Congressman Schiff’s Call to Action

Congressman Adam Schiff gave the Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture on October 30, 2017 at Penn Pavilion. The conversation was moderated by Professor Bruce Jentleson.
Photographer: Jackie Park

Representative Adam Schiff spoke at Duke University as part of the Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture Series on October 30th, the same day Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down the first indictment in the Trump-Russia investigation.

Schiff is the U.S. representative from California’s 28th district and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. As a member of the committee tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Representative Schiff addressed questions about President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who had been indicted earlier that day, and former Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, who was currently cooperating with federal investigators. Schiff spoke to the difficulty in measuring the cumulative effect of advertisements, tweets, and cultural messages propagated by Russia prior to and continuing after the election. He spoke with concern about the weaponization of language, the polarization of the media, and the fear that democracy itself could be dismantled “brick by brick.”

And while Schiff has lived and breathed the particulars of the House investigation for nearly a year, he still challenged those in the audience to take a step back from it:

“What’s the bigger picture here? For everyone in this room, we’ve lived in a world that was ever expanding in its freedoms. And each year, more of us lived in democratic societies, and more of us had a free press, and more of us had the right to practice our faith and associate with who we would, but we may now be at a point where we cannot say that will be true next year.”

As Representative Schiff responded to each of moderator Bruce Jentleson’s questions, it became increasingly clear why he’d been chosen to speak as part of The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture Series which focuses on bringing “men and women of the highest personal and professional stature” to Duke University. Schiff’s answers felt larger than the questions themselves. He didn’t just address the possible collusion, or the constitutional crisis the country might face were Trump to fire Mueller, he cut to the core of democracy itself—and to the individual role of every American within it.

Speaking passionately, but with his characteristic calm, Schiff made clear his belief in America as more than just a country, but an idea, too. “It’s incumbent on all of us, to be champions of that idea”.

Schiff said that growing up in Boston, President John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you” was so much a cultural touchstone that it inspired him to a life of public service. But at the lecture he wondered aloud:

“Why would anyone want to get involved in something so crass, so ugly as our political environment right now? I feel like everyone in my generation should apologize in everyone in your generation for handing off a piece of work.”

But Schiff did more than apologize, he put out a call to action:

“We need you,” he said, looking out at the Duke students, faculty, and staff assembled. “We need you more than ever. With the incredible array of things going wrong, it’s tempting to say I’m not going to begin at all. And I would just say to you, don’t try to do it all. Just decide in the next year, or two years, or however long it takes, I’m going to make a difference on the thing I care most about.”

Congressman Schiff then paused, “We’re all going to be held to answer for what we do right now.” He returned to Washington D.C. the next day. 

 Meg Fee is a first-year student at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy focusing on food policy.

Taxing the Digital Economy: Challenges in the European Union

Tax policy reform specifically targeting the digital economy has become a hotly debated subject in the European Union (EU). In recent years, several EU member states have faced issues in taxing digital technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Supporters of reform, such as the governments of Germany and France, argue that companies operating in the digital arena profit unfairly of their internet-based operations. Others, such as the governments of Ireland and Luxembourg worry that tax reform could lead to double taxation and higher prices. While reform on corporate tax policy for the digital economy at the global level is far from reaching a consensus, the European Commission (EC) is calling for immediate change. Just last month, in a report prepared for the European Parliament and the Council, the EC called for reform in the corporate tax framework within the EU.

Corporate Tax Climate in the EU

Corporate tax rates in the EU are already low when compared to other groups and regions, despite the common belief that Europe taxes corporations heavily. The average statutory corporate tax rate in Europe is 18.35%, the lowest among all other regions in the world. As shown in Figure 1, the average statutory corporate tax rate in the EU’s 28 member states is 21.85%, making it the third lowest rate after Europe as a whole—all 49 countries—and Asia. If we look at tax policy reforms from this comparison, it would not be unreasonable to think that there is room for increasing the corporate tax rate within the EU.

