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What does a video about a desert region of China have to do with Niger?

Tony Whitten's picture

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).

'Facebook for farmers' brings microloans to people in rural China

James I Davison's picture

The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.

Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.

An open discussion on improving access to development- and aid-related information: Friday, July 10

James I Davison's picture

A few months ago, the World Bank released a new programming interface (API) that allows for a new level of access to the institution’s data. It is just one example of how the World Bank and other organizations are relying on new technology and the internet to increase transparency and improve access to information and data.

On Friday at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., several organizations are hosting an open discussion on the topic of transparency and open access to information. The event, which is dubbed Open Development Camp, is also sponsored by AidInfo, Development Gateway, Forum One Communications, and USAID's Global Development Commons.

According to the event's webpage, spots are filled to attend the conference in person. But it only seems appropriate that anyone will be able to join the discussion through the this website or follow the conversation via Twitter through the #OpenDevCamp hashtag. Tune in starting around 9 a.m. (Washington, D.C. time).

(via Global Development Commons)

Can anyone be a changemaker? Website attempts to connect social problem solvers

James I Davison's picture

About a month ago, I came across Changemakers.com (via Change.org’s Social Entrepreneurship blog), a neat website for people to connect and collaborate with others working – on all levels – to solve social problems. The website is an initiative of Ashoka, a nonprofit organization that works to support social entrepreneurship. Changemakers seems to act as a social network of sorts – through competitions, discussion forums and storytelling – for people who want to make a difference. Two aspects of the site quickly appealed to me.

Using social media to do good

James I Davison's picture

I came across a small, but interesting online effort to raise donations for an organization that works to improve child literacy in Laos. Called Library for Laos, the effort aims to raise $5,000 by May 1– just five days after it started. The money raised is intended to go to Big Brother Mouse, a neat, Laos-based project that publishes, teaches and distributes books to children in a country they say desperately needs it.

It's a nice concept for a good cause, but what sticks out to me are the coordinators' clear attempts to use social media to spread the word about their effort. On their website, they bank on the ease of PayPal for donating money and the viral nature of social media: "How many people follow you on Twitter? How many friends do you have on Facebook? Let's see how valuable they are!" It's early to tell if they're succeeding. After the first day, they had apparently raised $500 dollars.

Either way, the endeavor highlights how social sites like Facebook, which permeates everyday life for many of us, can serve the world's poor. For example, you have the option to join various "causes" on Facebook. And on Twitter, information can spread like wildfire through retweets (rebroadcasting content to your own set of followers). What do you think? Would you ask your online friends and/or followers to donate money to a good cause?

(Found via: Escape the Cube). Image credit: rustystewart at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

API allows new ways to access World Bank data

James I Davison's picture

Certain online circles have been buzzing about last week's quiet release of the World Bank's new open API, or application programming interface, which gives open access to vast amounts of the Bank's economic data that date back more than 50 years. The news was first announced by the third-party creator of the API, and has been widely discussed on other blogs and Twitter.

The goal of the API is to make it simpler for third-party programmers to create applications that make the World Bank's economic data globally accessible and easy to understand.

I'll leave the specifics of what an API is and how they work to the others, but a quick example is the thousands of games and other iPhone applications (advertised by Apple as "apps") that have been created from its API. Apple couldn't have developed so many apps on its own and instead made it easier for others to create them.

Other than the fact that the API was re-launched, this news won't mean much to non-computer programmers like me ... at least at first. That is, most of us won't be able to see the direct results of the API until programmers and developers start to create mashups, widgets and other applications that make it easy for the rest of us to access, understand and visualize the data.

New and innovative uses of the World Bank's valuable data will hopefully be an eventual result of the API. Irakli Nadareishvili, who was on the team that created the API for the Bank, writes on Phase2's blog, "What you can do with actual code and integration with other tools is probably only limited by imagination."

Collaborative climate change website targets both experts, average folks

James I Davison's picture

Wikipedia, the collaborative encyclopedia website, has interestingly turned the concept of wiki sites into something that seems to be a relatively accepted and trustworthy source of information.

An interesting new wiki tool called Climate Lab takes this concept one step further. The people behind the site, which was beta-launched last week, hope that it will serve as both a clearinghouse source of information for the general public, as well as a collaborative and knowledge-sharing tool for experts of issues related to climate change.

Long-distance knowledge sharing network expands in Indonesia

Philip E. Karp's picture

GDLN Indonesia covers more than 220 public and private universities across the archipelago, opening up opportunities to share knowledge both within Indonesia and with other countries.