Don’t you get a little tired of all the picture-sharing, cab-hailing, first-world crap that pops up on your radar every day?
Yeah, we do, too. Here’s a refreshing look at technology applied to some of the world’s most pressing problems: poverty, homelessness, clean water, and rural medicine. We live for these stories, and we hope you find them as inspiring as we do.
With special thanks to the Tech Awards for highlighting these projects.
Sujala Watershed Project
In Karnatka, India, more than two-thirds of the state is prone to droughts, resulting in low agricultural productivity, degraded natural resources, and poverty. This project spurs watershed development through community, biophysical, and technological interventions. The result: improved rural socio-economic conditions and productivity of drylands.
Project impact: 1,270 villages, 350,000 households, 12.8 million acres.
More than 82 million of Mexico’s citizens don’t have computer access. This is a project to establish learnings and innovation education centers across the country to provide people with much-needed access to technology.
Project impact: 70 centers, with more than 350,000 users.
OPI: Yo Propongo
Turn on English captions if needed.
Public policy is tricky in Mexico, where many citizens lacking an Internet connection are left with little information and no voice in the government. This is a project to create and propagate video survey tools to increase participation across the board.
Project impact: Engaged 80,000 people in previously apathetic communities.
In developing countries, most households may not have reliable access to waste management. This project brings inexpensive cargo bikes to high-population, low-income communities — and it’s also got text message programs to keep people informed and engaged in the recycling efforts with special incentives.
Project impact: 3,000 households in Lagos, Nigeria, registered for service.
Clean water — or water, period — is a challenge in many geographies in the developing world. This project brings precious, water-carrying pipeline into rural territories via trucks and even helicopters.
Project impact: Costs reduced, livelihoods preserved, homes protected, and resources conserved.
More than 6.7 million newborns in the developing world face jaundice during their first critical weeks in the world. This project involves a phototherapy device that cures jaundice and is both innovative and cost-effective.
Project impact: In its first four months, 170 units have been purchased by hospitals in four countries. In five years, Brilliance will treat 2 million babies.
We all know there’s a big gender and race divide in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. This project aims to put into place a scalable, digital, game-design learning platform that can be integrated into any school.
Project impact: 7,000 students in four U.S. states, with school retention rate of 85 percent.
The Darfur Stoves Project
Getting firewood in refugee camps is a dicey proposition. No wood means no fuel means no dinner, but finding firewood in these areas is both dangerous and time-consuming. This project is an energy-saving metal cookstove adapted for geographically appropriate cooking techniques. It’s flat-packed, so it’s easy to ship, store, and assemble.
Project impact: In Darfur, 27,000 stoves disseminated, benefiting 162,000 people.
Kilimo Salama: Syngenta Foundation
In variable weather geographies, traditional agricultural is heavily reliant on the right amounts of rain, sun, and heat. But agriculture insurance is too expensive for these farmers. This project involves a weather index insurance program that can estimate losses and calculate payouts automatically. Payments are made through existing mobile banking platforms — all without filing claims or conducting farm visits.
Project impact: 100,000 insured farmers in Kenya and Rwanda increased annual income by 16 percent and invested 20 percent more in their farms than uninsured neighbors.
Nazava Water Filters
Drinking water in Indonesia is a big problem, with more than 150 million people unable to afford safe, potable water. This project creates easy-to-use household water filters that require no wood, propane, or electricity for fuel.
Project impact: 1 million people with improved health and an average annual savings of $70 per household.