03/11/2013 11:16 am ET Updated May 11, 2013

How Technology Is Powering Up New Solutions To Global Challenges

The world as we know it has entered an information age that's powering up incredible new solutions to tackle global challenges, from solving hunger to ending extreme poverty. In working on these issues, I have seen the many ways that technology is changing how we communicate, how we collect data and how we interact with our world. This year, we are joining with our partners at the United Nations Foundation and Social Good Summit to present GoodxGlobal, an inaugural day of social good programming at South by South West (SXSW), the nation's seminal conference on technological and digital innovation.

For all of the new ways to address old problems, we know one thing for certain: Technology is changing the way the world fights poverty.

At the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization in the world and the logistics arm of the UN, a new era of innovation has enabled smarter, faster assistance to those hungry and in need. WFP works to predict who is most vulnerable to hunger, long before disasters like drought, famine or flooding, strike. WFP does this using data and advanced technologies such as satellite imagery, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mobile data collection platforms, such as smart phones, tablets and Personal Digital Assistants. With better data and mapping tools, WFP is able to get a clearer picture of how many people require food assistance on a daily basis and in the wake of a crisis.

In 2012, the international community prevented a famine in the Sahel region of West Africa in part through the use of early warning systems designed to predict when a severe hunger crisis will strike. One such system, FEWS NET -- an effort of NASA, USAID and other U.S. agencies -- uses a diverse set of indicators, including both raw satellite imagery as well as market trends, to forecast where and when people will be most affected by hunger. This information enabled WFP to act faster to stem the crisis.

New technologies are also helping to empower people affected by emergencies to get back on their feet. In Syria, a major humanitarian crisis created by conflict has scattered families and sent millions in search of refuge from violence and insecurity. WFP is putting electronic voucher cards directly into the hands of refugee women who have fled Syria to neighboring countries, enabling them to buy their families nutritious food from community sources. Vouchers serve to increase access to food for those in need while reinvesting in local markets and offering opportunities of greater dietary diversity.

As we work to end global hunger and poverty, we are proud to be able to collaborate with partners, developers and entrepreneurs to bring game-changing ideas about social innovation to the global stage.