Decreasing Global Poverty Rates, Increasing Challenges

Poverty elimination is a mission that’s far from complete

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) predicted in 2013 that acute poverty could see a dramatic decrease within the next 20 years. OPHI, a division of Oxford University, released the findings in March 2013. The progress in poverty reduction achieved by nations like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Rwanda was reported to be extremely positive. The World Bank (WB) too declared last year that poverty rates are on the decline like never before in human history. However, rapid increases in inflation rates and increasing degree of conflicts may prove to be big challenges for poverty reduction.

Rapid declines in poverty rates in the past decade

WB reported in April 2013 that global poverty rates had declined by nearly 17% in the last decade alone. It observed that by 2030, extreme poverty could be eliminated. However, it still reported that nearly 1.2 billion people live under the extreme poverty threshold of $1.25.

Challenges brought by inflation in basic items

The increases in food prices and fuel could counter the progress in global poverty reduction. With food now more expensive globally than ever before, the effort to reduce global poverty may face a setback. Oil prices have been consistently hovering above $100 since 2012. Price increases of gas and electricity could further increase the cost of production of many basic items. Thus, reducing the poverty rates throughout the world may be more difficult that anticipated if current inflationary trends continue.

Increasing degree of severe conflicts

Severe conflicts are emerging in different parts of the world. Syria, once a relatively prosperous country, is in a devastating situation with millions of people opting to be refugees rather than staying within the country. Similarly conflicts have been increasing in countries like Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia and Mali. These conflicts have displaced millions of people from their homes. Thus, in 2013,  the unexpected rise in conflicts has driven millions of people into acute poverty. Serious global efforts are needed to ensure that these challenges are addressed.

Positive outlook

The progress reported lately in poverty reduction can indeed be regarded as positive. In spite of the challenges, there are fewer people sleeping hungry than any period in human history. If the emerging challenges are addressed globally then it would certainly be possible to eliminate global poverty completely within the coming decades.



Preparations Underway to Make Nepal a Free WiFi Country

Nepal could soon be a free WiFi nation

In what could be a major boost to the rate of technological progress in Nepal, a special panel formed by the government of Nepal is planning to make the whole country into a free WiFi zone. The Ministry of Information and Communication put forward this ambitious plan on January 3rd, 2013.

A bold plan

The fact is that only a few rich and developed nations of the world have managed to give free WiFi internet access to its citizens. In 2003, the tiny Pacific Island nation of Nieu declared itself to be the first free WiFi nation. Lately nations like Thailand and Greece have started efforts to follow suit. Yet, as one of the least developed nations in the world, the declaration of the free WiFi plan by the Nepal government has attracted attention from technology and development experts throughout the world

The connectivity situation

Although steadily growing, the internet penetration rate of Nepal isn’t so high when compared to developed countries. Many citizens aren’t able to afford internet connections due to their high charges. Although WiFi enabled mobile phones and tablets are sold throughout the country, people haven’t been able to afford the internet charges. Expensive mobile internet charges have discouraged many people from getting much out of their devices. But if the government plan works, then millions of people of the country would be freely connected to the world.

Benefiting the common people

Nepal is a country where more than half of the population are farmers. So internet connectivity to farmers could mean access to markets and new trends in farming. Access to quality education through the internet could also mean a better standard of education for schoolchildren across the country. Medicinal facilities through e-medical services could also help save thousands of lives. Hence, the benefits of free WiFi are immense.

Ambitious but achievable

Although free WiFi to all its citizens may look like a bit too ambitious for Nepal, it is definitely worth a try. The benefits could easily outweigh the cost. However the planners need to ensure that such a plan isn’t just a plan on paper. Bold plans need bold actions.


Samata announces college education in Nepal for a dollar

Schoolchildren in assembly at Samata School in Nepal, also called the ‘bamboo school’

The commencement of Samata College amidst a ceremony in Kathmandu was indeed positive news for the masses. Newspapers and websites of Nepal were buzzed all week since the announcement of the college. Like Samata Sikchya Niketan’s low-fee school model, the students would be charged only Rs100 ($1) per month. Operating quality high schools in 19 districts of Nepal, Samata is quite a familiar name in the country.

Nepal is ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world by most globally recognized index. The wealth divide and income inequalities have deprived the majority population of many basic services. Generally, quality education is condered to be the privilege of the sons and daughters of the relatively wealthier segment of the society. Private institutions that deliver quality education often charge expensive fees. This has been discouraging students belonging to low-income backgrounds. At the same time government colleges delivering quality education are far and few. So the announcement of the establishment of Samata College was welcome news for many.

Samata started its journey in 2001 initiated by the former Bollywood stuntman Uttam Sanjel. Sanjel still heads the 12 year old foundation. The organization currently handles 17000 students. With the opening up of Samata College and Samata School in other parts of the country, the organization plans to handle up to 40,000 students in the next couple of years.

Most students studying at Samata’s facilities are usually from the underprivileged section of the society which also supplies most of the laborers in the country. The monthly household income of this class of population averages around $70-$150. Spending a dollar at Samata’s schools, instead of spending at least 1/5 of their income in a private school thereby relieves a lot of parents from the extra burden on their weak economy.

It would obviously be difficult to impart quality computer-based education in English medium that Samata provides by charging such low fees. On top of that the organization employs nearly 500 people. So it has been depending upon donations from charities and people impressed by its activities for it’s running. Many famous philanthropists and celebrities have come forward to help Samata in its pursuit of providing quality education to the disadvantaged.

Such noble intent from the foundation would surely inspire a lot of young people who would otherwise have left education just because they could not afford it.