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February 2017

Quote of the week: Satya Nadella

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“I think it is the coming together of liberal arts and sciences that are going to keep the human creativity and ingenuity [alive] in an age where machines are intelligent.”

- Satya Nadella - Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft.

Quoted in Financial Times print edition January 30, 2017 "The Monday Interview"" by Madhumita Murgia. 

Photo credit:
By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Hugs and databases: in memory of Hans Rosling

Tariq Khokhar's picture
Hans Rosling in 2014. Credit: TED.

For millions of us, Swedish Professor and self-described “Edutainer” Hans Rosling opened our eyes to a world we live in, but had never seen before.

Professor Rosling, who passed away last week was best known for his theatrical presentations that brought data to life with stories and visualizations which he hoped would change people’s mindsets and improve their understanding of the world.

Rosling, trained as a statistician and physician in the late 1970s, spent two decades studying outbreaks of konzo in rural areas across Africa. It was only in the 2000s he turned his attention to another type of disease - one which prevents knowledge locked away in datasets from being put to work for the public good.

He called it “Database Hugging Disorder” or “DBHD.” And the World Bank, along with other development organizations, had a chronic case of it.

Who's heard of "Garbology"?

Meriem Gray's picture

It's as tall as some of Baku’s fanciest buildings, but the only residents here are crows and seagulls. Welcome to the Central Balakhani Sanitary Landfill, the largest rubbish dump in the Greater Baku area. But this is a dump with a difference: it is meticulously organized, as far as garbage disposal sites go.

Recently, the site was nothing but a big, open pile of burning garbage that has been rising from the ground since it was a designated dumping site in 1963. Now, six days a week, an army of trucks delivers 350 tons of municipal solid waste from the homes and offices of Baku’s millions of inhabitants.

All I need is the air that I breathe…

Anna Gueorguieva's picture

Also available in: 中文, Français

Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen via Flickr CC

Recent research shows that air quality affects the productivity of high-skilled workers. What does this mean for developing cities?

City governments invest a lot in job creation—they plan infrastructure, skills initiatives, and industry support with the goal to improve productivity and generate jobs and growth, especially in the high-skill sectors. Yet, there might be an important input to productivity that cities can pay more attention to: clean air.

Recent research suggests that a 10-unit increase in the air quality index decreases productivity by 0.35%. Seems marginal? This “productivity slow-down” costs the high-skill economy of China $2.2 billion per year for each additional 10 units of the air quality index.

The research in question studied the effect of air pollution on worker productivity in call centers in Shanghai and Nantong in China. The firm analyzed is Ctrip, one of the largest travel agencies in the country, employing more than 30,000 people. 50% of the workers’ pay is based on performance and the measures of productivity are very detailed and high frequency. The study concluded that there is a robust relationship between daily air pollution levels and worker productivity. On average, a 10-unit increase in the Air Quality Index (AQI) led to a 0.35% decline in the number of calls handled by a worker in a day at an AQI of 100. If we translate this to the entire Chinese high-skill industries, a 10-unit reduction of air pollution levels would increase the monetized value of improved productivity by $2.2 billion per year.

Using socio-economic analysis to inform refugee programming in Turkana, Kenya

Raouf Mazou's picture
Kakuma Refugee Camp
Community leader Paul Gok (left), a refugee from South Sudan walks with young children in the 'Kakuma 4' area of Kakuma Refugee Camp, built to house new arrivals from South Sudan. © UNHCR/Will Swanson



In Kenya, and refugee-hosting countries in Africa, the camp-based protection and humanitarian assistance model has been the default response to the often-protracted forced displacement situations. The underlying assumption has been that it would be impossible or undesirable for refugees to be self-sufficient while waiting for peace to return to their countries of origin.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that refugees from South Sudan and other neighboring countries in north-western Kenya are being assisted in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, which has been hosting refugees since early 1990s. Several waves of refugees have come and gone over the past 25 years, the most recent influx from South Sudan having started in December 2013. The camp has grown into four sub-sections with a capacity of 125,000 persons but a current population of over 155,000. Like in the majority of protracted situations, the care and maintenance programs in Kakuma included providing them with access to shelter, food, water, health care and education.

Understanding the nuanced social impact of Kakuma refugees on their Turkana hosts

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture


Kakuma refugee camp, in northwestern Kenya’s Turkana County, houses over 150,000 refugees. The majority are South Sudanese followed by Somalis. Established in 1992 in one of Kenya’s most remote areas, it is one of the longest-lasting refugee camps in the world, and refugees have become an integral part of the area’s social, cultural, and economic fabric.

Weekly links Feb 10: the robustness in small samples fallacy, high growth firms, videos of recent talks, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

From the brink of bankruptcy to a model for performance-based management: The story of one Yaoundé hospital

We took over the management of the obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatric hospital in Yaoundé (HGOPY) in 2014, inheriting an institution that faced chronic structural debt, obsolete equipment, and dilapidated buildings. No debt repayment plan was in place and fixed expenses such as staff salaries and benefits were extremely high.

This situation was regrettably common in many institutions across Africa which were hit hard by the economic and social crisis that resulted from structural adjustment policies implemented in by several countries, including Cameroon. Furthermore, the decision to increase health care charges adversely affected the poorest, limiting their access to health care and leading to a rise in maternal and infant mortality rates.

In response, African countries signed the Abuja Declaration in 2000, committing to earmark at least 15% of their national budget to the health sector. In addition to the goal of providing universal health care, the sector was expected to enhance the performance, effectiveness, and efficiency of its services.

Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Nathalie Hoffmann's picture

Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

How protein deficiencies impact the health of communities in India

Parvati Singh's picture
Soybean farmers discuss best practices that can leverage improvement of food and nutrition security in Madhya Pradesh.

The state of Madhya Pradesh in India is largely vegetarian with limited consumption of eggs and meat. 

While these dietary preferences are commonplace in other Indian states, Madhya Pradesh is facing a protein deficiency epidemic which threatens the long term health of its population.

How did it get there?

In 2015 I spent five weeks in rural and tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh evaluating the World Bank’s Madhya Pradesh District Poverty Intervention Project (MPDPIP II), with the support of the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI)

Across the 8 districts I visited, families shared how they had improved their agricultural productivity, started backyard kitchen gardening, and supplemented their income through dairy and poultry farming, collective procurement and small scale enterprises.

As I examined local village level health records, Anganwadi Center (AWC) registers, Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) registers and Primary Health Center (PHC) documents, I noticed a reduction in severe malnutrition and severe anemia among pregnant women and under 5-year-old children.

However, this decrease did not extend to moderate or mild malnutrition and anemia.


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