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Information and Communication Technologies

Satellites find "hidden forests" helping fight against global warming

Umberto Bacchi's picture
Vast tracts of land previously considered barren are actually covered by forests "hiding in plain sight", scientists said on Friday, a discovery that could help the fight against climate change and desertification.
 

An international team of researchers led by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) used new technology to analyse high-resolution images from Google Earth and map forest coverage in drylands worldwide.

They found that trees like baobab and acacia shade 467 million more hectares of land than previously thought - an area roughly equal to half the size of the United States - increasing estimates of global forest cover by at least nine percent.

The discovery allows for more accurate assessments of how much greenhouse gases are absorbed from the atmosphere by the world's vegetation, FAO experts said.

"Drylands absorb more carbon than we thought and they can actually help mitigate climate change," Eva Muller, director of FAO's forestry policy and resources division told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Virtual Reality – a future business model for newsrooms?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
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.
 
Virtual reality (VR) in journalism is still in its early years of development. However, it has enormous potential to transform the way news content is made and consumed. Offering a new narrative form, VR has become increasingly popular in newsrooms. Is this the way of the future? Is virtual reality a feasible way to present news? Is this a lucrative stream of revenue for newsrooms?

VR is “an immersive media experience that replicates either a real or imagined environment and allows users to interact with this world in ways that feel as if they are there.” Immersive storytelling may come in a few forms such as “virtual reality,” “augmented reality” and “spherical/360-degree video.”  While early experimentation of VR in media focused on documentaries, by 2017 there is a larger variety of VR news content expanding to short features, foreign correspondence, political news coverage and others.

According to the recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, further success of VR in journalism is highly dependent not only on good/diverse content, but also on the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers to fully immerse themselves in the virtual reality experience. While the experimentation of virtual reality storytelling has been on the rise, the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers is still low. It is estimated that total high-end headset sales are around 2 million worldwide. Others predict that by 2020 up to 34 million headsets will be sold, with virtual reality market reaching $150 billion in sales

Blockchain for Development: A Handy Bluffers’ Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Top tip: if you’re in a meeting discussing anything to do with finance, at some point look wise and say ‘you do realize, blockchain is likely to change everything.’ Of course, there is always a terrifying chance that someone will ask what you actually mean. Worry not, because IDS has produced a handy bluffer’s guide to help you respond. Blockchain for Development – Hope or Hype?, by Kevin Hernandez, is the latest in IDS’ ‘Rapid Response Briefings’ series, (which itself is a nice example of how research institutions can work better around critical junctures/windows of opportunity). It’s only four pages, but in case even that is too onerous, here are some excerpts (aka a bluffer’s guide to the bluffer’s guide).

‘What is blockchain technology?

At its heart, the blockchain is a ledger. It is a digital ledger of transactions that is distributed, verified and monitored by multiple sources simultaneously. It may be difficult to think of something as basic as the way we keep and maintain records as a technology, but this is because record-keeping is so ingrained in daily life, albeit often invisibly. The ubiquity of ledgers is in part the reason why blockchains are held as having so much disruptive potential. Traditionally, ledgers have enabled and facilitated vital functions, with the help of trusted third parties such as financial institutions and governments. These include: ensuring us of who owns what; validating transactions; or verifying that a given piece of information is true.

Campaign Art: Disruptive technologies and development goals

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

Disruptive technologies are redefining the way of life. Everyone is buzzing about drones, driverless cars, autopilot planes, robots, and supply chains, starting from the entertainment industry, to agriculture and food sector, to private sector, to humanitarian and development fields. Drones delivering food, water, or health supplies, using off-grid power, innovative mobile apps, and other technological developments are all very exciting and unknown at the same time.

How will drones impact the supply chains and service delivery in the future? What are the opportunities and risks associated with utilizing drones to deliver supplies? What is the role of technology in helping us reach Sustainable Development Goals? I can’t pretend I have answers to any of these questions, nor do I dare predict what our future may look like in 10,20,30 years. However, it sure is interesting to look at the recent technological developments and try to understand what their role may be in the future.  

That’s where the unlikely and innovative story of Zipline International Inc. and the Government of Rwanda comes in. Last fall the Government of Rwanda partnered with the California-based robotics company Zipline International Inc. and became the first country in the world to incorporate drone technology into its health care system by delivering blood and medical supplies to 21 hospitals across Rwanda’s Southern and Western provinces.
 
Delivering blood

Source: Zipline

Campaign Art: Block by block for inclusive public spaces

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

Public spaces have been a place of social interaction from the very early beginnings of the human civilization. Taksim Square in Istanbul, Tahrir Square in Cairo, Maidan Square in Kiev, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires are among just a few common places around the world that have witnessed the most iconic events of the recent history.

If public spaces are so important to everyday life of citizens, whose responsibility is it to create and maintain them? Should citizens have a say in how they are designed?

UN-Habitat, a United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, partnered up with Mojang, a Swedish video game developer, and Microsoft to involve people— especially youth, women and slum dwellers— in urban design by using the videogame Minecraft. The innovative partnership, known as Block by Block, was set up in 2012 to support the UN-Habitat’s work with public spaces. Take a look at the video below to learn more about this innovative approach.

Block by Block

Virtual Reality: The Future of Immersive Learning for Development

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Former Bougainvillean combatant, now cocoa farmer Timothy Konovai tries out VR for the first time (World Bank/Alana HolmbergIn the blink of an eye, virtual reality can take you from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan to a first responder’s mission in Nepal, from practicing surgery in Nigeria to tracking storms from earth observation satellites across South America. Virtual reality adds a new dimension to the learning experience: presence, the feeling of actually being in another place.
 
Learning from this new generation technology is becoming available at your fingertips for a minimal cost. Although virtual reality is still in its infancy, its cutting-edge approach and storytelling is already impacting development education, where it can draw us closer to the many development challenges we face.
 
What Exactly is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality refers to technology that generates realistic images, sounds, and other sensory inputs that replicate an environment. A headset completely immerses the individual in the environment being generated. Immersion is a word you will hear quite a bit related to virtual reality: immersive learning, immersive simulations, or immersive applications. The most famous virtul reality tool now is probably Oculus Rift.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy
Freedom House
In 2016, populist and nationalist political forces made astonishing gains in democratic states, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, and grave atrocities went unanswered in war zones across two continents. All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century— rooted in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law—will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom, and prosperity. The troubling impression created by the year’s headline events is supported by the latest findings of Freedom in the World. A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, compared with 36 that registered gains. This marked the 11th consecutive year in which declines outnumbered improvements.

Financial Flows and Tax Havens: Combining to Limit the Lives of Billions of People
Global Financial Integrity
Global Financial Integrity (GFI), the Norwegian School of Economics and a team of global experts released a study showing that since 1980 developing countries lost US$16.3 trillion dollars through broad leakages in the balance of payments, trade mis-invoicing, and recorded financial transfers. These resources represent immense social costs that have been borne by the citizens of developing countries around the globe. Funding for the report was provided by the Research Council of Norway and research assistance was provided by economists in Brazil, India, and Nigeria. Titled “Financial Flows and Tax Havens: Combining to Limit the Lives of Billions of People,” the report demonstrates that developing countries have effectively served as net-creditors to the rest of the world with tax havens playing a major role in the flight of unrecorded capital. For example, in 2011 tax haven holdings of total developing country wealth were valued at US$4.4 trillion, which exacerbated inequality and undermined good governance and economic growth.

10 reasons to apply for World Bank-Annenberg Summer Institute

Roxanne Bauer's picture


How can professionals looking to lead reform initiatives find the best way forward?

They can start at the World Bank-Annenberg 
Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment, held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, from June 5 - June 16, 2017.

The course is designed for leaders, strategists and advisors who want to strengthen the critical competencies necessary to support change agents and reform initiatives in developing countries.  

If this sounds like you, but you need a little nudge, check out these 10 reasons why attending the Summer Institute is a good decision.

1. Strengthen the critical competencies necessary to support change agents and reform leaders in developing countries: The program was developed on the premise that successful implementation of policy reforms depends significantly on non-technical, real-world issues that relate to people and politics. 

2. Develop the skills necessary to bring about real change: Finding a way to push a reform forward can sometimes be elusive. Political or sectoral change is usually needed.  The course will develop your skills to analyze policy options and effectively mobilize support.

Media (R)evolutions: Trends in information and communication technologies

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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.

Every year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) publishes Measuring the Information Society Report that looks at the latest developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Here are some of the latest ICT trends according to ITU.  

Regional comparisons:
  • Europe continues to lead the way in ICT development;
  • A number of countries in the Americas significantly improved their performance in the ICT Development Index (IDI);
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region is the most homogeneous in terms of ICT development;
  • The Asia-Pacific region is, by contrast, the most heterogeneous;
  • There is great diversity in ICT development across the Arab States;
  • Africa is working on pushing up its IDI performance.
Internet potential underused:
  • Many people have access to Internet, but many do not actually use them;
  • The full potential of the Internet remains untapped;
  • Many people still do not own or use a mobile phone;
  • Progress in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – mobile-cellular prices continued to decrease in 2015, and the price drop was steeper than in previous years;
  • Affordability is the main barrier to mobile-phone ownership;
  • Fixed-broadband prices continued to drop significantly in 2015 but remain high – and clearly unaffordable in a number of LDCs.
The issue of affordability of various ICT services needs to be at the forefront of the development agenda in order to decrease the digital divide. Despite the fact that the overall mobile-cellular prices, as well as fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband prices have dropped in recent years, affordability of ICT services is still one of the key barriers to ICT uptake.  The role of ICTs is crucial in ending poverty, providing millions with access to a wealth of educational resources, and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The recent report also finds that the gender gap is prominent in many aspects of technology. For example, “data on mobile-phone usage by gender shows that the percentage of male users is higher than that of female users in most countries, although differences are small in most economies.” However, in some countries gender gap is significant in the mobile-phone ownership. For example, in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Social media and communication tools under assault?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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.

According to the latest “Freedom on the Net ” report “In a new trend, governments increasingly target messaging and voice communication apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram.” Annual report of the Freedom House, it tracks improvements and declines in governments’ policies and practices. This year the report covered 65 countries.  

While Facebook and Twitter have long been targeted by governments, silencing messaging apps is somewhat new.

Messaging apps have become an integral part of peoples’ lives, enabling millions of them to communicate with their friends and family much easier, faster, and cheaper. If messaging apps are so helpful in connecting people, why do governments target them so much? One of the main reasons is encryption! In addition to low, or often no cost associated with them, messaging apps also offer a sense of security not often available in other modes of communication. Many messaging apps, like WhatsApp, use encryption. Encryption ensures that messages are secured and encrypted, making it harder, if not impossible, for governments, to monitor content.
 

Source: Freedom House

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