Imagine the following scenario: It’s payday and you want to pick up your salary. But first, you have to navigate a series of deteriorating, hazardous dirt roads to get to the bank. It takes you a few days just to talk to a teller. When you finally do, the teller informs you that the bank is currently out of cash – you’ll have to wait some more. By the time you actually get paid, you’ve had to miss several days of work – and to top it all off, between bank fees (including bribes or unofficial fees to bankers and security guards), the cost of lodging, travel and food, you’ve spent 15 percent of your salary just to pick it up.
Much has been written about the gender gap in mobile phone usage, specifically on why women are less likely to have access to this technology than men; why women are less likely to be technically literate than men; and why women are less likely to be aware of the many potential benefits of a mobile phone. We recognize that there is a gender gap, as high as 38 percent in South Asia. Within the development community, there is no disagreement that this digital gender divide needs to be addressed in order to drive women’s economic empowerment and ensure a more equitable future. However, there are varying points of view on how to close this gap.
Connectivity transforms lives. Access to a mobile network, including the internet or a mobile phone, opens the door to information, and information enables people to discover their full potential. Without connectivity, people are in the dark, closed off from opportunity. Yet, more than 4 billion people remain unconnected to the internet, and 20 to 40 percent of the poorest billion people are out of reach of even very basic mobile networks. Many of these people live in remote, hard-to-reach locations. And, each person among the poorest billion has only US$2.25 per month to spend on mobile services.
Reaching isolated, impoverished communities is not easy. It takes a clear understanding of context and demand. New mapping tools, like the mAccess Diagnostic Tool that maps connectivity, are helping governments, private-sector companies, and nongovernmental organizations understand the context of those who are out of reach of mobile networks. These tools are shedding light on the affected areas and are helping us visualize network coverage areas, prices for services, local incomes and the numbers of individuals who are mobile subscribers. In-depth research is emerging to fill out the picture by showing who among the poorest uses phones, for what purposes, and when and where.
Now, more than ever, is a time to stand up for science. The U.S. administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for severe cuts to several key science-generating institutions, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These cuts would result in a deterioration of the science that has allowed the United States to be the global leader in medicine, public health and environmental science. They would also stall progress in global development, an area which has benefited greatly from the many lifesaving solutions produced through science.
Given the administration’s apparent disregard for science, we should take a step back and ask ourselves what may seem like a simple question: What is science and why does it matter? Of the many definitions, the most basic is the standard dictionary definition: a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular matter. More importantly though, science is a process or way of thinking that seeks to reveal the “truth.” Not knowing the truth about something is like driving through a heavy fog. Science can cut through this fog and reveal the truth.
We live in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. The risks to much of the world’s population that stem from climatic, political and economic fluctuations have played out again and again in recent years. While emergency response and humanitarian aid still have an important role to play, the development community is increasingly interested in how to build the resilience of individuals, communities and systems not only to survive these shocks and stresses, but also to adapt to them and better prepare for future occurrences.
There is no single solution for building resilience, as it is highly dependent on the population in question, the risks they face, local infrastructure and resources, and a number of other factors. However, one tool that has the potential to facilitate increased resilience across a range of contexts is digital technology.
Technology is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and the 2030 Agenda is counting on breakthrough technologies to propel social and economic progress. But, when technology advances at an exponential rate, will it open the door to limitless possibilities or to a level of disruption that breeds a whole new set of challenges?
Technology improves early grade reading in Rwanda by connecting teachers, mentors and education partnersAn Interview with
Chantal Uwiragiye, Literacy Specialist, FHI 360
To support ongoing efforts to improve education in Rwanda, the Mentorship Community of Practice project launched in 2013. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by FHI 360, this project developed an online community of practice that promotes peer learning and sharing of resources; provides access to education resources through an e-library; and helps mentors get support from each other, the Rwanda Education Board and other education programs.
As a result of the project’s success, USAID decided to expand access to teachers in the Rwanda Education Board’s school-based mentor initiative and to focus on early grade reading in a new program called the Teachers Community of Practice (TCOP), which will be introduced as part of USAID’s Early Grade Reading project launch in February 2017.
Literacy expert Chantal Uwiragiye talks about the program’s innovations, successes and key learnings.
The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change.
This week CHAI won the UNFCCC 2015 Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities Award for innovative and transformative solutions addressing climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.
Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.
One effective way of improving the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries is to invest in information and communications technology (ICT).
Providing schools with internet access and computer hardware opens doors to an abundance of information that teachers and students can use to make lessons more relevant and effective. Teachers can use online portals to connect with each other and to share lesson plans and best practices, while students can use ICT to access online libraries and to master new technologies.
Many of FHI 360’s education projects use ICT as a tool to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, encourage community participation in education and increase school access. Bringing ICT to middle school classrooms in Senegal was a critical part of FHI 360’s Education de Base project. This project, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and reached more than 93,000 students and 4,500 teachers in Senegal, won the Innovating Secondary Education Skills Enhancement Prize from the group Results for Development. The prize was awarded, in large part, because of its effective use of ICT.
The World Bank estimates that about 2.5 billion people worldwide lack a formal bank account at a financial institution. In most of the countries where development organizations operate, the need for safe and affordable financial services is quite high. At the same time, mobile phone ownership continues to expand rapidly: Recent estimates by GSMA Intelligence put unique mobile phone subscriptions at more than 3.6 billion people globally. It is no wonder that articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Economist have recently proclaimed that mobiles offer a promising path for the world’s unbanked to gain financial inclusion.
More than 100 experts gathered at the Mondato Asia Summit last week in Singapore to discuss mobile financial services in emerging Asia. Participants heard from big names like Google, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, Amazon, MetLife, Uber, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, as well as from several companies that you may not have heard of yet but will likely soon, such as mHITS, a global mobile money remittance service, and Gatecoin, the first global digital currency exchange.
Speaker after speaker at the summit emphasized the importance of putting the customer first — commonly referred to as human-centered or user-centered design — in the development of any mobile financial service. It seems fairly self-evident that products should be designed based on what users want. Apple was touted as the gold standard for designing products based on an acute understanding of their customers’ wants, needs and aspirations. Yet, as anyone who has ever found themselves desperately trying to speak to a live person on a bank’s automated phone system knows, this is not always the case.