Syndicate content

May 2014

How we do Open Data: #1 - choosing development indicators

Neil Fantom's picture

A recent question from Lorenz Noe caught our eye - how do we choose which indicators to publish in World Development Indicators (WDI), a major part of our Open Data Initiative? It’s a good question, so I thought I’d write a post about that - and we’ll also post something similar in the data help desk.

1. There’s no perfect indicator

There are sometimes gaps in the data


Like many things in life, selecting indicators for the WDI is not an exact science. The intention is to provide good coverage of key development issues, but many of the countries that we work with do not have the quantity - or quality - of data that exists in countries like the United States, for example.

I forgot facilitation! A reflection on the importance of dynamic, creative management of diverse actors in multi-stakeholder initiatives

Kate Bridges's picture

Participating in a multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) sometimes feels rather more like duty than pleasure. As my eye travels around the room, it takes in the occasional snoozing civil society representative, the conspicuously empty chairs, and the combative government official languidly tapping on his blackberry. The meeting began an hour late after a straggler finally brought us to the necessary minimum number for a quorum. I find myself pondering, “Is this really working?” “Is this room of disparate stakeholders, with varying commitment and sundry objectives really going to solve one of Zambia’s most complex development challenges?”

The Tyranny of Aid Critics

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Charles Kindleberger (h/t Gerry Helleiner) asserted that all reviewers can be counted on to say three things about a book: “It isn’t new. It isn’t true. And I would have said it differently.”  Notwithstanding their internal contradictions, these statements summarize my thoughts on Bill Easterly’s latest book, The Tyranny of Experts.

It isn’t new. The main point of the book is that the rights of the poor have been systematically undermined, directly by governments, especially authoritarian ones; and indirectly by “experts”, who either prescribe technical solutions that ignore poor people’s ability to come up with their own solutions, or provide legitimacy to these autocratic regimes so that they continue to suppress the poor.  Bill illustrates this point with three historical examples—China between the world wars, Africa at independence, and Colombia in the 1950s—where a combination of western (in some cases, colonial) interests and local elites conspired to keep the large majority of poor people poor for a long time.  The analytical backdrop to these three case studies is the “debate”—a debate that never took place—between two Nobel-prize-winning economists: Gunnar Myrdal, who advocated government intervention to improve the lot of the poor; and Friedrich Hayek, who believed in protecting the individual rights of the poor as a means of their escaping poverty.

Weighing Trade-Offs of Higher Labor Costs

Daniel Hamermesh's picture

A major topic of debate right now in many industrial countries — like France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — is whether to raise or even just introduce minimum wages. Advocates cite the need for better working conditions, while critics worry that higher labor costs will raise unemployment and possibly deter growth as businesses retrench. Who's right? Or are both sides right? To learn more, the JKP spoke with Daniel Hamermesh, a Professor of Economics at University of Texas at Austin, and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Destination Dakar: New Push for Managing Africa’s Shared Water Resources

Gustavo Saltiel's picture

Africa's patrimony of water resources is unparalleled – the continent has 9% of the world’s water, and only 11%of the globe’s population.  The continent is also home to some of the world’s iconic rivers. Who hasn’t heard about the Nile, the mighty Congo, or the Niger?
 
Under the appearance of sufficient water at the continental average, however, lies a highly uneven resource distribution, meaning that many countries and transboundary river and lake basins face increasing levels of water stress due to rapidly increasing populations and various accompaniments of economic growth. Climate change exacerbates water insecurity, and in turn, vulnerability of the poorest populations.
 
Next week, the African Ministers’ Council on Water will host the 5th Africa Water Week in Dakar – the continent’s pre-eminent gathering of water experts, policymakers and civil society – under the theme, “Placing Water at the Heart of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.”

I can think of no other venue more suitable for discussing sustainable management and development of Africa’s international waters openly and fruitfully, and for catalyzing new opportunities and partnerships for greater impact.

At the home ground of the OMVS (Organisation pour la mise en valeur du valeur du fleuve Sénégal or Senegal River Basin Development Authority), which has successfully applied benefit sharing principles and equitable institutional and financial arrangements to harness the benefits of basin-wide cooperation, there will be much for CIWA and our implementation partners to learn and cross pollinate in our work across Africa.
 
