Throughout our history, Americans have embraced a culture of entrepreneurship. We believe that dedication and innovation are two key elements when striving to bridge the gap between the seemingly inconceivable and the achievable: eradicating smallpox, connecting the world in an instant with technology, splitting the atom.
- Oral rehydration therapy developed and distributed by USAID has saved millions of children around the world;
- Our nation’s partnership with scientists and political leaders helped to bring about a Green Revolution that saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation; and
- Our efforts to write off debt for African nations willing to reinvest the proceeds in their people paid for nearly 40 million more children to attend school during the last decade.
Today, USAID is actively supporting the next generation of Development Entrepreneurs through its Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) fund, bringing together diverse individuals from academia, the private sector and NGOs to identify, develop, rigorously test, and ultimately scale up promising approaches to pressing development issues around the world. DIV will encourage advancement in all sectors that impact the ability of people in developing countries to live healthy and productive lives, from economic growth to agriculture to anti-corruption activities. Learn more about DIV’s competitive process for supporting innovations with proven, cost-effective impact here.
Meet the recipients of funding through the DIV program:
THE OPPORTUNITY: Develop and test an innovative medical technology to detect a life-threatening condition for expecting mothers who do not obtain formal prenatal care services
THE PROJECT: Using USAID/DIV’s $100,000 grant and leveraging over $518,000 in other funding, Jhpiego, based in Baltimore, MD, is developing an affordable, reliable test to detect proteinuria – a marker of pre-eclampsia among pregnant women. Pre-eclampsia and its more serious progression, eclampsia, are the second leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide, leading to 63,000 maternal deaths and approximately 500,000 newborn deaths annually. Current tests are too costly for poor women and involve lab work or multiple trips to the health center. In contrast, this technology uses a special pen to test for pre-eclampsia. This self-test has the potential to be significantly cheaper ($0.0075 per test compared to as much as $0.60 for a comparable test using current practices) and is simple enough for both semi-literate health care workers and pregnant women to use. The self-test allows for widespread use in the community rather than only in rarely-visited clinics. Jhpiego will refine the technology design and engineering of the Proteinuria Self-test, and conduct a pilot study in a rural district of southern Nepal.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Rigorously test a method of improving election monitoring to reduce fraud
THE PROJECT: A team from the University of California, San Diego has received a USAID/DIV grant to measure the effectiveness of a monitoring platform using “quick count” photos in Afghanistan. USAID/DIV contributed $99,992 to leverage $199,932 in outside funding for the project. In partnership with local researchers from the Opinion Research Center of Afghanistan, the project informed officials in 238 local polling stations in Afghanistan that local vote tallies would be photographed and compared to the final vote tallies in the capital. The UCSD team used a Randomized Control Trial to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of this approach in reducing election fraud, as measured by differences among the quick counts and the final tallies. Preliminary results show that this method of election monitoring has proven to be effective in reducing vote manipulation in Afghanistan. Polling locations using “quick count” monitoring were 11% less likely to have tally sheets physically removed by candidate representatives, among other evidence of reduced election fraud. Following the evidence of the approach’s success in Afghanistan, UCSD has used separate funding to successfully replicate the approach during Uganda’s February 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Provide a scalable mobile health product to enhance community-based efforts to improve maternal and child health
THE PROJECT: The growing ubiquity of mobile phones in the developing world provides opportunity for improving health outcomes in rural areas. Dimagi, a Charlestown, MA-based technology company, has developed an open source mobile and cloud-based platform, CommCare, which goes beyond the scope of most mobile health technologies to provide comprehensive support for health workers in addition to data collection. CommCare allows community health organizations to quickly create and customize health applications and download them onto the phones of community health workers for free uses. These applications use multimedia prompts that deliver maternal health education to new mothers, regardless of literacy level or local dialect. By allowing users to freely customize the open-source application via a website instead of duplicative hiring of software programmers, this project has the potential for wide-scale adoption across language barriers and health sectors. USAID/DIV’s $100,000 contribution to Dimagi has catalyzed the global deployment of CommCare, allowing the technology to be refined for use in 9 countries across the globe and piloted with local implementing partners mobilizing more than $53,000 in additional financial and in-kind contributions.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Test an approach that enables rural banks to adapt financial services to increase small holder farmers’ income
