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Leapfrogging

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
The Economist
STOKE-ON-TRENT in northern England is home to the world’s second-oldest professional football club, Stoke City FC. Founded in 1863, it enjoyed its heyday in the mid-1970s, when the club came close to winning the top division. The playing style was described by its manager, Tony Waddington, as “the working man’s ballet”. These days the flair is often provided by players from far afield. More than half the first-team squad comes from outside Britain, mostly from other parts of Europe. But that is about as far as Europhilia in Stoke goes. In June’s referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, the city voted strongly for Brexit.
 
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Today, examples of rapid, non-linear progress—sometimes called leapfrogging—are evident in a number of sectors. Often, these instances are most obvious in the developing world, where in telecommunications or banking, for example, whole phases of infrastructure and institution-building that other countries had to go through have been by-passed by nations that got a later start down that road. Many African countries never systematically invested in laying phone lines, yet today access to cell phone service on the continent has grown so rapidly that in many cases communities are more likely to be connected to the outside world via cell phone service than to have access to electricity or running water. Likewise for banking: Instead of focusing on expanding physical branches to reach the many communities and families who lack access, people across the developing world are relying on mobile money—transfers and payments via text message—which grew out of innovations in Kenya. Could this type of non-linear progress happen in education?
 

Media (R)evolutions: Skipping the landline, going straight for a mobile phone

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.

Back in the late 1990s, a traveler from Lebanon to London would have noticed something interesting about telecommunications in the two countries: while many people in Lebanon owned a mobile, London was still accustomed to using red telephone boxes to make calls on the run.  During the Lebanese Civil War, all land-line infrastructure was destroyed, and the Lebanese leapfrogged to owning mobile phones. Fast-forward fifteen years to today, and one can see a similar pattern in many developing countries, where landlines and personal computers are bypassed for mobile internet.  

In places with bad roads or unreliable land lines, mobile phones allow people to determine price data, reach wider markets, participate in mobile money, and obtain news and entertainment.  Since poverty is linked to isolation and a lack of access to education, health services, and government services in some places, mobile phones are already having a huge impact on how people manage their lives.

The graphs come from a recent Pew Research Center study on Communications Technology in Emerging and Developing Nations and show the percentage of people who have a working landline in their house and who own a cell phone.

Landline use worldwide Cell phone use worldwide
 

Don’t Throw the Baby with the Bathwater!

Zahid Hussain's picture

Paul Krugman’s September 6 article in the New York Times (How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?) is a humbling warning to the economics profession against the pitfalls of intellectual complacence. It challenges the profession to re-examine the validity of its existing knowledge particularly in relation to globalization and the workings of local and global financial markets.

Granted that economists have to face up to the unpalatable fact that our theoretical apparatus falls far short both as descriptions of how economies function and as prescriptions of how they can be made to function better. The crisis has exposed the limits of economic knowledge. According to Krugman: “The vision that emerge as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but one can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right.”

In this process of reappraising existing economic knowledge, there is a real risk of going overboard and wrong the right knowledge. Using the global economic crisis as an excuse, there are emerging tendencies to reject tested economic wisdoms in areas such as the role of foreign capital and trade policy in economic development.

One school of thought that is attempting to rise from the ashes is known as (old) Structural Economics.