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Our IGNITE project at DukeEngage empowers students around the world through developing curricula on STEM skills and STEM knowledge to build, fix or create useful prototypes that can solve a problem specific to their community. This way community members can solve a problem along with the rest of their community instead of having other people solve the problem for them. The idea behind this is that to adequately solve a problem within a community, solutions must be placed into context. This means that comparisons, while useful for empowerment and motivation, might be ineffective in explaining an issue and the reason behind things going wrong. This is especially true in the number of corona-virus cases around the world.

President Trump says the U.S. is leading the world in the fight against COVID-19. The rest of the world says otherwise. The U.S and South Korea recorded their first cases on the same day- January 20. By February 20, South Korea conducted 13,202 tests; America conducted 2,427.

There’s always been this need of American presidents to try to lead the world in a certain area, and corona virus was no exception. It failed woefully in this regard especially in the first 100 days of the pandemic. Early 2020 in the United States, testing was a major issue. That was not the case for South Korea. South Korea quickly provided drive-through tests, testing as many people as they could. By the end of the first 100 days, there were 68,081 deaths in the US. There were only 4643 deaths in China, the country where the virus originated.

As disappointing as these results can be, to compare America to South Korea or China might be mistaken. America is a much larger country than South Korea. In China, it is not against its constitution to close off an entire city from the rest of its country as the government did in Wuhan. This analogy cannot be used for developing countries as well. “It’s really shocking. A superpower like the US being like a third world country” says Yakhya from Senegal. This statement implies that developing countries are always doomed and destined to fail no matter the circumstances—that is what makes them a ‘third-world country’. As a citizen from a developing country, it is insulting–to say the least. Developing countries are generally much smaller in size and their constitutions allow for their respective governments to ban actions like inter-state travel. This is not to justify the carelessness of the Trump Administration or the disregard of certain Americans for others’ well-being. However, I do believe that comparing solutions across countries does not help solve the problem.