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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.

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.

Washington Post 
New apps transforming remote parts of Africa

“For generations, breeding cows in the rural highlands of Kenya has hinged on knowledge and experience passed down from parents to children. But Mercy Wanjiku is unlike most farmers. Her most powerful tool is her cellphone, and a text messaging service called iCow.

The service informs her when her cows are in heat, which feed might boost their milk output and what their fair market price is. And when she needed a veterinarian recently, she relied on the service’s extensive database. “Otherwise, it would have been hard to find someone qualified in my area,” said Wanjiku, a 29-year-old farmer in Mweru, a village about 100 miles north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.” READ MORE

When Participation Works: Increasing CSO Involvement in Annual Meetings

John Garrison's picture

Involving CSO representatives in the planning process for the Civil Society Program has led to increased and more substantive civil society participation at the Annual Meetings over the past few years. This was vividly exemplified at the recently concluded Annual Meetings in Tokyo which witnessed the largest number of CSO participants and policy sessions to date.  The cornerstone of this participatory approach was the convening of a CSO Planning Group composed of 17 CSO and Youth Leaders from throughout the world invited to help plan the CSO Program (see photo and list).

Increased CSO participation in Tokyo was most evident in the number of CSOs who attended the Meetings.  A total of 630 CSO representatives from a wide range of constituencies such as NGOs, labor unions, youth groups, faith-based organizations, and foundations participated.  The Bank and Fund also sponsored the largest number of CSO / Youth Leaders and Academics – 56 from to 45 developing countries – who travelled to Tokyo to ensure that Southern voices and perspectives were represented (see sponsored CSOs list).  They participated in a week-long schedule of events which began with an orientation session on the Fund and Bank and included attending the Opening Plenary of the Annual Meetings which featured Crown Prince Naruhito.

The Story of Resilience

Maya Brahmam's picture

In less than 3 weeks, TEDxSendai will bring together an interesting group of thinkers and doers to focus on the theme of natural disasters.

Moderated by Toshi Nakamura, Co-founder and CEO of Kopernik, a technology marketplace for the developing world, TEDxSendai will explore this theme from the lens of a survivor, a historian and gender specialist, a CEO with a supply chain, an innovator of  new technologies, a doctor working on emergency evacuation, a classical pianist who plays on a piano that survived the tsunami, a global expert in sustainable development, a specialist in reconstruction, and an inventor of engineering prototypes.

Two sessions -- Cherry Blossom Indomitable in the Aftermath and The Bouncing Ball: Building Resilience – will pull the varied strands of these different perspectives together and share ideas about disasters –recovery, resilience and hope.

What Influences Individual Donations to Disaster Victims?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We see donation appeals everywhere these days - to help the people in Japan, to help the people in Darfur, to help the people in Haiti. What influences our decision to give? An interesting study comes from British psychologists, who analyzed how individuals respond to donation appeals in the wake of man-made disasters - like war - versus natural disasters. The authors around Hanna Zagefka from Royal Holloway University in London found that natural disasters elicit more donations than those caused by people. Their explanation: people tend to assign some blame to the victims of man-made disaster, while they blame no one for being overrun by a Tsunami.

Media Events for Development Campaigns

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Using large international events to get attention for a development objective is a pretty good idea. Events like the Soccer World Cup are so called media events - events that capture the attention of a large audience, that break our routines, and unify a large scattered audience. Whatever team you were cheering for, you weren't the only one cheering for it, and didn't you feel like your team's friends were also your friends? This kind of mood - attention and a feeling of community - provides a great environment for campaigns that want to raise awareness about certain issues or that want to change norms and behaviors.

OhMy...Not

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Think the traditional news business is dying? Consider Japan, says a New York Times article describing the country's vibrant traditional media sector and moribund digital news startups. OhMyNews, a hugely popular South Korean citizen-journalism site that flopped in Japan, is cited as one example of how digital news culture has awkwardly mapped onto a Japanese context. Interestingly, some quoted in the article hypothesize that countries with more deep-seated social and political divisions may take to digital news media more easily than those without.

Act Globally, Act Locally

Antonio Lambino's picture

Like Silvio Waisbord (see previous post), I was also at the International Studies Association Conference in New Orleans.  One of the sessions I attended, “Institututionalisation and Norms in Global Governance”, spoke to CommGAP’s interest in how global standards emerge and spread.  How do norms wend their way to the top of the global policy and decision agendas and get embedded in the policy regimes of various countries?  It’s a massive question and no single panel or conference can comprehensively explore its multiple dimensions.  This panel, however, did a good job at pointing toward some promising directions.

A Delicate Dance between Distance and Access

Fumiko Nagano's picture

It is generally accepted that independent news media are one of the main building blocks for good governance. Ensuring media’s independence from the control of the powerful is a difficult task, however. While the media must maintain a critical distance from the government so as to maintain their objectivity in reporting the news, they also need to stay close enough to government in order to access the information they seek. The issues of distance and access are the two sides of the same coin, and they confront the government as well. On the one hand, the government has to protect both the privacy of sensitive information and integrity of important decision-making processes by keeping the media at bay, but on the other hand, government also needs to maintain an amicable relationship with the media so that the media would tell its side of the story and frame issues in the way it wants them framed.

The Chicken or the Egg? Law and Public Opinion

Fumiko Nagano's picture

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -Thomas Jefferson

Thoughtful comments to my recent post on approaches to fighting petty corruption sparked for me an interesting discussion with Sina Odugbemi about norms, public opinion and law. Mainly, our talk centered on the following “chicken or the egg” issue: Do you adopt laws first and ask citizens to obey them? Or, do you gauge public opinion around an issue first, then adopt a law that reflects that society’s prevailing view on that issue? No matter how you dice it, the enforcement of that law would be easier when it conforms to majority opinion as opposed to when it does not.

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