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Information and Communication Technologies

How Scalable Web 2.0 is Changing the World of Disaster Management

Tanya Gupta's picture

Disaster management 2.0: scalable human connections fired by high technology

Scalability, virtual communities and Web 2.0 have changed the world of disaster response.  The most successful and disruptive inventions of modern times owe much of their success to scalability.  Although people always had the ability to read books, it was only with the invention of the printing press that it became possible for millions of people to do so.  Web 2.0 and social media make the ability to connect with people scalable.  Scalable human connections combined with open source software and platforms, and unprecedented computing power, results in human-machine synergy also being scaled up. This human-machine synergy results in disruptive technology innovations.  Such disruptive innovations have most recently been seen in the area of humanitarian support to disaster and conflict affected countries.  USB drives were an innovation that disrupted the market for floppy disks.  Although they are not likely to go the way of the floppy disk, the world of traditional disaster relief organizations with proprietary systems, closed data sets and bureaucracy have been up-ended by the disruptive human-machine synergies of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourced humanitarian volunteer organizations.

Engaging Communities to Track the Constituency Budget

Sabina Panth's picture

Philip Thigo and his partner, John Kipchumbah, were a part of the Infonet Project in Kenya that was hosted by the World Social Forum in 2007.  The project proposed the use of technology to create an open information and communication infrastructure to enable communities to build social capital for democratic actions.  The duo were concerned that no marked changes had occurred in the poverty rate in Kenya, despite the apparent economic progress in the country.  The technical skills they acquired from Infonet prompted them to conceive the idea of a Budget Tracking Tool that would connect communities directly with the national development agenda, without the need for a third party or civil society organizations working on their behalf.

CommGAP Launches "Accountability Through Public Opinion"

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP is delighted to announce the publication of its third edited volume, "Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action." The book is edited by CommGAP's Program Head Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Authors from development practice and academia discuss in 28 chapters how citizens can hold their governments accountable, and how genuine demand for accountability can be created.

The idea for the book was born at a CommGAP workshop in 2007 in Paris on "Generating Genuine Demand with Social Accountability Mechanisms." A few years later, we proudly present a compilation of essays that are relevant for current events in the Middle East and in North Africa as much as for any efforts to strengthen citizen's agency vis a vis their governments.

The Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) Campaign

Sabina Panth's picture

As is the case in many countries of the world, it was not uncommon for candidates running for political office in Brazil to have a criminal record.  The Economist magazine has reported that, at one point, nearly twenty five percent of sitting members of Congress in the country faced criminal charges in the Supreme Court or were under investigation. Most of the crimes involved either violating campaign-finance laws or stealing public money through corruption. The existing law allowed politicians to be tried by the Court, but many cases lapsed before they were heard. Even when the candidates were convicted, the law allowed them to emerge right back, to stand in the next election. 

Live-Blogs, Live-Streams, Fevered Passions

Sina Odugbemi's picture

These days, there is simply no avoiding the news. In a season of spectacular events coming one on top of the other -- revolutions, tsunamis, slayings of master-terrorists -- it is clearer than ever that we now have unparalleled means to follow what is going on, the very latest developments, even minute by minute updates. You no longer have to wait for the evening news or the hourly news on radio. There are now live-blogs and live-streams of visual images  around major events.  Your computer, even at work, can bring you the very latest news. Click on the Aljazeera live-stream, for instance, and you have a court-side seat in the arena of the Arab Spring. Tweets are updating global audiences on all kinds of issues. If you have a 3G or 4G phone, you can follow the news on the move in living color. And if you have a tablet device...ha, you are in news junkie heaven!

Without a doubt, we are the first humans to run the risk of  drowning in a tempest of news. This has at least three interesting consequences.

Media Effects on Foreign Policy

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Recent events in North Africa have intensified speculations about the role of traditional mass media as well as communication technologies in shaping political events and cultures across the world. Media influence on policy, foreign or domestic, has been the subject of some research, but is not generally taken seriously in the relevant disciplines. We have discussed on this blog before that the lack of systematic research and acknowledgement of media influence on policymaking may be due to the indirect nature of this effect. Media do not necessarily influence policymakers directly, but may work through public opinion by shaping what people know and believe about foreign politics. Public opinion, embodied in predominant political views or in election results, can have considerable influence on policymakers that need approval from the electorate.

I recently had the honor of contributing a book review on media influence on foreign policymaking to the foreign policy journal IP Global Edition, published by the German Council on Foreign Relations. I discussed three relevant books: "Unreliable Sources" by John Simpson, "The Al Jazeera Effect" by Philip Seib, and Bella Mody's analysis of "The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News." You can find the full review here.

Wanted: How Does Your Organization Use Technology To Help Improve People's Lives?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The World Bank Institute publishes a magazine, Development Outreach, that covers current issues and trends in international development. CommGAP's Program Head, Sina Odugbemi, is guest editor of the upcoming issue of Development Outreach, which will feature articles and debates around the issue of Open Development. In this issue we strive to present a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and knowledge - and we are asking you to share your experience with us and the readers of Development Outreach. Specifically, we are asking you to send us your stories about projects in which your organization used information and communication technologies to improve people's lives in developing countries. Send your stories to commgap@worldbank.org! You can also share your story by commenting on this post (but don't forget a reply-to email).

Ring the Bell and Stop the Violence

Sabina Panth's picture

Media has long been a powerful force for empowerment.  New media content is constantly being created with the purpose of encouraging citizens to address issues at the local, national and international levels.  One such example is India’s Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) campaign, which has used new media channels to catch the attention of local youth on the important issue of domestic violence and encourage them to become a part of the solution.

What Kind of News Comes in 140 Characters or Facebook Status Updates? – New Global Study

Susan Moeller's picture

Quick.  If someone says to you: “Give me the latest ‘news’” what do you think to tell them? 

Maybe the latest from Libya or Japan or Cote d’Ivoire?  Perhaps something about the NYSE bids or the US government shutdown?  Maybe you mention India winning the Cricket World Cup or UConn taking the NCAA basketball tournament?

Well, if you are talking to a college student, you might want to think twice about what you say and how you say it.  According to a new global study just released by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, when college students around the world talk about needing to get “news,” they don’t just want updates on world affairs, business or even sports.  “News” to students means “anything that just happened” – and students most care about “news” of their friends and family, before any “news” that might be globally momentous.

Myneta.info: India’s Technology Transition From Software Giant to Fighting Corruption

Tanya Gupta's picture

When India first started using technology for national development, it used technology to build a huge software industry which helped the economy grow in the 1990s. In the decades that followed, with a much improved economy, civic minded Indians set their sights on a much loftier goal – tackling corruption.

In July 2008 The Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder". The criminalization of politics causes a huge drain of public resources and the resulting loss of credibility for politicians dissuades civic minded citizens from stepping forward. Unfortunately the average voter often has little to no idea of the criminal background of some of these Parliament members and hence public opinion cannot be used to throw them out of power. The media, too, does not have capacity to focus on all the corruption cases and usually focuses on the most egregious violations.  

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