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April 2011

Gaddafi on the Subject of the Internet

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Amira Al Hussaini, the Middle East and North Africa Editor of 'Global Voices' has a blog that is anything but silly: Silly Bahraini Girl.  It was on that blog that earlier this week I found this translation from the Arabic of Colonel Gaddafi on the subject of the Internet. I am not going to comment on it. I invite you to enjoy it. It has all the makings of a classic:

 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Africa Can...End Poverty
Two ways of overcoming government failure

"Everyone seems to agree that most, if not all, policy problems have their roots in politics. That is why you often hear that a particular policy will not be implemented because there is no “political will.”  Seemingly anti-poor policies and outcomes—untargeted and costly fertilizer vouchers in Tanzania, 99 percent leakage of public health funds in Chad, 20 percent teacher absenteeism in Uganda, 25 percent unemployment in South Africa—persist.  Yet these are countries where the median voter is poor.  A majority doesn’t vote in favor of policies that will benefit the majority.  Why?" READ MORE

Brookings
The Struggle for Middle East Democracy
Shadi Hamid

"It always seemed as if Arab countries were ‘on the brink.’ It turns out that they were. And those who assured us that Arab autocracies would last for decades, if not longer, were wrong. In the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, academics, analysts and certainly Western policymakers must reassess their understanding of a region entering its democratic moment. What has happened since January disproves longstanding assumptions about how democracies can—and should—emerge in the Arab world. Even the neoconservatives, who seemed passionately attached to the notion of democratic revolution, told us this would be a generational struggle. Arabs were asked to be patient, and to wait. In order to move toward democracy, they would first have to build a secular middle class, reach a certain level of economic growth, and, somehow, foster a democratic culture. It was never quite explained how a democratic culture could emerge under dictatorship." READ MORE

A New Social Contract with Civil Society?

John Garrison's picture

The recent democratic uprisings in the Middle East served as the backdrop for a major speech given by Bank President Robert Zoellick on the emerging role of civil society.  The speech, The Middle East and North Africa: A New Social Contract for Development given at Washington’s Peterson Institute on April 6, may well mark a watershed in Bank – civil society relations.  He stated that “now it may be time to invest in the private, not-for-profit sector – civil society -- to help strengthen the capacity of organizations working on transparency, accountability, and service delivery.”  Mr. Zoellick further said that “in one way or the other, a modernized multilateralism needs to recognize that investments in civil society and social accountability will be as important to development in the Middle East and beyond as investments in infrastructure, firms, factories, or farms.” 

Media Effects on Foreign Policy

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Recent events in North Africa have intensified speculations about the role of traditional mass media as well as communication technologies in shaping political events and cultures across the world. Media influence on policy, foreign or domestic, has been the subject of some research, but is not generally taken seriously in the relevant disciplines. We have discussed on this blog before that the lack of systematic research and acknowledgement of media influence on policymaking may be due to the indirect nature of this effect. Media do not necessarily influence policymakers directly, but may work through public opinion by shaping what people know and believe about foreign politics. Public opinion, embodied in predominant political views or in election results, can have considerable influence on policymakers that need approval from the electorate.

I recently had the honor of contributing a book review on media influence on foreign policymaking to the foreign policy journal IP Global Edition, published by the German Council on Foreign Relations. I discussed three relevant books: "Unreliable Sources" by John Simpson, "The Al Jazeera Effect" by Philip Seib, and Bella Mody's analysis of "The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News." You can find the full review here.

Are Citizen Service Centers Viable?

Sabina Panth's picture

In my earlier blog post, I had conceived the idea of 'fee-based service centers' that can be run through public-private partnership with the goal of improving citizens’ access to, and delivery of, government services.  The concept was considered in the context of sustainability of demand for good governance practices in relation to the aid dependency culture of civil society organizations.   Recently, I became aware that such ‘fee-based service centers’ do prevail and, in fact, have caught the attention of policymakers and development experts.

Quote of the Week: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Antonio Lambino's picture

“Even in the most authoritarian regimes around the world, people are listening to the opinions of their publics -- because those publics now have many more ways of expressing that opinion.  And so there’s  a growing effort to make sure that your views and your actions at home and abroad are aligned with what public opinion is.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, on Charlie Rose, aired on April 20, 2011

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

AudienceScapes:
Kenya: Citizen Watchdogs Go Online

"Holding government officials accountable is the goal of a new project that solicits citizen reports via mobile phone. Through this Web-based public forum the government’s performance will be scrutinized – and, the hope is – improved."
Kenya - "In a new forum here for citizen complaints, one recent report complains about inadequate medical care: “No medicine, no nurse at Nyamira Hospital. I am tired of this.” Launched a month ago in test phase, the Web-based forum allows ordinary Kenyans to comment on the government’s success in performing basic functions. Using a mobile phone or computer, citizens can post comments which are then published on a public website. Called Huduma (which means “service” in Swahili), the platform solicits reports about government services in five areas: health, education, water, governance and infrastructure." READ MORE 

Trying to See Like a Citizen

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"The most effective citizens are the most versatile: the ones who can cross boundaries. They move between the local, the national and the global, employ a range of techniques, act as allies and adversaries of the state, and deploy their skill of protest and partnership at key moments and in different institutional entry points."
 
This quote and other interesting nuggets come via a new report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS).  Thought-provoking and based on a decade of research spanning 150 case studies in nearly 30 countries, the new report contains a wealth of organized thought on both the changing role of citizens in development and the shifting sands of citizen-oriented development policy. In fact, I found myself highlighting so many different portions, I'm just going to split this post in two.

Shared Societies: The Link Between Inclusion and Economic Growth

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada and Member of the Club de Madrid, presented an argument in favor of fostering "shared societies" at the World Bank today - providing, unintentionally, CommGAP with a systematic case why inclusive communication and accountability promotes economic growth. The "Shared Societies Project" of the Club de Madrid operates on the assumption that inclusive societies are more peaceful and economically more successful. A shared society, in this organization's understanding, is a society "where people hold an equal capacity to participate in and benefit from economic, political and social opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language, gender or other attributes and where, as a consequence, relations between groups a peaceful."

Wanted: How Does Your Organization Use Technology To Help Improve People's Lives?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The World Bank Institute publishes a magazine, Development Outreach, that covers current issues and trends in international development. CommGAP's Program Head, Sina Odugbemi, is guest editor of the upcoming issue of Development Outreach, which will feature articles and debates around the issue of Open Development. In this issue we strive to present a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and knowledge - and we are asking you to share your experience with us and the readers of Development Outreach. Specifically, we are asking you to send us your stories about projects in which your organization used information and communication technologies to improve people's lives in developing countries. Send your stories to commgap@worldbank.org! You can also share your story by commenting on this post (but don't forget a reply-to email).

The Good News From Egypt

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Just when I was ruminating on bad news, here comes an informative Foreign Policy piece focusing explicitly on some good news coming out of Egypt - the opening up of the country's traditional media. James Traub's overview of changes in the country's media sector helpfully frames current developments against historical background, so that when someone quoted in the piece says "Now it's just the news -- according to the importance of the news," the reader understands the significance. (Note: Traub's piece appears to rely on translations from Arabic, English language media and interviews with Egyptian journalists and activists, and I think it would be enhanced by complementary analyses that are directly accessing and interpreting the source material.) 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

NDI Tech
Practice Makes Perfect, or How We Fail Early and Succeed Late

“Ahead of the intense effort and coordination involved with PVT-type data collection on an Election Day, organizations choose to simulate the reporting and data management processes which will be required in a tense political environment.

In massive data collection exercises, “stress” or “load” tests can assess the training and commitment of the observers, the effectiveness of the communications system and the training (video!) of staff in the center.”

Development Results at Your Fingertips

Antonio Lambino's picture

A little over a year ago, I wrote on this blog that communicative norms on the use of social media were shifting around, but would eventually settle down.  This would happen, I argued rather naïvely, as patterns and preferences of user communities determined the contours and content of fast changing information and communication ecologies.  I should also have said that vested interests –both good and bad--would attempt to exert influence on this process. 

We’ve all probably come across stories of the ways in which news and media organizations, businesses, schools, and international donors have been struggling to remain relevant within shifting information environments around the world.  So have governments, parliaments, and bureaucracies.  Much has been written about these struggles for relevance, and a dominant theme in much of this writing has been the need to provide users with tools to manage unrelenting information gluts. 

The Real Indian Idol Wins Fights Against Corruption

Tanya Gupta's picture

In my last blog, I wrote about ADR, which is fighting corruption using the Right to Information Act.  In the early 2000s, Anna Hazare (Anna is pronounced un-nah) led a movement in the Indian state of Maharashtra that forced the Government to pass a strong Right to Information Act.  This Maharashtra Act formed the basis for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Central Government.  Anna Hazare has once again fought and won a significant battle against corruption. Anna was, until recently fasting until death at Jantar Mantar in order to put pressure on the Government of India to enact an anti-corruption act called the Jan Lokpal Bill.  This past Saturday he called off his “hunger strike” after receiving a gazette notification from the Centre on the constitution of a joint committee, comprising members from the government and civil society, for preparation of the draft Lokpal Bill. This bill proposes the establishment of a Lokpal (ombudsman) with the power to counter corruption in public office.

