4 Exponential Technologies for Solving Poverty

Exponential technologies are exponential because they grow at a rate that aligns with or even surpasses Moore’s law; their power or speed doubles yearly while the cost of the technology reduces by half. They are characterized by relevance, near-immediate impact, scalability, durability, and their ability to shape humanity. These technologies include cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, gene therapy, and 31 others. However, considering the needs and capacities of countries where the bottom billion are located, four of these technologies are best-fit; the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data.

The Four ETs
1. The Internet of Things (IoT) — Everything is Talking to Everything

The simple but powerful principle underlying IoT is that: every device that is so equipped can be connected to the internet and via this connection endlessly send and receive information.
Technologists describe that the possibilities of IoT have been magnified by an exponentially increasing number of such devices being connected in a super, complex web across the entire planet. According to Statista, the total number of IoT-connected devices in the world in 2025 will exceed 75 billion.
Human population growth is not necessarily the driving factor behind this, but instead the increase in the number of smart devices being used across homes, offices, and in other forms of equipment and infrastructure.
When layered with Moore’s and Metcalfe’s Laws, these interconnections become cheaper, faster, and more efficient, and increasingly smaller devices can provide more complex computing solutions.

2. Cloud Technology — The Sport Billy Bag for Solutions

The 1980 animated television cartoon, Sport Billy, is about a young boy from the planet Olympus, who carries a magic size-changing gym bag called an Omni-Sack, that can provide various tools as he needs them.
The Cloud resembles something like an Omni-sack of resources and information made possible by the collective pool of hardware and software.

Requiring little input on the part of the accessor, any individual or organization in part of the world can access resources owned by other private or public individuals or organizations, provided these resources are shared on the internet and the accessor has privileges.
In practice, Dr. Alice, a rural Doctor in the Rwenzori Region of Uganda can access and download on a simple mobile phone, volumes of ante-natal, maternal, and infant care material uploaded by the State University Teaching Hospital 5,000 kilometers away in Lagos, and by so doing, vastly improve primary healthcare services and reduce preventable maternal-infant incident rates within the community to less than 2% per annum.

3. Big Data — The New Oil?

In a world where large pieces of information can be stored in devices smaller than the human thumb, and where what has happened and what is happening can be analyzed in real-time to predict the future to a high level of accuracy, Data is proving to be the most critical agent for driving societal progress.
An example is how policymakers can lean on historical data on weather, soil structure, and crop yields to develop next-generation seeds and agricultural extension services to 7x grape yields from farmers in the Al-Qassim Province of Saudi Arabia, and in that vein, improve the average income of farmer families within communities in the region.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) — The One that Changes Everything
The vast amounts of Big Data being generated by the IoT and housed via Cloud Technology can be trained to develop AI applications in an unlimited number of areas ranging from retail to construction to sports and recreation. And as more data is being generated by more devices being connected via the internet and stored in the cloud, the algorithm driving AI applications can solve problems better as well as solve newer problems due to increased capability.
As this iterative improvement continues, AI will get to power machines and applications capable of solving human problems, in ways that typically rely on human intellect without the limitations of human physiology.
When looking at possible applications of AI in solving the bottom billion problems there are numerous existing and possible applications, a few being:
- Natural language processing and translation to open education frontiers among those limited by their mother tongue or traditional lingua franca
- In healthcare, predicting epidemic or disease breakout patterns ahead of time to enable resource mobilization to prevent and tackle eventual outbreaks

The main part of a medical doctor’s work is a diagnosis which typically happens during an interaction between the doctor and a patient where the medical practitioner seeks to gather information on symptoms, family and medical history, social context, and environmental factors. The doctor then leans on his/her own years of experience to correlate this on-the-spot information with an illness and possible treatment.
This doctor or an entire district of healthcare practitioners can use an AI tool trained with data from hundreds of millions of similar and dissimilar cases superimposed with the ability to identify fast, hidden, and second-level correlations and prescribe the best treatments based on the individual patient’s unique social and physiological traits.

- Equipping robots and machines to take over physically intensive, rote jobs, without shifts, thereby increasing production, then income from production and ultimately income available to poor workers
These are all but a few possibilities as far as the application of AI is concerned.

In what major ways will these exponential technologies change the game for the bottom billion?

Find out about the 4th ET and how these technologies can solve poverty in our Knowledge Paper



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