These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
New apps transforming remote parts of Africa
“For generations, breeding cows in the rural highlands of Kenya has hinged on knowledge and experience passed down from parents to children. But Mercy Wanjiku is unlike most farmers. Her most powerful tool is her cellphone, and a text messaging service called iCow.
The service informs her when her cows are in heat, which feed might boost their milk output and what their fair market price is. And when she needed a veterinarian recently, she relied on the service’s extensive database. “Otherwise, it would have been hard to find someone qualified in my area,” said Wanjiku, a 29-year-old farmer in Mweru, a village about 100 miles north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.” READ MORE
“’Open government’ is supposed to be transformative. The typical narrative tell us that citizens with more information about how their governments function can better mobilize to hold public institutions to account.
An appealing narrative, yes, but do the tenets hold true?
Do open government initiatives make citizens more informed and engaged, and make governments more accountable to their people? In a nutshell: for all our visualizing, hacking, and democratically-minded merrymaking, what impact have open government initiatives had so far?” READ MORE
“On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a powerful earthquake and mega-tsunami that swept away entire towns and villages, leaving over 18,000 people dead or missing, over 6,000 injured and over 470,000 survivors seeking shelter. Some of the worst affected areas were without power, mobile phone networks and internet access for months.
A new report - Connecting the Last Mile: The Role of Communications in the Great East Japan Earthquake - highlights the specific role that communications played in both survival and recovery in the hours, days, weeks and months after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. It identifies which communications channels were used before, during and after the earthquake and tsunami, and it attempts to answer a central question: what are the lessons learned about communications with disaster-affected populations from the megadisaster, not only for Japan but for the international community of humanitarian responders?” READ MORE
HBR Blog Network
Open Data Has Little Value If People Can’t Use It
“Open data could be the gamechanger when it comes to eradicating global poverty. In the last two years, central and local governments and multilateral organizations around the world have opened a range of data — information on budgets, infrastructure, health, sanitation, education, and more — online, for free. The data are not perfect, but then perfection is not the goal. Rather, the goal is for this data to become actionable intelligence: a launchpad for investigation, analysis, triangulation, and improved decision making at all levels.” READ MORE
The New Yorker
How to Make a Dumb Phone Seem Smarter
“In most of the world, mobile phones are pretty dumb. Eighty-two per cent of the planet’s nearly seven billion mobile phones operate on what’s known as a 2G network, meaning connections to the Internet are so slow it’s difficult to display TV programs, movies, or music. (They also often can’t snap pictures, search the Web, send e-mail, shop, play games, take school tests, or pay bills.) What they can do is make phone calls and send and receive short bursts of text, usually on prepaid cards whose cost can be measured in pennies. India, for instance, has nine hundred million mobile customers, but only ten per cent have smart phones. That percentage holds true in China, and dips even lower in Africa and South America.” READ MORE
“Is good governance the key to post-2015 growth? Craig Fagan, senior policy coordinator at Transparency International, certainly thinks so. As the high-level meeting in Bali, Indonesia, on the post-2015 agenda comes to a close, he spoke to Devex on how addressing corruption “makes a tangible difference” in meeting development goals.
From the recent United Nations My World Survey, “an honest and responsive government” emerged as a top development priority.” READ MORE