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Data responsibility: a new social good for the information age

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

As climate change intensifies, catastrophic, record-setting natural disasters look increasingly like the “new normal” – from Hurricane Matthew killing at least 1,300 people in September to Typhoon Lionrock, the previous month, causing flooding that left 138 dead and more than 100,000 homeless in North Korea.

What steps can we take to limit the destruction caused by natural disasters? One possible answer is using data to improve relief operations.

Let’s look at the aftermath of the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, some 22,000 injured, hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless and entire villages were flattened.

Yet for all the destruction, the toll could have been far worse.

Without in any way minimising the horrible disaster that hit Nepal that day, I want to make the case that data — and, in particular, a new type of social responsibility — helped Nepal avoid a worse calamity. It may offer lessons for other disasters around the world.

In the wake of the Nepal disaster, a wide variety of actors – from government, civil society and the private sector alike – rushed in to address the humanitarian crisis. One notable player was Ncell, Nepal’s largest mobile network operator. Shortly after the earthquake, Ncell decided to share its mobile data (in an aggregated, de-identified way) with the the non-profit Swedish organisation, Flowminder.
 

Judith Tendler and learning from ‘good government’

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

On 24th July 2016, Judith Tendler, former Professor at the Department of Urban studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, passed away. She was 77. A Ph.D holder from Columbia University, Judith Tendler spent several years at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) before a long career as a Professor in MIT. A significant share of Prof. Tendler’s work focused on the Americas, but she also studied South Asia and parts of Africa over her long career.

Prof Tendler’s book: ‘Good Government in the Tropics’ (1997) is one of the most influential books in the field of international development — an essential reading for students of governance and public policy studies. In the book, Prof Tendler and her research associates studied four cases of successful government in Ceara, a relatively poor state in north-eastern Brazil. In each of the cases, the government at different levels played an effective role, facilitating and brokering relationships, and submitting itself to mechanisms which could be used to hold themselves accountable. Those were rare, but rich, examples of ‘good government’.

These cases highlighting the achievements of ‘good governments’ challenged the dominant pessimistic thinking about governance in the so-called ‘third world’. Prof Tendler argued that much of the advice from international development agencies to developing countries was based on an analysis of poor performance of the public sector and governments. This resulted in a tendency to ‘import’ good practices from the successful developed countries, as well as a resistance to looking deeply into poor countries to identify variations in performance. In many ways Prof Tendler consistently challenged the pre-suppositions that development agencies and policy advisors nurtured and which, as a result, shaped the advice they dispensed into narrow straitjackets often unfit for the context in which they were to be applied.

Campaign Art: The HIV positive poster

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

HIV first emerged in the 1980s, and soon after Brazil's infection rates quickly climbed. A decade later, in the early 1990s, Brazil and South Africa had similar infection rates.  Today, however, the two countries look quite different: South Africa now has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, with over 6 million people infected while Brazil has been able to drastically reduce the number of cases to 660,000.

Over the last 25 years, Brazil has initiated a series of steps, including the provision of free condoms and free treatment (due in part to cheap drugs obtained through negotiations with pharmaceutical companies) and was able to reduce the disease’s prevalence. Nevertheless, the number of new HIV cases is  starting to rise again, as international funding for HIV/AIDS programs becomes more limited and as a generation of young people emerges that didn't experience the horror of HIV before widespread treatment was available.

In response, Ogilvy Brazil launched a campaign on behalf of the NGO Life Support Group (Grupo de Incentivo à Vida) that seeks to raise awareness and humanize the disease. They asked HIV-positive individuals to prick their fingers and add a drop of blood to posters that were then placed around São Paulo.
HIV cannot survive for more than an hour outside the human body, rendering the posters completely harmless. The idea is that, just like the posters, people with HIV are not to be feared.
 
VIDEO: The HIV Positive Poster


Campaign Art: Pão dos Pobres

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

Globally, significant progress has been achieved in elevating the position and dreams of children. United Nations data show that mortality rates of chilren under 5 years of age have dropped by 49% from 1990 - 2013.  Primary school enrollment in developing regions reached 90% in 2010, up from 82% in 1999, which means more kids than ever are attending primary school. However, it is also true that youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed, and over 350 million young people are not engaged in education, employment, or training.

