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Innovation

The next Generation Web: Greater Choice and Voice for Citizens?

Aleem Walji's picture

 

 

Last Monday, Gordon Brown delivered a speech in which he laid out a fascinating and bold vision for how Britain could lead the world in knowledge industries and create a quarter of a million skilled jobs within 10 years. What I found most interesting in his remarks was how he linked leadership in the digital economy to leadership in public service delivery and increasing “voice and choice for citizens”.

Underlying his message was his palpable excitement in the next generation of the web: the semantic web or the web of linked data. The semantic web is a relatively new term popularized by the British scientist and early founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. Tim suggest that the web of linked data has the potential to transform the way we manage knowledge, make decisions, and understand relationships between previously unconnected phenomena. Nearly a year ago, speaking at a TED conference in California, Tim issued a call to action to public agencies and data aggregators – Free Data Now. He argued that only by freeing data into easily searchable and downloadable formats could we expose relationships between issues like housing and crime, access to water and race, or government spending and the quality of public services. From the perspective of international development institutions, imagine if we could see relationships between aid flows and poverty or even poverty at a sub-national level (say through maps) and where development projects are located in a particular country?

Innovation as a response to scarcity

Kirsten Spainhower's picture

I am an aggie who is passionate about land use. When I started working at the Development Marketplace in 2008, I had the great good fortune to be starting a job that focused on my two favorite things as an international development specialist; grassroots responses to development challenges and agriculture. Because my first DM competition was on Sustainable Agriculture, I was in seventh heaven.

DM teams in Latin America collaborating for greater impact

Tom Grubisich's picture

From the High Andes of Peru  --  Ann Kendall, project leader of the DM2009 winning project to restore ancient, water-conserving mountain terraces in a poor agricultural community in Peru, reports in an email:


"I have had a very interesting and productive meeting and exchange with one of the other Peruvian DM winners, Association Andes, with Alejandro Agumedo, who approached us and would like us to join them in planning an international seminar focused on the traditional terrace systems....Funds for this will have to be sought, which I believe they are planning to do!   Cusichaca Trust [Kendall's group] and Association Andes have had, in 2006, the experience of putting on a national conference in Lima, bringing highland communities in from previous local events to meet with researchers, academics, and NGOs, which was very successful.  AA envisages organising an event bringing people from China, Asia, etc....We welcome this collaboration."

Dot.Gov as a Listening Device

Aleem Walji's picture

A couple of nights ago, I went to listen to Anil Dash, founder of Experts Labs in Washington, DC. The title of the talk intrigued me. How Dot.Gov is the new Dot.com. 

Given my interest in Open Government and Transparency, I assumed Anil would talk about new business models and how the private sector is well positioned to create social and economic value from datasets that public bodies release. But I was entirely wrong. Although I believe strongly that clean and comparable datasets are an essential raw material for the visualization and creative community to create powerful citizen-facing apps, Anil's point was entirely different and more powerful. 

The two-way or interactive web that surfaced around 2004 in the private sector was about a fundamentally new way of interacting with users. It provided businesses an opportunity to dialogue with customers and listen to users' comments, needs, and feedback in much more efficient ways. 

Aid Transparency Data Camp-Students for Development

Soren Gigler's picture

How can we better track aid flows? Which donor is working where in the DRC, Afghanistan, CAR, Peru  or Bolivia? How can we better analyze the spatial distribution of aid flows within countries?  How can we use mobile telephony to enhance the social accountability of international aid programs?  These were some of the questions 45 students from the College of William & Mary, Georgetown University and George Washington addressed during the aid transparency data camp which we organized jointly with the Aiddata Initiative last Monday, March 8.

How 'Big Data' Can Benefit the Public Good

Aleem Walji's picture

Patrick Svenburg, co-founder of Random Hacks of Kindness, tells "Developers for Development" audience: "There's no shortage of big ideas in the world.  It's the action part that's often lacking."


“Big Data” –- the billions upon trillions of bytes of digital information that are pumped into cyberspace every nanosecond –- has a single, secular mission: to keep growing. Now, software developers – the not-so-nerdy techies who keep Big Data growing at its feverish rate –- are striving to channel Big Data into the public good.

On Monday at the World Bank, developers came together with the development community -- in person and virtually through Skype video -- to figure out how to do that.

The entire "Developers for Development" can be seen on B-Span, the World Bank's webcasting service.

The afternoon event, which attracted an auditorium-ful of in-person visitors (many of them curious staffers from risk management and ICT at the World Bank) and many more via the live webcast that was offered in English, French, and Spanish, started with developers showing what's already been achieved since the first CrisisCamp about data and the public good was convened in Washington with CrisisCommons-World Bank co-sponsorship in June 2009.

The first demo was about the on-the-fly proliferation of CrisisCamps internationally in response to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in February.

When Innovation Fails

Edith Wilson's picture

I’ve been having some interesting conversations with some of our favorite people like Mari Kuraishi, Jim Koch and Marla Capozzi, about a topic we don’t probe much in development: what we do with an innovative project fails.

In Silicon Valley, as Mari and Marla reminded me lately, you earn your spurs trying and failing. It is almost easier to get funding if you have failed a few times. Venture capital firms assume you learned some valuable things in the process. It’s a credential. But in development? Failing with a donor’s money? Even when you said you were piloting something or trying something new? Surely you failed because you didn’t get the job done, weren’t smart enough, or ran into politics.

Developers for Development: Using Open Source Technologies in Disaster Response and Beyond

Richard Murby's picture

keys2innovJoin us on Monday March 1st at 2:00 pm EST for the 2nd event in the keys2innov series. This event looks at the innovative solutions used by the crowdsourcing community in their stunning response to the Haiti Disaster and will explore how these initiatives are changing the landscape of development.

The event will be streamed online in English, French and Spanish. You can also follow updates and put questions to the panel by using the #keys2innov tag.

Full event details below
 

Water and Poor People: No More Charity

Tom Grubisich's picture

When Ned Breslin, CEO for the international social company Water for People, talks, the effect can be like a splash of cold water on your face.  Development-speak is not his style.

Take this snippet from his new "Rethinking Hydro-Philanthropy" essay:

 

 

"Success will require less single-minded focus on the absolute number of people without access to water and sanitation facilities and more focus on the serious questions around long-term impact and sustainability. So that years after the cameras have left, the donor reports have been filed, and the press release circulated, the community is not forgotten."

"Sweat equity" from needy communities is not enough, Breslin argues.  "Up-front community contributions," he says, are essential to making new water -- and sanitation -- facilities sustainable.

Water for People won a US$200,000 Development Markektplace 2007 award for water facilities in Malawi, which Breslin, in this radio interview, says "has some of the worst water and sanitation problems in Africa."

Breslin's credo -- that water and sanitation in poor countries should not be viewed as a charity mission -- is being validated elsewhere.


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