With over 3 billion people still living in poverty across the globe we have to be smarter. Many of the world's poorest people remain cut off from access to modern energy and crucial information that could enhance their livelihoods and support their well-being. Put simply, access to information is key to enabling people to lift themselves out of poverty.
This issue is recognised and embedded within the work of Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action. We use simple but effective solutions to enhance the access of information to some of the world's poorest communities. Practical Action has been sharing knowledge digitally for twenty years and we have now recognised the importance of mobile access - a huge 25% of our website users are from mobile devices.
I use my smart phone every day for connecting with friends, speaking with family, trawling the news (as well as for more trivial activities). To do this, I use apps. Now, your first reaction may be that this is irrelevant technology for the poorest people on earth, who lack the finance to afford a smart phone and wouldn't be able to charge it even if we gave them one. But it isn't. With a huge growth in mobile users, and the world becoming increasingly switched on to digital development, it was the right time for the development of the Practical Answers mobile app!
The app being used by Practical Action Staff in Nepal (Practical Action, 2016)
In reality, the app is designed for use by development practitioners working in the global south. These are the people who often work for small organisations who implement projects on behalf of international charities. And this app is a fantastic example of a practical solution to poverty.
Increasingly, smart phone ownership is worldwide, and the app has been designed with the ability to use less internet bandwidth and to be used in areas of low connectivity. It is a clever tool - with its offline feature, technical documents can be downloaded and reloaded without internet connection so that practitioners, farmers and small entrepreneurs can get hold of crucial information without internet, or even short term electricity, access. By doing so, the Practical Answers app has introduced a new way of sharing technical know-how in the field.
Designed and developed in Nepal by our Digital Manager, Sachin Sapkota, the power of knowledge sharing is so much greater through mobile technology. He said:
The app was built to provide our users with the power of knowledge in their hand held devices. It is often the case that people have mobile phones but don't have a laptop or a PC, particularly farmers and field workers, so we hope this app will help us reach the last mile. It really has the potential to change millions of lives for the better.
This isn't Snapchat, Twitter or Whatsapp, this app really has the power to get technical information and development knowledge out to those who most need it. Acting as a medium for knowledge transfer from the practitioner to the community, the app has libraries of useful and practical advice around current issues: water and sanitation, agriculture, energy and many more; everything from how to build a sustainable toilet, a beginners' guide for how to keep bees or how to build a micro hydro plant. It is an app with the power to enhance the lives of millions. Simple to download, simple to use and a simple way to challenge poverty- this really is an app that can improve the lives of so many.
I am delighted with the Practical Answers app, it is a tool that should be embraced by the development community and used widely for sharing vital information to those living in poverty.
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