They’re inspiring innovators to seek new ways to reduce poverty, improve health care and boost development — in ways that are often low-cost and easy to adopt.
Here are six of the biggest game changers in global development today and tomorrow.
Many see mobile technology as today's biggest game changer in international development, having spawned applications that have streamlined and improved processes — from gathering information to register aid beneficiaries to monitoring progress of relief operations. It has given birth to a whole new practice in public health called mHealth.
Solar technology offers a cleaner, healthier and longer-lasting alternative to kerosene, a toxic and inefficient source of fuel widely used in rural Africa and Asia. With cost going down, solar lights are now within reach of low-income households in the developing world.
There's a lot of buzz surrounding drones and their possible use for aid delivery. Typically associated with military operation, these unmanned flying objects saw action in 2013 during the Haiyan disaster response in the Philippines. Whether this will become a common practice remains a question as such devices don't, at this point, come cheaply and raise privacy concerns.
With its face recognition capabilities, Google Glass may facilitate the registration and monitoring of aid beneficiaries. Its hands-free nature could make Google Glass – as well as other wearable devices – a useful tool in a variety of settings. Wearables may, for instance, promote aid worker security by eliminating the need for them to carry IDs in sensitive locations such as Afghanistan.
The tech world is going agog over 3D printers due to their ability to replicate objects (they can even "print" food!). The hope is that these machines will be able to produce cheaper versions of hospital and farming equipment for low-income communities.
It’s a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
Remote sensing technologies can forecast agriculture yields, informing decisions by governments and development partners on how to best support small-holder farmers and consequently promote food security.
In Rwanda, for instance, there's an effort to scale up the use of low-cost remote sensors for the first time to improve the quality of and access to potable water. Stay tuned to Devex for our coverage on this initiative.