By Dan Wang
I would like to discuss technology’s role in aiding development. I believe that it is of much importance in today’s world.
First of all, I want to discuss the use of crowd sourcing technologies in disaster response and recovery. A USNEWS article, “How to Make Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief Work Better” described how the power of data enabled the New Yorkers to help themselves during and after Hurricane Sandy stroke. That being said, I believe that technology in development not only happens in a tech center like the NYC, but also in more under-developed regions and areas. The Nature Article, “Crowdsourcing Goes Mainstream in Typhoon Response” listed efforts that it called the “digital humanitarians”, in the Philippines; and the United States Institute of Peace had a special report on “Crowdsourcing Crisis Information in Disaster Affected Haiti”.By using a simple crowdsourcing technology like a social networking app, one can generate large sets of multi-dimensional data. That is, the data center can aggregate data from various sources, and not only know the exact GPS location of an event, but also street pictures, traffic maps, or even inventory levels of first aid equipment. Combining all these different data together, the crowdsourcing technology enabled much more effective disaster response teams, where efficiency is key in a time constraint environment. If the response can be conducted with shorter time, then many more injured can be saved before the critical survival period runs out. The possibility of using this technologies lies on the infrastructure development in the developing nations. Many of these nations put telecom infrastructure as their top priority of building, and as a result of that, together with the quickly diminishing price of smart handheld devices, many of the developing countries have very high penetration rate of smart devices. Without these devices and a stable telecom network, it would not be possible for the crowdsourcing technology to be deployed.
Also, I would like to discuss about the technologies in education for developing countries. The one laptop per child project has been an early pioneer that not only uses technology to aid education, but had a set of pedagogies aimed at improving the standard of living in the nations as a whole. The J-PAL lab also aims at bringing nations and regions out of poverty through careful data analysis and a complete methodology of randomization and evaluation. For example, “randomized evaluations have shown that simple interventions, such as providing deworming treatment and informing parents about the returns to education, can dramatically improve attendance at a low cost.”
One last area to look at is the usage of robots and drones. Although this is likely just a concept for the moment, many people have been brainstorming for ways to utilize robots and drones to aid international development. For example, the Guardian discussed the potential use of goods delivery and aerial photos.
In summary, I believe that technology has already changed the way international development is done, and will continue to make development more effective and efficient. These technologies will not only make our lives better and be commercially successful, but also to deliver great value in helping those in dire needs.