These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Focus on Migration: Rising migration is a myth
Hardly a week goes by without media coverage of the fears, in developed nations, that immigrants from poorer countries are overwhelming them. A recent story in the British newspaper The Telegraph — describing how open borders, the “ravages of globalisation”, and a welfare economy have given rise to social resentment — is just one example.  Such narratives tap into the popular myth that globalisation has led to a one-way, free flow of migrants from poorer countries — making migration a political issue almost everywhere in the industrialised world.
Facebook is more important to news distribution than you think, and journalists are freaked out
Facebook’s Liz Heron answered for a litany of perceived sins and slights last week during a conversation with The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal and attendees at the Online News Association conference in Chicago. Journalists are anxious about being left out of the loop about how Facebook works, and they want answers. Does Facebook play favorites in the News Feed Algorithm? Nope, according to Heron, the company’s head of news partnerships. In other words: If you want to be successful on Facebook, don’t get caught up in the nuts and bolts of what it favors or disfavors about posts (and it won’t tell you much about those nuts and bolts anyway, so that works out).
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
CORRUPTION: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security
Working Group on Corruption and Security, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Systemic corruption has an unrecognized bearing on international security. Policymakers and private companies often pay insufficient attention to corruption when deciding what foreign and defense policies to pursue or where to invest. Greater understanding of the nature of acute corruption and its impact on global security would contribute to a better assessment of costs and benefits and therefore to improved policy and practice.
The role of Africa's fourth generation
Post-colonial Africa is in its fourth generation. Over the past few decades, each generation has had a specific role to play: the first generation fought for, and gained, independence from their colonisers. The second generation, marked by greed and corruption, largely destroyed all that the first had fought for. The third was tasked with cleaning up the mess made by the second. So where does that leave us – Africa's fourth post-independence generation? It is up to us to build large-scale prosperity for Africa for the first time in its post-colonial history. Although much remains to be done, the second generation's mess has largely been cleaned up and Africa is the most stable it has been in decades. Inter- and intra-state conflict is declining and trade is booming. Africa's 5 % annual GDP growth is four times that of the EU, and between 2011 and 2015, African countries will account for seven of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world.
Guest post from Jon Lomøy, Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD)
Official development assistance – or aid – is under fire. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton argues that, “far from being a prescription for eliminating poverty, the aid illusion is actually an obstacle to improving the lives of the poor.”
Yet used properly, “smart aid” can be very effective in improving lives and confronting the very issue that Deaton’s book focuses on, and which US President Obama has called the “defining challenge of our time”: rising inequalities.
As a recent UNDP report shows, more than three-quarters of the global population lives in countries where household income inequality has increased since the 1990s. In fact, today many countries face the highest inequality levels since the end of World War II.
There is clearly moral ground for arguing that it is unjust for the bottom half of the world’s population to own only as much as the world’s richest 85 people. Above and beyond this, however, academics, think tanks, and international organizations such as the OECD have found that rising inequalities threaten political stability, erode social cohesion and curb economic growth.
It is not surprising, then, that reduction of socio-economic inequality has moved to the centre of global discussions on the post-2015 goals. The OECD, responsible for monitoring official development assistance (ODA) and other financial flows for development, is complementing these discussions by exploring ways to better use existing financial resources – and mobilise additional ones – to promote inclusive and sustainable development. This includes redefining what we mean by ODA, as well as looking at the ways it can best be used to complement other forms of finance.
The rhythm of NGO advocacy and campaigning sometimes makes it particularly hard to work on complicated issues, involving drawn-out negotiations where bad guys have more resources and staying power than we do. Campaigns on trade, climate change, debt relief etc often follow a similar trajectory – a big NGO splash as a new issue breaks, then activists realize they need to go back to school (I remember getting briefings on bond contracts during the 1998 Asia financial crisis) or employ new kinds of specialists who can talk the new talk. And then for a while we get geeky, entering into the detail of international negotiations, debating with lobbyists and academics. When it works (as in the debt campaign), we contribute to remarkable victories or to stopping bad stuff happening (which I would argue was a big civil society contribution at the WTO).
‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.
After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.
The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.
While I have no data to cite here (perhaps this is an idea that could be explored by an enterprising PhD student?), it is my strong suspicion, based on years of observation and work with groups introducing new technologies into education systems and communities in poor and middle income countries, that a 'Matthew Effect in Educational Technology' is observable -- and worth considering.
Just what is a 'Matthew Effect' -- and why should we care about it?
Almost a half-century ago, the sociologist Robert Merton observed (here's the original paper [pdf]) that famous scientists often get more credit for a research finding than a lesser (or un)known scientist does, even where the work of both scientists is very similar. He labeled this phenomenon the 'Matthew Effect', after a verse in the Bible (Book of Matthew 25:29) which roughly translates as 'the rich get richer'. In the words of the sociologist Daniel Rigbey, who wrote a book on the subject:
"Matthew effects tend to confer further advantages on the already-advantaged, other things equal. Of course, other things are never entirely equal. Multiple interacting factors are at play in a complex and connected world. Nonetheless, more than forty years of research findings suggest that Matthew effects are real and potentially powerful determinants of social outcomes in their own right, and especially when they are not countervailed. We simply cannot understand the dynamics of social inequalities in the world today without taking Matthew effects seriously into account."
Following Merton, Keith Stanovich spoke about a Matthew Effect in an educational context, noting that early successes in developing reading skills usually lead to greater successes with reading -- and thus with learning other new skills that build on the existence of good reading skills going forward.
How does this relate to ICT use in education?
For a ‘club of rich countries’, the OECD spends a lot of time thinking about development. It’s Development Cooperation Directorate does the number crunching on aid; the OECD Development Centre publishes annual Economic Outlooks on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, or Latin American revenue statistics.
Last week I spent a couple of chilly days at its Paris HQ at the 5th Global Forum on Development discussing the inevitable topic – post2015 and what comes after the MDGs (background papers here). I’m trying to resist the post2015 bandwagon, but it’s generating a hell of a slipstream.
But why did they even invite me? After all, my main reaction to the last OECD conference I attended was to write a post on the awfulness of such international events (a series of soporific panels in a lightless room), and whether they can be salvaged.
So was this one any better? Yes in a few important ways. OK, it was still 300 people in an underground bunker flicking through their emails and half-listening to panels that over-ran and ate up question time, but the organizers had added some nice IT spice to the mix.
Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.
China’s prospects stirred interest as the BRICs met in South Africa and a new survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found China on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2016. The OECD study says China has “weathered the global economic and financial crisis of the past five years better than virtually any OECD country” and should be able to continue catching up and improving living standards over the next decade. While the OECD study says China needs to shift to more environmentally friendly modes of consumption and production, a new Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index finds that France, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom are “currently best positioned to prosper in the global low-carbon economy.”
What will the school of the future look like?
Most likely, it will largely look like the school of today -- but that doesn't mean it should. Few will deny that it will most likely, and increasingly, contain lots of technology. Some may celebrate this fact, others may decry it, but this trend appears inexorable. To what extent will, or should, considerations around technology use influence the design of learning spaces going forward?
Of course, with the continued rise of online 'virtual' education, some schools don't (or won't) look like traditional 'schools' at all. Various types of structured or semi-structured learning already take place as part of things that we consider to be 'courses', even if sometimes such things don't conform to some traditional conceptions of what a 'course' is or should be. The massive online open course (or MOOC) in artificial intelligence offered by Stanford has received much recent attention, but the phenomenon is not necessarily new (even if its current exemplars are marked by many characteristics that are indeed new, or much more developed, than those previously to be found in, for example, large 'distance learning' courses).
Let's leave aside the case of the 'virtual school' for a moment and assume that there will continue to be a need for a physical space at which students and educators will gather and interact. (Such places may be access points to virtual education, or featured various types of so-called 'blended learning', where face-to-face interactions are complemented by interactions in the virtual world -- or vice versa.) Indeed, let's assume, for our purposes here, that the school as a concept will presumably be along for many decades to come, and that it will have a physical representation of some sort. What might such a school look like, especially in the era of ICTs?