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UNICEF Life Changing Predictions for 2015

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solar-panel-on-thatch-hutUNICEF’s new Innovation Unit is seeing a number of trends in the developing world for this year.

So while 2014 was big data for “the world’s most marginalized citizens,” this year we will see the market’s invisible hand to do good for the world’s poor.

UNICEF boldly predicts that “More companies will start to look towards ‘Doing Good is Good Business’ as a key growth strategy.”  This represents a big paradigm shift from corporate social responsibility as being a PR gimmick to becoming a key driver of business growth.

Consider, for example, that half of the adults around the world are unbanked, meaning that they don’t have bank accounts in their own name.  Increasingly, commercial banks and nontraditional financial service providers are finding ways of reaching out to them to provide them financial services and make a profit too.  Technology and innovative ways of doing business are paving the way for making this and other things possible.

Furthermore, they see more drones being commissioned to do development work.  Whereas before one had to trek for a day or two just to meet with a community, now it will not only be possible to reach out to remote communities safely, we can do it much more efficiently using these unmanned aerial vehicles.  Also, they would literally provide us with a “bird’s eye view” of the area, making planning and development work so much more efficient, as with planning an off grid electrification system.  Which brings us to yet another trend.

1.2 billion people without electricity will soon see the light of day, even at night.  We’ve seen the prices of solar power systems dropping dramatically in the past year or so.  Unfortunately, they are still beyond the reach of the world’s poor, who have to make do with less than 2 dollars a day.

With the increasing popularity of mobile phones, as well as the economic opportunities that cellphones make possible, some start ups are finding ways of financing the construction of solar energy solutions for areas without electricity.  Start ups Fex and m-Kopa allow users to make small daily or weekly payments for their solar electric systems with the use of mobile phones.  From the payment history, they plan to create credit scores for these individuals, who make up a big part of the  2.2 billion unbanked adults in the developing world.

These are but a few of the interesting trends that UNICEF predicts to see in the less developed countries in 2015.  With the development of technology and new business models, we’re bound to see some interesting things this year.

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