Figure 1. Average Statuary Corporate Tax Rate by Region or Group

Growth of Digital Technology Companies in the EU

In the last decade, digital technology companies have significantly outperformed traditional brick-and-mortar companies. In 2006, only one digital technology company was among the top twenty companies in the EU, accounting for 7% of the market share among these high performers. Today, nine digital technology companies are in the top 20, accounting for a far more substantial 54% of market share.

Between 2008 and 2016, the revenue of the entire retail sector in the EU grew 1% on average. In the same period, the revenue of the top five e-retailers grew 32%. Yet, due to the virtual nature of business conducted by these digital technology companies, tax loopholes were invariably created, preventing many EU member states from collecting taxes on profits from such companies.

Difficulties in Taxing the Digital Economy

Unlike traditional companies, where profits are taxed at value creation, digital technology companies conduct most transactions electronically. This makes it challenging to capture where value is created, what it is, and how to measure it.

Additionally, companies are taxed through permanent establishment rules. The report published for the European Parliament and Council specifies that these rules are “used to determine the threshold of activity that needs to be carried out in a country in order for a business to be taxable in that country and are largely based on physical presence”. So, while digital technology companies operate virtually all over Europe, their profits are taxed only in the state where they have a physical establishment.

Last summer, France lost a case against Google, which has a “permanent establishment” in Ireland, and consequently did not have to pay a 1.11 billion Euro tax bill to France. The EC expressed concern regarding the fairness of this rule, arguing that such companies have access to markets, infrastructure and regulatory institutions all over the EU, but “are not considered present for tax purposes.”

The issue becomes more complex when considering that even when taxes are collected, the average tax rate for digital companies ends up being much lower than that for non-digital, traditional companies. The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that in the United Kingdom, Amazon pays 11 times less corporation tax than traditional booksellers. Differences on effective average corporate tax rates between digital technology companies and traditional ones, within the EU, are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Effective Average Corporate Tax Rate by Business Model in EU-28

The fact that there are different corporate tax rates in different EU member states is another implication. Differences in corporate tax rates indicate that states with lower rates might benefit more from the “permanent establishment” rules since many digital technology companies are physically headquartered there, as in the case of Ireland.  At 12.5%, Ireland offers one of the lowest corporate tax rates within the EU, as shown in Figure 3. Many digital giants have set up their headquarters in Ireland as it is also considered to have an overall better business environment. However, the EC has raised questions on the magnitude of benefits that these low tax-rate states receive from tax collection. Last year, the EC found that in 2014 Apple paid an effective tax rate of only 0.005% to Ireland, leaving an unpaid tax bill of around 13 billion Euros.

Figure 3. Corporate Tax Rates by EU Member States

In Defense of Digital Technology Companies

Arguably, the attitude of the European Commission, especially of Margrethe Vestager, who is the EU’s competition commissioner, has sometimes been described as openly belligerent against these digital giants. Some have argued that the changes in corporate tax policy outline would create a “hostile work environment” for US businesses. Uncertainties among consumers may also arise since such reforms could lead to changes in prices, which could directly affect consumers within the EU. Finance Ministers from Ireland and Luxembourg, who are not in support of proposed changes, have raised the issue of double taxation as another concern. Moreover, the framework of the international tax rules would need to be re-written in case different countries and regions start to neglect or redraw rules concerning permanent establishment or transfer pricing.

EU’s Policies Forward

The report released by the European Commission addresses some of the abovementioned concerns. While in the long run, the EU is planning to move towards an integrated Digital Single Market (DSM), where rules regarding digital economy would be harmonized among all EU member states through policies such as Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) – “a single set of rules to calculate companies’ taxable profits in the EU,” as a short-term measure, the report suggests an “equalization tax on turnover of digitalized companies.” This, the EC believes, would address the issue of fairness within the EU member states, since taxes would no longer depend on “permanent establishment” but rather on “income generated from all internet-based business activities.”

Unlike traditional companies, digital companies already operate virtually all over the EU, while maintaining a “permanent establishment” in the countries with the lowest tax rates. Some believe that low tax rates helped states such as Ireland or even the UK, but as in the case of Apple in Ireland, even these countries do not always generate revenues from their already-low rates. Targeting digital technology companies would narrow the current gap in tax rates between these companies and non-digital, traditional companies.

