This article by Kentaro Toyama on the Educational Technology Debate website argues:

“There are no technology shortcuts to good education. For primary and secondary schools that are underperforming or limited in resources, efforts to improve education should focus almost exclusively on better teachers and stronger administrations. Information technology, if used at all, should be targeted for certain, specific uses or limited to well-funded schools whose fundamentals are not in question.”

Last year the Rockefeller Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation – three of the leading foundations involved in global health, technology and humanitarian assistance – banded together to create the Mobile Health Alliance.

Karl Brown, associate director of applied technology at the Rockefeller Foundation, leads its electronic health and mobile health work. He recently spoke with AllAfrica about the Mobile Health Alliance, Rockefeller’s contribution, and the foundation’s other health initiatives in Africa.

A solar panel Internet cafe in rural Zambia

According to an article by Jenara Nerenberg for Fast Company, there have been recent investments and digital initiatives in Zambia which could make it the go-to place for Internet giants and entrepreneurs seeking a rural impact.  Demand for Internet services, particularly for farmers, continues to rise and there is are multiple initiatives–such as solar-powered Internet cafes–that have recently taken hold in the country.

Inside one of the first the solar powered Internet cafe

This publication presents data on the 114 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States that participated in the 2009 global survey on eHealth. Intended as a reference to the state of eHealth development in Member States, the publication highlights selected indicators in the form of country profiles.

The objectives of the country profiles are to:

  • describe the current status of the use of ICT for health in Member States; and
  • provide information concerning the progress of eHealth applications in these countries.

Eric White, of the GBI team, gave a presentation to a gathering of USAID infrastructure specialists from missions around the world about the importance of investing in ICT infrastructure. He specifically highlighted the importance of wireless voice and broadband connectivity in meeting the US Government’s goals under the new “Feed the Future” program.

Food Security, Mr. White explained, can come either through improving domestic agricultural output and distribution or through improved cross-border trade facilitation.  He highlighted ways that ICT infrastructure improves both.  After pointing out that agricultural development is the flip side of rural economic growth Mr. White explained how numerous studies, at both the macro and micro level, have found a 10-1 relationship between expanding ICT coverage and GDP growth.  A 10% increase in ICT penetration is generally associated with a 1% increase in GDP growth rates.

Mr. White then explained how it is possible to work with private sector firms to expand ICT access to rural people in developing countries.  He pointed out the remarkable willingness-to-pay of even the very poor when it comes to communication.  Even people living on only a few dollars a day are willing to pay up to 10% of their income for access to communication.  Given that relatively large willingness-to-pay and a relatively low cost of capital it is in fact possible to reach every developing country resident with wireless technology through the smart use of targeted subsidies and investment in emerging low-cost technologies.

This article from the Guardian posted by Jemima Kiss discusses the miraculous efforts of Google and their humanitarian efforts in Haiti.  After the earthquake, they cultivated detailed maps showing the impact of the earthquake and then even helped develop a person finder tool

INTEGRA is proud to announce that CEO Robert Otto has been appointed as Vice Chairman of the Small Business Association of International Contractors. The association is the leading advocate for small business interests with the US Agency for International Development and other U.S. government agencies working overseas. Mr. Otto says “I am delighted to have this opportunity to work with SBAIC’s membership of 22 firms to expand small business opportunities in the international professional services market.”

Small Business Association of International Contractors Logo

A rural Indian farmer at an E-Choupal

An rural Indian farmer at an E-Choupal

The agriculture industry is imperative in India. The country ranks second worldwide in its farming output, agriculture allotted 16.6% of the country’s GDP in 2007 and employed 52% of the total workforce. Yet most Indian farmers remained impoverished. The origins of this problem stem from the archaic government regulation called the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act. Created in the 1960s, the APMC Act founded that agri-companies, like ITC, could only buy agricultural produce through designated markets called mandis where they would have to buy from registered commission agents. Once the crop was harvested, farmers would take their produce to the mandis where their produce would be auctioned by commissioned agents. Since the agent was the only channel between the farmer and the processor, agents would typically auction off multiple lots before taking it to the processor. Thereby ensuring no price or quality transparency in this farm-to-factory cycle. Since the mandis were a formidable distance from the fields, farmers would have to accept the price offered them at auctions on the day that they bring their harvest to the mandi. As a result, traders are well positioned to exploit both farmers and buyers through practices that maintain system-wide inefficiencies and pocket additional differences in price.

Incorporated in 1910, ITC is one of India’s leading private sector companies with a market capitalization of nearly US$18 billion, an annual turnover of US$4.75 billion. Rated one of the “World’s Best Big Companies” and “World’s most reputable companies” by Forbes magazine, ITC has business interests in tobacco, hotels, agri-business, retail, information technology, and others. The company founded its first E-Choupal site in June 2000, where they created Internet kiosks in rural farming villages to create an “improved supply chain”, directly connecting themselves and the farmers. The e-Choupals serve as both a social gathering place, choupal means gathering place in Hindi, to exchange information and an e-commerce hub. What began as an effort to re-engineer the system of processing and acquiring soybean meal, rice food grains, wheat, lentils, and coffee in rural India also created a highly profitable distribution and product design channel for the company. An e-commerce platform that is also a low-cost, mutually beneficial system focused on the needs of rural India.

In addition to the farmers only using the e-Choupal there is also a host farmer, called a sanchalak, who acquires some operating costs and is obligated to serve the entire community; the sanchalak benefits from increased esteem in the community and a commission paid him for all e-Choupal transactions. The farmers can use the Internet kiosks for daily access to closing prices on local mandis, as well as to track global price trends or find information about the weather and new farming techniques.

The rural farmers can also use the e-Choupal to order seed, fertilizer, and other farming products such as consumer goods from ITC or its partners, at prices lower than those available from village traders. When it is time to harvest the crops, ITC offers to buy the crop directly from any farmer at the previous day’s closing price and then the farmer transports his crop to an ITC processing center known as Choupal Saagars. Choupal Saagars are alternatives to the traditional mandis, catering to about 40 e-Choupals and are all within tractor driving distances. The crop is then weighed electronically and assessed for quality, and the farmer is paid for the crop along with a transport fee. Through this new process, farmers benefit from a more accurate weighing, quicker processing, and immediate payment. Further, the access to a wide range of information, including precise market price knowledge and market trends, assists them in deciding when, where, and at what price to sell.

Though the e-Choupal system serves as a catalyst for rural transformation, alleviating rural seclusion, cultivating transparency for farmers, and enhancing their productivity and incomes, there were still some core problems like education, health care, and insurances, which still eluded the farmer. Governmental system inefficiencies have long kept farmers in an economic hiatus, and companies in the agrarian society struggled to find a balance between their social and shareholder obligations. However, with the e-Choupal system, ITC had a model that created a unification of their seemingly oppositional needs.

The e-Choupal program converged with ITC’s corporate social responsibility initiative to act upon objectives to help the community they were working in. Through their e-Choupals, ITC created Supplementary Learning Centers to help with rural India’s primary education, empowered women to become part of the global marketplace, and developed a three-tier Choupal Health Care model to cultivate the installation and delivery of both preventative and curative healthcare services. In addition, they also generated a full scale retail marketplace in the Choupal Saagars to the rural population and created financial product marketing for the farmers and their families where ITC offers to sell credit through their network. The Kisan Credit Card, third party loans, and channel credit allowed farmers to establish a better established infrastructure which drove down certain aspects of cost and improved the quality of their crops.  Weather insurance, life insurance, along with pension and disability incomes were also established for farmers to have for themselves and their families just in case disaster struck.

One of the retail Choupal Saagars

One of the retail Choupal Saagars

The e-Choupal system lets farmers be more lenient with their choices, gives them a higher profit margin on their crops, and access to information that improves their productivity. By providing a more transparent process and empowering local people as key nodes in the system, ITC heightens trust and fairness. Critical factors in the success of the venture are ITC’s extensive knowledge of agriculture, the effort ITC has made to retain many original aspects of the existing production system, including maintaining relationships with local partners, ITC’s continued commitment to transparency, and the treating the farmers and local partners with respect and equality.

Sources: CIA World Factbook- India

The agriculture industry is imperative in India. The country ranks second worldwide in its farming output, agriculture allotted 16.6% of the country’s GDP in 2007 and employed 52% of the total workforce. Yet most Indian farmers remained impoverished. The origins of this problem stem from the archaic government regulation called the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act. Created in the 1960s, the APMC Act founded that agri-companies, like ITC, could only buy agricultural produce through designated markets called mandis where they would have to buy from registered commission agents. Once the crop was harvested, farmers would take their produce to the mandis where their produce would be auctioned by commissioned agents. Since the agent was the only channel between the farmer and the processor, agents would typically auction off multiple lots before taking it to the processor. Thereby ensuring no price or quality transparency in this farm-to-factory cycle. Since the mandis were a formidable distance from the fields, farmers would have to accept the price offered them at auctions on the day that they bring their harvest to the mandi. As a result, traders are well positioned to exploit both farmers and buyers through practices that maintain system-wide inefficiencies and pocket additional differences in price.

