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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.
 
How disasters drive displacement – and what should be done about it
IRIN News
The risk of people being displaced by natural disasters has quadrupled in the last 40 years and, unless governments adopt national and global plans to address the main drivers of displacement, increasing numbers of people will lose their homes to floods, earthquakes and landslides in the future. This is the main message of a report released on Thursday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) ahead of the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction due to take place in Sendai, Japan in the coming days. UN member states are expected to adopt a global plan to reduce disaster risk that will build on the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted 10 years ago.  The Hyogo Framework addressed disaster risk reduction but not the risk of being displaced by a disaster..

6 Ways Technology Is Breaking Barriers To Social Change
FastCompany
We all know that technology is changing the world from artificial intelligence to big data to the ubiquity of smart phones, but many of us working to change society are just starting to understand how to harness tech forces for good. The stakes are high: Some 2 billion people continue to live on less than $2 a day. Millions of women and girls around the world lack basic human rights. Forty percent of children in U.S. urban school districts fail to graduate. A slew of initiatives address these and other intractable social issues, yet often, even the most successful ones only address a fraction of the problem.

Thinking about stakeholder risk and accountability in pilot experiments

Heather Lanthorn's picture

ACT malaria medicationHeather Lanthorn describes the design of the Affordable Medicines Facility- malaria, a financing mechanism for expanding access to antimalarial medication, as well as some of the questions countries faced as they decided to participate in its pilot, particularly those related to risk and reputation.

I examine, in my never-ending thesis, the political-economy of adopting and implementing a large global health program, the Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria or the “AMFm”. This program was designed at the global level, meaning largely in Washington, DC and Geneva, with tweaking workshops in assorted African capitals. Global actors invited select sub-Saharan African countries to apply to pilot the AMFm for two years before any decision would be made to continue, modify, scale-up, or terminate the program. One key point I make is that implementing stakeholders see pilot experiments with uncertain follow-up plans as risky: they take time and effort to set-up and they often have unclear lines of accountability, presenting risk to personal, organizational, and even national reputations. This can lead to stakeholder resistance to being involved in experimental pilots.

It should be noted from the outset that it was not fully clear what role the evidence from the pilot would play in the board’s decision or how the evidence would be interpreted. As I highlight below, this lack of clarity helped to foster feelings of risk as well as a resistance among some of the national-level stakeholders about participating in the pilot. Several critics have noted that the scale and scope and requisite new systems and relationships involved in the AMFm disqualify it from being considered a ‘pilot,’ though I use that term for continuity with most other AMFm-related writing.
 
In my research, my focus is on the national and sub-national processes of deciding to participate in the initial pilot (‘phase I’) stage, focusing specifically on Ghana. Besides being notable for the project scale and resources mobilized, one thing that stood out about this project is that there was a reasonable amount of resistance to piloting this program among stakeholders in several of the invited countries. I have been lucky and grateful that a set of key informants in Ghana, as well as my committee and other reviewers, have been willing to converse openly with me over several years as I have tried to untangle the reasons behind the support and resistance and to try to get the story ‘right’.

Prizes, literacy and innovations in education

Michael Trucano's picture
an innovation supporting a revolution?
an innovation supporting a revolution?

"Innovation!"

The buzz around this buzzword in education (the need for it, the celebrations of it, the challenges in catalyzing it) continues to get louder and louder, and the word itself seems to get invoked with increasing (almost de facto) frequency as part of discussions about the need for change.

Indeed:

How are we to meet and overcome many of the pressing, endemic, and sometimes seemingly intractable challenges facing learners, educators, education policymakers and education systems around the world if we aren't being innovative in how we define (and redefine) our problems -- and in how we propose to go about solving them?

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There are many groups, events and activities that seek to document, share knowledge about, analyze and assess various 'innovations in education' around the world. The annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Qatar, for example, focuses explicitly on this theme. R4D's Center for Education Innovations does as well, in partnership with many international groups, including UNICEF (which has a special initiative on 'innovations in education' and whose much-lauded Innovations unit is for many of us a model for excellence within the international donor and aid community). The OECD's widely-read report last year on Measuring Innovations in Education seeks to offer "new perspectives to address th[e] need for measurement in educational innovation through a comparison of innovation in education to innovation in other sectors, identification of specific innovations across educational systems, and construction of metrics to examine the relationship between educational innovation and changes in educational outcomes."

Some observers may feel that this explicit focus on 'innovation in education' is overblown. We don't fund a lot of things sufficiently that we already know work, why don't we first concentrate on that stuff? Others may note that some 'innovations' in education promoted today have actually been around for decades, and thus perhaps no longer really qualify as 'innovations'. Sometimes the only 'innovation' in a particular 'new' approach is to utilize some new technology to do pretty much exactly what was done before, but now 'digitally', and in a way requiring a power cable or batteries. (I am not too sure that much of these thigns are really all that 'innovative', but many people who keep sending me related proposals seem to be convinced that they are.) Still others detect in many discussions around the need for 'innovation in education' the guiding hand of 'corporate education reformers' and/or of technology vendors with products to sell, and, as a result of past experiences, ideological leanings, an inherent tendency towards skepticism or a satisfaction with the status quo, and/or political calculus, reflexively push back (if not indeed recoil).