Finally, we need to bear in mind that the EU is not the only region considering tax policy reforms for the digital economy. Along with numerous countries around the world, major international bodies such as the OECD have joined the discussion to resolve challenges of taxing the digital economy. Indeed, issues related to rules such as “permanent establishment” go beyond the EU borders. Although EU member states have not reached a consensus on joint policies forward—often a challenge in the EU—the need for reform regarding the taxation of the digital economy seems to be imperative at the global level today.

Edison Jakurti is a second-year Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) student at Duke University focusing on applied economics.

Medicare-for-all: A New Vote

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

On September 13th, Bernie Sanders and 16 Democratic co-sponsors introduced the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” to establish a national health insurance program. Responses to the legislation, and its supporters, have ranged from praise to worry to scorn. Nobody expects the bill to pass. So should Democrats support this bill?

Supporters of the bill see the legislation as a way to focus the health care debate around universal coverage, rather than fixing Obamacare or “repeal-and-replace.” Pragmatic liberals, who may support universal health insurance, are worried there is not enough detail in Sanders’s legislation to demonstrate the feasibility of his plan. But Sanders has admitted his plan is meant to be a very rough draft – an opening bid.

Opponents are using the estimated cost of universal insurance coverage ($1.4 trillion per year) as another reason not to support the bill. Even Democratic legislators have expressed concern about the cost of universal coverage. Sen. Diane Feinstein recently told Politico she won’t support Medicare-for-all because “the cost is enormous.” Critics of the bill, however, are peddling an inconsistent argument. Some legislators who oppose the bill because of a lack of detail previously supported, and voted for, legislation introducing a high-cost program without specific details.

In 2002, 29 Democratic senators voted to send the United States to war in Iraq, despite the absence of a detailed plan. Depending on the source, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost between $1 trillion and $6 trillion dollars, which would have been enough to fund Sanders’s plan for approximately one to four years. Five Democratic senators, including Feinstein, who are currently not supporting the “Medicare-for-all” bill voted to approve the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), sending our country to war.

Our legislative history repeatedly shows that politicians ignore cost when they deem issues important. Another relevant example is the 2008 Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), which 39 Democratic senators voted to pass. Despite the high price tag, politicians considered the bill vital in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008, giving the Treasury Secretary broad leeway “to purchase troubled assets from any financial institution.”

Democrats need to put their reservations aside, as they have in the past, and support “Medicare-for-all.” If Democrats want to make national health insurance coverage mainstream, they need to visibly and repeatedly express support for the bill. Fox News and the Tea Party have succeeded in making more radical ideas mainstream by using discourse that consistently supports and familiarizes these ideas. Democrats should use this same tactic to build support for universal insurance coverage.

By making a significant, coordinated push to familiarize the public with universal health care coverage, Democrats can make a radical policy more socially acceptable in the future.

First-year Blake Rosser is a Master of Public Policy candidate interested in campaign finance reform and social justice.

Combatting the Effects of Climate Change and Global Disparities in Energy Access through Solar Electrification

 

Climate Change: Current State

Source: NASA

Climate change discussions are nothing new. Fossil fuels and alternative energy discussions have been in place since before Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth in 2006, and will continue long after this year. NASA reported that 2016 was the warmest year globally, and 2015 was the warmest before that, illustrating gradual increases in temperature. In turn, rising temperatures have contributed to increased intensity of weather related threats such as hurricanes, like the devastating Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina last year. Rising temperatures have also contributed to warmer water and air around the Antarctic, which recently resulted in a large iceberg, the size of Delaware, breaking off from Antarctica and “fundamentally changing the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula.” As the landscape around us reacts to changes in the environment, what does the future hold?

David Wallace-Wells, a journalist focusing on climate change and the environment, recently outlined his vision to this question in a New York Magazine article “The Uninhabitable Earth.”  He paints a bleak future where disease burden increases, increased violence erupts, economic instability rises, and humanity faces the consequences of the resulting turmoil. Wallace-Wells warns “parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.”

Global Disparities in Energy Access

Source: USAID

In order to feel the gravity of climate change consequences, one should first understand the disproportionality of electricity access and energy consumption. In the United States, virtually everyone has access to electricity. At the same time, the U.S. is also one of the highest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. The country produced 6.587 million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide in 2015, with 29% from electricity use.

