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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.

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