By: Eliana Camargo (*)
Although its rural population has decreased in the last century, Colombia is less urban and more rural than we might think. According to the last UNDP report (2015), 32% of the population lives far from large cities, in the countryside, and rural municipalities, which occupy the vast majority of the country’s surface. In addition, 60% of the capital city, Bogotá, is rural area. With these facts in mind, we should rethink the way cities and towns grow connected with this rural environment.
Moreover, the rural area has the highest rates of poverty and inequalities. According to the multidimensional poverty index (2015), 40% of Colombia’s rural population lives in poverty. Despite a decrease in the poverty rate since 2010, the rural-urban poverty gap has augmented, going from 2,26 (2010) to reaching the point of 2,78 (2015). That means that for each person living in the city, there are almost 3 people in poverty in the rural area.
These challenges and gaps relative to developing contexts motivated BPG partner Eliana Camargo and like-minded collegues (MasPorTIC co-forunders), to fund MasPorTIC, a Colombian Non-profit organisation to rethink how to close these socio-economic urban-rural gaps. In 2015 they piloted methodologies with a human-oriented approach in a rural village in Colombia to host different workshops to transfer knowledge on how to use ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and to be more productive. Based on this experience that was acknowledged by the ICT Ministry in Colombia as successful case, they develop the idea to closing gaps through technology transfer, social innovation, knowledge sharing, and ICT adoption to solve social issues. They connect social needs with tech solutions, by hosting workshops, training programmes, and multi actors projects. Probably there are more social problems than solutions, but how to know if there are any? Or if the solutions are attacking the same problem? The social offer and demand of unmet needs seem to be worlds apart. As a social enterprise, they would like to be the link between social needs and public offer regarding issues such as education, gender equality, and energy access.
For the past five weeks, Eliana represented Colombia and MasPorTIC as fellow of the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI), a program funded by the the United States Government to strengthen her leadership and business experience in a U.S company and then connect her with more 250 Latin American and Caribbean entrepreneurs. The program concluded with a Closing Forum in October in Washington, DC. Through YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute and Individualized Scholarships, YLAI Fellows will achieve success in their commercial and social endeavors, and develop specific action plans to carry out upon returning to their home countries, where they will build lasting networks, links and partnerships to attract investment and support their entrepreneurial ventures to have a bigger impact.
Finally, Eliana did her fellowship at the Sorenson Impact Center, a think-and-do tank that focuses on solving social problems using data and innovation, a placement where she learnt about impact investment, social impact measurement and how to apply data and innovation to advise different stakeholders in decision-making with a positive social impact. “The main objectives and results of this experience are to facilitate multifactor projects in Colombia with a social impact approach to benefit farmers and provide technological solutions with a human-centered design understanding the real socioeconomic challenges, to develop a business plan with a social approach, and to create valuable relationships with organizations in The U.S to facilitate the exchange of knowledge among Latin American countries ” – Eliana.