AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

The War on Poverty: Hope, Empathy, Technology

A guest post by Ben Webb, Director of Global Experience Design, Compassion International


Last month, I found myself on a bus rolling through Honduras. The scenery is stunning, yet it’s also the backdrop of a warzone. A silent war – where the hopes, dreams and lives of children are destroyed every day. And it’s been raging for decades.

I see these scenes of silent war too often with my work for Compassion International, a nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to releasing children from poverty for the last 65 years. We work in 25 of the poorest countries around the world and have over two million children in our child development program. Still, this is only a drop in the bucket, with roughly one billion children in poverty today.

Fighting the war on poverty takes hope and empathy. Technology can get you even further.

“For us, artificial intelligence and machine learning turn data into a weapon to win [this] war,” says Ray Davis, our Senior Director of Technology, Innovation and Data Science. “We are looking to AI to help us truly know people, engage them in relevant ways, and inspire them to join us in the battle.”

At AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, we participated in the Nonprofit Hackathon for Social Good. People don’t usually connect the dots between cutting-edge technology and nonprofits, but this is where it’s needed most. Hackers were challenged to bridge the communication gap between those in need and empathetic people who want to help. No matter your origin or the language you speak, you can connect and meet the needs of a child in poverty. Among the lights and the noise of re:Invent, I witnessed hundreds of developers dedicating their time and energy to this silent battle.

Coming into the hackathon, we were looking for ideas that help build attunement between supporters and children. Within a couple of hours, we saw how the teams were able to use Amazon Polly, Amazon Transcribe, and Amazon Translate to develop solutions that allowed for near-time, cross-language communication. In this one-day event, we saw how the power of AWS Lambda can help us achieve our mission.

Fast-forward to my trip to Honduras. Our bus pulled up to a Compassion child development center and I heard joyful little voices inside. Yet for every child in our program, there are hundreds more waiting to be known, loved and protected.

There is hope for a billion children living in poverty. Tech can be used to reach exponentially more children. I had seen the promise of making cutting-edge technology accessible to innovators, and could now begin to translate the potential for the war on poverty – for so many of the innocent, vulnerable children I’d come to know.

With innovation comes the promise of a new life. Now it’s up to us to help build this reality.