Much work remains to be done to ensure reliable electricity access for Africa's citizens. A number of complications are making it difficult to achieve this UN Sustainable Development Goal. Yet access rates are expanding in many nations, and technology and design improvements offer opportunities to make rapid leaps forward.
I was about 13 years old when my family organized a trip to the village of Mpangou, in the Republic of the Congo. Travelling to the village was an event for us kids of the city – a new world. I remember packing our generators, cd players and speakers to bring a bit of our urban lives with us, and my mother telling us to buy candies and biscuits as gifts for the people. The road was full of potholes, and the men often had to push our cars forward through the mud, but at last, we got there.
In December 2013, I was excited to receive funding through an Innovation Challenge Award to pilot water flow sensors in rural Tanzania, where the sustainability of rural water supply is a major development challenge. Approximately 38% of rural water points are not functioning properly. The sensor we wanted to develop would remotely monitor flow, making it easier to deliver operational information to the Ministry of Water’s water point mapping system.
The pilot brought one of the first 3D printers to Tanzania and we connected the American start-up WellDone International to the local non-governmental organization (NGO) Msabi. The project team implemented the gadget effectively, and my colleagues at the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) and I navigated the procurement and implementation challenges. The pilot ended successfully in June of 2014 and we were proud of our achievement in bringing an innovative ICT solution to the Tanzanian rural water sector.
As I blogged a few weeks ago, the proposed WASH Post 2015 goals and targets for sanitation call for universal access to improved sanitation by the year 2030. I described how many governments have started working to achieve the goal of universal access by taking steps to make the transformational changes and to stop doing “business as usual” in sanitation programs that have largely failed to deliver sustainable sanitation service delivery – especially for the poor. In addition to universal access, the WASH Post 2015 goals also call to progressively eliminate inequalities in access between population subgroups.
One persistent challenge for educational policymakers and planners related to the potential use of informational and communication technologies (ICTs) in remote, low income communities around the world is that most products, services, usage models, expertise, and research related to ICT use in education come from high-income contexts and environments.
One consequence is that technology-enabled 'solutions' are imported and 'made to fit' into what are often much more challenging environments. When they don't work, or where they are too expensive to be replicated at any scale, this is taken as 'evidence' that ICT use in education in such places is irrelevant -- and possibly irresponsible.
That said, lessons are being learned as a result of emerging practices, both good and bad, in the use of ICTs in education in low resource, poor, rural and isolated communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific that may be useful to help guide the planning and implementation of educational technology initiatives in such environments. (It may even turn out that the technological innovations that emerge from such places many have a wider relevance …. but that is a topic for another discussion.)
Products like the BRCK (a connectivity device designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya by many of the people behind Ushahidi to better address user needs in places where electricity and internet connections are, for lack of a better word, ‘problematic’) and MobiStation (a solar-powered 'classroom in a suitcase' which features a projector and lots of off-line educational content developed by UNICEF Uganda) remain notable exceptions to the lamentable reality that, for the most part, ‘solutions’ touted for use in schools in e.g. rural Africa, or in isolated communities in the Andes, are designed elsewhere, with little understanding of the practical day-to-day realities and contexts in which such technologies are to be used. Many people who have lived and worked in such environments are quite familiar with well-meaning but comparatively high cost efforts often informed more by the marketing imperatives embedded in many corporate social responsibility efforts than by notions of cost-effectiveness and sustainability over time or the results of user-centered design exercises.
The proposed WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) WASH Post 2015 goals for sanitation calls for universal access to basic improved sanitation – by the year 2030. Using largely small scale project approaches that have failed to deliver sustainable sanitation service delivery – especially for the poor -- most countries have not yet achieved the more modest MDG sanitation goals. However, many countries have already started working to achieve the goal of universal access by taking steps to make the transformational changes needed to stop doing “business as usual” in their sanitation programs.
If a year ago you told me that I would be able to speak authoritatively on the technical aspects of sanitation, I would have thought you were crazy! Kenya is my home; I am 130% Kenyan and have lived here my whole life. In all this time, I never fully realized the sanitation issues in my country. True, I knew the statistics but until recently I didn’t fully realize how the impact was hitting my home.
How Africa Can Transform Land Tenure, Revolutionize Agriculture, and End Poverty
The greatest development challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa today is lifting 400 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The continent has abundant land and mineral resources to meet the challenge, but only if land governance can be improved. A new study, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, offers a ten-point program to improve land governance by accelerating policy reforms and boosting investments at a cost of US $4.5 billion over 10 years.
Despite Vietnam’s significant economic growth in recent years, there continues to be a gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities. Many poor households in rural areas still do not have access to clean water or to a toilet. During one of our earlier field visits for the Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RRDRWASS) project which began almost 10 years ago, I was struck by what a lady from a community told me. She questioned why people in urban areas have access to good water supply and sanitation services while those in rural areas do not. She said that compared to urban residents, perhaps people in rural areas were happy with a lower level of service and that the demand for better services was simply not there.
At first I thought that she might be right but I later came to realise that this is not the case. There is demand for improved services in rural areas, and more importantly, people have a fundamental right to have access to those services.