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February 2014

How to Fix Fragile States? The OECD Reckons it’s All Down to Tax Systems.

Duncan Green's picture

‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.

After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.

The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.

How Should INGOs Prepare for the Coming Disruption? Reading the Aid/Development Horizon Scans (so that you don’t have to)

Duncan Green's picture

Gosh, INGOs do find themselves fascinating. Into my inbox plop regular exercises in deep navel-gazing –both excessively self-regarding and probably necessary. They follow a pretty standard formula:

  • Everything is changing. Mobile phones! Rise of China!
  • Everything is speeding up. Instant feedback! Fickle consumers! Shrinking product cycles!
  • You, in contrast are excruciatingly slow, bureaucratic and out of touch. I spit on you and your logframes.
  • Transform or die!

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.
 

The Mobile-Finance Revolution
Foreign Affairs
The roughly 2.5 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day are not destined to remain in a state of chronic poverty. Every few years, somewhere between ten and 30 percent of the world’s poorest households manage to escape poverty, typically by finding steady employment or through entrepreneurial activities such as growing a business or improving agricultural harvests. During that same period, however, roughly an equal number of households slip below the poverty line. Health-related emergencies are the most common cause, but there are many more: crop failures, livestock deaths, farming-equipment breakdowns, even wedding expenses.  In many such situations, the most important buffers against crippling setbacks are financial tools such as personal savings, insurance, credit, or cash transfers from family and friends. Yet these are rarely available because most of the world’s poor lack access to even the most basic banking services.


Mozilla plans '$25 smartphone' for emerging markets
BBC Technology
Mozilla has shown off a prototype for a $25 (£15) smartphone that is aimed at the developing world. The company, which is famed mostly for its Firefox browser, has partnered with Chinese low-cost chip maker Spreadtrum. While not as powerful as more expensive models, the device will run apps and make use of mobile internet. It would appeal to the sorts of people who currently buy cheap "feature" phones, analysts said. Feature phones are highly popular in the developing world as a halfway point between "dumb" phones - just voice calls and other basic functions - and fully-fledged smartphones.

How User-Generated Crisis Maps Save Lives in Disasters

Jing Guo's picture

YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, blogs… This list could easily go on and on for paragraphs. Today, we are so immersed in social media that we can hardly go a day without reading or watching user-generated online content. Videos like “Charlie Bit My Finger” make us laugh. Free lessons on Khan Academy, which were originally started by a hedge fund analyst at home, help us learn.

But user-generated online content is not all about entertainment and free classes. Crisis maps on crowd-sourcing platforms like OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi have demonstrated a less expected yet significant capacity of user-led content creation online:  it saves lives in disasters.

Media (R)evolutions: The Global Mobile Games Landscape

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.

There are about 1.6 billion people with access to the internet, and among those more than 44% play online games-- that's over 700 million people worldwide!  The global mobile games market is expected grow 27.3% annually to double its current size in 2016 and reach $23.9 billion in revenue.  This growth is driven by both an increasing number of players as well as higher average spending per paying mobile gamer.  The Asia-Pacific region is the largest market for mobile games, representing around 48% of global revenue.

Is the Internet becoming a New ‘Political Mantra’ in India?

CGCS's picture
Dr. Pradeep Kumar Misra, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education and Allied Sciences of M.J.P. Rohilkhand University, Bareilly, India, discusses the use and implications of the Internet and social media in Indian politics. Dr. Misra will be completing a research project about Internet policy in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh as part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory.

The last decade has witnessed unprecedented Internet diffusion in India. Over the past three years alone, Internet usage in India increased from 100 to 200 million people, growing far more rapidly than the decade it took to raise Internet users from 10 million to 100 million. A report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimates that by June 2014, India will have 243 million Internet users, at which point in time it is expected to overtake the US as the second largest Internet base in the world. This report further observes that the mobile Internet is going to be the next game changer for the Internet in India, with Indian mobile Internet users experiencing huge growth reaching 155 million in March and 185 million in June 2014 (IAMAI, 2013). With this rapid growth, scholars adopting a normative perspective present the Internet as a friend, philosopher and guide across different localities and communities in India. One such scholar, Adulkafi Albirini, articulates one possibility of the Internet as an emerging, …utopian, egalitarian and empowering tool with the potential of ushering in a new era of development, democracy, and positive cultural change” (2008, p. 49).

World Protests 2006-13: Where? How Big? About What? Did They Achieve Anything?

Duncan Green's picture

Following on from last week’s food riots post, some wider context. The news is full of protests (Kiev, Caracas, Cairo), but to what extent is it really ‘all kicking off everywhere’ as Paul Mason claims? Just come across a pretty crude, but thought-provoking paper that tries to find out. For World Protests 2006-13, Isabel Ortiz, Sara Burke, Mohamed Berrada and Hernan Cortes scoured online media (international and national) to identify and analyse 843 protests over the period.

world protests 2006-13 fig 2Among their findings are:

Protests have steadily increased in number, particularly after 2010 (see graph).

Protests were more prevalent in high income countries, but violent riots were mainly a low income country phenomenon (feel free to debate the arrow of causality on that one).

Look Who Has a Megaphone!

Roxanne Bauer's picture

In an interview on TN TV Channel, Argentina in November 2013 Pope Francis said that, “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” He continued, “It is a throwaway culture that discards young people as well as its older people. In some European countries, without mentioning names, there is youth unemployment of 40 percent and higher.”

It seems Pope Francis has heard the rallying calls from youth around the world.

In 2010, youth in Mozambique staged protests in Maputo and Matola against rising food prices.

The ‘Geração à Rasca’ (Scraping-by Generation) of Portugal took to the streets in March 2011 as a spontaneous Facebook event to call attention to underemployment, lack of social protection, and unemployment that many experience.

Youth protests flared in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June and September of 2013 in reaction to high unemployment, low-paying jobs, inflation, and the high cost of living in big cities.

And just a month ago, around 2,000 unemployed Moroccans marched through their capital in January 2014 to demand jobs, a particularly thorny problem for university graduates.

The more famous protests of Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and the Gezi Park protests in Turkey were also spurred, in part, by young people.

Quote of the Week: Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"It’s still true that the market is a lousy master but a good servant, and that means that we still have to have a market economy but we have to control it and regulate it to the benefit of everyone. That’s still my line and that’s still how I feel about social democracy.” 

- Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a Danish politician serving as the Prime Minister of Denmark since 3 October 2011 and the Leader of the Social Democrats since 12 April 2005. She is the first woman to hold either post.

The Dictator’s Dilemma

Sina Odugbemi's picture

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.

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.
 

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
Forbes
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

Scaling up Development: Learning Innovations and the Open Learning Campus

Abha Joshi-Ghani's picture

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.

Campaign Art: What Does Social Justice Mean to YOU?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Thursday, February 20 is World Day of Social Justice.  This video from the International Labor Organization features eminent voices from Kofi Annan to Shakira and asks "What is social justice and what does it mean for people the world over?"

Please add your voice and tell us what social justice means to you, by leaving us a comment. 

What Does Social Justice Mean to YOU?

Challenges for Rural Primary Education through Satellite Technology in India

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

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.

Quote of the Week: Olav Thon

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 "You can’t feed a cat with cream and food in the kitchen and expect him to go catch mice."

 - Olav Thon, a Norwegian real estate developer and billionaire, who worked his way from being a poor farm boy to Norway’s wealthiest resident.  He is listed in the Forbes list of billionaires as the 198th richest person in the world and is nicknamed "the fox."

 

How to Build Accountability in Fragile States? Some Lessons (and 2 New Jobs) from an Innovative Governance Programme

Duncan Green's picture

One of my favourite Oxfam programmes is called (rather arcanely) ‘Within and Without the State’(WWS). It is trying to build civil society and good governance in some pretty unpromising environments – Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and OPTI (Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel).

It’s currently advertising two new jobs (one on learning and communications, the other a programme coordinator), if you’re interested.

WWS recently published some crisply-written initial findings on governance and fragility. They echo the work of Matt Andrews and others on how institutional change happens.

Here’s a few highlights:

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.
 

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
Global Integrity
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

Reaching Out From The Academic Grove

Tom Jacobson's picture

I am pleased to be able to return to blogging in this space after a rather extended stint in the land of higher education administration, and am welcoming a re-immersion in matters related to using communication to help facilitate development efforts.  One such matter on my mind following the administrative assignment is the relative lack of contact between academics that study development and practitioners who actually do development work. 

The gap is widely noted anecdotally, and a recent study confirms the anecdotes. The Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication recently reported a study, conducted for BBC Media Action, on the reach and impact of Media Action’s work globally. One of their findings is that the world of practitioners underutilizes help that is available from academia: “…practitioners are less likely than other development stakeholders to consult academic research on the media…,” and “the policy community involved in funding media programs makes only moderate use of available research and evidence.” Of course, it goes both ways. Promotion up the academic ladder tends to reward theoretical inquiry regardless of real world impact.  And, thus, much research tends to be more useful theoretically than practically. Furthermore, for reasons there isn’t time to review here, the considerable number of communication research graduate programs that include development studies has atrophied in recent decades.

Media (R)evolutions: Social Media at the Sochi Winter Olympics

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.

2010 winter Olympic Games in Vancouver were the first Olympic Games impacted by social media. In four years, social media has grown in both scale and influence. This infographic takes a deeper look at the growth of social networks and the potential they have to generate engagement, insight and interaction during the Sochi Olympic Games.

 
 



































 

Voices of the Hungry; Killer Indicators, and How to Measure the Social Determinants of Health. New thinking on Measurement with Gallup Inc.

Duncan Green's picture

About once a year, I head off for the plush, Thames-side offices of Gallup Inc, for a fascinating update on what they’re up to on development-related topics. In terms of measurement, they often seem way ahead of the aid people, for example, developing a rigorous annual measurement of well-being across 147 countries. Not quite sure why they talk to me – maybe as part of the wilder shores of their business development – they know they won’t get much business out of it, but some useful ideas might come out of the discussion. This time, Katherine Trebeck, Oxfam’s wellbeing guru (only she prefers to call it ‘collective prosperity’ for some reason) and developer of the Humankind Index, was there too, which added some actual knowledge to our side of the exchange.

