Over the past decade, numerous technological advancements have shaped our world transforming how citizens interact with their government, consumers interact with businesses, and how youth chart a pathway toward economic success. At the very ethos of technology is Moore's law which holds that data capacity doubles every 18 months -- certainly this is true for the microchips that enable mobile phones to be "smarter," cheaper and more widely available than ever before. With the global population hitting over seven billion people, our interconnectedness makes the world much smaller place. Yet, it also makes global problems appear more intractable.
This week leaders from around the globe representing businesses, civil society, scientific and academic institutions and more than 40 governments will meet at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting to talk about how we, as a world community, can work together to tackle major global challenges in job creation, globalization and power shifts.
The meeting's theme is "The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models." NetHope knows the impact possible through implementing unique funding models and harnessing technology's power in the developing world. NetHope works as a catalyst for collaboration among 34 of the world's leading humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, CARE, the Red Cross, Plan, World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and The Nature Conservancy, among others. Through public-private partnerships and harnessing the human, social and financial capital of today's technology leaders, NetHope helps make donor dollars and in-kind product donations reach more beneficiaries -- creating a bigger impact than possible with a stand-alone donation.
From my position as NetHope's CEO, I've seen first hand how technology's role has grown in the private and public sectors, and I expect that transformation to continue intensifying in 2012. With that trend in mind, I see mobile money, developing the next generation of IT professionals and increasing access to cloud-based services as the driving forces and what will shape NetHope's model for this year.
In the developing world, billions of dollars in cash is exchanged every month between governments, companies and donor agencies for various reasons: salary, social welfare payments, cash-for-work programs, emergency relief and money transfers. The majority of these payments are given in physical cash, but advancements in technology and network capabilities have introduced safer, speedier, more reliable and transparent ways for exchanging those funds.
Replacing physical cash payments with electronic payments provides improvements for governments and communities alike. Mobile money also makes it easier to tax the transactions and root out 'ghost' payrolls.
These same approaches can be applied more broadly, allowing international businesses, donors and aid agencies to build more efficient, effective and transparent cash transfer programs.
To increase the adoption of electronic payments, global leaders from both the public and private sector must commit to making the operational shift to non-cash payments. With the leadership of NetHope and USAID, The Better than Cash Alliance (BTC Alliance) will bring together governments, donors, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private companies to create a broad cross section of resource and program partners to drive this transformation.
From Educated Student to Young IT Professional
The Arab Spring taught us in 2011 that the youth bulge is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. In the Middle East more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25, which sociologists and demographers believe introduces incredible promise for the region's development but also the potential for a missed opportunity with great consequence. The youth bulge is not just a regional challenge; it is a problem plaguing most developing countries where educated youth struggle to find employment.
Countries should prioritize giving opportunities to young people because a disaffected youth could equate to the loss of fresh thinkers, innovation and heightened security risks for an emerging economy's future.
The NetHope Academy gives selected computer science students the training and hands-on experience to pursue a career in Information Technology, an industry that has a serious shortage of qualified professionals in the developing world. With IT skills, these young individuals can greatly improve their chances of finding jobs that propel local companies, governments and NGOs to expand and function in the world economy. In March 2011, the inaugural NetHope Academy Haiti class graduated 39 students with more than 80 percent of them achieving full-time employment.
Over the next three years, the NetHope Academy will train 1,000 interns in Latin American and Africa. NetHope and its partners will select its participants from a pool of promising college graduates, giving preference to underserved populations including women and natives of rural communities. NetHope Academy will provide each student both classroom training as well as a six-month internship focused on critical skills such as desktop support, network administration, cloud services and telecommunications.
Humanitarian Aid in the Cloud
Cloud technology is revolutionizing how we are able to share, deploy and maintain solutions across the world. Cloud solutions are built on lean infrastructure that can be scaled up and down as needed, yet they require significantly less cost.
Cloud-based services power many of the successful ICT projects being used by the 34 humanitarian organizations that make up our membership. For instance, Catholic Relief Services implemented a cloud-based education and training platform in East and Central Africa to teach farmers about the Cassava crop disease, which had caused famine in the region and devastated farmers' crops. The occasionally connected cloud solution allowed NGOs to use rugged laptops to train farmers about how to manage the disease and grow disease-resistant strains of Cassava. The underlying components of the cloud-based solution were so successful that it is now being replicated and customized for other field programs, including Child Fund International's child sponsorship programs and the World Vision/Catholic Relief Services/Child Fund cloud-based Shared Content project.
I look forward to this week of discussion and dialogue in Davos. Join the conversation on Twitter by following NetHope, @NetHope_Org, and using the hashtag #WEF.