The development community is in love with the idea of innovation as a way to accelerate positive change. But are innovation and disruption always positive? What are the unintended consequences from our drive to innovate?
An Interview with
Josh Woodard, Regional ICT and Digital Finance Advisor, Asia Pacific, FHI 360
Digital technology offers promising ways to solve some of the world’s development challenges. At FHI 360, we are applying new and existing technologies to build resilience among the communities where we work.
What is technology for resilience?
Let’s look at what we mean by resilience. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines it as “ the ability of people, households, communities, countries and systems to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.”
Recently, we’ve been using The Rockefeller Foundation’s definition: “Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.”
Preparing the future workforce requires transformations in what we know, how we learn and how we workWritten by
Artificial intelligence, smart systems, decentralized manufacturing and other technologies are driving major uncertainties around the future of work. Experts from MIT and the World Economic Forum suggest that we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, characterized by new technologies that will affect all industries. As the very nature of work changes rapidly, old jobs are disappearing and new jobs are emerging in every sector of the economy. This has produced a major shift in the demand for skills that is happening worldwide, and we can expect further shifts going forward.
Reducing the lag time between the development of new jobs and the preparation of the workforce to meet new skills needs is a core concern for workers, new graduates, employers and governments. And while the pace of transformation in jobs and skills differ by country and region, evolution along the technological spectrum is taking place everywhere.
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.
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.
Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.
As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.
There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math.
In 1879, Thomas Edison unveiled his incandescent light bulb. Within six years, electric power had spread across the nation and ignited an explosion of invention that created new industries and thousands of jobs and transformed every aspect of society. A century later, in 1978, Steve Jobs introduced the Apple personal computer and unleashed another wave of innovation that reaffirmed our faith in the power and potential of technology to drive human progress.
I was reminded just how high our expectations are for technology at two events in September: the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Frontiers of Development conference and the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting, each of which showcased inventions, tools and concepts to improve public health and raise living standards. A few of the breakthrough innovations highlighted at these events or in recently announced grants include: