These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Facebook Reaches a Landmark 100-Million Users in Africa Through Mobile
Thanks to mobile connectivity, half of Africa's 200-million internet users were accessing Facebook on a monthly basis in June 2014, indicating that the social media giant's efforts at penetrating emerging market are paying off. There's explosive growth and incredible momentum across Africa. "We now have 100-million people coming to Facebook every month across the African continent with more than 80% using mobile devices," says Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
UNICEF's Hidden in Plain Sight report details child homicides, domestic violence in 190 countries
One in five homicide victims worldwide are children, a report by UN children's agency UNICEF has revealed. The Hidden in Plain Sight report analyses data from 190 countries and lists alarming statistics on child homicides, domestic violence and rape. The report found violence against children was most common in the home and with caregivers. UNICEF spokesman for Eastern and Southern Africa, James Elder, said the report may not even capture the full extent of the problem. "Violence is a very difficult thing often to detect, it goes grossly unreported, so one of the terrifying things from this report is knowing that in fact the numbers would be lower than the reality," he said.
Agriculture and Rural Development
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“What I have been trying to remind people of for the past 40 years is that you can’t operate an entire conventional system, whether it’s economics, business or the way we live and surround ourselves, what we eat, without recognizing that there are severe negative externalities that are not being accounted for.”
- Prince Charles, the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II, the constitutional monarch of the Commonwealth of Nations. Prince Charles is a proponent of organic farming and has sought to raise awareness of environment degradation and its consequences. His 2010 book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, which focuses on climate change, architecture, and agriculture, won the Nautilus Book Award.
The recently enacted National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) is being described as a ‘game changer’ to strengthen food and nutritional security in the country. It goes without saying that, be it basic staples (wheat and rice) or other foods (edible oil, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, egg, meat, fish etc), India has been quite successful in ensuring their ample availability to its population. But in addition to food availability, there are two more critical factors in ensuring food security to the citizen’s - access to food and its absorption for better nourishment.
Despite robust economic growth in recent years, one-third of India’s population, i.e. more than 376 million people in 2010 still lived below the poverty line, as per World Bank’s definition of $1.25 a day. Besides, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) of 2005-06 highlighted that amongst children under five years, 20% were acutely and 48% chronically undernourished. The above facts definitely underline the continued relevance for safety net targeting that makes the poor and vulnerable food secure in terms of nutrition, dietary needs and changing food preferences.
The Africa Progress Panel (a group of the great and good, chaired by Kofi Annan) recently launched its 2014 Africa Progress Report. It’s an excellent, and very nicely written (heartfelt thanks) overview of some key areas: agriculture, fisheries and finance. Some highlights:
‘For more than a decade, Africa’s economies have been doing well, according to graphs that chart the growth of GDP, exports and foreign investment. The experience of Africa’s people has been more mixed. Viewed from the rural areas and informal settlements that are home to most Africans, the economic recovery looks less impressive. Some – like the artisanal fishermen of West Africa – have been pushed to the brink of destitution. For others, growth has brought extraordinary wealth.
There is much cause for optimism. Demography, globalization, new technologies and changes in the environment for business are combining to create opportunities for development that were absent before the economic recovery. However, optimism should not give way to the exuberance now on display in some quarters. Governments urgently need to make sure that economic growth doesn’t just create wealth for some, but improves wellbeing for the majority. Above all, that means strengthening the focus on Africa’s greatest and most productive assets, the region’s farms and fisheries. This report calls for more effective protection, management and mobilization of the continent’s vast ocean and forest resources. This protection is needed to support transformative growth.
Andrew Wells-Dang (right) and Pham Quang Tu (left) on how multi-stakeholder initiatives can flourish even in relatively closed political systems such as Vietnam
How can NGOs be effective advocates in restrictive political settings? Global comparative research (such as this study by CIVICUS on ‘enabling environments’) often concludes that at least a modest degree of formal democracy is necessary for civil society to flourish…including, but not limited to NGOs. Yet our experiences in Vietnam, which is commonly thought to be one of those restrictive settings, have shown that there is somewhat more space to carry out advocacy than appears at first blush – if advocates have a clear understanding of the national context and appropriate advocacy strategies.
We’ve seen effective advocacy take place around environmental and health issues through the initiatives of networks of formal and informal actors. At times, such as the disputes over bauxite mining in the Central Highlands (see here and here), networks have gone beyond the ‘invited spaces’ of embedded advocacy to boundary-stretching strategies of blogging, petitions and media campaigns. These actions defy the standard state-society dichotomy, bringing together activists and officials, intellectuals and community groups from around the country. At base is a realisation that social and policy problems are too big and chaotic to be resolved by state or non-state actors alone.
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.
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
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
The progress in achieving the target set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) continues to be diverse across goals and regions. The goals aim at actualizing a universal standard of being free from grinding poverty, being educated and healthy and having ready access to clean water and sanitation. While progress has lagged for education and health related MDGs, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has indeed fallen. To accelerate further progress in the latter, development strategies have to attempt to increase not only the rate of growth but also the share of income going to the poorest section of the population along the rural-urban continuum.
Economic projections for developing countries prepared by the World Bank state that approximately 970 million people will continue in 2015 to live below $1.25 a day. This would be equivalent to 15.5% of the population in the developing world. Herein, the pertinent challenge of reducing extreme poverty through creation of new income opportunities and better delivery of basic services largely remains in rural areas. In addition, such poverty is concentrated more in Asia (East and South) and Sub Saharan Africa with 38% and 46% of their poor residing in rural areas respectively. Thus, the task of effective rural development remains daunting. But the latter has to be operationalized and implemented holistically, and more importantly, in context of the complexities posed by the rural -urban continuum.
I’m consistently astonished by how little we know about the important stuff in development. Take the Millennium Development Goals – the basis for innumerable aid debates, campaigns, and negotiations. A large chunk of the MDG agenda concerns the size and quality of public spending – on health, education, water, sanitation etc. So obviously, the first thing we need is to know how much governments are spending on these things, right?
Well no actually, because we don’t have those numbers. Until now. Oxfam has teamed up with an influential and well-connected NGO, Development Finance International, which advises developing country governments around the world. Working with a network of government officials, DFI has pulled together and analysed the budgets of 52 low and middle income countries (With another 34 to follow). The result is a new database, called Government Spending Watch, (summary of overall project here) and a report ‘Progress at Risk’, previewed in Washington last Friday in a joint DFI/Oxfam America event to coincide with the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings. The full report won’t be ready ‘til May, but an initial draft exec sum is available, and here’s what it says.
Agriculture in India still remains the main source of livelihood for the majority of the rural population and more importantly the small holding farmers. With an average annual growth rate of 3.3%, the major challenges facing this sector include a shrinking land base, dwindling water resources, the adverse impact of climate change, shortage of farm labour, increasing costs and uncertainties associated with the volatility of international markets.
A pertinent factor that continues to impinge upon these challenges is the lack of timely information about market prices, crop varieties, production techniques, seasonal risk and disease control strategies. The critical question thus is — how can we effectively apply information and communication technologies (ICTs) in agriculture to mitigate the factors that lead to the physical isolation of the rural smallholder during the ensuing 12th Five Year Plan period.