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Researchers from the Helping Hands project
Researchers from the Helping Hands project

Achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) has become a pressing task for the global community, given that only 7 years remain. The Covid19 pandemic has posed significant challenges to the implementation of SDGs. Using effective science, technology and innovation is imperative for accelerating recovery, whilst working towards the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital platform, blockchain, etc can play an important role in promoting sustainable development (UNCTAD, 2020). This Side Event aims to generate greater knowledge by exploring how digital technologies can provide innovative solutions to the implementation of SDGs, whilst sharing good, effective practices that enable these technologies to work in developing countries. 

The IDMODEL project commenced in 2018 as a collaboration between Oxford University (Professor Xiaolan Fu) and University of Birmingham (Professor Pervez Ghauri). The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund (ESRC-GCRF). This interdisciplinary project brings together expertise from the fields of technology, development studies, business and management. The project involved field studies in China and Bangladesh. Studies by Chinese company Kuaishou, revealed that developing a digital model based on short videos is practicable. It can have a direct impact on information infrastructure, helping to reduce poverty in poorer communities. An APP (Haat-e-Haat or hand to hand) was developed in conjunction with Bangladeshi partner SBK Foundation, primarily for use in poorer communities. The APP allows marginalised people to detect and create business opportunities to improve their lives. This can be done without any investment, fee or commission through a 3G smart phone. An extensive introduction and training programme was launched in 64 districts. The programme enables marginalised people to produce and transmit short videos to create value and job opportunities. The training, skills development and local knowledge empower these people, creating grassroot entrepreneurs. In 2019 and 2020 researchers compiled two surveys to assess the impact of the digital model. Field work included a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) incorporating 1,104 households (4,217 individuals). The two groups were split randomly: those who had received training and used the APP and those who had not. In the meantime, the Covid 19 pandemic significantly affected global economic conditions. Research results revealed that trained APP groups fared much better than untrained groups. Moreover, the trained group was 20.2 % more likely to receive market information. The governmental information on Covid was also more likely (13.9 %) to be current. Our research suggests that the digital technology model played a significant role in improving the lives of marginalised communities. The usage of APP allowed them to handle the pandemic better than others, increasing their confidence and self-respect. The benefits of the APP was highlighted by women and young people. They indicated it had helped them to generate income and opportunities for networking.

The project finished on 28/2/2022, however work is ongoing to develop several papers and an impact case.