Compare this to the 1.2 billion people (16% of the global population) who lack access to electricity. Nearly 95% of this energy-poor population resides in rural Sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, revealing one of the largest development challenges of our time. The world’s population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, with half the growth occurring in Africa. If these individuals were to gain access to electricity via natural gas or coal, given the expected population growth, it is likely that the Wallace-Wells perspective of climate change will be a quickly emerging reality.

So how are businesses tackling both the development challenge of increasing global electricity access while simultaneously understanding the importance of sustainability and limited resources?

Sustainable Developments in Solar Electrification 

Source: Matthieu Young, USAID

Enterprising companies have been creating alternate sources of renewable energy to bring electricity to individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. By moving straight to clean technology and renewable energy in the form of solar and wind powered electricity initiatives, these companies are “leapfrogging” past the detrimental effects of natural gas and coal. This is right in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number seven to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

Electrifying Sub-Saharan Africa is important – not just for those living in the region but also for the world. Increased access to affordable and reliable electricity will help poverty alleviation, as there are increased opportunities for business growth, longer hours of operation, and the ability to integrate technology into daily life. Hospitals are able to treat patients in better conditions, leading to overall health improvements. Schools are able to increase students’ access to education through different information communication technologies leading to increased teacher retention and student completion rates.

The main push, as described by Bill McKibben in the New Yorker, has been a “Race to Solar-Power Africa.” McKibben describes how both American and African led businesses are using innovative and affordable mechanisms to supply electricity though affordable off-grid solar kits in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Off-grid solar power systems do not require the same cumbersome and expensive infrastructure that currently exist in the United States. As a result, these innovative systems help cut labor and capital costs in bringing electricity to regions previously without access. These systems also help lower long-term costs as they are affordable – essentially the same cost, if not lower, as traditional kerosene – and provide clean electricity lasting up to four times longer.

Both the affordability and increased duration of electricity are partially due to the drop in prices of solar panels, coupled with technology advances enabling the creation of more efficient light bulbs.

Innovative Solar Companies

Several solar companies and entrepreneurs are entering the electrification space in Sub-Saharan Africa because it is relatively nascent and not yet monopolized. Companies are entering the market through different avenues including as a solar panel providers, solar panel installers, as utility companies, or as wholesalers or retailers of solar products.

One American company, Off-Grid Electric, sells a starter kit including “a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio” priced at just $8 a month for three years. After the three years have passed, the family or individual then owns the kit.

Black Star Energy, a Ghanaian company offers solar power in the guise of a utility company. Black Star installs solar micro-grids in communities needing electricity. Unlike Off-Grid Electric where individuals pay for the physical equipment, Black Star users “will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month.” They are essentially paying for the utility of electricity, and therefore, will never own the technology themselves.

These personal home solar kits are one sustainable method by which to electrify Africa. Innovations, such as Off-Grid Electric, have gained traction due to venture capital support from Silicon Valley and USAID’s Power Africa mechanism which pledged four million dollars to solar start-ups focusing on African off-grid energy.

The benefits from electrification will help Sub-Saharan African nations close the gap in energy poverty while rising against several existing development challenges. Leadership from these nations benefitting from renewable energy initiatives will be essential in curbing global climate change threats, and can perhaps alter the way we currently think about development and growth.

Rohini Ravi is a second year Master of Public Policy focusing on international development and global health.

 

 

The Intrinsic Durability of Obamacare

Source: Quora

Despite having control of the Senate, House, and Presidency, Republicans have been repeatedly unsuccessful in their attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with an alternative. The fight drags on; on Tuesday, the Senate narrowly voted to advance to floor debate, and needed Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. An economic concept called loss aversion provides some insight into the uphill battle Republicans are facing with a healthcare replacement. It also indicates that voters are even less likely to support a “repeal-now, replace-later” plan.

Introduced by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, loss aversion refers to the idea that people feel more pain when they lose something than pleasure when they gain something.

