Jan 13.2022

Leveraging the Internet of Things to Improve Everyday Life in Developing Countries

Leveraging the Internet of Things to Improve Everyday Life in Developing Countries

The developing world has several critical challenges that need dire action. This article describes how IoT is being used to improve life in developing countries.

The Internet of Things is dramatically changing the way people live, work, and play and enabling new products and services for consumers and business operations on a global scale. However, a less discussed but arguably more intriguing aspect is its transformative potential in developing countries.

With the number of active IoT devices exceeding 30 billion and global IoT spending approaching $1.1 trillion, it is not surprising that the developing world is experiencing a proliferation of connected sensors, actuators, and other hardware. However, what is surprising is the impressive variety of solutions already deployed. IoT devices are monitoring water consumption, pollution, traffic conditions, public health, crop yields, wildlife movements, and even school attendance rates.

IoT deployment in development work is progressing exponentially, primarily driven by innovative start-ups looking to make a difference in the developing world. With IoT technology, these developers empower populations and provide critical information that can help reduce poverty and increase resilience.

Read on to uncover the growing impact of IoT in developing countries.

How is IoT Changing Lives in the Developing World?

IoT technology opens up new opportunities for real-time monitoring and control of critical assets, including agriculture, health care, education, energy, transportation, public safety, security, and more.

Here are some examples of how IoT is improving lives and livelihoods in developing countries today:

1. Healthcare Delivery

Using IoT to monitor and track the spread of disease is an emerging use case that requires urgent attention. The persistent malaria scourge, the 2018 Ebola outbreak, and the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic have repeatedly demonstrated how critical connectivity, communication, and data analytics technologies are for delivering healthcare and managing diseases in developing countries.

Fortunately, IoT solutions are increasingly being deployed to monitor the spread of infections, facilitate faster communication, and improve healthcare delivery. Thanks to IoT devices and networks, healthcare workers can track infections in real-time, while remote test facilities and frontline workers can communicate and share critical data with hospitals, clinics, and authorities in minutes rather than days.

In Liberia, for instance, IntraHealth International's mHero platform monitors the health of frontline workers and relays this information to health authorities in real-time. As a result, authorities can ensure that field workers are continuously protected against COVID-19 and deploy timely emergency responses.

2. Water Availability

Access to clean water is a global challenge affecting millions worldwide. The United Nations estimates that more than 785 million people lack essential water services, while an astonishing 25% of the world's population does not have access to basic sanitation.

These statistics are worse in developing countries. For instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of the population lacks basic sanitation facilities, and over 400,000 children die every year due to diarrhea caused by poor sanitation.

Although the water and sanitation issues in the developing world cannot be solved overnight, IoT technologies are giving people hope for a better future. Thanks to the proliferation of low-cost smart sensors, developers can now monitor water availability, usage, and quality in public water points remotely. Additionally, devices like SWEETSence Sensors, which can be installed on wells, taps, pumps, and piping, are facilitating faster leak, fault, and contamination detection.

3. Sustainable Farming

As the primary source of livelihood and income for at least 50% of the population, agriculture is a critical sector in the developing world. However, threats like deforestation, soil degradation, invasive species, and climate change continue to ravage the industry, placing millions at risk. For instance, in Central America's Dry Corridor, more than 3.5 million people are severely affected by the deforestation and desertification of previously fertile lands.

Agricultural IoT technologies are increasingly being deployed to make farming in developing countries more sustainable. IoT is revolutionizing the sector by empowering farmers to get more out of their land, increase yields, improve crop quality, lower costs, and integrate into global markets.

One innovation that has demonstrated the potential of IoT in agriculture is smart irrigation. Thanks to IoT developers like Israel-based SupPlant, farmers can monitor soil moisture levels remotely and deliver the right amount of water at the right time.

IoT sensors are also being used to monitor meteorological variables for forecasting weather patterns and improving irrigation management. Using these predictions, farmers can determine optimal times for critical watering periods to maximize yield potential while minimizing water waste.

4. Energy Management

Sustainable energy is a massive global challenge. Close to one billion people lack access to electricity, while around 2.6 billion are still using traditional cooking methods like open fires and kerosene stoves. 75% of this energy-poor population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity unavailability severely impacts economic growth and human development.

The good news is that IoT technologies are helping to improve the energy mix in developing countries. Smart meters, for instance, are being used to monitor energy usage, automate payment settlements, and deliver personalized energy consumption reports. With these advances in place, authorities can provide affordable lighting solutions and empower residents to make more informed energy management decisions.

IoT solutions are also making significant inroads in subsistence renewable energy. In countries with limited clean energy sources, IoT-enabled microgrids are enabling communities to generate and store off-grid energy from solar panels or wind turbines. Smart off-grid systems improve electricity access and provide safer, more affordable alternatives to traditional fuels and unreliable public grids.

What is Next for IoT in the Developing World?

Although developing countries have been quick to adopt IoT technology, they still have a long way to go before the benefits of this convergence fully materialize. Fortunately, increased awareness and investment from governments, industry leaders, and non-profit organizations are accelerating growth.

As the IoT revolution gains more momentum, developers will continue working on new technologies to solve some of the most pressing challenges in society. The increasing penetration of IoT technologies may ultimately help developing countries leapfrog over the digital divide and become trailblazers in innovation.

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