Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before.
Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are circulating about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, automation etc. Driverless cars will put millions of drivers out of work. Robots will kill off manufacturing jobs. Everything will change.
At the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab talks of ‘the fourth industrial revolution’. The bible is the Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, a 2014 book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Even President Obama has caught the bug, in a recent profile in the New Yorker
‘At some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken.’
Which all raises a whole series of questions – is it true? If so, is that a Good/Bad Thing and for whom? Much too substantial for a blog post, but here are a few thoughts and links.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition September 17, 2016 "Essay" by James Crabtree.
Photo credit:By Factio popularis Europaea [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Corruption Perceptions Index 2016
Let's get straight to the point: No country gets close to a perfect score in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year's index fall below the midpoint of our scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country's public sector. Top-scoring countries (yellow in the map below) are far outnumbered by orange and red countries where citizens face the tangible impact of corruption on a daily basis.
Media Feast, News Famine, Ten Global Advertising Trends that Threaten Independent Journalism
Even as citizens feast on an growing buffet of digital media choices, there is an increasing famine of credible, thorough, and independent nationally-focused news reporting. The former masks the latter as people worldwide now have access to an unlimited amount of entertainment through a wide variety of channels and as governments exert more comprehensive and nuanced control over media. Better connected globally, but less informed locally, citizens living in these media environments may not recognize when their rights to be informed about their government and their society are being compromised.
Globally, more and more people are embracing the sharing or platform economy. Some estimate that the sector’s revenues will increase to $335 billion globally by 2025. According to the Future Jobs Survey, conducted by the World Economic Forum, among top technological drivers of industrial change by 2020, the sharing economy, crowdsourcing takes the fifth place, with mobile internet, cloud technology taking the lead.
So what will the impact of these drivers be on the industries? Will there be new industries born as a result of these transformations? If so, will we be able and ready to respond to those changes? Will we have necessary skill sets to compete in the work force? Future holds both opportunities and challenges for industries, corporations, governments, and others concerned with the technological advancements.
What exactly is the sharing economy? Are you using some of its platforms? Do you benefit from their services?
Just been re-reading a great 6 page summary of James Ferguson’s 1994 classic critique of the aidindustry, The Anti-Politics Machine. Read this and ask yourself, apart from the grating use of the term ‘Third World’, how much has changed?
‘Any question of the form ‘what is to be done?’ demands first of all an answer to the question, ‘By whom?’ The ‘development’ discourse, and a great deal of policy science, tends to answer this question in a utopian way by saying ‘Given an all-powerful and benevolent policy-making apparatus, what should it do to advance the interests of its poor citizens?’
This question is worse than meaningless. In practice, it acts to disguise what are, in fact, highly partial and interested interventions as universal, disinterested and inherently benevolent. If the question ‘What is to be done?’ has any sense, it is as a real-world tactic, not a utopian ethnics.
- Yuval Noah Harari - lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition January 7, 2017 "Opinion" by Yuval Noah Harari.
Photo credit: By CityTree [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), annually around the world 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted. In the world, where about one in nine people do not have enough food (that’s some 795 million people), food waste presents an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.
In order to bring more attention to the issue of food loss and waste and promote food loss reduction, FAO is leading the Save Food global initiative, partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and others in the private sector and civil society.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Instituting reforms is challenging. The changing environment of politics, the conflicting interests of multiple stakeholders, and contrary public opinions can all become obstacles to the success of a reform agenda.
So how can leaders and change agents create successful and sustainable reforms?
What is the role of strategic communication in planning, implementing and evaluating a reform? Join us for the 2017 World Bank - Annenberg Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment to find answers to these important questions.
The seventh annual Summer Institute will be held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, June 5 - June 16, 2017. During the 10-day program, participants will learn the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation. Participants will develop the skills required to bring about real change, leading to development results. Leaders will also connect with a global network of development professionals working on initiatives in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Dr. Amber N.W. Raile, Dr. Eric D. Raile and Dr. Lori Ann Post present Guide to Generating Political Will and Public Will – PPW Toolkit.
