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How Development Workers Can Bring Technology To Tribal Communities

Masai mara tribe members on a sunny dayInternational development workers and overseas volunteers sent by organizations such as Skillshare International (UK) and Love Volunteers (NZ)  play a crucial role in increasing the penetration of technology within isolated indigenous communities. Rightfully so, the focus of humanitarian and aid workers in recent years has primarily been upon life-saving technologies in the healthcare and medical space.

Low-cost interventions can save literally thousands of lives in impoverished countries, but this approach is most effective when experienced development workers and volunteers are able to work closely within tribal communities to demonstrate best methodological practices.

This training, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), can be as simple as showing the recipients of insecticide-treated mosquito nets how to properly hang the nets. Other medical interventions require more rigorous training in order to achieve proper implementation.

And in Africa, for instance, the shortage of trained medical professionals and lack of proper medical infrastructure poses serious challenges to any hope of eradicating deaths from treatable illnesses such as diarrhea. Deeper structural investment is sorely needed across the continent and the Kenyan government’s half a billion dollar fund for healthcare development is one source of hope in an otherwise bleak situation.

Stiff Competition: The Exit Of Trained Workers Overseas

Better salary prospects drive many of the developing world’s best trained medical and technology professionals to perceived greener pastures abroad. Expensive government-subsidized programs in nations including Zambia draw back foreign educated Zambian doctors through programs that cover the costs of medical school in return for service upon graduation.

For African doctors with the freedom to choose, the allure of higher salaries and better working conditions can be too good an offer to decline. Top destinations include the Anglosphere nations of Australia, the UK, and the US countries facing doctor shortages of their own that are entirely happy to benefit from the expertise of the top African doctors.

These patterns of emigration have significant ramifications for the home nations of the departing professionals. The exiting doctors leave vulnerable tribal communities woefully underserved. According to World Bank data, tribal populations of India suffer from substantially higher child mortality than the country as a whole. Similar patterns play out across the rest of Asia and Africa, with tribal communities largely ignored by the medical systems of their respective countries. While professionally trained personnel are lacking, technology also lags behind in secluded tribal communities.

In a 2017 paper, researchers cite expenses and lack of training as key reasons for poor adoption rates of computerized health recording systems in sub-Saharan Africa (home to hundreds of diverse tribes). Technology of this nature is a crucial element of a modern healthcare system as it facilitates rapid access to patient information.

Introducing And Spreading Knowledge To Communities

Numerous pilot studies have demonstrated the immense benefits that can be reaped by isolated communities that are given access to modern computer equipment and training. The benefits extend above and beyond healthcare and into aspects of cultural preservation, public service provision, and education.

  • Native American tribes in the United States lag behind other Americans in terms of access to computers. This is despite strong evidence that computer access and training improves educational outcomes.
  • Economic performance and exports can be driven higher in African communities with strong and reliable internet and cell phone service.
  • The Mukurtu CMS is tailored to indigenous tribes seeking to share and archive vital cultural artifacts and important data.

The Crucial Role Of Trained Development Workers And Volunteers

International development workers and skilled volunteers have an enormous role to play in transferring technological and healthcare expertise to isolated tribal communities. This process, as much so as funding from international aid budgets, is a driving force behind poverty alleviation and new opportunities for economic growth. Improved health outcomes and growing incomes are mutually supportive goals, as each tends to drive forward the other in unison. Organizations that specialize in placing volunteers in African and Asian communities are particularly interested in individuals with a background in healthcare and IT.

  • The International Citizen Service (ICS) gives young British people the opportunity to embark on volunteering projects in rural communities of Lesotho, Botswana or South Africa. Although professional expertise is not a requirement of ICS, the youthful demographic it represents is a vital medium in bringing everyday computer and technology skills into villages and classrooms across Africa that often lack basic training in these important areas.
  • Skilled American and British workers are employed by organizations including the Red Cross, a charity with diverse operations that, among other things, strives to place skilled IT, healthcare and programming experts into African tribal communities to speed the process of learning and the uptake of computer-related skills where it matters most.
  • The International Medical Corps (IMC) take skilled healthcare professionals and voluntary workers and deploys them in challenging environments across the world with the goal of helping to alleviate famine, disease, and violence. Like other groups, IMC brings a sensitive, locally-minded approach to introducing modern healthcare technologies and expertise to underserved tribes and communities.

Evidence from major world bodies is emphatically supportive of the benefits of technology adoption and training in improving the quality of life in communities of the developing world. However, it takes brave and dedicated staff and volunteers to turn these benefits from mere hypothesis into reality. The next person to step up and make a huge contribution to technology and health in the developing world might just be you.

Using Technology to Spur Growth and Exports in Africa

Africa is well known to be an underdeveloped country. With some of the highest infant mortality rates and some of the poorest countries, Africa has a long way to reach a place with the United States, Europe, and Asia. This, of course, is not representative of the entire country. Many cities have grown and are just as developed as other parts of the world such as Cape Town, South Africa or Accra, Ghana. These cities have seen exceptional growth due to technological advancement. In fact, technology has been a great factor in growth in exports in Africa.

Cell Phones

One way in which technology has created growth is through cell phones. Costs of communication have decreased and are boosting incomes. A study done by GSMA found that every 10% increase in phone penetration in poor countries, that areas productivity improves by almost 4%. The Economist explains it simply as farmers use cellphones to check market prices before selling. Market traders can accept payments in mobile money. These types of uses have helped growth in Africa.

A study from MIT found that having access to mobile money services lifted 2% of Kenyans out of poverty in 6 years. A large number of Africans, about 75%, were without phone and internet access. Without communication, it would be hard to provide or obtain information for third-party websites. This creates what is called the Lemons Problem. This is when one person who buys lemons is at a disadvantage when they do not have the same information as the other party. This creates asymmetric information which causes many problems for economies.

The Introduction of the Internet

On the same vein as phones, the implementation of the internet has had profound effects in Africa. Since 2016, internet rates are becoming cheaper for consumers to use. This type of communication can help solve issues of the Lemon Problem by allowing Africa to third-party websites to help transactions. Firms such as Google are installing cables in cities such as Accra to lower the cost of data. Other ideas are to beam satellite internet down to stations then distribute them across household as cheap wifi. These can drastically reduce costs and allow for more internet usage in Africa. With this, cities that did not have access will have the opportunity to connect to a more global market. This kind of technological progress can increase exports in the country.

Africa’s Access to the Global Market

The ability to access the global market can increase exports in Africa significantly. Consider a small company in Kenya. This company sells minerals such as gold and platinum. Before the internet, they were only able to sell locally. With the internet, they can go through the International Trade Administration and send minerals. Once the ITA approves them, the buyer in, let’s say Dubai, can purchase these minerals. These have just increased the business for the company. This type of revenue can spur growth in Kenya as it trickles down to suppliers, job rates, and government expenditure in the form of taxes.

Internet and other online technologies have given the opportunity for exports in financial investments. This allows for markets to develop such as stock exchanges and corporate bond markets that create room for large investments in local companies. This also grants foreign investments into African companies or vice versa.  This is a direct impact on the community as it allows for companies to grow into different sectors. The ability to create a dynamic financial market can have a profound impact on growth in Africa.


With these types of technological advancements, Africa can see growth and increased exports. This, in turn, can create even more growth and the ability to build complex economies and financial systems. Like mentioned in the beginning, not all of Africa is behind. Because a large majority of the country is impoverished and technologically deficient, there is a wide range to grow. Technology in the form of cellphones and internet has already had a large effect. The World Bank states that one of the greatest forms of growth for Africa will be to adopt new technology. As the country orients itself with the new technology, so will its economy.