The Human Impact

Forbes lists record number of women billionaires

There are more women billionaires now than ever before – 172 of them according to Forbes magazine’s 2014 Billionaire’s List, up from 138 last year.  And a sixth of all newcomers on the list are women.

Famous names include Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, U.S. TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey, fashion designer Tory Burch, British betting queen Denise Coates and the first female Nigerian billionaire Folorunsho Alakija.

However, women still only account for around a tenth of the 1,645 billionaires identified by Forbes on Tuesday as it published its 28thannual list of the richest people on the planet.

Their net worth? A mind-boggling $6.4 trillion.

The increasing presence on women in the list of the world’s top-earners is certainly noteworthy, possibly indicating that climbing the ladder is getting a bit easier for women year by year.

It’s not just the Forbes list. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank appointed a woman as chief executive of its investment banking arm for the first time. Given it’s Saudi Arabia we’re talking about, this scores double.

Why India’s Mars mission matters, despite poverty

There has been much fanfare over the launch of India’s first rocket to Mars – a mission which, if successful, will position the Asian nation as a major player in the global space race.

For days last week, local television news channels broadcast constant updates as the Indian Space Research Organisation readied to send “Mangalyaan” – the “Mars-craft” – to the red planet.

The orbiter’s mission is to reach Mars by September and map some of the planet’s surface and test for methane, a possible marker of life.

New interactive web atlas pinpoints water risk hotspots

A new online mapping tool for monitoring global water resources will improve water-risk management by showing patterns of water stress, flooding, drought and areas of water access, its creators say.

The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, developed by environmental think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI) and an alliance of businesses and governments, can be customised by users to reflect a range of data with a few clicks of a computer mouse.

It combines 12 water-risk indicators to create maps showing where water problems might exist.

Ex-NASA engineer designs mWater app to chart water quality

When environmental engineer John Feighery got an internship at NASA in the 1990s, he wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, he was given a job working with a team designing the U.S. bathroom for the International Space Station.

The small, closet-like space needed a toilet, a place for hand washing, a place for bathing and a place to keep toiletries. Feighery also worked on a project to fix equipment designed for monitoring crew health, which included testing water and air quality.

After the Columbia Space Shuttle accident in 2003 left seven crew members dead, the Space Shuttle programme was suspended and further work on the International Space Station was delayed.

Mobile technology boosts water security for the poor

 

Information technology is a powerful tool for experts working to provide secure access to water for personal use, food production and business in developing nations.

Giving poor people proper access to safe water and sanitation would save  2.5 million people a year from dying from diarrhoea and other diseases spread by a lack of hygiene, according to charity WaterAid.

The widespread availability of mobile phones has enabled the development of low-cost solutions aimed at improving water security and reducing poverty.

SMS could speed repair of faulty hand pumps in Africa

Hand pumps are a lifeline providing drinking water for many communities in remote, rural parts of Africa, but it is thought that around one third are broken at any given time, putting the health of many at risk.

In an effort to reduce the problem, a group of University of Oxford researchers have turned to mobile phone technology, developing data transmitters to automatically send a text message (SMS) alerting local water officials and engineers when the pumps break down.

Fitted inside the pumps, data transmitters measure the movement of the handle, which in turn give an indication of water usage.

Solutions for a hungry world

By 2050, experts say, the planet will need at least 70 percent more food than it does today as its population soars, cities sprawl and climate change takes its toll. Will it be possible?

That’s a question AlertNet put to hunger fighters worldwide for a special multimedia report out today probing the future of food. Their answer: The planet can feed itself – but only if two “revolutions” happen, and happen soon.

The first would involve sweeping changes to entrenched policies and practices that are, in the end, unsustainable. Policies such as spending trillions on agriculture and fuel subsidies. And practices such as eating so much meat and dairy.

What good is ‘crowd-sourcing’ when everyone needs help?

In a recent blog post I referred in passing to some of the hype surrounding “crowd-sourcing” projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

That’s not to criticise the volunteers – mostly in the United States – who collectively devoted hundreds of hours to charting the needs of quake survivors on online maps, based on SMS texts sent from the disaster zone.

My point was that their gate-crashing of the relief response in Haiti posed a welcome challenge to the traditional humanitarian system – but also generated hyperbole about the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing in actually saving lives.

@Documentally discusses “revolutionary” protest apps

As governments and security forces become more aware of the role of social media in coordinating protest movements they are developing new ways to block, hack and track citizen tweets, Facebook posts and other social-media messages.

The Frontline Club, an independent journalism organisation in London, held a panel discussion on Tuesday in association with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) College of Journalism to debate the role of mobile apps that aim to empower protesters. Demonstrators and citizen journalists have an ever-widening range of virtual tools that can help them navigate safely around protest sites.

Two of the apps in focus during the discussion were web-based Sukey and the ObscuraCam camera app. Debate focused on whether apps would actually protect protesters and the value of citizen journalism vs “traditional journalism” in covering such events.

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