In a previous post, I introduced the concept of development’s information shadow (mediated from Tim O’Reilly), arguing that the development world will gradually produce an increasing amount of digital data with a relationship to real world objects (think, for example, of a digital map of safe drinking water sources in a given location).
The Indian Express is reporting that India's Ministry of Human Resource Development is set to launch a $35 laptop:
Looking as stylish as a large i-phone, this $35 “low-cost computing-cum-access device” is a 5/7/9 inch touchscreen gadget packed with internet browsers, PDF reader, video conferencing facilities, open office, sci-lab, media player, remote device management capability, multimedia input-output interface option, and multiple content viewer.
“It’s simply about being human: creating, sharing, consuming ideas.”
In marketing courses, we learned that youth in different countries around the world often share more similarities with one another in their tastes, preferences, and decision making processes than they often do with older generations within their own respective countries.
During a recent discussion on the issue of diplomacy in the information age, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, I got to mulling over the idea of the transnational public sphere. An interesting recent paper out of Europe by Jens Steffek focuses on the emergence of this transnational public sphere and its ability to successfully pressure public institutions for greater accountability and better governance. I believe new communication technologies have amplified this sphere's scope and scale.
But the question that then arises is this: does the very force that enables and empowers the transnational public sphere also degrade the quality of deliberation upon which it depends to function effectively? In a globally networked information environment, public opinion can coalesce in the blink of an eye, fed by multiple information sources both credible and non-credible. Can a transnational public sphere truly be an effective force for better governance if it is not backed by genuinely informed debate and deliberation? What separates a transnational public sphere from a transnational mob?
At the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago last week, I was able to gather a wealth of information and ideas regarding the use of ICT for accountability. In a session on this topic I had the chance to discuss with people who actually implement citizen media projects on the ground and shared their experience and insights. A number of very interesting and useful ideas came up:
Accountability needs "bottom-up transparency". Many governments in developing countries do not have the capacity for gathering data that they could then publish for citizens to hold them accountable. Supporting government capacity may not be the only and not even the most efficient solution: Several participants of the session introduced projects where it is the citizens themselves that provide information about public services.
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One could say that by being connected to the rest of the academic world through an NREN your isolation from research projects, high cost lab equipment, and world-class leading edge knowledge will disappear. If you are a physicist you can contemplate joining research teams using the Large Halidron Collider in CERN in Switzerland, an astronomer can manipulate in real time a telescope in Chile or access the data from radio telescopes, a medic can join in high definition seminars on advanced techniques in surgery or remote diagnostics, climate specialists can access and provide data to disaster management databases, an economist can access and contribute to economic modeling resources, and everyone can gain access to the thousands of on-line specialist journals.
A free and independent media plays an important role in monitoring public servants and holding them accountable for their actions. In this way they promote transparency and accountability within a country. The role of media in good governance is widely acknowledged. The Worldwide Govern
American college students today show no significant loyalty to a news program, news personality or even news platform. Students have only a casual relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don’t make fine distinctions between news and more personal information. Yet student after student, in a new ICMPA study, demonstrated knowledge of specific news stories.
How did they get the information? In a disaggregated way, and not typically from the news outlet that broke or committed resources to a story.
Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings on April 23, 2010:
"ICTs [Information and Communications Technology] can be the single most important tool of our generation if given the right environment."
What do you think?