As world leaders and development stakeholders continue to hash out the new framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015, many wonder how technology can help shape the agenda and drive sustainable progress.
Devex Assistant Editor Kelli Rogers posed this question to several development and technology executives gathered at last week's Social Good Summit in New York.
For many organizations, technology is integral in their operations, often using mobile devices to accomplish their goals.
For example, PCI uses mobile phones in Ethiopian pastoral communities to capture data from satellites and then use this information to track the greenest areas for their flocks. PCI applies this technology in all their programs, according to President and CEO George Guimaraes.
“Innovation is critical to how we deliver the kinds of result we’re all trying to deliver but it has to be institutionalized,” he said.
Tribal Brands founder and CEO Jeff Martin is also eyeing a greater role for technology in the coming years. He said technology can be a platform for showing “proof of impact” to motivate corporate giving.
“More companies are spending as much now on social investments and social good as media buying,” he said. “So if we can show that what used to be advertising and building your brand by investing in ads is now investing your brands with social investment … I’m convinced that’s gonna be the new economic disruption.”
Change, however, doesn’t have to come with modern gadgets — sometimes the “old stuff” like radios have the potential to affect progress like empowering women and girls in rural Tanzania, noted Jamie Drummond, co-founder and executive director of ONE International. He said some people don’t have access to mobile phones because they can be expensive to acquire and maintain, and there are still areas with no coverage.
“What I would tell you, though, is that the local radio station is doing a bang-up great job of empowering girls with fun programming about sexual reproductive health, about their rights, about how they have the right to demand their local politicians to do their jobs better,” he added.
Accountability is key, underscored War Child founder and Executive Director Samantha Nutt, who said consumers and manufacturers must know where the tech components are sourced.
Nutt explained there are some cases where extractive industries are illegally operated and often violate labor laws and human rights. In these insecure areas, her foundation also uses radios to help children follow their curriculum “against extraordinary odds.”
Local solutions to address local concerns is the main concern for Donald Hopkins, vice president and director of health programs at The Carter Center. Adapting to local communities is essential to respond well to development problems, he said, drawing from his experience in battling the guinea worm disease.
“The idea of respecting communities … understanding that they understand their communities much better than you ever will, and they’re the ones who will know best how to make changes,” he said.
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