Technology has been a powerful driver of humanity's development over the past few centuries. It continues to hold great potential to help us live longer and in better health, as well as raising our productivity and standards of living.
Yet many of these benefits remain out of the reach of the global poor.
While people living in the developed world have enjoyed the benefits of electric lighting since the late 1800s, nearly 1.3 billion poor households in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia still live in the dark today. Without electricity, many poor households are not able to make use of household appliances common in the richer world, like refrigerators, televisions,or computers.
Modern sanitation technologies -- flush toilets and sewerage systems -- are another example. These technologies have existed for hundreds of years but are still not available to 2.4 billion people around the world. This lack of sanitation infrastructure leads to contamination of water sources across large stretches of South Asia and Africa. Water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery claim 3.4 million lives every year.
Modern machinery and information technology have also changed the way we work. In advanced economies, large commercial farms enjoy the benefit of improved seed varieties, farm machinery, modern irrigation systems, and post-harvest storage systems. In stark contrast, many smallholder farmers in developing countries lack similar solutions and struggle to improve their crop yields and livelihoods.
Against this challenging backdrop, inventors and entrepreneurs are developing new breakthrough products tailored to the needs of the global poor. These hardware pioneers are helping to improve lives and livelihoods by pushing the frontiers of technology and business. They are bringing reliable electricity to remote villages, safe drinking water to neglected slums, productivity gains to struggling smallholder farmers, and life-saving health services to sick children.