Kahneman explains the phenomenon in this way: Let’s say I told you that I was going to toss a coin; If it lands tails, you pay $10. How much money would you need to gain if you won, before you took the bet? “People want more than $20 before it is acceptable,” says Kahneman, “And now I’ve been doing the same thing with executives or very rich people, asking about tossing a coin and losing $10,000 if it’s tails. And they want $20,000 before they’ll take the gamble.”

Companies use this glitch to influence our behavior, too. Would you pursue a $10 rebate as doggedly as you would avoid a $10 surcharge? Gaining something is only about half as enjoyable as losing something is painful, according to empirical studies. So in the world of politics the threat of losing something, be it a part of your income or a service you’ve become accustomed to, can have a heavy impact.

This became the case with the Affordable Care Act. Initially, and for many years, the ACA was opposed by the majority of Americans. It was not until serious discussion of losing the act became part of the public discourse that the ACA gained majority approval in Gallup polls.

While it is the Republican Party’s general consensus that Obamacare should be repealed, the Congressional Budget Office’s well-publicized projections of coverage loss, Medicare loss, and insurance regulation loss have made their proposals deeply unpopular to the public. In June, the CBO forecasted that the Senate’s plan would leave 22 million more people uninsured. The gains that they tried to sell, like decreasing taxes and lowering the deficit, have not been very effective. In an unexpected move last Tuesday, Republican Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran joined Senators Susan Collins and Rand Paul in announcing they would vote against the Senate’s latest bill. Because Republicans have only 52 seats in the Senate, losing any more than two votes is fatal. These defections sank the bill, which was only narrowly supported.

Finding consensus between the moderate and hard-right wings of the party has proven to be extremely difficult. “This has been a very, very challenging experience for all of us,” McConnell told reporters following the bill’s collapse. “It’s pretty obvious that we don’t have 50 members who can agree on a replacement.”

Once something becomes the status quo, it becomes more difficult to do away with because of loss aversion. It is this phenomenon that makes it difficult to alter welfare and service programs once they have been put in place, and it is one reason why Social Security is a third rail in Washington.

Politically, Obamacare is inherently difficult to repeal. Obamacare sought and succeeded at creating a rapid expansion of coverage over the course of President Obama’s tenure. An expansion in the economy that, once in place, created a new status quo; not only for individuals, but for health-related businesses. Interestingly, many at the far right of the Republican party came to power during the Tea Party movement. It was a movement that began in response to the threat of a different loss from the status quo; the increase in taxes that came with Obamacare.

The Senate’s latest proposal, to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act with no required replacement until two years down the line, would increase the number of uninsured by 17 million next year and 32 million by the end of a decade. Immediately after its introduction, this idea was opposed by three Republican Senators, Shelley Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine, who announced they would vote against it.

This plan is likely to generate and even stronger sense of loss aversion. Supporting Senator McConnell’s plan to repeal now is essentially a choice between keeping the status quo, and rolling the dice with the hopes of getting a better outcome in the future. This will be an even harder sell than the one from last week.

Political rhetoric about loss is common and effective. “Loss” was something that President Trump used to great effect in the election, by saying that people will lose their guns, lose their money (through higher taxation), or lose their job to globalization. Rhetoric is not reality however. Should Congress pass a bill that takes away people’s healthcare, voters will feel the losses directly. Despite Tuesday’s vote, repealing Obamacare is still a long shot.

Neil Browning is a 2017 Master of Public Policy graduate interested in public health, development, and international affairs. He was the editor-in-chief of the Sanford Journal from 2016-17.

Harvesting the Agricultural Potential of Drones

Source: MIT Technology Review, 2016

The world’s food system sits at a precarious intersection. Rising temperatures and erratic rainfall, political instability and conflict throughout the developing world, and rapid movement of people to urban hotspots are just some of the global trends threatening global agricultural production today. Experts predict the global population will increase to 9.7 billion people by 2050, greatly increasing the demand for food and pressure on an already constrained global food supply.

At the same time, biological advancement has enabled the production of genetically engineered crops resistant to pests and droughts, promising future resilience from climate change. And governments around the world have committed to increasing agricultural production through legislation and agricultural investment plans.

