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Moneyballing Development: A Challenge to our Collective Wisdom of Project Funding

Tanya Gupta's picture
The biggest promise of technology in development is, perhaps, that it can provide us access to consistent, actionable and reliable data on investments and results.  However, somewhat shockingly, we in development have not fully capitalized on this promise as compared to the private sector.  Would you invest your precious pension hoping you will get something back but without having any reliable data on the rate of return or how risky your investment is?  If you have two job applicants, one who is a methamphetamine addict and the other is one who has a solid work history and great references, would you give equal preference to both?  If your answer to either is no, then take a look at the field of international development and consider the following:
  • Surprising lack of consistent, reliable data on development effectiveness: Among the various sectoral interventions, we have no uniformly reliable data on the effectiveness of every dollar spent.  For example of every dollar spent in infrastructure programs in sub-Saharan Africa, how many cents are effective? Based on the same assumptions, do we have a comparable number for South East Asia? In other words why don’t we have more data on possible development investments and the associated costs, benefits/returns and risks?
  • Failure to look at development effectiveness evidence at the planning stage: Very few development programs look at the effectiveness evidence before the selection of a particular intervention.  Say, a sectoral intervention A in a particular region has a history of positive outcomes (due to attributable factors such as well performing implementation agencies) as opposed to another intervention B where chances of improved outcomes are foggy.  Given the same needs (roughly) why shouldn’t we route funds to A instead of B in the planning stage? Why should we give equal preference to both based purely on need?

Privacy is so 20th Century

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Modern life is life on the grid: credit cards, smart phones, internet connections, social media presence and so on. And here is the truth: Life on the grid is life in a fishbowl erected on stilts in a bazaar. As a result, something that we once thought was important to us as citizens is not simply lost, it is irretrievably lost: it is the idea of privacy.

The concept of privacy itself is notoriously difficult to define. In reading around the subject, I found this description of it by Larry Peterman in a 1993 essay in The Review of Politics titled ‘Privacy’s Background’:

We look upon the private as that part of our lives insulated against the communal or public broadly constructed, protected from unwarranted intrusion by others, including political authorities, and the place where, in the last resort, we can clothe ourselves in anonymity.

I think that is exactly right. It is what Grant Mindle, in an earlier essay, calls ‘concealment and seclusion’ that protected place where we can have parts of our lives that will not leak into the public arena.

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.


Is There a Link Between Digital Media and Good Governance?

"CIMA announces the release of its most recent report, Is There a Link Between Digital Media and Good Governance? What the Academics Say, by media development consultant Mary Myers. The report investigates whether there is a link between new digital technologies and good governance and what, if any, are the connections between digitally equipped populations and political change. It approaches these questions by examining what some key academics say on the matter. This paper is a follow-on from a previous CIMA report by the same author, Is There a Link Between Media and Good Governance? What the Academics Say, which profiled a number of key academics and their research on the links between traditional media and governance. This report turns, instead, to digital media and brings a selection of some key academic writing to a non-academic audience."  READ MORE

Lessons on Development from the Immigration Queue

Tanya Gupta's picture

For those who work and live in Washington DC, flying into Dulles airport at the end of a long journey only to be greeted by long queues at immigration is never easy.  One hears a lot of complaints about immigration processes and it is human nature to talk about it when the government does something wrong rather than when things go right.  Global Entry - an initiative of the US Government (Customs and Border Protection) - a neat way to avoid the long line - is getting it exactly right.  I recently signed up for the Global Entry Program that allows travelers returning to the US, a quick entry back through fewer checks at immigration.  In my case, I got through immigration at Washington Dulles in 15 minutes from landing to a taxi!

The Global Entry Program is a great example of using technology to spur innovation and efficiency in the public sector in the following ways:

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.

Africa Renewal
Africa Wired

"The country that gave the world two groundbreaking innovations in technology: M-Pesa, a mobile banking system, and Ushahidi, a platform for crowdsourcing information during disasters, is now taking its technological talents to new heights. The East African nation of Kenya has just started construction on a 5,000-acres piece of land in Konza, about 60km south of Nairobi, to turn the savannah area into ‘the most modern city in Africa’.

