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How technology can solve development challenges

ICT4D can help organizations attain the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals

ICT4D is an acronym that stands for “Information and communication technologies (ICT) for development.” It refers to the use of software, hardware and telecommunications technologies in pursuit of development and humanitarian aid. In March 2018, I had the pleasure of attending the ICT4D Conference held in Lusaka, Zambia, which brought together representatives from NGOs, the private sector and academia to discuss how ICT and partnerships are being leveraged to solve different development challenges.

ICT4D is directly relevant to Kiva, because Kiva uses the internet to expand opportunity to people in developing markets. On Kiva’s website, anyone in the world can lend as little as $25 to a borrower, which can enable them to start a business, enroll in an educational institution or access clean energy, for instance. Kiva directly works toward achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations, including:

    •    Goal 1: No Poverty
Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

    •    Goal 10: Reduced Inequality
Many of Kiva’s borrowers lack access to financial services, including loans. Kiva enables excluded populations, including women, rural and illiterate populations, to empower themselves through access to credit.

    •    Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Kiva’s model works through a network of Field Partners, who act as intermediaries between Kiva and its borrowers. Field Partners are local organizations that administer loans to borrowers, and carry out the loan vetting process. Through Field Partners, Kiva is able to reach many more borrowers and expand its impact.

Additionally, through certain field partners, Kiva works toward other SDGs such as clean water and sanitation access and access to quality education.

At the ICT4D Conference 2018, I learned about how other organizations are using ICTs to improve development outcomes. Here are some case studies from 4 themes explored at the conference — Digital Financial Inclusion, Agriculture, Health and Humanitarian Response.

Digital Financial Inclusion – United Nations Capital Development Fund (Sub-Saharan Africa)
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the UN’s capital investment agency for the 47 least-developed countries. It offers financing models that promote financial inclusion and localized investments. One of UNCDF’s programs focusing on digital financial inclusion is called Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P). Mobile money is an electronic wallet service, that allows anyone with a phone and SIM card access to financial services, including sending, receiving and storing money. The mobile money phenomenon started in East Africa with M-Pesa, and has now proliferated across Africa and the rest of the world. UNCDF’s MM4P program works to expand the reach and impact of mobile money. For example, MM4P uses human-centered design to focus on the financial service needs of excluded groups, such as Zambian mothers, and assesses roadblocks facing mobile money companies, such as agent liquidity.

The Great African Food Company envisions Tanzanian farmers feeding the world. Source: VisionFund

Agriculture – Great African Food Company (Tanzania)
The Great African Food Company, also known as GAFCo, connects smallholder farmers in Tanzania to the global agricultural market. GAFCo converts client orders into fixed-price production contracts for smallholder farmers. They support farmers to grow cash crops and increase the size of their farms, ultimately improving their profits. GAFCo uses mobile GPS technology to map farmers’ fields for traceability of production and yield projections. It also has a cloud-based farm management system to provide an overview of hundreds of growing campaigns.

Health – Catholic Relief Services (Nigeria)
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is a faith-based humanitarian agency that works in around 90 countries in the world. CRS sponsored the ICT4D conference, and highlighted some of the ways it uses ICT in its malaria program in Nigeria. CRS distributes medicated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, and used mobile technology to manage the distribution of these nets at scale. Their technological platform is used to register beneficiaries, track training attendance and monitor coverage of mosquito nets. In a pilot program, the use of this technology was found to increase coverage and impact of the program.

LIFE uses virtual reality to teach health workers to respond to emergencies (Source: LIFE)

Humanitarian Response – LIFE (Kenya)
LIFE is a scenario-based mobile and VR platform that teaches health workers how to respond to medical emergencies through game-like trainings. Users are immersed into scenarios in which they take on the role of a healthcare professional managing an emergency. They must answer a series of questions correctly and find the correct medical equipment to save lives, which will better equip them to save real lives in their work.

These are just some of the ways in which technology is making real development impact that were highlighted during the week. Panels and plenary discussions stressed the challenges that lie ahead for ICT4D, most notably around data protection and the need for increased regulation. The need for partnerships across geographies and organization types was also stressed.

Kiva implements technology for development by connecting lenders to borrowers on its website through a network of field partners. You can lend on Kiva's website to support increased access to opportunity around the world and help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

About the author

Linda Du

A lifelong traveler, Linda was born in London and raised between London and Beijing. She studied Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge, before starting an M.B.A as a Silver Scholar at the Yale School of Management. She is interested in the intersection of technology, international development and innovation. Prior to the Kiva fellowship, she took on a variety of internships and roles to explore these three themes. These included interning at the UN World Food Programme in Rome and at the Ericsson graduate program in its Digital Services division in Stockholm and Johannesburg. Linda is excited to explore the fields of microfinance and mobile money during her Kiva fellowship across Southern Africa before she returns to Yale to complete the second year of her M.B.A. program.