THE PROJECT: Poor farmers are often forced to sell their crops at harvest time, when prices are lowest, because they need immediate income and lack access to crop storage. In partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone and several community banks in Kono and Kailahun districts, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is using $230,145 of USAID/DIV funding to address these problems by testing a crop-based lending model in which private banks store farmers’ crops at the time of harvest as collateral and give a loan to the farmer, with the goal of reducing the damaging effects of price seasonality. Based in New Haven, CT, IPA and its partners are contributing more than 50 percent of the total cost to implement this project. The approach will be rigorously tested using a Randomized Control Trial for the case of palm oil producing farmers, which make up 50% of households in Sierra Leone. Results from a prior pilot indicate that farmers were able to sell their product at prices that are 50 percent higher. The expected outcomes to be measured under this grant are changes in income, investment, savings, and food security among farming households.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Expand access to a portable, clean, low-cost energy source for use in developing countries and emergency and disaster relief efforts
THE PROJECT: USAID has leveraged over $8.5 million to develop a new chemical technology which is being refined for use in developing countries with a $100,000 grant to SiGNa Chemistry in Davis, CA. The 300 W fuel-cell power system incorporates a clean and safe energy storage solution which operates at one-sixth the cost, weight, and volume of existing battery technologies. SiGNa’s portable fuel cell is powered by sodium silicide, a powder that instantly produces hydrogen when it comes into contact with water with no hazardous byproducts. The unit can be carried by hand, can be used indoors, and has a range of potential applications- one 1.2 liter sodium silicide canister can power a standard cell phone for 2000 hours (with a corresponding fuel cost of $0.0018 per hour), a laptop for 50 hours ($0.07 per hour),an LED light bulb equivalent to a 40W incandescent for 178 hours ($0.0197 per hour) a vaccine refrigerator for 40 hours ($0.0875 per hour), a small UV water filtration system for 133 hours ($0.0036 per gallon of filtered water), or a small mobile work center using 3 computers, 2 light bulbs, 3 phones, a vaccine refrigerator, and a water filtration system for 6 hours ($0.599 per hour). The technology can also be used to efficiently power retrofit bicycles at a cost of $0.045 per mile of bike travel without peddling, thus allowing riders to travel three times further than with an existing battery of a similar size. Because the only emissions are water vapor and air, such bicycles would not emit the greenhouse gases and pollutants produced by the inefficient engines of other two- and three-wheelers frequently found in cities around the world.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Utilize mobile phones to reduce health professional absenteeism while providing real-time rural disease and health data
THE PROJECT: With $173,000 from USAID/DIV, the Jameel Poverty Action Lab South Asia at the Institute for Financial Management and Research in Chennai, India is launching a program in India’s extensive network of primary health centers in partnership with the State Government of Karnataka, leveraging more than $119,844 in other funding and additional in-kind resources. Smart phones are used to capture thumb impressions of health staff to monitor daily attendance to reduce absenteeism as well as facilitate faster response to emerging health threats by transmitting real time epidemiological data from rural areas to state-level health authorities. Initial surveys related to this project have found that health staff are absent from primary health centers 51% of the time with doctors absent 61% of the time, demonstrating the magnitude of the development challenge to be addressed. A Randomized Control Trial will measure the cost-effectiveness of this program, which, if proven successful, will inform the Government of Karnataka’s decision to scale to the entire state.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Leverage existing member cooperatives to provide access to more cost-efficient, cleaner lighting technology
THE PROJECT: In Uganda’s least electrified district of Kalangala, member owned cooperatives are being formed to help get the lights on. With $100,000 from USAID/DIV and an additional $37,000 in funding and contributions from other partners, Lighting Rural Uganda with Solar (LRUS), a Ugandan NGO, is working through existing structures at the village level to provide retail credit to households to purchase affordable micro-power solar LED lanterns. LRUS will test this distribution model in an area with low levels of electricity. While reducing air pollution, LRUS aims to reduce households’ kerosene fuel budget by 75% and reduce kerosene lantern related fire accidents by 75% as households are able to acquire solar lamps. Cheap and stable light sources allow small businesses to operate longer and children to complete schoolwork after dark. Using the retail credit cooperatives, households have mobilized $7,500 to acquire 500 solar lamps thus far. As the project continues, LRUS expects additional resources will be assembled to acquire 1,000 additional solar lamps.
THE OPPORTUNITY: To design and test the effectiveness of a voter education campaign as a way to improve government accountability
THE PROJECT: Jameel Poverty Action Lab South Asia at the Institute for Financial Management and Research in Chennai, India is working to rigorously evaluate whether pre-election voter-education campaigns providing incumbent qualifications and performance report cards can improve the quality of elected politicians. A voter information campaign that disseminated information on the performance and political backgrounds of 60 randomly selected incumbents through a local high-profile newspaper was conducted in Bihar, the poorest state in India. The research team utilized a Randomized Control Trial in order to evaluate the impact of this campaign on electoral outcomes in terms of incumbent vote-share, voter turn-out, campaign expenditures, vote-buying and other illegal campaign practices. . This project will provide rigorous evidence on the impact of the report cards on electoral outcomes in the 2010 Bihar Assembly elections. Preliminary findings suggest that, on average, increased information about incumbent qualifications and performance decreased support for poor-performing candidates. Incumbents who had report cards published about them received 4.6% fewer votes than those who did not. In addition to the $100,000 USAID/DIV contribution, this project has leveraged $71,000 in other funding and in kind contributions from local NGO Satark Nagrik Sangathan (New Delhi, India) Hindustan, a privately owned newspaper based in New Delhi, India, and other partners.