Imagine you are crossing the street in any major city. The light turns red and you're instructed by a flashing light, perhaps a police officer, to halt and allow for the flow of car traffic. Perhaps you look both ways, see nothing coming, and decide to walk anyway. Your actions are acceptable in most areas of the world but the public response to your seemingly acceptable behavior is unique. After landing on the other side of the road you are chased down by mimes, mocked mercilessly, people around you join in the mocking and hold up thumbs down signs while pointing out stars on the ground where pedestrians, like you, have died. No this is not a nightmare or a flash mob, this is just one technique in your communication tool kit that can be used to engage the larger public in community behavior adjustments. This particular public mocking/service campaign was the brainchild of the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.
The One Laptop Per Child program has brought much attention to issues related to '1-to-1 computing' (each child has her/his own personal computing device). While perhaps the most prominent initiative of this sort in public consciousness, OLPC is just one of many such programs around the world. At a recent event in Vienna, the OECD, the Inter-american Development Bank and the World Bank brought together representatives from these programs, the first such face-to-face global gathering of leaders in this area to share information and insights about their experiences.
In putting together this event, it was clear that there was no consolidated list of leading '1-to-1 educational computing initiatives'. Here's a first attempt at such a list, based on participants in this event (links are meant as pointers to more related information; not all lead to the specific project sites):
Nine DM2009 winners will use the centuries-old knowledge of Indigenous Peoples to adapt to destructive climate change -- but often leveraged with modern science and technology.
Here's how old and new will be joined in several winning projects in Latin America:
- Peru -- Agricultural production in four communities in the Amazonian Basin (total population: 1,500) will be better managed through a combination of ancestral knowledge of the Basin and biomathematical computer simulation model and geographic information system (GIS)-based "micro-zoning" of the communities' ecology and economics.
- Colombia -- Traditional knowledge, aided by GIS and the sciences of ecology and biology, will be used to protect 207,000 hectares of native forest for a combination of conservation, housing, hunting, fishing, and gathering, traditional farming, and preservation of sacred places for community rituals.
- Costa Rica -- Ancient knowledge of adjacent valley and mountain ecosystems will be rescued and melded with mapping and other technology to help valley inhabitants of Bajo Chirripo to better cope with flooding caused by storms whose frequency and intensity are expected to increase with climate change, and to improve their present subsistence income.
- Peru -- Indigenous knowledge systems on how to adapt the native potato to changing climate will be combined with modern plant breeding to help communities in Potato Park in the High Andes to adapt to rapid climate change with weather-resilient plantings.
Most of the finalist and winning projects that would help Indigenous Peoples were based in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities against "biopiracy" and related theft have won more legal protection -- a clear signal for what needs to be done in other regions to protect indigenous rights.
Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries, edited by J. Michael Finger and Philip Schuler (2004, World Bank and Oxford University Press), is a detailed primer on the issue, including an examination of the controversial World Trade Organization (WTO)-administered Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which indigenous communities say is unfair to them.
- Costa Rica
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Financial Sector
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Indigenous Peoples
- Climate Change
Earlier this summer, Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka to win the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup. Like any triumph in an international competition, there was a great sense of national pride, this time coming in a country with great need for such a unifying force. But, as Tunku Varadarajan wrote, the victory was much more than just a boost to national morale:
“As Pakistan fights for its survival against the barbarian Taliban…its people find themselves possessed of a weapon with which to vanquish the forces of darkness. I speak here not of drones or tanks or helicopter gunships, but of the glorious game of cricket.”
This is a powerful concept: that cricket is a key weapon needed to defeat the “darkness” imposed by extremism in Pakistan. But why limit ourselves to discussing the power cricket possess to fight the Taliban? What about the effects all sports have to instill happiness, empowerment, and hope in people? Could using sports for development be an unconventional tactic for the fight against poverty?
Experts on youth and employment from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Colombia met on Saturday as the Spring Meetings got underway to discuss the growing problem of youth unemployment in Africa. The high-level panel, chaired by Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, agreed that there are no easy solutions to the problem.
