A few weeks ago, the Economist provided an interesting take on social media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation era. The article, How Luther Went Viral, claims that centuries before Facebook and the Arab Spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation era. Led by Martin Luther, the Reformation was a period of religious revolt that led to the division of Western Christianity and the start of Protestantism. The developments of this period were propelled by the advent of the printing press, which the article describes in rich detail. But it begins by making an interesting claim about how Luther and his allies promoted the message of religious reform with the social media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts. So basically, the central argument of the piece states that what happened in the Arab Spring is what happened in the Reformation era: a new form of media provided the opponents of an authoritarian regime an opportunity to voice their concerns, affirm their discontent, and mobilize their actions.
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Originally published on January 10, 2011
Last year South Korea ranked first in global e-government ranking among all the countries in the world according to the United Nations E-Government Survey 2010, with the US in second place. The UN E-Government Survey provides a bi-annual assessment of national online services, telecommunication infrastructure and human capital of 192 Member States.
- Is South Korea’s government really making the best use of ICT for governance?
- Does it even make sense to measure the “level” of e-government development in a country and is it possible to do so?
- Are rankings preferred to “best practice cases”?
- Do the rankings include aspects of MDG priorities such as e-inclusion (gender equality)?
- Do they measure usage of technologies such as mobile technology and social media?
Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and Crowdsourcing—2011 has certainly been the year in which the use of social media and technology has captured the world’s attention.
From Tahrir Square in Egypt to the Anna Hazare movement in India, citizens have demonstrated that they want voice and accountability. Innovations in social media, mobile phones and inter-active mapping are powerful tools to mobilize citizens and to provide people with a voice—thus broadening the political debate.
However, key questions remain unanswered: What role can these innovative tools play to encourage governments, donors and foundations to become more transparent, open and accountable? Can the use of social media and cell phones empower people and marginalized communities, and close the feedback loop, allowing citizens to directly report back on project results and participate in decision-making processes about the use of public funds? These are a few issues that emerge when analyzing the potential transformative power of technology on development.
Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time to exchange knowledge and further economic and social development.
Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agricultural production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena. This is no coincidence. The world is going though rapid changes, resulting in a new financial architecture, with emerging economies and countries in the South increasingly participating and influencing global decisions.
In 2006-07, a procurement review carried out on the Technical Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP) in India shocked and surprised project authorities as well as the World Bank. Even in the third year of implementation, participating Engineering institutes were unable to follow the agreed processes and procedures. That situation eventually lead to the development of web based PMSS (Procurement management Support System) currently being used in TEQIP Phase 2 program.
The procurement Review Consultants reported an astonishing 56% variation and resulting non compliance of procedures in the sample of reviewed contracts. A series of further assessments and introspection brought out the main issues that plagued the procurement system. These were:
(i) Geography: challenges of ensuring consistency and adherence to agreed procedures in projects that covered a wide area between hundreds of institutions as seen institutions in different states following their respective procedures , using inappropriate methods of selection, etc.
It is India’s future that keeps Mr. Kapil Sibal, India’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, awake. Last week, the World Bank hosted Mr. Kapil Sibal who spoke to a 120 strong crowd about “India and the World – Lessons Learnt and Contributions Towards the Global Knowledge Economy. “ During the lively discussion chaired by World Bank’s Tamar Manuelyan Atinc (Human Development Network Vice President) and moderated by Michal Rutkowski (South Asia Human Development Director. Mr. Sibal highlighted how India can contribute to the global knowledge economy.
Mr. Sibal, a well known Indian politician, is famous for his effort in enacting the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which provides every child between 6-14 years free and compulsory education. With so many challenging issues to be solved for education in India, I was impressed with what Mr. Sibal has implemented so far as well as his grand vision for leading the country to achieve continued growth and prosperity.
Last week I went to listen to a talk by Philip Howard of the University of Washington. He spoke about the "Digital Origins of Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam." The story was mainly the one we keep hearing about ICT and the Arab Spring, although Howard cautioned that ICT don't actually topple dictators, they rather catch dictators off-guard. And while ICT don't cause political change per se, they provide "capabilities and impose new constraints."
Howard went on to show a table of Arab countries with a few characteristics that may or may not be helpful in predicting future civic unrest. The variables in the table were: country, years of ruler in power, approximate proportion of people connected through ICT, average age of the population, and next elections. This kind of collection of variables is seductive because it seems so easy to use them to predict civic uprisings in the Arab World.
Today, the growth potential of a country depends on the creativity, innovation and expertise of its citizens.
Strong international competition driven by globalization—between states, businesses and individuals—is fast increasing the importance of knowledge and education.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Financial Task Force
World Bank Unveils New Transparency Initiative
“Last week, the World Bank unveiled a major initiative to make their funding more transparent. Through the new World Bank Finances portal, vast amounts of information about the inner workings of the Bank’s finances are now made easily accessible. This includes information about specific funds that members are supporting, and the disbursement and repayment status of thousands of projects around the world. Tools are provided to allow members of the public to comment on specific elements of the data, as well as to download datasets specifically catered to their needs. The data is remarkably up-to-date, often covering information as recent as June 2011.” READ MORE