Originally posted on the InterAction blog, 2/15/11.
I was about 12 years old the first time I logged on to the Internet—my dad showed me this science website called Tree of Life, and I vividly remember spending hours clicking from one entry to the next. Being allowed to go online after that was such a treat, and I thought that nothing could ever be cooler.
Fast forward 15 years and the Internet’s become an everyday utility for me, but I’ve been just as impressed these last three years working at InterAction when I see the creative ways that both aid workers and local communities use technology to help overcome poverty. I’ve gotten to see one of these projects from conception to launch with InterAction’s Haiti Aid Map, watching my colleagues evaluate how to best track which data to make relief and reconstruction more efficient and effective.
Others I’ve only learned about after implementation. Mercy Corps’ mobile wallet program in Haiti uses a cell phone to secure food aid in Haiti, allowing users to buy groceries from local stores with something I’ve got on me all the time here in D.C., yet I still have to squeeze time out to make it to the bank.
These projects don’t always come from organizations, either. There’s a video on ViewChange.org about a student in Kenya who designed a device that attaches to a bicycle, harnessing that energy to charge a cell phone. It’s such an elegant solution, letting people without access to electricity avoid having to travel for hours and drop their phone off for a day or two (or more) to have it charged somewhere “on the grid” for a fee.
What impresses me the most about all of this is how efficient and streamlined so many of the ideas are. People here have no electricity? Bicycles generate energy. How do we make cash food aid secure? Cell phone banking. I can’t help but wish that the “donor countries” of the world would take inspiration and promote these ideas at home.