Ring the Bell and Stop the Violence

Sabina Panth's picture

Media has long been a powerful force for empowerment.  New media content is constantly being created with the purpose of encouraging citizens to address issues at the local, national and international levels.  One such example is India’s Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) campaign, which has used new media channels to catch the attention of local youth on the important issue of domestic violence and encourage them to become a part of the solution.

Quote of the Week: E. B. White

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 

“The so-called science of poll-taking is not a science at all but mere necromancy.  People are unpredictable by nature, and although you can take a nation’s pulse, you can’t be sure that the nation hasn’t just run up a flight of stairs, and although you can take a nation’s blood pressure, you can’t be sure that if you came back in twenty minutes you’d get the same reading. This is a damn fine thing.” 

-- E. B. White 
 

“Attacks on the Press: A Hurdle for Accountable Governance?”

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In recent months, it’s become more evident that journalism is a dangerous business.  Yet, good journalism is crucial for good governance and for an informed citizenry.  During the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East, journalists, professional and citizens alike, have been beaten, imprisoned, or gone missing for reporting (or trying to report) facts and stories from the ground.  The sad truth is that the number of attacks on the press around the world is increasing. In fact, there has been a dramatic increase in the last decade.

Are We Ready to Go Political?

Nicholas Menzies's picture

Citizens are in the streets and squares clamoring for change with questions of leadership and politics squarely in their minds, but how well placed are development agencies to think about – and act on – such issues?

The Developmental Leadership Program, originally housed at the World Bank, is a coalition of bilateral agencies and NGOs catalyzed by the oft reported failure of donor governance work to effect meaningful change. The Program’s hypothesis is that in any given context there’s a lot more going on to propel (or stymie) reform than a focus on institution building will uncover. This is not to say that institutions don’t matter, but that the conduct of individuals, coalitions and especially elites within any context is a key factor in determining whether broad-based and sustainable development comes about. The Program has commissioned a number of country and sector-level studies to understand the factors that contribute to developmental leadership (as well as the less positive kind), exploring the “room to maneuver” actors have in institutional contexts, and what determines the ways they act.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Guardian
How citizens can make development happen

"The future of development lies in the hands of millions of citizens. It's a bold statement by Rakesh Rajani, founder of Twaweza, who was in London for the debate on the future of aid organised by the Overseas Development Institute. Only two years old, Twaweza, which means "we can make it happen" in Swahili, is attempting to do just that across three east African countries, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Rajani's strategy is to spread information, believing that crucial to the process of development is access to ideas. Twaweza focuses on what it believes are the five main routes for people to hear new ideas in the region: religion; mobile phones; mass media, in particular radio; fast-moving consumer goods; and teachers. Twaweza builds partnerships in all these areas to spread ideas, draw in new voices and open up conversations. It works rather like a venture fund, initiating ideas and getting new organisations off the ground. Rajani cites Amartya Sen's comment that poverty is not about a lack of money, but about a lack of options. His aim is to find new ways to intervene in people's lives to widen their options." 

What Kind of News Comes in 140 Characters or Facebook Status Updates? – New Global Study

Susan Moeller's picture

Quick.  If someone says to you: “Give me the latest ‘news’” what do you think to tell them? 

Maybe the latest from Libya or Japan or Cote d’Ivoire?  Perhaps something about the NYSE bids or the US government shutdown?  Maybe you mention India winning the Cricket World Cup or UConn taking the NCAA basketball tournament?

Well, if you are talking to a college student, you might want to think twice about what you say and how you say it.  According to a new global study just released by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, when college students around the world talk about needing to get “news,” they don’t just want updates on world affairs, business or even sports.  “News” to students means “anything that just happened” – and students most care about “news” of their friends and family, before any “news” that might be globally momentous.

It's Bad News . . . Again

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

It happens so regularly, it's nearly clockwork: somebody looks up from news of the latest disaster and asks, "Where's the GOOD news?"

Charles Kenny asks this question of development coverage in his latest blog post for the Center for Global Development. There are several reasons why nobody knows about the tremendous progress being made in Africa, he and others argue: it's hard for the media to repeatedly report on disasters averted; tragedy sells; NGOs and aid agencies have an incentive to trumpet crises in order to keep international attention focused and money coming in.  But the costs of continuously negative coverage of development include deterred investment, dispirited local populations and aid fatigue among donor nations.