Today, scientists, agricultural experts, government officials, and farmers are preoccupied with tackling one of the biggest questions: how can we maximize global agricultural production to feed a growing world?

Solutions to this problem were presented at the ICT4Ag conference in Washington, DC where technology geeks and agricultural experts had some truly innovative answers: mobile phone apps, Uber for tractors, and drones. Yep, you read that right: the same technology used in military strikes and modern warfare is being applied to Rwanda’s maize fields and Benin’s cashew farms.

At first it might be difficult to make the connection between drones and agriculture. Established 12,000 years ago, agriculture is literally one of the oldest practices of humankind. Drones, on the other hand, emerged only in the last century, with commercial drones gaining popularity over the past ten years. Growing food requires basics inputs – good soil, water, and the sun. Drone technology draws from new advancements like remote sensing, high-optic cameras, and gyro-stabilization (the technology behind how drones are able to smoothly fly through the air).

However, agriculture and drones are not as distinct as one might think. Rather, the two concepts are important complements to each other. With strained natural resources and a growing global population, we can no longer afford for agriculture to be a practice of the past. Could drones be a missing piece in the global yield gap puzzle by maximizing effective agricultural practices and empowering farmers?

The Perks of Drones in the Sky

Drones have the potential to transform the ways smallholder and low-resourced farmers in developing countries make key decisions with better data.

Drones can pinpoint areas where crops are damaged faster and more efficiently than a farmer or extension agent could do through field monitoring or random sampling. Farmers are able to identify areas of concern earlier and more accurately, which in turn increases the likelihood of success from efforts like additional fertilizer or pesticides. Identifying problem areas in a field early is critical in ensuring a good crop yield.

Drones can help farmers save significant costs by targeting an intervention on areas that need it most. Instead of applying pesticides or fertilizer to an entire field, farmers can reduce costs (and health risks) by focusing on one problematic part. Farmers also save money by knowing exactly where they should plant certain crops in their field. Differences in slope or soil quality even within a field can produce different yields, so farmers can maximize their investment by planting more effectively. Some estimates find drones can reduce planting costs by 85 percent.

What’s even more effective is that when layered with weather and climatic information, drones can help low resourced farmers anticipate rainy or dry periods and make better decisions regarding pesticides, watering, and fertilizer use. Not only is that great for the pocketbook but also for the environment.

Drones can also help farmers secure land rights over their fields, by providing clear images of field boundaries. This benefit is especially important for female farmers who face a higher risk of land grabbing by male family members or the community.

Drones help empower smallholder farmers with more information about their fields. When farmers can see the images and maps captured from drones, they gain a new perspective of their livelihoods. Farmers gain power when they have more information and can make more informed decisions.

Current Challenges

Using drones to increase agricultural productivity for low resourced farmers is not without its challenges.

One challenge is, unsurprisingly, cost. Although the price has decreased substantially over the past few years, drone services still prove prohibitively expensive for most smallholder farmers in developing countries to afford. In some emerging economies, medium to large scale farmers are currently helping facilitate demand for drone services. Elsewhere, groups of smallholder firms are banding together to create aggregate demand for these services.

Government drone regulations can also restrict the use of drones for agricultural purposes. Approximately 77% of African countries lack drone regulations. This can make it very difficult for organizations promoting drone use in agriculture.

Progress Towards a Drone-Friendly Future in Agriculture

So what does a world with drones look like? Turns out, we already have a pretty good idea. The agricultural drone market is expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2024 as governmental policies become more favorable and services expand.

Development organizations like We Robotics and RTI International currently provide drone services to low resourced farmers around the world. Investors are already taking notice of drone entrepreneurs like Ranveer Chandra, a former Microsoft researcher, who is developing a system using drones and soil sensors to improve soil quality of smallholder farmers. And attention is also focusing on startups like Kenya’s SunCulture, an agro-solar organization that sells drip irrigation systems and uses drones to determine the placement of their systems.

A future of drones and shrinking yield gaps in agricultural fields around the world is on the horizon. Now we just need to ensure that these services are accessible and affordable for the smallholder farmer to use.

Emily is a second year Masters of Public Policy candidate studying agriculture policy and international development.