Dealing effectively with social problems requires collective action and coordinated commitment. Those persons most affected by social problems typically constitute weak or powerless constituencies that lack real representation in the halls of power. Consequently, coalitions of stakeholders must make firm commitments if conditions are to improve for the disenfranchised. Helping these immobilized and resource-deprived groups often entails short-run tradeoffs and sacrifices for others in a society, even when social interdependence dictates that sustainable long-run solutions are ‘win-win’ for most or all. Without strong mutual accountability mechanisms, stepping back from the social and policy changes necessary to address these complex issues is simply too easy and too tempting.
Long-term, effective change in complex issue areas typically happens only if the government and key public stakeholders are pushing in the same direction. Political action to address social problems and their deleterious outcomes is not enough to effect large-scale change if opposed or undermined by the public. Efforts originating with the government often coincide with laws that demand change, but not all citizens feel compelled to obey. Similarly, social change efforts driven by nongovernmental entities will flounder if government opposes or refuses to reinforce the change. To achieve success in the fight against adverse outcomes of social problems, the government and large segments of the public must be willing to recognize the problem, understand the problem in a similar way, and agree on solutions.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Measuring the Information Society Report 2016
International Telecommunication Union
The period since the conclusion of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005 has seen rapid growth in access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) throughout the world. However, the potential impact of ICTs is still constrained by digital divides between different countries and communities. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) documents the pervasiveness of ICTs and the extent of digital divides between regions and countries through its annual ICT Development Index (IDI), which aggregates quantitative indicators for ICT access, ICT use and ICT skills in the large majority of world economies.
Cellphones have lifted hundreds of thousands of Kenyans out of poverty
In Kenya, a so-called “mobile money” system allows those without access to conventional bank accounts to deposit, withdraw, and transfer cash using nothing more than a text message. It turns out that using cell phones to manage money is doing more than just making life more convenient for the Kenyans who no longer have to carry paper notes. It’s also helping pull large numbers of them out of poverty. That’s the central finding of a new study published in Science Thursday, which estimated that access to M-PESA, the country’s most popular mobile money system, lifted hundreds of thousands of Kenyans above the poverty line. By allowing people to expand the networks they draw from during emergencies, manage their money better, and take more risks, the mobile phone service provides a substantial boost to many of the most socioeconomically vulnerable members of society.
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on June 14, 2016.
This is at the geeky, number-crunching end of my spectrum, but I think it’s worth a look (and anyway, they asked nicely). The 2016 Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index was published yesterday. It now covers 102 countries in total, including 75 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.
The Global MPI has 3 dimensions and 10 indicators (for details see here and the graphic, right). A person is identified as multidimensionally poor (or ‘MPI poor’) if they are deprived in at least one third of the dimensions. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty (the percentage of people identified as MPI poor) by the average intensity of poverty across the poor. So it reflects both the share of people in poverty and the degree to which they are deprived.
The MPI increasingly digs down below national level, giving separate results for 962 sub-national regions, which range from having 0% to 100% of people poor (see African map, below). It is also disaggregated by rural-urban areas for nearly all countries as well as by age.
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.Every year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) publishes Measuring the Information Society Report that looks at the latest developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Here are some of the latest ICT trends according to ITU.
- Europe continues to lead the way in ICT development;
- A number of countries in the Americas significantly improved their performance in the ICT Development Index (IDI);
- The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region is the most homogeneous in terms of ICT development;
- The Asia-Pacific region is, by contrast, the most heterogeneous;
- There is great diversity in ICT development across the Arab States;
- Africa is working on pushing up its IDI performance.
- Many people have access to Internet, but many do not actually use them;
- The full potential of the Internet remains untapped;
- Many people still do not own or use a mobile phone;
- Progress in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – mobile-cellular prices continued to decrease in 2015, and the price drop was steeper than in previous years;
- Affordability is the main barrier to mobile-phone ownership;
- Fixed-broadband prices continued to drop significantly in 2015 but remain high – and clearly unaffordable in a number of LDCs.
The recent report also finds that the gender gap is prominent in many aspects of technology. For example, “data on mobile-phone usage by gender shows that the percentage of male users is higher than that of female users in most countries, although differences are small in most economies.” However, in some countries gender gap is significant in the mobile-phone ownership. For example, in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone.