First up was Gallup’s partnership with the FAO on their ‘Voices of the Hungry’ project, aimed in part at correcting the alarming weakness of the numbers on hunger (see Richard King’s 2011 post on that). After pilots in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger, in part supported by the Government of Belgium, FAO has now got DFID funding to go global, initially for two years. Through ‘Voices of the Hungry’, FAO has developed the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), modelled on the 15-item Latin American and Caribbean Food Security Scale. This uses interviews to place people along a spectrum from worried about food to seriously hungry.

Quote of the Week: Philip Stephens

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 "It is time to admit defeat. The bankers have got away with it. They have seen off politicians, regulators and angry citizens alike to stroll triumphant from the ruins of the great crash.”

- Philip Stephens, associate editor and chief political commentator of  the Financial Times.
 

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.

Infographic: The Decline of Global Internet Freedom
PC Mag
Two years after the Internet went dark in protest of a proposed U.S. Internet censorship bill, four out of five people worldwide still don't have access to an uncensored Web. In celebration of the second annual Internet Freedom Day, Golden Frog released an infographic (below) chronicling the worldwide struggle for Internet freedom. "Everything you love about the Internet is at risk," the software firm said, painting a bleak picture of global Web sovereignty. Few countries can claim "mostly unrestricted" access; the U.S., U.K., Australia, and bits of South America, Western Europe, Africa, and Asia (specifically Japan) can freely roam the World Wide Web, without fear of government oppression or censorship. Almost half of the world, however, falls under heavy restrictions READ MORE

Rescuers Sift Through Social-Media Noise to Direct Typhoon Response
Wall Street Journal
In disasters like the typhoon that slammed into the Philippines, sifting through a barrage of confusing and conflicting on-the-ground reports is one of the first problems facing rescue teams. Social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can make matters worse. All too often, users recycle what others have posted or retweeted without adding any fresh information. Sorting through all the noise is too much for individual agencies to handle on their own. So Swiss-born Patrick Meier is gearing up to attack the problem with a new approach called social mapping: Using a combination of volunteers and algorithms to filter the chaos and to provide rescue teams with a detailed, data-driven map of what they should be doing, and where. READ MORE

If You Want a Better Media System in Your Country…Build a Movement

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Far too many of the people and organizations working on strengthening media systems in developing countries focus on how to secure funding from donors, preponderantly donors in the West; and they still mostly do the easy stuff, like organizing training seminars for journalists. Too few of them are taking on the real challenges of bedeviling media systems in many transition countries and far less developed ones.

When you focus on donors you have to do what donors are willing to pay for, reality be damned. And when you focus on donors, you have to worry about short term ‘results’, the ‘evidence of impact’ and so on. It is all too tempting to do only what is easy to count and measure. And donor priorities change all the time: the ministers change, the officials change, the lingo changes, the demands change. It is almost always a dizzying ride. Yet the problems facing the media in developing countries, the lacks that prevent them from playing their classic roles as watchdogs, public forums and agenda-setters, are persistent and long-term. Their rhythm is not that of fickle donors.

Can Aid Donors Really 'Think and Work Politically'? Plus the Dangers of 'Big Man' Thinking, and the Horrors of Political Science-Speak

Duncan Green's picture

Spent an enjoyable couple of days last week with the ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) crew, first at a follow up to the Delhi meeting (nothing earth shattering to report, but a research agenda is on the way – I’ll keep you posted), and then at a very moving memorial conference for the late Adrian Leftwich (right), who is something of a founding father to this current of thought.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of this line of thinking: understanding and engaging with the underlying issues of power and politics should be the heart of any serious work on development.

But based on last weeks exchanges, I’ve got some concerns too – here are some reflections:

First some choice quotes:
 

Campaign Art: Jednel's Wish: I Just Want a Normal Day

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Jednel, age 10, saw his home town of Leyte, Philliphines destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. He recounts how people ignored the storm surge warnings, failed to evacuate, and, as a result, how many people lost their lives, including his friend. Jednel's school was also destroyed in the storm leaving him and his friends with nothing to do. Plan International set up child friendly spaces in the affected areas where children can play in a safe environment. These safe havens allow children to share their stories, play and have fun together - temporarily forgetting their traumatic situation.
 
Jednel's wish

Anatomy of a Killer Fact: The World’s 85 Richest People Own as much as the Poorest 3.5 Billion

Duncan Green's picture

Ricardo Fuentes (@rivefuentes) reflects on a killer fact (85 individuals own as much wealth as half the world’s population) that made a big splash last week, and I add a few thoughts at the end.

Last week we released a report on the relationship between the growing concentration of income and biases in political decision making. “Working for the  Few” got a lot of attention, generating the biggest-ever traffic day on the Oxfam International website the day of the launch.

 A large part of the attention was generated by one fact: the 85 richest people own as much as the bottom half of the world.