The tragedy of our times is that access to quality education is limited. Whether in the US, internationally, education remains a privilege that only select few are entitled to, whereas a majority of this without financial resources are forced to compromise on the quality of education or go without. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and illiteracy which condemns the poor to stay poor. In the past few years technology has emerged as the single biggest game changer in the field of education. As computing has become cheaper and more powerful, access to technology has increased proportionately. Another trend has been led by those who question traditional education methods and structure. For example many feel that teachers unions lead to a shift in focus away from the child to the pecuniary interests of the teachers. Others argue that the traditional classroom lecture where teachers talk and students listen is no longer effective. These trends have led to some interesting developments. Of these one is the focus of nonprofit organizations on supplying cheap tablets for free in the developing world. Another is the interesting possibility of eliminating school systems and teachers via innovative use of technology.
Oxfam is publishing a fascinating new series of case studies today, describing its programme work on local governance and community action. There are case studies from Nepal (women's rights, see photo), Malawi (access to medicines), Kenya (tracking public spending), Viet Nam (community participation) and Tanzania (the ubiquitous Chukua Hatua project), and a very wise (and mercifully brief) overview paper from power and governance guru Jo Rowlands. Here are some highlights:
“Governance is about the formal or informal rules, systems and structures under which human societies are organised, and how they are (or are not) implemented. It affects all aspects of human society – politics, economics and business, culture, social interaction, religion, and security - at all levels, from the most global to the very local."
Perhaps the biggest challenge to harnessing technology for economic development is addressing the digital divide. How can we do so? This is a big question and to answer it comprehensively by looking at all the work on this area is beyond the scope of this blog. However let’s look at a few obvious ways of overcoming the digital divide:
(1) Development projects that focus on, and are relevant to the poor. The Monitoring of Integrated Farm Household Analysis Project (IFHAP) was conducted every five years from 1996 to 2007 in the thirty-three (33) major rice- producing provinces in the Philippines. The study noted the potential of mobile phones as key tool for information dissemination in agriculture as they are widely owned. In 2007, 90% of the farm households surveyed owned at least one mobile phone. I agree with the authors of this study that while policy, infrastructure, and digital divide do indeed aid in assessing readiness; a social dimension is also present, which we ignore at our own peril.
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Originally published on January 10, 2011
Last year South Korea ranked first in global e-government ranking among all the countries in the world according to the United Nations E-Government Survey 2010, with the US in second place. The UN E-Government Survey provides a bi-annual assessment of national online services, telecommunication infrastructure and human capital of 192 Member States.
- Is South Korea’s government really making the best use of ICT for governance?
- Does it even make sense to measure the “level” of e-government development in a country and is it possible to do so?
- Are rankings preferred to “best practice cases”?
- Do the rankings include aspects of MDG priorities such as e-inclusion (gender equality)?
- Do they measure usage of technologies such as mobile technology and social media?
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Orginally published on January 19, 2011
Lately, there has been a great deal of debate about the $500 million investment by financial giant, Goldman Sachs, and a Russian investor in the social networking site Facebook. Sachs justified their investment by saying the company is worth $50 billion dollars. Many financial analysts think this high dollar amount is ludicrous and unjustifiable because Facebook has not yet generated a great deal of profit. However, the question many people are debating, and have been debating for some time, is: what is the true value of social media?
Is the newly fashionable term 'open development' another masterpiece of imprecision, or does it mean something real, definable and enduring? The latest edition of the World Bank Institute's flagship magazine, Development Outreach, invites you to partake in a meditation on an emerging paradigm shift in development practice.
The World Bank Institute (WBI) asked me to serve as Guest Editor of the edition. I was delighted to accept. And the CommGAP team worked on the edition with our WBI colleagues. Together, we brought together a number of leading thinkers from around the world to reflect on aspects of what we think constitutes 'open development'.
I hereby invite you to meet them and to see what you make of what they have to say:
The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition - a group formed out of the Internet Governance Forum - has been working for many months to develop rights-based principles to govern the Internet. Those draft principles are now out, and can be found here. They are duplicated below (excerpted from the Access website):
The Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for the realization of human rights, and plays an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. It is therefore essential that all actors, both public and private, respect and protect human rights on the Internet. Steps must also be taken to ensure that the Internet operates and evolves in ways that fulfill human rights to the greatest extent possible. To help realize this vision of a rights-based Internet environment, the 10 Rights and Principles are:
This week, as mass protests continued to sweep across North Africa and the Middle East, observers keep asking, “Where will be next?” Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, currently under siege, has campaigned throughout his long tenure for African unity, arguing that the similarities tying the continent together outweigh the differences. The events of the past few weeks have highlighted differences between North and Sub-Saharan Africa, however, including one which may be critical in determining whether long-serving leaders south of the Sahara face the same challenges Qadhafi is now battling: access to media and communication technology.
This issue was strikingly evident in Zimbabwe on Saturday, when police arrested nearly 50 people who had gathered to watch videos of international media coverage of the events unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt. As reported in the New York Times, the gathering “allowed activists who had no Internet access or cable television to see images from the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt” and was intended to start a discussion on the implications of these events for Zimbabwe.
In my last blog post I wrote about the dangers of biased communication to a fair and level political playing field. In Western media systems the political polarization of media reporting (I hesitate to call it "news") is a somewhat recent phenomenon, but it's stark reality in countries where the media is owned by the government or a few influential political factions. Biased communication is not only problematic with regards to misinformation of the public.
In fragile states in particular biased communication can keep conflict alive, stir up unrest among the population, and endanger the formation of one unified idea of a nation. In fragile and post-conflict countries, communication, including the mass media, should ideally contribute to restoring a shared national identity and strengthen citizens' loyalty to their country. But consider the case of, for instance, Iraq: Ownership of private media is in the hands of competing political and ethnic factions. Their respective broadcasts reflect conflicting agendas, potentially widening the gap between Iraq’s communities, weakening a sense of national belonging and furthering the development of competing identities along sectarian lines, setting the country on a course of partition.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish. Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US.
- United States
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Transparancy & Accoutnability Project Minnesota
- Texas Transparency
- state contracts
- Project Sunlight
- NYS Attorney General
- New York State Public Interest Research Group
- elected officials
- digitial democracy
- developing world
- campaign finance
- Blair Horner