by Ricardo Real Preciado
Technology doesn't change the world, people do. The tech-savvy, armed with the appropriate tools to tackle development challenges in the field, are the ones shaping our collective future. The international development community relies on available technologies to make a difference, but do current development workers have the capacity to use technology to achieve development goals and effectively impact communities globally?
I have been able to explore different international development organizations during my time in Washington, D.C., one of the international development capitals of the world. From think-tanks, to prestigious research centers, international public health agencies and private development groups, they all show some type of gap in technological skills. If we address this skill gap, we could be saving and improving the quality of millions of lives around the world. We shouldn't underestimate the transformative power of science and technology to deliver effective and cost-efficient results.
A new digital economy has emerged and continues to grow. Available technologies present the international development community with new opportunities to empower citizens and deliver valuable services. Today’s mobile phones are as powerful as the computers that took humans to the Moon. More organizations can train their staff to fully use these tools to accelerate development results.
Some good documents and websites to start with are USAID & FHI360: Integrating Mobile into Development Handbook and the Gates Foundation: Annual Newsletter 2015, which includes sections on mobile banking and mobile health to transform underdeveloped communities and the mobile farming revolution. Techchange.org is another example, providing an online learning platform for professional development in technology and social change. The website provides affordable and interesting courses to help development professionals tackle issues, such as: Mobiles for Public Health, Introduction to Mobile Money, Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation, Gender, Technology and Social Change and 3D Printing for Social Good.
Some recent inspiring projects using technology for greater impact include:
- The Afghan Institute for Learning halved the time required for adult learners to reach basic literacy simply by adding text messaging to the curriculum.
- In Uganda, Grameen’s Community Knowledge Workers provide information to farmers by mobile phones through a trained mediator.
- In Peru, Wawared Peru is using text messages to improve reporting mechanisms and increase access to health systems for pregnant, low-income women.
I urge you to explore opportunities like these and begin to fully use digital, mobile solutions and emerging technologies to accelerate results. The international development community needs to make a conscious effort to increase impact through technology. It’s our vehicle to change the world.