Voices from Davos: Leaders promote tech-focused routes out of poverty

Wed, 2017-01-18 15:55 -- Compassionate C...

Leaders of government and industry gather in the Swiss Alps this week for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. Topics run the economic gamut – including conversations about the economic inequality that continues to plague countries around the world and what it's going to take to end it. In the excerpts below, we've focused on some of the tech solutions being touted as a way to lift people out of poverty. But we'd love to hear your ideas too; click the Comment feature at the bottom of the page to share your thoughts. – Philip Bane


 Advancing digital payments
Implementing new technologies to revolutionize the financial system will lift millions out of poverty, suggests Paypal CEO Dan Schulman.

Dan Schulman"There are 2 billion in the world that live outside the financial system. The things we take for granted -- paying a bill, cashing a check, sending money to a loved one -- are incredibly time-consuming for them and very expensive," Schulman told CNBC's "Squawk Box" from Davos, Switzerland, according to a report by The Street.

Advancing digital payments through partnerships could be a huge win, Schulman said.

Embracing digital connectivity
Information and communications technology and digital connectivity are an essential public utility – not a luxury – Rwandan President Paul Kagame told a Davos workshop. He said his country is expanding broadband connectivity to public institutions and education and health sectors.

“Rwanda’s internet is currently ranked as one of the best on the continent of Africa in terms of affordability," he said in a talk reported by NewsofRwanda.com. "Even so, only one third of Rwandans today have access.  However, 10 years ago only 3% of Rwandans were connected."

“Without fast and affordable internet access, there are few pathways from poverty to prosperity in the 21st century,” Kagame added.

Reconnecting and redistributing
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, suggested at the WEC event that addressing inequalities will need to be part of how leaders respond to concerns of Christine Lagarde of IMF (WEC photo)populist movements. Leaders will need to reconnect with the people, she said, according to Fox Business coverage.

Lagarde said excessive inequality is counterproductive to sustainable growth. As Fox explained her point: "Redistributing wealth will be a central part of any strategy to deal with the inequalities, as will a deep analysis of how new technologies affect jobs."

Pokéstops to stop poverty
Taking a quite different approach, film writer/director Richard Curtis ("Love Actually" and "4 Weddings and a Funeral") is calling attention to poverty with a series of 17 Pokémon Go "Pokéstops" around Davos. Each stop is aligned with one of 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Curtis is working with the UN-backed effort to raise awareness about the goals via high-profile campaigns.

Each Pokéstops is labeled with one of the goals – for instance, Zero Hunger.

Curtis told Business Insider the playful campaign in Davos underscores a serious effort to promote issues where progress is being made. "Complex things which happen day to day can make us think the world is full of things going backwards," he told BI. "There are huge issues to do with war, refugees, and so on."

"In the meantime," he added, "slowly but surely the number of kids who die of malaria is going down, the issue of gender equality rises up the agenda, the number of children in school globally has risen dramatically, and extreme poverty has been halved in two decades."

Taking common sense steps
Just days before he leaves the White House, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told leaders in Davos that they must take action to mitigate the economic trends that are stoking unrest in so many advanced economies and undermining people's basic sense of dignity.

"Our goal," Biden said, "should be a world where everyone's standard of living can rise together."

He added that there's an urgency to take common sense steps like:

  • Increasing cognitive capabilities through access to education and job training
  • Ensuring basic protections for workers
  • Expanding access to capital
  • Implementing a progressive, equitable tax system where everyone pays their fair share

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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