Nobody remembers an earthquake or a disaster this severe in their living memory. Aftershocks continue three months after the first earthquake, reminding survivors of their fragile, transitory existence. The scale of destruction is enormous, the remains visible even after efforts to clean, rebuild, and resettle. Gaping cracks in abandoned buildings waiting to collapse, tents in fields and pavements, parked vehicles that become shelters at night, rubble too enormous to be lifted to a landfill site, the occasional bulldozer – are all grim reminders of the tragedy. The skyline, once dominated by terracotta temples with tiered pagoda roofs, now is made up only of concrete masonry buildings.
Trade blocs are intergovernmental agreements intended to bring economic benefits to their members by reducing barriers to trade.
Some well known trade blocs include the European Union, NAFTA and the African Union. Through encouraging foreign direct investment, increasing competition, and boosting exports, trade blocs can have numerous benefits for their members.
Sub-Saharan Arica has launched a new wave of “special economic zones” (SEZs), with more and more countries establishing or planning to establish SEZs or industrial parks. However, can Africa overcome the past stigma and make the zone programs truly successful?
This was one of the hot topics during the China-Africa “Investing in Africa Forum,” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from June 30 to July 1, organized by the World Bank Group with the government of Ethiopia, the government of China, the China Development Bank and UNIDO.
Why did the the African zones fail, in the past, to attract many investors? My answer was they were not truly “special” in terms of business environment and infrastructure provisions, and many constraints were not significantly improved inside the zones. This analysis was supported by another panelist, His Excellency Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. According to Dr. Oqubay, past zones in Africa were “missing the ‘basics’ such as power, water and one-stop services, and were not aligned with national development strategy.”
That viewpoint was shared by almost all the other panelists, which included senior African and Chinese officials and international experts at the SEZ session, which was characterized with candid discussions and greatly benefited from the background paper prepared by Douglas Zeng of the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice.
I recently returned from vacation in Alaska, America’s final frontier. This place is massive, twice as big as Texas. It’s so remote that many of the conveniences Americans take for granted simply aren’t available. Prices are high, cell-phone coverage is sparse, and the state capital, Juneau, isn’t even accessible by road. It’s wonderful in summer, but during winter there are only six hours of dim sun.
For the 737,000 people who call Alaska home, life can be a challenge most of the year. The economy relies heavily on energy extraction (80% of state revenue is from petroleum) and the federal government (subsidies and military spending), plus fishing and tourism.
Here are some things that caught our attention last week:
Matt Gray points out that American NOAA Weather Satellites transmit pictures via FM radio at 137MHz. Which, as Matt demonstrates, means you could use a $12 USB dongle and a laptop to receive and decode images from space.
“Worm Wars” may sound like an unlikely Summer blockbuster, but the debate surrounding a recent re-analysis of Edward Miguel and Michael Kremer’s 2004 deworming study has been making headlines in development circles. It provides an excellent argument for publishing data and methods alongside all research (bravo to the authors for doing so) and I’d recommend Ben Goldacre’s excellent overview of the issue, Chris Blattman’s take on it, and World Bank colleague Berk Ozler’s review of the reanalysis as well.
Chrysler issued a recall of about 1.4M vehicles after hackers / researchers managed to take control of a Jeep over the internet. It turns out it was possible to remotely hack the “Uconnect” system in these cars just by knowing the vehicle’s IP address. This is *really* alarming and while there are some legislative options on the table, it’s a sobering reminder that security engineering needs to be at the heart of internet connected devices, and that Commander Adama was, as usual, right.
Machine learning is a part of modern computer science and statistics and deals with getting systems to make and improve on predictions based on data. Commoditized machine learning platforms are starting to get pretty good, and lett you quickly try out and visualize various models. Check out Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning, BigML, IBM Watson Analytics and Amazon Machine Learning.
If you’re familiar with unix-like command line tools and work with CSV files, I’d highly recommend checking out CSVKit. It’s a set of utilities for displaying, manipulating and analysing CSV files. Three years after discovering it, CSVKit and Open Refine are two of my most used “data-wrangling” tools.. And if you’re not familiar with command-line tools, CSVKit is a great place to start!
- Finally, if you’ve not already seen it, check out the new worldbank.org homepage - it’s a beautiful example of mobile-friendly responsive design in action. It weighs in at 1.2Mb which these days is not too shabby, but for an overview of how not to design a fast, low-bandwidth responsive site, here’s one blogger’s take on The Verge.
"Politically, most of the world has never been more boring. Instead of the alarms and excursions of the past, we now have technocrats versus populists. Any violence is verbal and the technocrats nearly always win."
Niall Ferguson, a British historian from Scotland, who specializes in international history; economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets; and British and American imperialism. Ferguson's books include Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World and Civilization: The West and the Rest. He is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University; Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford; a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; and visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities.
The best technology is often the one you already have, know how to (and do) use, and can afford. In many places around the world, this technology is the mobile phone.
This is not to contend that 'new' technology devices should not be considered -- far from it! Rather, this general guidance is meant to serve as a reminder for planners and decisionmakers to consider how it might be possible to take advantage of and leverage *existing* technologies, and the activities and processes these technologies enable, before committing to introduce totally new (or foreign) technology tools into a given environment. Just because something is new doesn't mean that it is automatically better. Of course: It doesn't mean that it is worse, either.
At a conceptual level, when considering what technology devices are to be utilized as part of a given project or activity, mobile phones may often be the 'best' technology. But: Does that make the mobile phone an appropriate or practical technology choice for use in schools, and/or by students and teachers?
When it comes to mobile phones and the education sector, things aren't so simple, and answers vary considerably by place -- and are changing. In some countries and schools, mobile phones are not allowed at all for students (and in some cases for teachers as well) and/or their use is limited to certain circumstances inside (and in some instances even outside) of school. In other places, phones are allowed with few restrictions. In yet other places, long time bans on phones are being reversed. Even where bans are in place, phones are still to be found in schools, for better and for worse, and they are used for a variety of purposes (again, for better and for worse).
the use of mobile phones in schools and education systems around the world?
While negative rates in Europe may help boost lending and exports, they could also have some adverse consequences for financial stability. They may erode bank profitability and may make it harder for pension and life insurance companies to meet their long-term liabilities. Investors may be encouraged to take excessive risk. Finally, if negative rates were to prevail for long, they may lead to operational innovations whose costs may offset the benefits of negative rates.