Posted by: Paul Chiariello | January 15, 2011

How Connectivity and the Internet Can Influence the Developing World

I can remember when instant messaging first became huge in middle school.  Since I went to a private school and my friends didn’t live in the neighborhood, I spent a lot of time talking online.  It was amazing for me then and has since become so much more ridiculously mind-blowing.  Now, I also watch YouTube channels and follow video blogs from friends, strangers and professors and buy everything off of Amazon.

But I don’t want to talk about IM, Youtube or blogs, really.  What I find the most revolutionary is what Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been able to do for developing countries and global society.

I just want to go through some amazing programs that technological connectivity has made possible.  Outside of outsourced call center employees or business processing, I want to focus on more innovative projects that I’ve found really amazing.  Post some more in comments if you have others you’d like to share.  In another post later I want to write my ideas on how connectivity affects group formation and certain types of ideologies.

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1) OKN Mobile in Kenya has an employment information service called Kazi560 that it runs via cell-phone subscriptions.  For those who live in relatively isolated areas where the cost of newspapers and traveling into town are prohibitively high, you can sign up for this service to save tons of time and money.  For a few cents, subscribers get texts with information on employment opportunities that are targeted to the rural demographic.  As of 2007, OKN Mobile had 30,000 subscribers for the service.

2) Digital Divide Data is a data out-sourcing center in South East Asia serving disadvantaged Cambodians and Laotians.  The center employs only youth who are orphans, land mine victims,  physically disabled or have been previously trafficked.  They are provided with vocational training and scholarships to continue their education.  So far, DDD has provided over 2,000 disadvantaged youth with marketable skills and employment.

3) There are a number of educational cell-phone programs that I’ve learned about all over the world.  Here’s an example of one in the Phillipines.  Rural farmers text in a few questions about their own rice paddies.  In response, Dr. Roland Buresh of International Rice Research and the Phillipine Department of Agriculture have set up a program that replies with recommendations on the optimal amounts, timing and sources of fertilizer for their specific fields to increase production.   Another program (sorry but I forget the institution) in East Africa has a mini-educational program where rural farmers get texts on simple innovative farming practices to try out.  Later, through texting, they also get short quizzes to reinforce the information.

4) Micro loans have become easily recognized as one part of the puzzle for helping individuals and economies out of poverty.  Loans are essential for any entrepreneur, but where do you get the money?  Kiva.org (you have to visit!) has come up with an idea that connects random individuals around the world who are ready to provide a little money with random individuals around the world that have a plan to use that little bit of money.  In short, sign up and browse a list of individuals with business plans from around the world in micro-loan organizations that Kiva works with.  Find one you like and donate towards their goals however much you want.  When the micro-loan gets repaid they send the money back to you and keep the interest for the work they have done to facilitate it.  Basically you can give to charity without actually spending any money!

5) Similar to Kiva is another organization called Kickstarter for creative, intellectual and artistic projects.  Individuals post their own projects and are connected directly to a variety of donors through the site.  The basic idea is pretty similar, but you should still definitely check it out and take a look.

6) I plan on looking into and researching some more.  If you check this out later, hopefully I’ll have up numbers 6, 7, 8 and more.  Write about projects you’ve found interesting below in the comments section.

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