Using the same company that designed Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in New York City, SHoP Architects, Kenyan authorities want to transform Nairobi’s Konza City into Africa’s technology hub, dubbed Silicon Savannah, similar to California’s Silicon Valley. The designers told the UK’s Financial Times that ‘the scale of the project compares with creating another Manhattan, central London or inner-city Beijing.’"  READ MORE

Open Data, Open Policy: Stepping Out of the Echo Chamber

Milica Begovic's picture

Recently, I participated in several events that look at the space between empowered government (gov2.0) and empowered citizens (citizen2.0 both individuals and civic groups and NGOs).

One discussion was around tapping into networks of empowered citizens clustering around different issues for open policy making (Masters of Networks, Venice) and another on getting human-readable stories from data (Open Data on the Web, London).

Then, there was a question on how open data and modern technologies can improve environmental sector governance (#ICT4ENV, Cetinje), or strengthen political transparency and accountability (Point 2.0, Sarajevo).

Different countries, different venues, different leading institutions – but a common set of issues that I struggle with and that, I hope, will emerge as topics in some future events (one of those, shaping up to be the policy making 2.0. deluge in Dublin, is coming up this month).

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.

The Geography of Twitter: Mapping the Global Heartbeat

"My colleague Kalev Leetaru recently co-authored this comprehensive study on the various sources and accuracies of geographic information on Twitter. This is the first detailed study of its kind. The detailed analysis, which runs some 50-pages long, has important implications vis-a-vis the use of social media in emergency management and humanitarian response. Should you not have the time to analyze the comprehensive study, this blog post highlights the most important and relevant findings.

Kalev et al. analyzed 1.5 billion tweets (collected from the Twitter Decahose via GNIP) between October 23 and November 30th, 2012. This came to 14.3 billion words posted by 35% of all active users at the time. Note that 2.9% of the world’s population are active Twitter users and that 87% of all tweets ever posted since the launch of Twitter in 2006 were posted in the past 24 months alone. On average, Kalev and company found that the lowest number of tweets posted per hour is one million; the highest is 2 million. In addition, almost 50% of all tweets are posted by 5% of users. (Click on images to enlarge)."  READ MORE

What Kind of Science Do We Need for the Aid and Post-2015 Agenda?

Duncan Green's picture

Spent an intriguing evening last week speaking on a panel at the wonderful Royal Society (Isaac Newton and all that), on the links between the post-2015 agenda and science. The audience was from the government/science interface – people with job titles like ‘Head of Extreme Events’.

I talked (powerpoint here – keep clicking) about how science can help developmentistas by bringing them up to date with what science is actually about. Less Newton more Darwin, in terms of moving from a 19th Century world of linear causal chains, static equilibria and reductionism, to ecological and complexity thinking. I also tried linking some of the stuff I’ve been reading on complexity thinking with the Cynefin framework. It seems to me we need different kinds of science for the different quadrants:

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.

Global Information Society Watch
2012-The Internet and Corruption

“GISWatch 2012 explores how the internet is being used to ensure transparency and accountability, the challenges that civil society activists face in fighting corruption, and when the internet fails as an enabler of a transparent and fair society.

The eight thematic reports and 48 country reports published ask provocative questions such as: Is a surveillance society necessarily a bad thing if it fights corruption? and how successful have e-government programmes been in fighting corruption? They explore options for activism by youth and musicians online, as well as the art of using visual evidence to expose delusions of power.

By focusing on individual cases or stories of corruption, the country reports take a practical look at the role of the internet in combating corruption at all levels.”  READ MORE 

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.

Mobile for Development Intelligence
Scaling Mobile for Development: A developing world opportunity

“The mobile phone holds the power of ubiquity. Across the developing world, around 40% of people now actively subscribe to mobile services. Including those with access to a mobile despite not owning one would push the connected population to well over 50%. However, while access to core services such as banking, electricity and sanitation is near universal in developed regions such as Europe and the United States, it is enjoyed by below 50% in several developing regions.

This confluence underlines the opportunity held by Mobile for Development, which seeks to draw investment and partnership to scale mobile-enabled services that can help to facilitate service delivery in the absence of traditional modes of infrastructure that would otherwise do this. Indeed, Mobile for Development is a growing sector, with well over 1,000 live services now tracked by the GSMA across the developing world in verticals such as money, health, education and entrepreneurship. The problem is that while the sector has enjoyed continued growth in the number of services over the last 5-7 years, scale and sustainability have generally not been achieved.”  READ MORE