I have spent the past few days doing research on traditional telecenter sustainability. By traditional, I mean telecenters that charge a small fee for offline (photocopying, mobile charging etc.) and online services (Internet access) to meet their costs. While the news is rather bleak, I have stumbled across some interesting sources that might be of use to others:
There was a flurry of debate after TMS Ruge's speech at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, which included fair criticism of the popular One Laptop Per Child initiative. Key to this debate was an issue that I am finding equally as relevant in my new job: technological innovations are not enough in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D).
As discussed in my last two entries, South Asia's Infrastructure Deficit and Integrating the two South Asias, regional cooperation can be a key instrument in meeting the development needs of South Asia. In this piece, I will discuss specific areas that will bring the most region-wide benefits in my view.
The three priority areas for regional cooperation include telecoms and internet, energy, and transport. A regional telecom network and a high-bandwidth, high-speed internet-based network could help improve education, innovation, and health. A regional network would facilitate better flow of ideas, technology, investments, goods and services. It would facilitate greater interactions between knowledge workers in areas such as high-energy physics, nanotechnology, and medical research. There are untapped positive synergies at the regional level that would come from information sharing and competition in ideas among universities, non-university research and teaching entities, libraries, hospitals, and other knowledge institutions.
A YouTube map that shows where people are when they view the videos. That the video might be of interest to a dry country like Niger – where herding of goats and other livestock is so important – is not so surprising.
A colleague of mine recently sent a link to a group of us showing some photos taken in Inner Mongolia, China, showing the land degradation being suffered there and its impacts. One of the photos (#16) shows a twisted and broken tree trunk surrounded by sand on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. The caption says that the trees were “killed by the moving sands.” I have a different take on it.
The picture shows what is probably a Euphrates Poplar, and I would suggest that the trees were probably killed by its surface roots becoming roasted after herds of goats and other livestock ate the trees' fallen leaves. These leaves would normally act as a natural insulation layer and mulch, and over time quite a number of plants grow in the shade and protection. With the trees steadily roasted, so the whole area degrades and the sand blows in. You can see one of the World Bank’s senior agriculturalists, Rick Chisholm, explaining this in the first of my two YouTube videos on Lake Aibi in northwest, Xinjiang, China. (Go straight to 8m 30s on the time line to see the specific segment).
The online population in Asian and Pacific countries grew by 22 percent last year. China led the growth with an incredible 31 percent increase – to 220 million – in total unique Web visitors. These latest numbers of the region’s explosive Internet growth are according to a report, released last month by Internet researcher comScore, measuring online audiences in the region and individual countries between September 2008 and 2009.
The report indicates that Internet audiences in Japan, India and South Korea also saw double-digit growth and that the Asia-Pacific region now has 41 percent – or 441 million people – of the global Internet audience. It’s interesting to see how quickly things have changed since the last time we wrote about an earlier report from comScore.
If you want to examine more of the report’s findings you can see the related press release, or download a presentation on the subject here. (Note: To download the slides, you have to provide them with your name and some contact info.)
I’ve pointed before to World Bank evidence that shows the Internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance. What else do you think such increased connectivity could mean for development in the region?
The human toll of natural disasters in Vietnam… entrepreneurs in Rwanda… wind power in Egypt… an infant with jaundice in Nepal… World Bank slideshows connect users with diverse people and places through the open window of a computer screen.
According to The Financial Times, the U.S. government’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board plans to launch in October what the FT calls “the most complex government website in history." The Recovery Board, an independent body headed by Chairman Earl Devaney, is tasked to oversee the outflow of the US $787 billion stimulus package to jumpstart the ailing economy, and the state-of the-art website is intended to engage citizens in tracking the use of taxpayer money.
What caught my attention is the premise behind this initiative—that citizens know best what is happening in their own communities. In an effort to rein in waste, fraud, and abuse of stimulus funds, the Recovery Board is putting into practice the principles of accountability and transparency through partnership with citizens. The Board understands that to carry out its mandate successfully, it needs to equip citizens with information so that they can help the Board do its job. As Mr. Devaney explains, “The website will unleash a million citizen IGs [inspectors-general].”
On this blog we've seen several posts on the merits of new media in governance - I'm specifically referring to posts from my colleague Fumiko Nagano, from Silvio Waisboard, and from Kristina Klinkforth. All three authors are very careful, or outright dismissive, when it comes to the abilities of new information technology, specifically social networking sites, to aid the empowerment of citizens and to support democracy. Based on research, common sense (and my own addiction to Facebook) I want to challenge my colleagues by saying: On the web, it's all about efficacy and voice.
It always seems to be the case that by simply writing or saying something, you can hardly get the same point across as by presenting it in a visual way. For example, it’s one thing to say, “three billion people (a little less than half the world’s population) comprise the bottom 5 percent of global GDP contributors.” But as the Strange Maps blog points out, it’s a little more eye-opening to show a map with those countries completely missing.
I’m not sure this map accomplishes much more than to illustrate a single interesting point – unlike the SHOW World animated maps we wrote about earlier this year or the popular WorldMapper Collection, both of which put several data sets in a visual format.
The map does, however, highlight the interesting fact that most of the countries represented are either in Southeast Asia or Africa. Check it out here.
Internet usage in China continues to grow, and the latest figures released by the Chinese government’s Web research organization show that the total number of online users, at 338 million, surpasses the population of the United States. The impressive statistics – which reflect a 13.4 percent jump from 2008 – had a number of blogs and news sites buzzing late last week. The full report is available in Chinese here (pdf), and WSJ’s China Journal blog has a nice roundup of the findings in English here.
The growth in China – and the rest of East Asia and the world for that matter – is nothing new. Last year, we shared 2008 comScore statistics showing Asia’s internet audience growing faster than all other regions worldwide. And according to more recent information from comScore, the Asia-Pacific region has the highest global share of internet users, at 41 percent (although it’s important to note that the penetration rate of the region is only around 17 percent of the population – well below most other regions – according to this web stats site).
We’ve seen that increased connectivity through mobile phones and the internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance, as well as other activities like mobile banking. And as more people, particularly in developing countries, get connected, this growth trend clearly seems to be a positive one.