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Information and Communication Technologies

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

Bill Gates did it, will.i.am did it, Mayor Bloomberg did it and even the POTUS did it. Shouldn't you? An hour of Code for *you* the Busy Development Professionals

Tanya Gupta's picture

Computer Science Education Week has already kicked off (December 5 - 11, 2016) and it is a pretty big deal. One hour of code for everyone (no experience needed) is a part of that. The focus is on getting children involved. But what about busy professionals? Can it be useful for them, too? We think the answer to that is yes. This blog will teach you to code in Google Apps Script (GAS for short) in sixty minutes or less. There are two main reasons we chose GAS.

One, GAS is an easy to use scripting language that can help you write programs to solve common coding problems. We chose GAS because it is very easy to get started and offers some great features for saving your files in the cloud and working with different kinds of files. You need to be able to use Google Drive to write basic scripts in GAS.

Secondly, as our regular readers may know, this is the seventh blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. So far in this series, we have focused on the tools and techniques of a just-in-time learning strategy, and how to use TAG checks to make conclusions about data. In this blog we wanted to focus on some basic programming that will help illustrate how powerful (and easy!) just a little code education can be. GAS is perfect for this purpose.

N.B. You can do some pretty nifty stuff in GAS and here is the result of more professional code we have written entirely in GAS. This is an Add-On for Google Docs to create word clouds

Now -- all you need is a gmail account to get started.

(͡• ͜ʖ ͡•) GET SET AND START YOUR CLOCK
MINUTE TO MINUTE
While logged into Gmail, go to https://drive.google.com/. If this is your first time, you will see something like this:


 

Media (R)evolutions: The world of messaging apps

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.

The number of people using messaging apps continues to rise. In fact, traditional global telecoms are scrambling to compete and maintain relevance. In some parts of the world messaging apps have become the most used apps overall.

According to data (using Android App Data: April 2016) from Similar Web out of 187 countries examined, WhatsApp was the most popular messaging app, becoming the global leader by claiming the top spot in 109 countries. Findings from Global Web Index (GWI) suggest that 3 in 4 WhatsApp users use the service daily, helping this messaging app claim the title for the highest usage frequency of all the messaging apps tracked by GWI. Although Facebook Messenger came in second place, claiming 49 countries, it remains to be one of the most powerful platforms for companies to reach their customers. Third in line was Viber, with 10 countries. LINE messaging app took fourth place.
 

Source: SimilarWeb
 

Data responsibility: a new social good for the information age

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

As climate change intensifies, catastrophic, record-setting natural disasters look increasingly like the “new normal” – from Hurricane Matthew killing at least 1,300 people in September to Typhoon Lionrock, the previous month, causing flooding that left 138 dead and more than 100,000 homeless in North Korea.

What steps can we take to limit the destruction caused by natural disasters? One possible answer is using data to improve relief operations.

Let’s look at the aftermath of the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, some 22,000 injured, hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless and entire villages were flattened.

Yet for all the destruction, the toll could have been far worse.

Without in any way minimising the horrible disaster that hit Nepal that day, I want to make the case that data — and, in particular, a new type of social responsibility — helped Nepal avoid a worse calamity. It may offer lessons for other disasters around the world.

In the wake of the Nepal disaster, a wide variety of actors – from government, civil society and the private sector alike – rushed in to address the humanitarian crisis. One notable player was Ncell, Nepal’s largest mobile network operator. Shortly after the earthquake, Ncell decided to share its mobile data (in an aggregated, de-identified way) with the the non-profit Swedish organisation, Flowminder.
 

Media (R)evolutions: World Day of Television

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.

“I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision, we shall discover a new and unbearable disturbance of the modern peace, or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television - of that I am quite sure.” E.B. White

Television has an enormous influence on people, bringing the news and entertainment to communities all over the world. In order to recognize the impact of television, in 1996, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 November as World Television Day. On Monday, 21 November 2016, the United Nations TV will host an open day at its studios for talks and interactive dialogues on its programming in observance of this day.

In an increasingly changing global media environment, with modern Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) such as computers, Internet, mobile phones, tablets, wearables, on the rise, television continues to be a resilient communication tool. However, the television industry needs to adapt to the changing landscape in order to remain relevant. One of the most dramatic changes in this industry is the growth in the number of connected TV sets worldwide. Internet connected TVs provide interactive features, such as online browsing, video-on-demand, video streaming and social networking. With the mixture of new and old viewing habits, connected TVs are drawing larger audiences. 

According to Digital TV Research, the number of connected TVs worldwide will reach the new high of 759 million by 2018, which is more than double of 2013 numbers (307.4 million).
 

The practice and craft of multistakeholder governance

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

In a new paper by Stefaan G. Verhulst at Global Partners Digital, Verhulst argues: “In recent years, multistakeholderism has become something of a catchphrase in discussions of Internet governance. This follows decades of attempts to identify a system of governance that would be sufficiently flexible, yet at the same time effective enough to manage the decentralized, non-hierarchical global network that is today used by more than 3 billion people. In the early years of the Internet, the prevailing view was that government should stay out of governance; market forces and self-regulation, it was believed, would suffice to create order and enforce standards of behavior. This view was memorably captured by John Perry Barlow’s 1996 “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which dramatically announced: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather”.

However, the shortcomings of this view have become apparent as the Internet has grown in scale and complexity, and as it has increasingly entered the course of everyday life. There is now a growing sense—perhaps even an emerging consensus—that markets and self-policing cannot address some of the important challenges confronting the Internet, including the need to protect privacy, ensure security, and limit fragmentation on a diverse and multi-faceted network. As the number of users has grown, so have calls for the protection of important public and consumer interests.

Ebola: How a people’s science helped end an epidemic

Duncan Green's picture

Guest book review from Anita Makri, an editor and writer going freelance after 5+ years with SciDev.Net. (@anita_makri)

I’m sure that to readers of this blog the Ebola epidemic that devastated West Africa a couple of years ago needs no introduction (just in case, here’s a nice summary by the Guardian’s health editor). So I’ll cut to the chase, and to a narrative that at the time was bubbling underneath more familiar debates about responding to health crises – you know, things like imperfect governance, fragile health systems, drug shortages.

All of them important, but this narrative was new. It was about fear, communication and cooperation – the human and social side of the crisis (explored in a SciDev.Net collection I commissioned at the time). There was also an unsettling undercurrent to it – one that conveyed ‘otherness’ and ignorance on the part of West Africans, fuelled by reports of violence against health workers and of communities resisting expert advice against risky funeral rites.

But if you listened closely, you could just about make out the voices of anthropologists trying to dispel notions that these reactions were about exotic or traditional cultures. Paul Richards was one of those voices, and luckily he’s put together a rare account of evidence, theory and experience in a book that should trigger real reflection on how we can do better in handling similar crises (hint: more listening).

Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic tells the story of the epidemic through the eyes of someone with intimate knowledge of the region and the rules that influence human interactions – very much an anthropologist’s perspective, not an epidemiologist’s. The book turns the mainstream discourse on its head, putting what Richards calls “people’s science” on an equal footing with the more orthodox science behind the international response. It captures how people and experts adapted to each other, falling into a process of knowledge co-production.

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