
Prevent Malware Popups and Scams
Unexplained PC Behavior
You Are What You Google
Online Shopping & Banking
Banking Trends
Cool Music Apps
Credit Card Information
Credit Card Protection
Holiday Shopping Infographic
Holiday Shopping Tips
Mobile Fashionista
Top Music Sites
Digital Citizenship
Can Technology Save Lives?
Digital Grassroot Activism
Tech & Developing Countries
Cyberbullying & Online Predators
Cybercrime
Online Activities
Your Child's Online Reputation
Managing your Online Reputation
Digital Communication Style
Job Hunt Identity
Social Networks & Privacy
Sure Footed Social Networking
Wipe Your Device