“People first, technology second.” These words summarize “Space to Innovate,” a recent event co-hosted by the German Marshall Fund and Development Gateway. Discussants Nancy Choi of Development Gateway, Lovisa Williams of the State Department, and Aaron Sherinian of the United Nations Foundation agreed that technology should amplify marginalized voices and change the nature of government-citizen interaction.
Technology provides the potential for faster and more responsive communication, ultimately supporting the development of emerging economies and helping people stay connected to the global economy. The way we communicate around the world has changed in the past two decades. In 2000, only 1 out of 25 people in developing countries had Internet access. Today, that number has grown to 1 out of 3 people. Thus, technology can aid in connecting development workers, giving entrepreneurs access to global supply chains, and helping minorities and marginalized populations stay informed.
A wide variety of successful tech-related initiatives already exist in emerging countries, allowing aid and provisions to communities be delivered more efficiently. For example, the growing use of data visualizations and maps by development organizations has made vital information much easier to spread to the masses. Open Schools Kenya is an online tool that allows users to look up information on over 300 schools in the Kibera region of Nairobi. Platforms such as the U.S. Department of State’s International Exchange Alumni for students of government-sponsored exchange programs allows users to exchange ideas and bid for grants to implement those ideas. The Global Development Lab, established in 2014 by USAID, seeks to expand the role of technology in providing innovative solutions to challenges within development.
Technology will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of emerging countries. In its recent release of the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)](https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/7891TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD.pdf), the United Nations includes building capacity for information and communications technology (ICT) into its overall goals. In particular, certain SDGs call for greater data on issues related to gender mainstreaming (5.b), supporting domestic technology development, research, and innovation (9.b), and providing universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 (9.c).
To realize these SDGs, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to alleviate barriers in communication. Whether that means creating something as high-tech as a new mobile app or as low-tech as a map, creating inclusive environments are vital in our hyper-connected world. We must open up the conversation and include all stakeholders in development: technology must serve the people’s interest, not the other way around.
This is the third in a collaborative blog series between Development Gateway and the Young Transatlantic Network of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Read the first and second posts, and more about the event.
Representatives from Development Gateway: an IREX Venture (DG) will be attending the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) from September 5-9 in Kigali, Rwanda to highlight two projects: the Visualizing Insights on African Agriculture (VIFAA) project and the Farmer-Centric Data Governance Models project.
In Episode 2 of "Data…for What?!," a podcast series from Development Gateway: an IREX Venture (DG) which explores our new strategic plan, Josh Powell met with experts from DG and IREX to discuss DG’s expansion into the education, media and disinformation, and youth sectors. The conversations explore the most pressing challenges and greatest opportunities for data and technology to positively impact these sectors and discuss how these trends are likely to play out in the years ahead. Based on these trends, the experts explain the unique fit for DG’s skills and specific opportunities for collaboration that align with the vision of DG’s partnership with IREX, which has a long and successful history working in each sector.
To help contextualize the new Strategic Plan, we are launching a podcast series called Data… for What?! This series consists of 5 episodes in Josh Powell and Vanessa Goas talk to DGers throughout the organization – as well as collaborators within our strategic partner, IREX - about how and why we prioritized the various elements of the new strategy. In this first episode, we talk to Kristin Lord, President and CEO of IREX about how our partnership fits into the Strategic Plan; and to Aleks Dardelli, Executive Vice President of IREX and Chair of DG’s Board of Directors, about the process of putting the Plan together at this opportune, yet precarious, global moment.