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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 3
Brookings Institution
How do digital technologies affect governance in areas of limited statehood – places and circumstances characterized by the absence of state provisioning of public goods and the enforcement of binding rules with a monopoly of legitimate force?  In the first post in this series I introduced the limited statehood concept and then described the tremendous growth in mobile telephony, GIS, and other technologies in the developing world.  In the second post I offered examples of the use of ICT in initiatives intended to fill at least some of the governance vacuum created by limited statehood.  With mobile phones, for example, farmers are informed of market conditions, have access to liquidity through M-Pesa and similar mobile money platforms.

Cashing in: why mobile banking is good for people and profit
The Guardian
Using digital finance to tackle development problems can improves lives, and offer innovative companies handsome rewards. Whether it is lack of access to water, energy or education, development professionals are well versed in the plethora of challenges facing billions of people. The traditional approach to solving these problems has been to think big – in terms of the millennium development goals, government aid programmes, or huge fundraising campaigns. But there are dozens of startups and larger companies with innovative ideas who are approaching these challenges in new ways using digital finance.

Using Free Wi-Fi to Connect Africa's Unconnected
The Washington Post
As young pitchmen shout to potential passengers over blaring music, a graffiti-covered private minibus fills up more quickly than the other dozen in the scrum. It has free Wi-Fi. The specially outfitted matatu, as the minibuses are known in Swahili, is part of an experiment by Safaricom Ltd. to connect Africa's unconnected, offering a glimpse of what it takes to bring some of the world's most price-sensitive users online. Once on board, Mwenda Kanyange updates his Facebook FB +1.36% status and browses the Web for his hourlong trip home through Nairobi's traffic-clogged streets. "It gets kind of boring," the 23-year-old college student says, "Wi-Fi is good for that." Tech companies world-wide are trying to reach billions of people just beyond the middle class, and many of them are in Africa. Only about 16% of Africa's one billion people use the Internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union industry group. That is well behind Asia, with 32%, and Arab states, with 38%.

Big obstacles ahead for big data for development
Every two days, more data is created than in the whole of human history up until 2003 — enough information to fill a stack of DVDs that would reach to the moon and back. But a by-product of this data mountain — and testimony to our increasingly digitised lifestyles — is evidence of people’s habits and preferences. Evidence that can be tapped into to reveal patterns and provide new insights for development practice. There has been much talk about using sources such as social media and public news, data from private companies, satellites and road-side sensors, and ‘crowdsourced’ reports to boost development. The UN has even called for a ‘data revolution’ to underpin new development goals — so that sustainable development practitioners can better track advances, integrate evidence into decision-making and provide more transparency. But drawing out the trends hidden within data takes skill — and the jury is out as to whether developing nations and development organisations have the capacity to interpret the so-called ‘big data’ by themselves.

Healthy cities in Latin America: investing in mobility for all
The Guardian
Latin American cities may be diverse but they hold one similarity: the speed and scale of urbanisation they are facing. Distinct from developed countries, where urbanisation has historically occurred gradually, major cities in this region have experienced explosive growth in recent decades. The rate of urbanisation is worrying in itself, but added to growing inequality and the need to build more environmentally friendly cities, the challenge is even greater. As a result, urbanisation is being discussed this week at the World Economic Forum on Latin America. Along with the opening of the event, the forum yesterday released a report on strategic infrastructure, a crucial part of planning the future of a country and its cities. According to the report, today's global infrastructure demand is estimated at roughly $4tn in annual expenditure with a gap of at least $1tn every year. What this essentially means is that the growth of infrastructural assets is failing to keep up with society's needs, especially in developing countries. And Latin America is no exception.

Rethinking scale in international development: the Ubuntu model
The Guardian
As the chief external relations officer at Ubuntu Education Fund, I spend most of my time fundraising and, over the years, I have wrestled with my own inconvenient truth: for many donors, thinking about small, prudent steps forward is just not exciting. We spent our initial years struggling to impress donors and build enough credibility to sustain the organisation. We became fixated on output, overselling our impact to supporters. But as we gained experience, we began to understand not only how to save a life but how to transform it and to achieve that, we made a difficult decision: rather than expand geographically, we chose to focus on depth, measuring success in terms of outcomes rather than outputs.

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Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomite