Information and Communication Technologies
In an influential article in Foreign Affairs entitled ‘The Political Power of Social Media’, published in January 2011, Clay Shirky described the dictator’s dilemma, also called the conservative dilemma, as follows:
The dilemma is created by new media that increase public access to speech or assembly; with the spread of such media, whether photocopiers or Web browsers, a state accustomed to having a monopoly of public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s. The two responses to the conservative dilemma are censorship and propaganda. But neither of these is as effective as the enforced silence of citizens. The state will censor critics or produce propaganda as it needs to, but both of those actions have higher costs than simply not having any critics to silence or reply to in the first place. But if a government were to shut down Internet access or ban cellphones, it would risk radicalizing otherwise pro-regime citizens or harming the economy.
Many dictatorial or authoritarian regimes are sitting right on the butt-hurting horns of that dilemma right now. What is driving it is, of course, the explosive growth in mobile technology worldwide, what Michael Saylor, in a book of that title, calls The Mobile Wave. Cell phones, smart phones and internet access are driving into more and more corners of the world. For a current run-down of the mind-boggling statistics please see this Pew Research Report: ‘Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology’. And for current reporting on how the dictator’s dilemma is playing out in some contexts please see ‘How Emerging Markets’ Internet Policies Are Undermining Their Economic Recovery’ from Forbes.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology
Pew Research Global Attitudes Project
In a remarkably short period of time, internet and mobile technology have become a part of everyday life for some in the emerging and developing world. Cell phones, in particular, are almost omnipresent in many nations. The internet has also made tremendous inroads, although most people in the 24 nations surveyed are still offline. Meanwhile, smartphones are still relatively rare, although significant minorities own these devices in countries such as Lebanon, Chile, Jordan and China. People around the world are using their cell phones for a variety of purposes, especially for texting and taking pictures, while smaller numbers also use their phones to get political, consumer and health information. Mobile technology is also changing economic life in parts of Africa, where many are using cell phones to make or receive payments. READ MORE
How Emerging Markets' Internet Policies Are Undermining Their Economic Recovery
NSA surveillance activities are projected to cost the American economy billions of dollars annually. Washington is not alone, however, in pursuing costly policies in the technology and Internet realm. Several emerging economies – including Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia – are likewise undermining their already fragile markets by embracing Internet censorship, data localization requirements, and other misguided policies – ironically often in response to intrusive U.S. surveillance practices. These countries should reverse course and support the free and open Internet before permanent economic damage is done. READ MORE
Learning is a key accelerator for development. In fact, knowledge and learning are intricately connected. As a global development institution, we produce world class knowledge on development issues. However, the impact of this knowledge can only be fully realized when we transform it into learning for our development partners, practitioners, policy makers, our staff and, in fact, the public at large. Barely two percent of our knowledge products get translated into bite-sized practical learning.
Today, we are seeing a revolution in education and learning. Digital and on-line learning is helping us to scale up and reach thousands of people who are eager to learn and apply new knowledge and continue their learning as they progress through their careers, face new challenges, and acquire new competencies. This outreach and democratization of learning takes on greater importance as we endeavor to provide the best possible solutions for vexing development problems. Learning today is thankfully not a matter of sitting in a class room and listening to a lecture. It is available to us at our fingertips, just-in-time, and conveniently sized to our needs.
The Famous Brazilian educator Paulo Freire opined that education in developing countries is conceived and practiced as a form of ‘banking’. Herein, the teacher, as the communicator, makes deposits that the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat. The latter, he believed, serves to increase the recipients’ dependence on the educator. He, thus, advocated a more liberating approach in which engagement with education functioned as a dialogue. Herein, the educator participated and generated access for students to imbibe knowledge that was truly self- fulfilling.
Teaching in India’s government primary schools in rural areas has often been argued to be in the bind of such ‘banking education’. In addition, since the country’s independence in 1947, these schools have faced institutional constraints pertaining to infrastructure, maintenance, teacher recruitment, curriculum capacity and training. Educational expenditure as a percentage of GDP rose from 3% in 2004-05 to over 4% in 2011-12. In the 11th Five Year Plan period, 43% of the public expenditure was incurred for primary education (elementary stage from Grade I-V and upper primary from Grade VI-VIII).The modest gains of Operation Blackboard and the National Education Policy , of the late 80’s, have been carried forward under the more ambitious flagship program Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). Besides, the Right to Education Act (RTE) has also been invoked. Against an estimated child population of 192 million in the 6-14 age group, 195 million children have been enrolled at the elementary stage in 2009-10. In addition to enhancing learning levels, SSA also intends to fill infrastructural gaps and bridge gender differences in rural schools.
- ending poverty
- South Asia
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Private Sector Development
- Migration and Remittances
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- South Asia
- Sri Lanka
Yesterday, we celebrated radio, one of the most important means of communication in our times. It is the only means of entertainment and information in some places. Recently, I (Michael Boampong aka M.B.) met with Curious Minds, a Ghana-based youth development organization, to learn about their radio show, “Gems of Our Time,” and how radio plays a role even in today’s digital age.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
World Press Freedom Index 2014
Reporters Without Borders
The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. READ MORE
Throwing the transparency baby out with the development bathwater
In recent weeks, a number of leading voices within the international development movement – including the billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates as well as development economist Chris Blattman and tech-for-development expert Charles Kenny - have come out arguing that corruption and governance efforts in developing countries should be de-prioritized relative to other challenges in health, education, or infrastructure. Their basic argument is that while yes, corruption is ugly, it’s simply another tax in an economic sense and while annoying and inefficient, can be tolerated while we work to improve service delivery to the poor. The reality is more complicated and the policy implications precisely the opposite: corruption’s “long tail” in fact undermines the very same development objectives that Gates, Blattman, and Kenny are advocating for. READ MORE
After visiting a government office, residents in Punjab may be surprised to find a familiar voice on the phone – their Chief Minister. “You have recently registered property,” the voice of Shahbaz Sharif booms, “Did you face any difficulties? Did you have to pay a bribe?” (Hear the robo-call here!)
It is an uncomfortable question – but one that tackles a stubborn social issue in Pakistan. In a country of 180 million, a culture of bribery and pretty corruption plagues public service delivery.
When visiting a land services official, a staggering 75 percent of households reported paying a bribe, according to Transparency International. Over half of households said they bribed the public utilities or a police officer in the last year. Endemic corruption is not just a drag on economic activity and poverty reduction efforts – it erodes trust between citizens and the state.
According to figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, "Countries will need an extra 1.6 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015 and 3.3 million by 2030". The 2013/4 Global Monitoring Report provides a useful discussion of the consequences of this deficit, as well as some strategies for overcoming it. There are, unfortunately, no 'quick fix' solutions here. We didn't get ourselves into this mess overnight, and we won't get out of it overnight either. While longer term efforts tackle this challenge in multiple ways over time, recruiting new teachers and upgrading the skills of others, it is probably also useful to ask:
How do you teach children in places where there are no teachers?
Many proposed answers to this include some consideration of the use of information and communication technologies. Some groups have offered that it may be most efficacious to simply introduce technologies that help enable students to teach themselves, bypassing teachers altogether. That is certainly one approach, but one with, to date, a rather checkered history of success in many instances (although not all), and one that is consistent with a worry that teacher union officials have expressed to me many times over the years: that many of their members fear that they are being, or will be, replaced by new technologies. Rhetoric from certain politicians (I'll refrain from adding a link or three here, but a few minutes with your favorite search engine should help you locate a number of them yourself) and projections from some ministry of finance officials (informed, one suspects, in some cases by data from the marketing departments of certain technology firms) do little to alleviate such concerns. In some cases, the introduction of new technologies undeniably *does* replace certain specific functions or roles that teachers currently perform, or have performed in the past (especially related to what are essentially clerical or administrative functions -- this replacement is presumably not always such a bad thing). In my experience, introducing new technologies in schools actually makes the role and function of teachers more central and critical, but that is perhaps a topic for another blog post.
Faced with severe, in some cases quite extreme, deficits of qualified teachers, especially in remote communities and in subjects like mathematics, science and foreign languages, many countries are in engaged in long term efforts to recruit and train more teachers and upgrade the skills and content masteries of 'low-skilled' teachers already in their system. They are exploring how ICTs can be leveraged to help in these efforts. Where there are pressing needs *now* for teachers that can not be met through conventional approaches or according to the traditional timelines dictated by the capacity and effectiveness of their teacher training institutes, there are looking to see how technologies can help reach students today in schools without qualified teachers -- or in some cases, without any teachers at all.