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Technology Changing Lives: Beyond Smartphones

Today’s piece is written by guest blogger David Kavanagh who is a philanthropist, expert in community development, good friend and an all-round fantastic human being..

Enjoy the piece!

Amanda x

Next time you pick up your new iPhone 5 to Whatsapp your buddy or Shazam that cool track you just heard playing on the radio – think about technology as a whole and how it’s impacting thousands of lives around the world.

There is no debating the fact that technology has changed our lives beyond what we could have imagined even as recently as 20 years ago. Literally everything is just a click away – paying bills, connecting live with friends ‘n family across the world, conducting meetings via VC while waiting for a flight, searching for the best restaurant nearby to reserve a table, watching movies on-the-move….. The smartphone is now an alarm clock, memo, personal shopper, tom-tom, camera, e-mail client, internet browser, accounting package, besides ‘traditional’ uses like making ‘n receiving calls and texting.

As city dwellers, we take these conveniences for granted. But the digital divide only grows wider. Imagine how much change it would bring to the lives of people who still walk miles to collect water and who have just a few hours of electricity per day. As new technologies reshape the livelihoods of people across the world, there are organisations which are helping poor communities globally respond to these changes by allowing them training and access to technologies that can change their lives forever.

One such organisation is Practical Action, which uses technology as a tool in poverty reduction. Among the many revolutionary programmes they have devised, is using Podcasts to reach out to villages with no access to the internet, mobile phones, TV or even radio.

For example, in the remote, dry village of Ntepe (south western Zimbabwe), local knowledge workers from Practical Action charge their MP3 players and share podcasts with local people on agricultural techniques, handling livestock, tacking disease and water conservation. The podcasts are in local languages and villagers can replay the information as many times as they please.

Practical Action uses nanotechnology to purify drinking water for communities that do not have access to safe drinking water (usually drought prone and dry areas), where people were earlier forced to drink contaminated water just to survive.

In Peru, implementing the right, low-cost technology has helped provide ecological toilets, an improved smoke free kitchen, a water catchment system where water is purified using nanotechnology. Families have access to solar panels which help provide light at night, charge the radio and watch over cattle with a solar powered lamp.

In another instance, conflicting fishing communities in Sri Lanka were trained in sustainable deep sea fishing and were shown how they could do so by making simple changes to their existing fishing vessels rather than making huge investments on more sophisticated equipment. Before this action was taken, there were several conflicts between fishermen in this tsunami impacted area. Post-training, the conflict has ended and all fishing communities are benefitting from this simple ‘practical action’.

In each of the above cases, the lives of these communities has changed for the better, providing improved health, sustainable and low-cost sources of livelihood and access to clean drinking water. Just goes to show what life-changing technology really means to people today.

If you have a related story to share or would like to highlight a particular organization that is changing lives, then please comment below and let’s spread the word together.

Thanks for reading!!

David Kavanagh

For more information on Practical Action and the far-reaching impact of its innovative technology implementation, please visit

The case study on Sri Lankan fishermen can be found at:


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