Africa’s 63 transboundary river basins cover more than 60 percent of the continent’s surface area and house more than half a billion people. As water issues and the sectors which require water such as agriculture, energy and transportation take center stage on the development agenda, there is growing recognition that sustainable management of shared water resources must become an integral part of the solutions needed to end poverty and boost shared prosperity on the continent.

Digital Libraries for the Poor

Parmesh Shah's picture

Facilitating Bottom-Up Innovation through Video-based Learning Platform


Local villagers being trained to shoot videos

American Idol, a television show in the United States, has inspired thousands of people to make videos for stardom in music, dance, cooking and more. Can this phenomenon be applied in development? Digital Green, a non-profit, is doing exactly that by using a similar approach to improve agriculture development in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It uses participatory video as a medium to create star farmers and facilitates a rural library of digital videos providing decentralized and localized agriculture solutions to farmers, using the thrill of appearing "on video" to amplify the organization’s reach within their social networks.
 
Digital Green’s mission is to solve one of the intractable problems of the agriculture sector – lack of localized knowledge and extension services. For instance, in India alone, the agriculture extension system employs more than 100,000 people but very few access it (less than 6 percent), and only 40 percent get information from other sources. Tackling this information gap is critical to enhancing the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers in India, who have low productivity and constitute over 80 percent of India’s farmers. Digital Green is offering an innovative solution, and initial results are promising.

The Things We Do: Would You Steal for Me?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When people talk about saying “no” the discussion usually revolves around why we find it so difficult. We want to help, we don’t want to make the other person feel bad, we are afraid of confrontation, we might feel guilty... the list goes on.  There is usually a chapter on ‘saying no’ in self-help books, and it’s a popular topic for religious leaders and psychologists. They claim that we must be assertive, value ourselves, defend our rights, and seek relationships with healthy foundations.

But there might be a more intrinsic reason why saying no is so difficult: humans are social creatures and are inherently vulnerable to the suggestions of others.

Many of us assume that the favors we ask of others will only be granted if the other person feels comfortable with them, but we fail to realize that simply by asking we are influencing the other’s actions and willingness to oblige.  We don’t consciously think about the degree to which we take cues from other people.

This leads us to underestimate how much power our neighbor who asks us for favors has or the amount of influence we, ourselves, have when we give advice to a relative.  We ask favors and give advice without realizing that the person listening will, more often than not, take what we say on board. We agree to things and we say yes because we are unaware of how easily influenced we are.

So what happens when someone asks a favor that is unethical? Do we realize how easy it is to convince someone, and does this influence our decision to ask for unethical things? Do we recognize our tendency to say yes and do we allow our own sense of morality and ethics triumph?

Risks and Opportunities of Participation in Global Value Chains

Xubei Luo's picture

Since the first industrial revolution, waves of technological improvement have changed the boundary of production and redefined the role of the state. The information and communication technology revolution has not only increased productivity, but has also reinterpreted the function of time and distance—billions of activities are now linked with “one-click,” and new transactions become possible with “just-in-time” delivery. If the technological revolution has made participation in Global Value Chains (GVCs) somewhat inevitable, it has also accentuated both the risks and opportunities associated with this involvement. On the one hand, participation in GVCs creates new opportunities for profits and expands the market horizon; but on the other hand, it exposes the enterprise sector to risks previously shielded by market boundaries and geographic distances, while increasing the scale of information asymmetry.

2014 India DM Finalist Story: NEDSSS, Helping People Become Agents of Change

Carolyn Marie Florey's picture

Meeting Sister Rosie, I quickly realized she is a force. Her infectious smile, empathetic eyes, and fierce determination makes her presence known to everyone when she walks into a room – by visitors, by her peers, and by the poor in rural Meghalaya she has been working with for the past two years. However welcoming her physical presence is, it is her unwavering dedication to the social mission of the North East Diocesan Social Service Society (NEDSSS) that commands the utmost respect from the community.


Pages