ASUNCION, Paraguay – Four pilot innovation projects will be financed by grants from the Inter-American Development Bank to improve the quality of life of the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean. The grant winners are international and regional organizations and the projects will be carried out in five different countries in the region.
IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno today presented the awards for projects in Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua at a ceremony during the Microenterprise Forum, which is taking place October 8-10.
Many promising technologies do not reach the poor because of lack of communication or resources. A new IDB program tries to help bridge the gap by bringing innovators in developing and developed countries together with those who can benefit from the innovations. Often, those who produce technological solutions do not know that their inventions can benefit the problems of the poor, while the poor do not know that the technology exists.
The grant program “Innovation for Inclusive Development” is cosponsored by the Italian Trust Fund on Information and Communication Technologies and the IDB Fund for Special Operations.
The call was open to pilot projects new technologies, a new use or invention based on existing technologies featuring the adaptation and/or application of existing technologies to the needs of communities or to the local environmental, geographical or geological conditions, or the identification of new business models for large-scale use of innovative applications and tools accessible to the poor.
A special emphasis on private sector participation led to almost a third of the projects being submitted by private companies, while outreach to organizations in all IDB member countries allowed for fruitful collaboration between institutions in developing and developed countries.
An international jury including representatives from the academia, innovation, venture capital and technology fields selected the top four projects out of a total of 141 submissions.
Grants were awarded to the following projects:
* Building Haiti’s Value Chain: Growing, Processing, and Providing Nutritious Foods
Seeking to improve both childhood nutrition and the agricultural value chain, Meds and Food for Kids http://www.medsandfoodforkids.org (U.S./Haiti) will first enhance the Haitian peanut production through the UNICEF certification for food safety, which will allow domestic peanuts to be used in the production of export-grade Medika Mamba (“peanut butter medicine”), or Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). In turn, this will allow Haitian-produced RUTF to be sold to UNICEF and other organizations working in Haiti; it will provide steady income to the mostly subsistence-level peanut farmers; and it will improve the access of Haiti’s children to this nutritious food. Currently, less than one per cent of Haiti’s children receive RUTF, while approximately 23% suffer from malnutrition.
* Low-cost open source wireless connectivity
The Politecnico di Torino (Italy) and Fundación Ñambi (Ecuador) http://www.polito.it seek to fill the connectivity gap in the province of Orellana to reduce the isolation of local schools and health facilities, enhance local public services, and generate IT structures and expand the local communities access to know-how. Using long-distance wireless transmitter developed by the university’s iXem Labs, this project will use technology to promote human development in a remote area.
* Medical Technology Innovation for Nicaragua
The Massachussetts Institute of Technology Innovations in International Health Initiative is working with their Nicaraguan field partners, CARE and the Nicaraguan Center for Research and Health Studies (CIES) (http://iih.mit.edu) to narrow the gap in medical technology innovations. The project will produce easily deployable biomedical training kits to allow state-of-the-art biomedical techniques to reach the poor in Nicaragua. The kits employ a variety of breakthrough products such as low-cost diagnostic tools (“Lab on a chip”) and mobile health informatics.
* BoliviaMall model in El Salvador and Honduras
DIGIBOL (BoliviaMall.com, EcuadorMall.com, LatinAmericanMalls.com) will implement the BoliviaMall model in El Salvador and Honduras, giving small-scale artisans and other producers access to Internet sales, expanding their potential markets.
- Christina MacCulloch