Is poverty an emergency?

I met with Martin Burt, the Executive Director and founder of Fundacion Paraguaya a few days ago and he said two things that left me contemplative. The first was that poverty is an emergency, and the second was that perhaps the most important factor in achieving something is a belief that you can.

Consider the first point. The widely accepted understanding of an emergency is something that is urgent and needs to be addressed immediately. At Ushahidi we pride ourselves in being able to provide the technology that can assist in that moment of need. If I asked you to give me a few examples of emergencies you would probably refer to natural disasters or life threatening medical situations. Very infrequently do people consider poverty as an emergency.

But when Martin said it, it immediately made sense to me. Poverty is a life threatening, society threatening phenomenon that must be addressed immediately. If treated and prioritized like the bleeding gun wound it is, maybe we'd be faster to eliminate it. Chronic, festering poverty has become a standard all over the world. Martin and his team are unwilling to accept the status quo. I'm excited to be implementing an instance of the Ushahidi platform in this new and necessary definition of emergency, and look forward to other similar usages of the product. 

Martin's second point, said with reference to his methodology of empowering the poor with the tools and perspective they need to help themselves fight poverty, resonated with me when thinking about women and underrepresented minorities in tech. Many of us have heard stereotypes stated as facts ... Men are more logically wired, Asians are really good at math, women are better at the soft skills, etc. Imagine a little girl, told from an impressionable age that it's okay for her to be mediocre in math and science because that's what nature intended. It is highly unlikely that this girl ever believes that she could be good at those subjects, and very likely that she will be alienated from them for life.

I was honored to think and talk through these ideas with Martin and his team, and am eager to see the far reaching implications and effects of his work.