What Role Will Innovative Technologies Play in Streamlining U.S. Aid to Africans in Need?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
July 10, 2009
Woman Speaks on Cell Phone at Market in Kenya

On Saturday, July 11, 2009, President Obama gives a major speech in Ghana, setting the tone for his policy towards Africa. The President previewed the vision he will lay out in an interview with AllAfrica.com.

During the interview, the President was asked how aid, investment and technology intersect in Africa. President Obama said:

“[T]echnology can play a very important role in streamlining our aid to countries, making sure that we're tracking how that aid is being applied, making sure that it's reaching the people it's intended to reach. …[I]t seems to me that what we should be doing is trying to minimize our footprint and maximize the degree to which we're training people to do for themselves.”

What role will innovative technologies play in streamlining U.S. aid to Africans in need?

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 11, 2009

SNP in Syria writes:

In Africa, almost all ranked on the list of highest corrupt countries. Means that is not provided for Iraq. Online site for people to report fraud and corruption, they will tell the whole story and have other comment on it. That will keep U.S. Aid destined to the right purpose and where it is needed.

Ron
|
New York, USA
July 12, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Africa doesn't need AID...it needs honest governance. Use technologies to track, trace, seize and repatriate stolen funds and assets to Africa. Arrest the corrupt and criminals who are stealing Africa's future. The technologies are available....stop putting good money to bad ends.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 12, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, That's why U.S. foreign assistance was refocused under President Bush towards a more preformance based approach, rewarding good governance when it was found with opportunities for grants that had some basic accountability built into them that could be measured.

Long term, it only makes sense that nations be able to feed themselves, but too often violence disrupts the normal agricultural cycles, famine results, add a severe droubt and radical extemism into the mix and you have the picture of a failing state, at the mercy of jackels.

No government structure is corruption-free. We have a bit of a debate going on here about how to properly regulate financial institutions to better safeguard against abuse of position and assure safe investment of the people's savings and retirement accounts.

The goal here is to see progress....not perfection. That animal doesn't exist in the natural world.

----

In regards to the question, I think the simple things generally work the best, and they generally cost less too.

I was reading up on "Fog catchers" that have been set up outside Lima, Peru to generate water for the planting of trees as well as the added bonus of freeing the locals from having to pay huge sums of money for their daily water to be hauled up from the city to the mountainside. In some cases, that was up to 25% of a family's income per week.

In a thick fog rolling in off the sea, they produce hundreds of gallons of fresh potable water in a single day.

This isn't new or high tech, the concept has been around for hundreds of years.

These homesteaders were required to plant trees to stabilize the slopes above their homes in order to apply for ownership after residing there for a period of time, and the fog catchers solved the problem of irrigation.

No water, no trees, no home ownership...not a problem now.

I would venture a guess that there's areas in Africa that would have the proper climate conditions for similar application among local populations.

Anton
|
Belgium
July 12, 2009

Anton in Belgium writes:

Dear Mr. Obama,

Thank you so much for giving this possibility to share ideas how in the most effectif way support can be given to stimulate projects that really empower the small farmers in developing countries in Africa and around the world and help them build a succesful process of feeding local communtities.

I'm convinced that with a scientific approach and an optimistic spirit we will be able to realise healthy nurishing programs that will give acces to qualitative high and healty food for all the people and especially to those who needs it the most: all the children of this planet.

I think good information on successful approach on agriculture and development and other best practises can be found in the work of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development.: www.nisped.org.il

With all my best and warm wishes,

Kind Regards,

Anton

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 13, 2009

SNP in Syria writes:

@Eric in NM--

You are right in what you said, but still, it does represents a measure of unfairness when John Smith get kickback, cook the books or make a shady illegal deal and get into legal trouble. But when Government officials do it, they sure get away with it scot-free in many places. I would say Israel is pretty tough on their officials misdeeds far more than any other Western Country, it is a perceived impression in a way. That is how you will end up destroying a Democratic nation, when businessmen feel the only way to get ahead of the competition is to join the Government or elect his buddies into power. When leaders and leadership is replaced by Interest groups, it is only a matter of time before corruption spread to no end, destroying an otherwise viable system that everyone respect and abide by its rules.

Johnson
|
Australia
July 13, 2009

Johnson writes:

Technology can play a very important role in streamlining our aid to countries,making sure that it's reaching the people it's intended to reach. ...........

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 13, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, I agree, but only when the mechanisms of accountability and rule of law give assurance that individuals cannot manipulate the system through bribery and corruption, knowing there's a real good chance of getting caught, will the situation in any nation improve.

Another factor is simply paying civl servants a living wage so they don't in some cases have to skim off the top in order to simply feed their families.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 13, 2009

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico said--

Paying Civil servants...... Such as the case in Syria where the low paid Baathist official/peasant, small and big an-bashfully asks you to pay official stamp fee and his fee to do anything vs sitting on it forever under his Baathist bureaucratic chair. Assad Government looks the other way because they basically, deliberately uses this type of corruption as a mean of financing, to have Civil Servants earn money they can live on vs the government having to pay wages that official can in fact manage to live on. Billions saved,loyalty secured. Without it, the government could not have the support of the Civil servants cadre. In place like Syria this is more than crucial, when the army and populace is held by a strand.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 13, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"Billions saved,loyalty secured."

Interesting concept, I don't know about the loyalty part, there may be other factors involved. But whether the system saves money through inefficiency is, I think, debatable.

Just from the simple fact that you have to pay twice to get anything done, less gets done.

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
July 13, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

This may be off the subject to some extent, but not in reality as I do not see Technology beyond communications as a primary factor.

1. The largest problem of government is simply mismanagement. Having the limitations of Stewardship, but not fiscal profit, is simply the problem. All aspects are driven by Stewardship and NOT MANAGEMENT; therefore, utilization of funds are non realistic toward achieving objectives more often than not for the long haul. The relationship if ethics and end use is lost after contracting of work is initiated. There is no accountability until after a problem is incurred. It is not about technology, but management.

2. Technologies, such as UV water systems that are simplistic to complex are not utilized for non profit in much of Africa; it is not about technology. Technology is available.

3. Self dependency should be put over dependency for security reasons and be more advantageous for all. Each country needs to feed, house and cloth its people; but if it remains externalized the long term benefits can be seen even now. It is not about Technology.

4. I am afraid the best technology is in securing internal governmental systems within the countries we are trying to aid, otherwise all is for naught. People cannot build without secure governments in place; herein is the major problem. Not Technology alone. A citizen in Africa can farm to feed and support, start a textile plant to cloth and employ; but if there is a coup everything is lost. If there are foreign investments in place which take the cream and leave little for the citizen it is the same as war, for it is non developmental and restrictive. So, technology in communications of real time utilization of funds and accountability should be in place.

5. The best Technology aspect: If you want to expand democracy, simply drop laptops and cell phones under the pretext of some Citizens for Democracy group everywhere and throw up a satellite for them to utilize -- LOL! Why not?

ilia
|
Puerto Rico
July 15, 2009

Ilia in Puerto Rico writes:

It was with special interest that I followed President Obamas's goodwill visit to Ghana. It is a stepping-stone that portends a new direction in braking isolation for some Africans countries. An opportunity to welcome an invitation for future progress and a new era.

I agree with others that there must be good governance for a country to succeed. With unjust amateurs governments there cannot be a change. They must conform to the economic improvement of its people. They are too divided to make any dicisive steps, with primitive thinking and regionalism there is no progress. Some African countries are still backwards instead of forward. How can they succeed when they do not know exactly the meaning of foreign policy and economics? Whose society consist of two economic groups: wealthy exploiters and the ones that exist on subsistence levels of famine, lacking medicine, potable water and sanitation. Although is notable that charitable organizations and UNICEF help.

I believe that United States can aid in education, technological innovations in developing their natural resources, engineering, communications, private enterprise, businesss techniques,health care and commerce. Service learning that provides workplace skills opening to new ideas and innovations and economic grownth.

There may not be fast changes, but focusing on the problems is a step itself. Though, with the world economy as it is, I hope it straightens and there could be progress for those countries in need.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 15, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

The traditional extra payment to low-wage civil servants in Syria to obtain whatever benefits they may provide should be made official policy, if that is necessary for the Syrian government to function. The prices for each civil servant should be posted for the public to see.

The worst corruption occurs in secret. Overt corruption is preferable. American government has similar problems as when an agency charges a "filing fee" or "service charge" after its employees and budget have already been paid by the taxpayers. We now pay twice for the same service, not much different from any third world country.

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