Can Technology be a Magic Wand to Eliminate Poverty?

10/02/2015 13:53 GMT | Updated 12/04/2015 10:59 BST

In a global world which is relying on crowd sourcing with every single instance, it is difficult to see issues that are going to be outside its purview. At the outset, technology is something that's related to the 'well-off' sections of the society. Let's understand this. Technology doesn't work without the normal gadgets and paraphernalia, and it's anybody's guess to know if a poor man can actually have access to technology in this day and age. The most obvious answer would be somewhat disappointing, given the fact that access to technology involves money and the poor are poor, for want of resources, opportunities AND money that can help them lead a decent life paying their bills.

Right? Ah, hold your horses yet. Because politicians everywhere are starting to learn the relation between technology and poverty, while gaining greater understanding on how the former can help the latter disappear.

Technology is not only about global communication, it is also about collation of data, global analysis and precise solutions to end the problem that affects some part of the society.

Technology creates infrastructure and access to information easier with its long reach. The world's extreme poor, who live in sub-saharan Africa, and South Asia, are out of sight and hence, out of our minds too we thought. But, no, today they regularly make a comeback through television campaigns, through write ups that prompt technology start-ups that come in their support.

In the recent times, few of the most hopeful scenarios that have emerged include M-Pesa, and, where people have come together to help those living in utter poverty. M pesa was floated for those people living in Africa who had no access to bank accounts. Today, this company has more than 17 mn customers across Africa who use its services of mobile transfer of money.

The website on bribe is prevalent in countries where bribe is a norm, like Pakistan and India among others. This site has crowd sourced more than 20,000 reports of officials who demanded bribe to do their job towards the poor, and is regularly sending out online petitions questioning their integrity, forcing action and staying strong with the poor.

In more ways than one, it is better to understand technology itself does not end poverty. It can create the necessary wherewithal for the general public and systems to make the fight against poverty much more focused and increase the efficiency of the solutions by analyzing their results.

Because, when you can see poverty with naked eye in countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other third world countries; solutions have to be basic and straight forward. Efforts have to be consolidated. In this sense, mapping of poverty, creating customized solutions for each kind of poverty can be aided with technology, making solutions sharper and more economical by cutting down the time taken to study and implement them.

Haven't we heard 'well begun is half done'?

So when technology is used not to survey and understand consumer satisfaction index, but to really understand the need of communities, the solutions themselves turn into agents of poverty eradication.

The concept of 'technology justice' is that it should be aimed at helping humanity and reduce the larger aspect of human suffering, to help communities live in peace without fear and threat to their lives. Of course, one of the most important aspects to be studied is that the world hunger is addressed well through data collected on poverty and best practices need to be emulated elsewhere if a region has fought poverty better.

To keep the wheel of progress moving, it is imperative to build local solutions that can be of some help for the locals who are living on the verge of poverty.

For instance, there are NGOs all over the country that have been employing technology in their administrational work, but will not extend the facility to their field work. This could seriously backfire and build a large divide.

Saving up government's resources through implementation of technology can help spread out the financial resources more focused on things that need to be met immediately. For instance, earlier when the camps were held to distribute birthing kits to women across villages, they used to be implemented in phases. It would be a large geographical area to cover, and the training left a lot of questions unanswered. Today, when you can hold training simultaneously at 500 places through videoconferencing, you have embraced technology, harnessed its potential, provided an interfacing opportunity to grassroots workers with their bosses and also ensured all this was done at the fraction of a cost as against the conventional method.

Now, the budgetary allocation that was saved in this programme can be used to improvise the aspects of birthing kits, or add additional medicines that could be lifesaving for the patient and mother. Value addition, in either case, would surely be a life saved.