February 03, 2016 by Steve Hollingworth
In our increasingly connected but still profoundly divided world, global income inequality calls out for innovations that benefit the world’s poorest people. In many cases, such innovations start with getting vital financial, agricultural and health information and services to the millions of women and smallholder farmers who make up the majority of the world’s poor.
This is what Grameen Foundation does, and it is why I am thrilled to be Grameen Foundation’s new CEO. Grameen Foundation has always put the world’s poorest people at the center of its work. Its focus is on harnessing digital technology to connect poor families to the formal economy, along with providing essential information and market opportunities. Today, where there are no brick and mortar banks, there are now mobile opportunities to save money, pay for goods, and take out loans to start small businesses or cope with crisis. Where there are no hospitals, there are now community health workers who receive training on maternal and infant health over their mobile phones, and HIV/AIDS patients who track complicated medication regimens. Where there are few government agricultural experts, there are now mobile programs that provide smallholder farmers with guidance on best agricultural practices and advise on adaptation to climate change.
But all this is just the beginning. There are still two billion people living outside the formal economy, and many without access to basic health information and services. And while 500 million smallholder farmers grow most of the food consumed by poor families around the world—they do so largely without access to market information or to advanced agricultural knowledge and resources.
Grameen Foundation’s combination of digital expertise, deep local knowledge and strategic partnerships helps bridge these gaps—enabling the poor to raise their incomes, improve their health and stabilize their finances.
Furthermore, digital technology allows us to break through development silos, and deliver integrated solutions that address interlocking problems in access to financial, agricultural and health services.
But digital-based solutions to poverty are not as simple as hitting “send” on a mobile phone. While it is relatively easy to create a financial app or a mobile health app, it is far more difficult to develop and deliver digital services that can make measurable differences for the poorest and most vulnerable people. And technology itself is not enough. In our experience, digital solutions must often be supported by networks of trusted and skilled people on the ground.
To drive innovation that makes a real difference in the lives of poor people around the world, Grameen Foundation brings into play a range of skills and partnerships, and in our 19 years of existence, we have helped 25 million people improve their lives.
I approach this new chapter both humbled and emboldened: humbled by the scope of our mission—to benefit an additional 25 million people in the next ten years—and emboldened by the courage, dedication and inventiveness of Grameen Foundation staff and the people we serve in countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In our connected world everybody makes a difference, and I could not be more excited to be moving forward with Grameen Foundation and all of our partners and supporters into the next era of innovation to end extreme poverty.