Airport bookstores are bewildering places – shelf after shelf of management gurus offering distilled lessons on leadership, change and everything else. How to distinguish snake oil from substance? My Christmas reading, based on a recommendation from someone attending a book launch in the US last month (thanks whoever you were – all a bit of a blur now) was Alex Pentland’s ‘Social Physics: How Social Networks can make us Smarter’. I must confess, as a lapsed physicist, the title swung it for me, but I learned a lot from this book. At least I think I did – let’s see if I am still using the ideas in a few months’ time.
Social Physics is not a new idea. Auguste Comte, the founder of modern sociology, coined the phrase back in the 19th century. Comte and his crew aspired to explain social reality by developing a set of universal laws—the sociological equivalent of physicists’ quest to create a theory of everything. As with economics, that kind of physics envy has proved largely delusional. Now though, Pentland argues that the arrival of Big Data means we can aspire to a ‘thermodynamics of society’, where behaviour is governed by discernible mathematical laws. It does not deny free will – Pentland does not claim to be able to predict individual behaviour, but finds a high degree of certainty in mass behaviours, which appear to follow particular patterns (like atoms in a gas).
Late last year, Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced a measure to tackle the severe air pollution crisis in the city. The proposal was to implement an odd-even plan for private cars on Delhi roads: cars with odd numbered registration plates would be allowed to ply on odd dates and those with even numbered registration plates allowed on the other days. There was an exemption list that included single women (or with children), public vehicles, medical emergencies, etc. This was to be piloted for a period of fifteen days, starting on 1st January 2016.
For a detailed account of how the city dealt with this rule, see here. An excerpt:
During the odd-even period, the use of cars fells by 30 per cent while those car-pooling went up by a whopping 387.7 per cent, indicating the success of the government’s push towards that option. Delhiites using private auto-rickshaws went up by 156.3 per cent compared to the period before odd-even, while Metro use went up by 58.4 per cent.
On average, the respondents’ took 12 minutes less to commute from home to work during the odd-even period. Car and bus users reached their workplaces 13 and 14 minutes faster during the 15-day period
Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably over the past three decades. In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21% in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59% increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion). However, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty—an extremely high figure, so the task ahead of us remains herculean.
"Globalisation for me seems to be not first-order harm and I find it very hard not to think about the billion people who have been dragged out of poverty as a result. I don’t think that globalisation is anywhere near the threat that robots are.”
- Angus Deaton - Senior Scholar and Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princton University.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition December 24, 2016 "Lunch with the FT Angus Deaton" by Shawn Donnan.
Global Internet Report 2016
Today we are at a defining moment in the evolution and growth of the Internet. Large-scale data breaches, uncertainties about the use of our data, cybercrime, surveillance and other online threats are eroding users’ trust and affecting how they use the Internet. Eroding trust is also affecting the way governments view the Internet, and, is shaping the policy environment for the Internet around the world. The 2016 Global Internet Report takes a close look at data breaches through an economic lens and provides five clear recommendations for a path forward.
What Does “Governance” Mean?
The normative goals of governance reform are twofold: more effective public policies, and procedures that are legitimate and accountable to the citizenry. Often the phrase “good governance” is intertwined with the anticorruption agenda. Drawing on the author's experience as a visiting researcher at the World Bank and as a scholar of both corruption and comparative politics, this essay unpacks the concept of governance and relates it to debates over ways to balance technical expertise and public participation to achieve better functioning governments.
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.Roughly how many hours do you spend online each day? How many hours do you spend on social media? If you’re like most people, you’re are spending more and more time online, and you’re spending much of that time on social media networks.
Each year, We Are Social collates key data from multiple sources to make sense of the digital and social trends affecting media and technology. Digital in 2016 is the latest report, and the following graphs illustrate data the organization obtained from the Global Web Index. GWI conducts annual interviews with 200,000 internet users across 33 markets in quarterly waves, each of which has a global sample size of 45,000 – 50,000 internet users.
Amongst the 30 economies surveyed, Filipinos and Brazilians spend the most time using the internet, clocking an impressive 5.2 hours per day on average. Together with Thais, Brazilians also top the list for the amount of time spent using mobile internet, logging an average of 3.9 hours per day on their devices. Contrary to what you might expect, the Japanese and South Koreans spend the least amount of time on the internet each day, logging only 2.9 and 3.1 hours respectively. This matches previous years in which these countries have been at the bottom of the spectrum.
- Janan Ganesh, the principal political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He regularly appears on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show, and he wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor.