Posts on Jan 1970

Drones for Development (Georgetown University)

Drones are everywhere these days. From the spectacle of Amazon-owned delivery drones at South by Southwest to the use of these devices by Hollywood producers to capture aerial footage, drones present a variety of opportunities for businesses, military officials, and civil society (there’s even such a thing as droneboarding: getting towed by a drone while on a snowboard or wakeboard). However, there is another realm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that is far less talked about: drones for social good. Drones present a tremendous opportunity to revolutionize the international development sphere and scale social impact in a number of ways. In fact, people around the world, from small communities in northern Guatemala to large metropolitan areas in Central Africa, are already implementing drone use into their daily lives.

Frederick Mbuya, for example, is a consultant at the World Bank who works on open data and is using drones to improve traffic congestion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In a rapidly expanding city with poor infrastructure, traffic can cause tremendous economic costs and safety hazards. Drones provide data through aerial imagery and large scale topographic surveys, which helps government officials prevent traffic jams, avert citizens from entering flooded areas, and design safer, more effective transportation infrastructure. Mbuya is very hopeful of the technology’s potential, explaining that a $2000 drone can produce a dataset worth $50,000 in the hands of city planners.

Although this example is still in its embryonic stage, the application of drones for international development extends far beyond traffic in Tanzania. Innovators are offering ideas to use drones to deliver vital emergency supplies to previously inaccessible areas, produce video reports during disasters to coordinate relief-efforts, and track drought patterns to improve farming practices. Private companies, like Matternet and Flirtey, are using drones to deliver everything from building supplies and food to medicine and biological samples. Zipline International recently partnered with the government of Rwanda to use its fixed-wing cargo drones to deliver medical supplies to remote health clinics in the East African Nation, proving the efficacy of public-private partnerships in leveraging drone potential.

While there are countless uses for drones in the international development sphere, particularly for logistical support, mapping, and monitoring, national and local governments are not always receptive to the new technology: Nigerian drone permits cost over $4000, Zimbabwe regulations prohibit drone-use for delivery, and Uganda restricts drone importation. Security and privacy concerns tend to dominate the subject of unmanned robotics, often prompting new legislation that severely hinders the potential of drones for social good.

As drone technology continues to evolve and as innovators and government officials find new ways to utilize them, it is important to provide clarity in these applications so that nations can make the most informed decisions when issuing drone legislation. Similarly, enabling local capacity for UAVs in developing nations can increase communities’ willingness to use them, in tandem with effective, constantly updated regulations to ensure that these drones are put to use ethically and safely.

Kay Wachwitz, CEO & Founder of Drone Industry Insights, recently explained that “the drone industry as a whole is moving forward — the process itself will create opportunities for operators and organizations across the world that want to leverage the technology.” While the hype around drones for entertainment purposes is certainly well-deserved, the truly ground-breaking opportunities lie in their ability to drastically transform the way private and public actors can help their communities. If we look beyond speedy Amazon deliveries, international spying capabilities, and SuperBowl light shows, we’ll find a multitude of ways that drones are already doing social good. They are changing our world for the better, and there are still many more opportunities to be discovered.

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The Start of a New Poverty Narrative (Brookings Institute)

Source: Authors’ estimates based on PovCal (World Bank), World Economic Outlook (IMF); World Population Prospects (UN); Shared Socio-Economic Pathways (IIASA), World Income Inequality Database (UNU-WIDER); Algorithm developed by World Data Lab

Last September, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released its annual
Goalkeeper’s report, highlighting the extraordinary progress made in reducing extreme poverty around the world, while also warning that sustaining this progress would not be easy.

We now have the first actual data points that ring the alarm bells about a new, unfolding story on global poverty reduction that is far less favorable than pieces such as Nick Kristof’s New York Times column
“Why 2017 was the best year in human history.” These new data are available courtesy of the
World Poverty Clock, a web tool produced by World Data Lab with which the three of us are associated. (A paper presenting the methodology underpinning the World Poverty Clock has been published by Nature’s Palgrave Communications journal.)

Each April and October, the World Poverty Clock data are updated to take into account new household surveys (an additional 97 surveys were made available this April) and new projections on country economic growth from the International Monetary Funds’s World Economic Outlook. These form the basic building blocks for poverty trajectories computed for 188 countries and territories, developed and developing, across the world.

The data highlight two new storylines about what is happening to global extreme poverty.


According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number 2 spot (Figure 1 below). At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall. In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today.

Already, Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor. If current trends persist, they will account for nine-tenths by 2030. Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world—where the number of extreme poor is rising—are in Africa.


Between January 1, 2016—when implementation of internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) started—and July 2018, the world has seen about 83 million people escape extreme poverty. But if extreme poverty were to fall to zero by 2030, we should have already reduced the number by about 120 million, just assuming a linear trajectory. To get rid of this backlog of some 35 million people, we now have to rapidly step up the pace.

This notwithstanding, the fundamental dynamics of global extreme poverty reduction are clear. Given a starting point of about 725 million people in extreme poverty at the beginning of 2016, we needed to reduce poverty by 1.5 people every second to achieve the goal and yet we’ve been moving at a pace of only 1.1 people per second. Given that we’ve fallen behind so much, the new target rate has just increased to 1.6 people per second through 2030. At the same time, because so many countries are falling behind, the actual pace of poverty reduction is starting to slow down. Our projections show that by 2020, the pace could fall to 0.9 people per second, and to 0.5 people per second by 2022.

As we fall further behind the target pace, the task of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is becoming inexorably harder because we are running out of time. We should celebrate our achievements, but increasingly sound the alarm that not enough is being done, especially in Africa.

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