More than 500,000 people live in Mathare, the second-largest collection of slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Crime and disease ravage the population, and shanties have no electricity or running water. But there’s one piece of technology that everyone seems to have, one which promises to bring much-needed improvements: the cell phone.
Cell phones are central to two of the eight most recent Global Underdevelopment Action Fund projects funded by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Both projects will be led by Joshua Cohen, a professor of political science, philosophy and law and the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society.
The first of Cohen’s projects will examine whether texting private and accurate health advice will increase awareness of risky sexual behavior among Mathare’s younger residents who face high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Cohen's second project involves teaching women to use mobile technology to meet up with larger groups while traveling at night, which Cohen believes can led to a decrease in the number of assaults, muggings and rapes. Eventually, the hope is that the program can be taken over by Kenya’s police and expanded.
| Cell phone charging station in Mathare
Six other projects are receiving support from the third round of Global Underdevelopment Action Fund awards, amounting to a total of $265,000.
The funds will enable multidisciplinary teams led by Stanford faculty from across the university to perform policy-relevant research focused on global underdevelopment challenges.
The funded projects will have real world impact. They will help target tuberculosis, which kills more than 1 million people a year and hinders economic development in the hardest-hit regions, like parts of India. They evaluate the amount of resources necessary to improve test scores and lower anemia rates among China’s rural schoolchildren. They ensure that health care is accessible to people in the Arab world where countries are undergoing political transitions. And they evaluate the challenges and benefits of bringing solar power to areas in Africa where electricity is a rare commodity.
As varied as the eight projects are, each will train Stanford undergraduate or graduate students, stressing the importance that Stanford and FSI place on training the next generation of researchers and policy influencers.
The projects were selected by a faculty committee chaired by Stephen D. Krasner, FSI’s deputy director and the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations.
The Action Fund is supported by FSI donors, matching funds from the Office of the President and FSI. The fund grew out of the institute’s 2010 conference on Technology, Governance, and Global Development. This year’s follow-up conference further showcased FSI’s commitment to challenges posed by global underdevelopment with a focus on food security and health.
The award-winning projects and their principal investigators are: