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Frequently Asked (not so smart) Questions

Abir Qasem's picture

This blog is the second of the series of a year-long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks. We use an interactive and just in time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data. 

People using computers in an internet cafe in Kampala, UgandaMany of us fondly remember from our school (and college) days the best and the most inspiring teachers always told us that "there are no bad questions".  No matter how silly our questions were, the best teachers always had the talent to transform an uninformed question into a learning experience. Even in the age of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that quality is still uniquely human (Google or even IBM’s Watson are not there yet)!  So, for an adult learner, who is using online resources to learn technical skills, ­asking the right question is important.  If you don’t ask the right question, the Internet will not give you an answer. Even worse than not getting an answer, you may get the wrong answer. This blog is all about asking the right question. More specifically, this blog is about coming up with precise and specific search queries when you are searching online resources to further your knowledge or solve a specific problem.

The Internet is the world's largest knowledge repository, but it is still far from becoming a one-stop knowledge shop. We still need a vast education industry (in the US, it is close to a trillion dollars) consisting of teachers, mentors, training, schools/colleges etc. Unlike machines, and, by extension, unlike the Internet, we humans have an unequalled capability to deal with ambiguity. We do not need to always work under a precise set of rules. We also have a propensity to be ambiguous in framing our questions. Therefore, we need expensive human intervention to remove the ambiguity factor from the human-to-machine knowledge loop.

In the physical world, there is a high level of interactivity between the asker of a question and the human provider. This interactivity- coupled with the human ability to deal with ambiguity- helps refine the question by making it precise enough to answer. On the Web, such interactivity is much harder to attain.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The 2015-16  Alliance for Affordable Internet Affordability Report
Alliance for Affordable Internet
Everyone should have access to the Internet. So concluded the 193 member states of the United Nations when they agreed on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. Underscoring the potential of the Internet to contribute to global development and empowerment, SDG target 9c calls for universal and affordable access in the world’s least developed countries by 2020. Reaching this goal will require bold and immediate action. On our current trajectory, A4AI predicts that we’ll only hit this target in 2042 — 22 years after the target date set by the global community. Without urgent reform, in 2020 we will see just 16% of people in the world’s poorest countries, and 53% of the world as a whole, connected. We won’t just miss the target, we’ll miss by a mile.
 
The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
World Economic Forum
Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. The rise of the sharing economy will allow people to monetize everything from their empty house to their car. While the impending change holds great promise, the patterns of consumption, production and employment created by it also pose major challenges requiring proactive adaptation by corporations, governments and individuals. Concurrent to the technological revolution are a set of broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic drivers of change, each interacting in multiple directions and intensifying one another.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Redefining aid could undermine fragile nations, says UN development chief
The Guardian
The decision to redefine overseas aid to include some military spending in fragile countries will hinder international efforts to help the poorest nations and could even undermine their stability, the UN’s development chief has warned. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) revised the rules on what can be counted as foreign aid – technically known as official development assistance (ODA) – following lobbying from the UK and other member countries. Although proponents of the new definition argue that supporting military or security forces in fragile or war-ravaged states should be seen as a development aim and paid for from the aid budget, the move has been criticised by charities who fear it will mean less money reaches the poorest countries.

Emerging, developing countries gain ground in the tech revolution
Pew Research
A new Pew Research Center survey shows that across 40 countries surveyed in 2015, a median of 67% use the internet and 43% report owning a smartphone. But one trend stands out: People in emerging and developing nations are quickly catching up to those in advanced nations in terms of access to technology. Here are five takeaways on technology use in the emerging and developing world:
 

Quote of the week: Stephen Cave

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Futuristic Architecture"Rarely can the future be predicted by simply extending current trajectories."

- Stephen Cave, author of the internationally acclaimed book, Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization. He also writes essays, features and reviews on many philosophical, ethical and scientific subjects, from human nature to robot warriors and animal rights. He is regularly published in the Financial Times and sporadically in The New York Times, the Guardian, Wired and others.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption Perceptions Index 
Transparency International 
2015 showed that people working together can succeed in fighting corruption. Although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in 2015 than declined. Five of the 10 most corrupt countries also rank among the 10 least peaceful places in the world. Northern Europe emerges well in the index – it’s home to four of the top five countries. But just because a country has a clean public sector at home, doesn’t mean it isn’t linked to corruption elsewhere.
 
An Economy For the 1%
Oxfam
The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest. A global network of tax havens further enables the richest individuals to hide $7.6 trillion. The fight against poverty will not be won until the inequality crisis is tackled.

Media (R)evolutions: Time spent online continues to rise

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Roughly how many hours do you spend online each day? How many hours do you spend on social media? If you’re like most people, you’re are spending more and more time online, and you’re spending much of that time on social media networks.

Each year, We Are Social collates key data from multiple sources to make sense of the digital and social trends affecting media and technology. Digital in 2016 is the latest report, and the following graphs illustrate data the organization obtained from the Global Web Index. GWI conducts annual interviews with 200,000 internet users across 33 markets in quarterly waves, each of which has a global sample size of 45,000 – 50,000 internet users.
 
Amongst the 30 economies surveyed, Filipinos and Brazilians spend the most time using the internet, clocking an impressive 5.2 hours per day on average. Together with Thais, Brazilians also top the list for the amount of time spent using mobile internet, logging an average of 3.9 hours per day on their devices.  Contrary to what you might expect, the Japanese and South Koreans spend the least amount of time on the internet each day, logging only 2.9 and 3.1 hours respectively. This matches previous years in which these countries have been at the bottom of the spectrum.

Time Spent online by We Are Social

Just-in (New Year’s resolution)-time learning

Abir Qasem's picture

Mediated Reality running on Apple iPhoneHello readers,
 
In this season of making resolutions (and hopefully sticking to a few of them) we invite you to join us for a year long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks.
 
TAG is a term we have coined to describe the use of simple web programming tools and techniques to do basic gut checks on data - big and small. TAG does not replace data science, rather it complements it. TAG empowers you - the development professionals - who rely on the story the data tells to accomplish your tasks. It does so by giving a you good enough idea about the data before you delve into the sophisticated data science methods (here is a good look at the last 50 years of data science from Stanford’s Dr. Donoho). In many cases it actually allows you to add your own insights to the story the data tells. As the series progresses we will talk a lot about TAGs.  For the eager-minded here’s an example of TAG usage in US politics.
 
In this series, we will use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.  Just in time learning, as the name implies, is all about providing only the right amount of information at the right time. It is the minimum, essential information needed to help a learner progress to the next step. If the learner has a specific learning objective, just-in-time learning can be extremely efficient and highly effective. A good example of just in time information is the voice command a GPS gives you right before a turn. Contrast this with the use of maps before the days of GPS. You were given way more information than you needed and in a format that is not conducive to processing when you are driving.

Operationalizing the WDR

Pierre Guislain's picture
In the last decade or so, mobile phones have been appearing in the least likely of places: in the hands of a Masai warrior in the middle of the Kenyan bush, on a fishing boat off the coast of Vanuatu’s Malekula Island, and even on top of Mount Everest. The digital revolution has reached much of the world and has had a powerful impact.
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


The 2016 World Development Report on “Digital Dividends” paints a clear picture of the remaining digital gap and of the barriers that are keeping countries from reaping the dividends associated with the digital revolution. One of the key points that the report makes is that, for digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere, affordable access to high-speed internet is key.

Indeed,
  • The quality and price of high-speed internet access still varies widely from country to country. For instance, the report shows that users in Pakistan pay less than US$1.50 per month per GB of mobile internet. But users in Africa can pay up to ten times that amount. These differences arise from policy failures as much as from differences in countries’ natural endowments.
  • There is a need to enhance fixed broadband infrastructure. While mobile broadband has helped fill the gap for high-speed Internet access in developing countries, small screen devices are not necessarily suitable for running a digital business and mobile networks still need strong backhaul infrastructure.
  • There is also a need to strengthen analog complements to digital technologies, such as regulations that create a vibrant business climate and skills that let firms leverage digital technologies to compete and innovate.

Media (R)evolutions: Despite tremendous growth in mobile broadband, affordability remains an issue in least developed countries

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

In recent years, as the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions surpassed 7.1 billion and mobile network population coverage approached close to 95%, growth in mobile subscriptions has greatly exceeded the growth in fixed connections, especially in developing countries. For many low-income groups, mobile devices are their only window to internet access.

The tremendous growth has not only contributed to greater access rates, but also to a fall in prices of mobile-cellular services around the world as providers seek to be competitive. Over the past year, the decrease in mobile-broadband prices worldwide made it, on average, 20 – 30% more affordable.  In least developed countries (LDCs), the mobile-cellular price basket continued to fall to 14% of GNI per capita by the end of 2014, compared with 29% in 2010.

Nevertheless, as the following graph from Measuring the Information Society Report 2015 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) illustrates, LDCs have a long way to go in order to achieve affordable mobile-broadband packages. The graph shows, the average prices for pre- and post-paid broadband connections on computers and mobile devices, as measured against monthly GNI per capita, in 2013 and 2014. 

Among the options, prepaid mobile-broadband is the most affordable. In this context, it will be important for broadband providers to offer more new services and packages for low-income groups, such as allowing users to buy data in small volumes.  

Mobile broadband prices

Online outsourcing: A global job opportunity for everyone?

Saori Imaizumi's picture
“My life has totally changed. Now I am earning money from the Internet and I come to know a lot of new things. Internet is really amazing.”
- Male, from Madurai, India, Age between 16-25, intermediate diploma holder
 
“ I am a full time independent freelancer and my 100% earning comes from online. So definitely internet is one of the most important things in my life”
- Male, from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Age between 26-45, completed Bachelor and above

 
These quotes are just a glimpse at the power of digital technologies, coming from many amazing stories as people answered the following question online: “how has your life changed (personally or professionally) after you began to use the internet?” A key message from the responses is “Internet provides an opportunity to learn, earn, make friends, connect with family and friends, apply for jobs easily, and shop online.”  As discussed in the upcoming World Development Report 2016 “Digital Dividends,” the internet, and other digital technologies, are changing the way people work, entertain, interact, and find jobs across high, middle and low-income countries.


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