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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.

Facebook’s Gateway Drug
The New York Times
SILICON VALLEY was once content to dominate the tech world. But recently, its leading companies have ventured deep into areas well outside its traditional bailiwick, most notably international development — promising to transform a field once dominated by national governments and international institutions into a permanent playground of hackathons and app-fueled disruption.  To observe this venture humanitarianism in action, look no further than, a coalition of Facebook, Samsung and several other large tech companies that promises to bring low-cost Internet access to people in underserviced parts of the world, via smartphones. 

New World Order, Labor, Capital, and Ideas in the Power Law Economy
Foreign Affairs
Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. The ability of both to flow to their highest-value uses, regardless of their location, is equalizing their prices across the globe. In recent years, this broad factor-price equalization has benefited nations with abundant low-cost labor and those with access to cheap capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. What both camps have slighted is the fact that technology is not only integrating existing sources of labor and capital but also creating new ones.

New 'movable asset' loans revolutionise business opportunities in developing countries
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Motorbikes, boats, excavation equipment and even stocks of cashew nuts are providing the poor in Asia and the Pacific with new opportunities in business. It is a big leap of faith for usually risk-averse banks and finance companies, but "movable asset" loans are taking off. Lack of access to finance is one of the key factors keeping small-scale entrepreneurs in developing countries locked into the poverty trap. The problem is not their ability to pay back the loan but their lack of collateral. In Asia, very few poor people own land. In the Pacific, people are landowners but the property is community-owned and cannot be put up as surety for a loan. With nothing to offer for repossession, small and even medium-sized businesses are shut out of the credit market.

The Data Centers of Tomorrow Will Use the Same Tech Our Phones Do
The mobile revolution has spread beyond the mini supercomputers in our hands all the way to the datacenter. With our expanded use of smartphones comes increased pressure on servers to help drive these devices: The activity we see everyday on our phones is a mere pinhole view into all that’s happening behind the scenes, in the massive cloud infrastructure powering all those apps, photo-shares, messages, notifications, tweets, emails, and more. Add in the billions of devices coming online through the Internet of Things—which scales through number of new endpoints, not just number of users—and you begin to see why the old model of datacenters built around PCs is outdated. We need more power.

E-Waste in Developing Countries Endangers Environment, Locals
U.S. News & World Report
A rising mountain of hazardous electronic waste is putting workers in developing countries and the environment at risk. Some of the disused computers, cellphones, televisions and other products are locally generated, but the developed world – especially the U.S. – is responsible for sending many of the items. The developed world has in the past exported an estimated 23 percent of its electronic waste to seven developing countries, according to a study published in June by the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The growing demand for electronics, and the increasingly short life spans of these devices, means e-waste isn’t going anywhere. But the problem is complex, and solutions will not come quickly – or easily.
UN to unveil panel for ‘breakthrough’ Technology Bank
A “breakthrough” UN initiative for transferring technology and building scientific capacity in the least developed countries (LDCs) will move closer in “a matter of weeks” when a panel to flesh out the proposals is announced, says an official close to the process. The high-level panel will consist of around a dozen experts from various backgrounds, including scientists, business leaders and government representatives, according to Khalil Rahman, chief of policy coordination for the LDCs at UN-OHRLLS (the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States). It will organise a feasibility study to help get the UN’s tech transfer mechanism — known as the Technology Bank — off the ground, he says.

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