Using technology to fight against poverty

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Using technology to fight against poverty

By Amber Meikle


One Laptop per Child at Kagugu Primary School, Kigali, Rwanda. (cellanr under a Creative Commons Licence)

For many people in the Global North, technology is everywhere. It is difficult to imagine life without it. And even more difficult to know about all the technological change and innovation. But billions of people in poverty around the world do not have the necessary technology – it could help them with their basic needs.

Governments are now in the final few months of discussions that will agree on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years. So the international development charity Practical Action is suggesting a big change – why not use technology to challenge poverty? Its new report, ‘Introducing Technology Justice: a new paradigm for the sustainable development goals’ shows 3 important injustices in global technology that we need to look at if we really want a world without poverty in 2030:

• unequal access to technology that already exists

• innovation that ignores the poor

• unsustainable use of technology

The way the costs and benefits of technology are shared are not fair. This comes from choices in how we innovate, share and use technology. These choices do not usually include the poor.

People now understand how important the link is between technology, development and cutting poverty. Technology we now think is simple eg. water in pipes and electricity, have made billions of people, mainly women, free from a whole life of hard work. They now have free time to do more something more productive. But we have not made everyone able to enjoy the benefits of even these basic technologies. Innovation is going in a different direction to the big environmental and social problems we have today.

The international groups deciding the SDGs should agree on the basic technology that people need for life. And they should make sure everyone gets this technology. They need to decide on the global research and development based on need, not profit. And then they need to get investment and track the progress. Some systems have been suggested to help the UN get technology to poor countries eg. the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and Technology Bank. They should use these to help the countries and not continue their dependence on ‘technology transfer’ which is often not suitable. The TRIPS agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) needs to change, to make patents balanced to help developing economies, environmental sustainability and poverty issues.

Maybe the most difficult thing is that this will need everyone to seriously look at the effects of the technology we use: on people around us, on global climate and the unequal distribution of natural resources, and what we are leaving for future generations.

Amber Meikle is Senior Policy and Practice Adviser at Practical Action. To find out more, go to Practical Action: or follow me on @tecjustice.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).