“Youth in urban areas are looking for jobs alongside thousands of others from the same schools, while rural youth are flooding into the cities looking for work,” said Sanoussi Toure, the Minister of Finance of Mali. “This is a tragedy. Our policies favor investment in education and training, but this investment has not led to job creation.”
Key points that came out of the meeting included:
- There are no easy solutions to the problem of youth unemployment.
- Youth employment has to be part of the growth strategy of every African country.
- Employment policies need to favor investment in education and training.
The panel also included Mauricio Cárdenas, former Colombian Minister of Transport and Economic Planning. Cárdenas talked about the outcomes of two youth programs Colombia put in place during his country's economic crisis in the late 1990s, when external shocks drove unemployment from 10 to 20 percent, and youth unemployment to 30 percent.
It is clear that youth unemployment in Africa needs to be addressed from many entry points, Ezekwesili said in her concluding remarks.
“The profile of unemployed youth has to enter the way we think, just as gender has. Youth need to be effectively targeted in everything we do, so that they will have a stake in the future,” Ezekwesili said.
How is the financial crisis impacting youth around the world? Youthink!, the Bank’s website dedicated to kids and young adults, asked its cadre of youth bloggers from around the world to answer that question.
"Even if the situation ahead of us is really bad, what good would it do to stress about it? It’s more productive to focus on the good things and keep on working towards our goals as a society…" said contributing blogger María Rodríguez of Colombia.
Bringing together seven young bloggers from across the world, the Youthink! blog features posts about topics as wide-reaching but impactful as climate change to health in the developing world. Since launching in January 2009, Youthink! bloggers have managed to spark lively debates and discussions among the site’s audience.
The first batch of Youthink! bloggers are:
- Stacy Alcantara, Philippines – Youth Coordinator; Active Citizenship Research
- Christine Cassar, Malta – Director, People for Change Foundation
- Nicholas Lembo, USA – MA Candidate; International Development
- Nate Miller, Benin – World traveler and public health professional
- Saptarshi Pal, India – World Bank International Essay Winner, 2008
- María Rodríguez, Colombia – Director; Red de Generación de Oportunidades Sociales (Social Opportunities Generating Network)
- Joao Felipe Scarpelini, Brazil – Youth Activist; Peace Child
- Saadia Iqbal, USA – Youthink! Editor
A 2006 Webby Award winner, Youthink! aims to inform youth on development issues and inspire them to get involved. The site contains a section for educators, and most of the content is now available in French, Spanish, and Chinese.
Despite increasing attention to the impact of ICT on teaching and learning in various ways, the ICT/education field continues to be littered with examples of poor evaluation work. A few of them arrive in my in-box every week.
There are many potential reasons advanced for the general poor quality of much of this work. One is simple bias -- many evaluations are done and/or financed by groups greatly invested in the success of a particular initiative, and in such cases findings of positive impact are almost foregone conclusions. Many (too many, some will argue) evaluations are restricted to gauging perceptions of impact, as opposed to actual impact. Some studies are dogged by sloppy science (poor methodologies, questionable data collection techniques), others attempt to extrapolate finds from carefully nurtured, hothouse flower pilot projects in ways that are rather dubious. (The list of potential explanations is long; we'll stop here for now.)
World Bank Economist Felipe Barrera-Osorio, working with Leigh Linden of Columbia University, has just published a very useful and rigorous study on the impact of ICT use in Colombia.
The Use and Misuse of Computers in Education: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Colombia (PDF) looked at 97 schools and 5,201 children over two years of participation in the Computers for Schools program.
While some readers may immediately latch onto the finding that the program "had little effect on students’ test scores", I found the potential explanation for this lack of positive impact to be even more valuable:
"The main reason for these results seems to be the failure to incorporate the computers into the educational process. Although the program increased the number of computers in the treatment schools and provided training to the teachers on how to use the computers in their classrooms, surveys of both teachers and students suggest that teachers did not incorporate the computers into their curriculum."