The lesson of the following video by Fundação Pão Dos Pobres is that reality can't stop us from dreaming.  To show that dreams are worthwhile, Pão dos Pobres created an art exhbition entitled "Por Trás Sonhos" (Behind the Dreams) featuring young people who illustrate their dreams for the future and professional artists who transform these dreams into depictions of reality.  Reality is often darker than our dreams, but that should be reason enough to work for positive change.
 
Por Trás Sonhos

The Case for Democracy- A New Study on India, South Africa and Brazil (shame it’s not much good – missed opportunity)

Duncan Green's picture

The ODI is a 10 minute train ride from my home, so I’m easily tempted out of my lair for the occasional lunchtime meeting. Last week it was the launch of ‘Democracy Works: The Democratic Alternative from the South’, a paper on the three ‘rapidly developing democracies’ of Brazil, India and South Africa, co-authored by the Legatum Institute and South Africa’s Centre for Development and Enterprise (not ODI, who merely hosted the launch). I was underwhelmed.

Which is a shame, because the topic is great – China’s rise and the West’s economic implosion are undermining arguments for democratic and open systems around the world. The report quotes Jacob Zuma: “the economic crisis facing countries in the West has put a question mark on the paradigm and approaches which a few years ago were celebrated as dogma to be worshipped.”
 

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.

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

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 Information Flows During Emergencies
MIT Technology Review
Mobile phones have changed the way scientists study humanity. The electronic records of these calls provide an unprecedented insight into the nature of human behaviour revealing patterns of travel, human reproductive strategies and even the distribution of wealth in sub-Saharan Africa. All of this involves humans acting in ordinary situations that they have experienced many times before. But what of the way humans behave in extraordinary conditions, such as during earthquakes, armed conflicts or terrorist incidents? READ MORE.

‘Fragile Five’ Is the Latest Club of Emerging Nations in Turmoil
The New York Times
The long-running boom in emerging markets came to be identified, if not propped up, by wide acceptance of the term BRICs, shorthand for the fast-growing countries Brazil, Russia, India and China. Recent turmoil in these and similar markets has produced a rival expression: the Fragile Five. The new name, as coined by a little-known research analyst at Morgan Stanley last summer, identifies Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa and Indonesia as economies that have become too dependent on skittish foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions. The term has caught on in large degree because it highlights the strains that occur when countries place too much emphasis on stoking fast rates of economic growth. READ MORE.

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 women will dominate the workplace BRIC by BRIC
CNN Opinion
Despite recent wobbles in the BRICS economies, most economists agree that the majority of world economic growth in the coming years will come from emerging markets. The story of their rise to date has been one in which women have played a large and often unreported role. I believe that as the story unfolds, women's influence will rise further and emerging markets' path to gender equality may follow a very different route to that of most developed countries. READ MORE

James Harding: Journalism Today
BBC Media Center
To so many journalists, Stead has been the inspiration, the pioneer of the modern Press. His zeal and idealism, his restless fury at inequality and injustice; his belief that dogged, daring investigations could capture the public’s imagination and prompt society to change for the better; his muscular opinions, his accessible design and his campaigning newspapers – and, no doubt too, a dab of ego, showmanship, and human folly – has made him the journalist’s editor. I remember standing in the newsroom of The Times in late 2010 when the then Home Editor told me of a story that Andrew Norfolk, our correspondent based in Leeds, was working on. It was about child sex grooming: the cultivation of young, teenage girls by gangs of men who plied them with drink and drugs and passed them around middle-aged men to be used for sex. And I remember thinking: ‘This can’t be true, this feels Dickensian, like a story from another age.’  READ MORE

Panels of the Poor: What would Poor People Do if They were in Charge of the Post-2015 Process?

Duncan Green's picture

Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compare with that of the great and good on the ‘High Level Panel’.

Here’s a summary from a post by Catherine Setchell on the Participate website (which links to the four country communiqués, also worth a skim):

The GLP in Egypt (right) proposes a vision of “self-sufficiency” at the country and community level, where Egyptians own the resources needed for development and can secure enough local production of food and other basic items such as water and fuel. They also highlight the importance of “paying more attention to having a high caliber of leaders who can effectively implement our Vision on the ground, which requires good governance.”

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