Development Unplugged: Driving Progress Without the Internet

By Elizabeth Melampy

Earlier this year, the US-based NGO Digital Democracy held a coding conference in Peru called “Hack the Rainforest.” While most coding relies on the internet, this conference took place in a rural outpost of 100,000 people in the Peruvian Amazon where there is limited internet access. Coders addressed an unpopular question in development: how can technological advances help those with no internet access?

Despite high predictions of the growth of internet penetration, some of the world’s most rural regions are years away from reliable internet access. In South America, some 54.7 percent of people have access to the internet, a 1,455.6 percent increase in users since 2000. That progress is impossible to discount, and many development agencies and proposals are looking at ways to both increase internet penetration and then to use the internet as a valuable developmental tool.

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For some areas, like this stretch of Peruvian Amazon, internet access is not yet available.

At the same time, almost half of the region remains without internet access. Creating development strategies that rely on internet access ignores half of the population, and this ignored half is often based in remote regions most in need of development. Infrastructure barriers to internet access remain massive in many places; while universal internet access is within the future realm of possibility, it is still years away. Development shouldn’t have to wait for people to get access to the internet, even if that means we need to come up with new, “offline” strategies in the meantime. Continue reading

Mobile App Helps Women Report Abuse in India

By Melanie Abzug

Responding to India’s high rate of violence against women and low rate of reporting, a Mumbai NGO recently launched an Android app that enables virtual reporting of incidents by trained volunteers. Part of the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Actions (SNEHA)’s “Little Sister Project” with UNDP, the app is called EyeWatch. It began operations in Mumbai’s multi-ethnic Dharavi slum in 2014.

In India 43.6 percent of gender-related crimes are committed by a husband or relative of the victim. This fact, along with societal stigmas applied to victims of sexual assault, often discourages reporting. SNEHA’s initiative seeks to encourage reporting while providing complementary training for women and building cooperation with the police. The initiative has trained 160 local women called “sanginis” so far on how to properly identify and report cases of violence. Sanginis can use their mobile devices to record incidents they witness on the spot. In other cases they are approached by survivors or hear about incidents and then approach the women to provide assistance with reporting. Survivors are also connected with trained professionals who offer medical and legal support.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services.  Apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services– apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In addition, 4,500 police officers and more than 2,100 public hospital staff have been trained to identify domestic abuse. Incidents are stored in SNEHA’s database, which helps the organization map violence assist NGOs to understand the situation in the community. Continue reading