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'Innovations in education' are about much more than just technology use, of course -- but there is also no denying that new information and communications technologies (ICTs) of various sorts continue to enable and catalyze many of the innovations that are being explored in the sector, whether they relate to e.g. teacher training; assessment; data collection and management; payment mechanisms; stakeholder engagement and transparency; or changes in the teaching and learning processes themselves; and whether they originate in the public, non-profit or corporate sectors (or even, as for example is the case of distributed communities of people working together to help build new software or educational content in ways that are 'free' or 'open', out of no traditional or easily definable 'sector' at all).

Sometimes the ICTs are hard to miss (as is the case with Uruguay’s pioneering Plan Ceibal), and sometimes they are behind the scenes (innovative low cost private schooling schemes like those pioneered by groups like Bridge Academies, for example, depend heavily on the use of ICTs to promote efficiency and cut costs), but increasingly they are there. Many traditional groups active in advocating for funding efforts to help end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity (the twin goals of the World Bank) are increasingly challenged to identify, make sense of and support the diffusion of 'innovations in education' in ways that are useful and efficient and cost-effective – and potentially, from time to time, even transformative.

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Macroeconomic implications of the recent oil price decline

Raju Huidrom's picture
Following four years of relative stability at around $105 per barrel (bbl), oil prices have declined sharply since June 2014. It is not the first sharp oil price swing: there have been five other episodes of oil price drops in excess of 30 percent and several more episodes of oil price spikes. Over the past five decades, these steep drops and spikes have stimulated an extensive literature on the macroeconomic implications of oil price swings and the channels through which they operate.

Media (R)evolutions: The future of the Internet of Things and wearables

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.

The Internet is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our daily lives.  The media and technology industries are also moving beyond individual, detached devices to new arrangements that connect our devices to one another and to larger systems of response.  

In this new arrangement, PCs and smartphones will remain fundamental but other devices like tablets, appliances, and wearables will join them to connect a network of physical objects or "things".  Each thing will be embedded with software and sensors that enable it to exchange data with the operator and other connected devices through the Internet. Hence, the Internet of Things (IoT).
 

The Internet of Everything


 

Picture Trade: How to be a wiz at WITS trade data visualizations

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Ever needed to know exactly how much a country exports or imports of a product? How about which trade partners are most important to a country? Or how those relationships and patterns of trade have changed over time?
 
There is now an easy way to get this picture using the WITS Country Analysis Trade Data Visualization tool. Here's how it works. In the visualization below, select a country, a year, whether you want trade flow data for imports or exports, and whether you want to view the data by partner country or by product.

Below these options is a slider, which shows the number of partners/products in the data set. You can adjust this slider to focus on any range of numbers. Say, for example, you are interested in only the top 10 partners, then you can set the slider from 1-10 to view only the top 10-- or slide it in the other direction to see the smallest trade partners. Happy exploring, and post your comments if you find something interesting!

 

WITS Country Analysis Trade Data Visualization


You can explore this and more advanced visualizations in the WITS Trade Visualizations page. To see how these visualizations can help tell stories in more interesting ways, check out our recent blog on fuel prices that uses the Product Analysis visualization.

The energy future, as seen from Denmark

Nicholas Keyes's picture
Photo by Blue Square Thing via FlickrDriving across the Danish countryside, they cannot be missed: towering white wind turbines as far as the eye can see, their slow-turning blades providing a 21st century counterpoint against the flat landscape of fields and farmhouses.
 
Denmark has committed to renewable energy further and faster than any country in Europe.  The Scandinavian nation generates a third of its annual electricity demand from wind, and solar capacity is growing as well. For countries that want to green their energy mix, there is no better place to get a glimpse of the future than Denmark. 
 
Its pioneering spirit has brought great benefits, and international acclaim, but like all first movers, Denmark is also learning as it goes. 
 
To tap into this learning, ESMAP—the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program—organized a study tour to Energinet.dk, Denmark’s transmission system operator, as part of its work to help client countries integrate variable renewable energy into their electricity grids. Joining the study tour were 26 participants—representatives from regulators, system operators and utilities from 13 countries, including South Africa, Chile, China, Pakistan, Zambia, and Morocco.

World Water Day: We want to hear from you





​Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.
 

Musicians, funky technologists, and the World Bank: What do they have in common?

Sean Ding's picture
Every March, some 45,000 people flood into Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), a set of film, music, and interactive festivals.  Since 1987, SXSW has been an epicenter for performers and filmmakers to showcase their talent, and more recently, for technologists and startup founders to launch new products and apps, such as Foursquare and Twitter (in 2007). This year, SXSW has brought to Austin discussion of big ideas such as extreme bionics, women in tech, anti-robot advocacy – and literally big devices such as GE’s 14-foot barbecue smoker
 
SXSW 2015. © Ed Schipul licensed under CC BY 2.0


At first sight, SXSW may appear to have little in common with the World Bank Group, the largest development institution in the world. Yet, creativity and technology, the two founding principles of SXSW, are often cited as two key factors for the World Bank Group to tackle the most daunting development challenges of the 21st century. At this year’s SXSW, a number of panel discussions around innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology in emerging markets are bringing the World Bank’s development agenda and Austin’s passion for technology much closer together. Among them two panels focusing on the risk and return of African Tech startups, and the innovation ecosystem in emerging markets, organized by infoDev, a World Bank program that supports innovation and entrepreneurship globally.


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