Incorporated in 1910, ITC is one of India’s leading private sector companies with a market capitalization of nearly US$18 billion, an annual turnover of US$4.75 billion. Rated one of the “World’s Best Big Companies” and “World’s most reputable companies” by Forbes magazine, ITC has business interests in tobacco, hotels, agri-business, retail, information technology, and others. The company founded its first E-Choupal site in June 2000, where they created Internet kiosks in rural farming villages to create an “improved supply chain”, directly connecting themselves and the farmers. The e-Choupals serve as both a social gathering place, choupal means gathering place in Hindi, to exchange information and an e-commerce hub. What began as an effort to re-engineer the system of processing and acquiring soybean meal, rice food grains, wheat, lentils, and coffee in rural India also created a highly profitable distribution and product design channel for the company. An e-commerce platform that is also a low-cost, mutually beneficial system focused on the needs of rural India.

In addition to the farmers only using the e-Choupal there is also a host farmer, called a sanchalak, who acquires some operating costs and is obligated to serve the entire community; the sanchalak benefits from increased esteem in the community and a commission paid him for all e-Choupal transactions. The farmers can use the Internet kiosks for daily access to closing prices on local mandis, as well as to track global price trends or find information about the weather and new farming techniques.

Famers using the e-Choupal Internet kiosks

The rural farmers can also use the e-Choupal to order seed, fertilizer, and other farming products such as consumer goods from ITC or its partners, at prices lower than those available from village traders. When it is time to harvest the crops, ITC offers to buy the crop directly from any farmer at the previous day’s closing price and then the farmer transports his crop to an ITC processing center known as Choupal Saagars. Choupal Saagars are alternatives to the traditional mandis, catering to about 40 e-Choupals and are all within tractor driving distances. The crop is then weighed electronically and assessed for quality, and the farmer is paid for the crop along with a transport fee. Through this new process, farmers benefit from a more accurate weighing, quicker processing, and immediate payment. Further, the access to a wide range of information, including precise market price knowledge and market trends, assists them in deciding when, where, and at what price to sell.

Though the e-Choupal system serves as a catalyst for rural transformation, alleviating rural seclusion, cultivating transparency for farmers, and enhancing their productivity and incomes, there were still some core problems like education, health care, and insurances, which still eluded the farmer. Governmental system inefficiencies have long kept farmers in an economic hiatus, and companies in the agrarian society struggled to find a balance between their social and shareholder obligations. However, with the e-Choupal system, ITC had a model that created a unification of their seemingly oppositional needs.

The e-Choupal program converged with ITC’s corporate social responsibility initiative to act upon objectives to help the community they were working in. Through their e-Choupals, ITC created Supplementary Learning Centers to help with rural India’s primary education, empowered women to become part of the global marketplace, and developed a three-tier Choupal Health Care model to cultivate the installation and delivery of both preventative and curative healthcare services. In addition, they also generated a full scale retail marketplace in the Choupal Saagars to the rural population and created financial product marketing for the farmers and their families where ITC offers to sell credit through their network. The Kisan Credit Card, third party loans, and channel credit allowed farmers to establish a better established infrastructure which drove down certain aspects of cost and improved the quality of their crops.  Weather insurance, life insurance, along with pension and disability incomes were also established for farmers to have for themselves and their families just in case disaster struck.

One of the retail Choupal Saagars

The e-Choupal system lets farmers be more lenient with their choices, gives them a higher profit margin on their crops, and access to information that improves their productivity. By providing a more transparent process and empowering local people as key nodes in the system, ITC heightens trust and fairness. Critical factors in the success of the venture are ITC’s extensive knowledge of agriculture, the effort ITC has made to retain many original aspects of the existing production system, including maintaining relationships with local partners, ITC’s continued commitment to transparency, and the treating the farmers and local partners with respect and equality.

Sources: CIA World Factbook- India

Inveneo CIO Mark Summer tunes the wireless network at the Nethope and Inveneo headquarters in Port-au-Prince Haiti.

Photo credit: Inveneo

Through an innovative partnership with the Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund, GBI is partnering with Inveneo and NetHope to connect all of Haiti. The grant supports the deployment of a nation-wide network so that before the end of 2011, connecting in Jacmel or Cap Haiten or Leogane will be an integral part Haiti’s reconstruction and development. GBI will also support monitoring and evaluation of the project’s point to point wireless model, to catalyze its deployment worldwide.

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