These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist- Freedom in the World 2015
For the ninth consecutive year, Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years. Even after such a long period of mounting pressure on democracy, developments in 2014 were exceptionally grim. The report’s findings show that nearly twice as many countries suffered declines as registered gains, 61 to 33, with the number of gains hitting its lowest point since the nine-year erosion began.
Digital Inclusion: The Vital Role of Local Content
Innovations, MIT Press
The journal features cases authored by exceptional innovators; commentary and research from leading academics; and essays from globally recognized executives and political leaders. The current issue contains lead essays entitled “Building a Foundation for Digital Inclusion”, “Inequitable Distributions in Internet Geographies”, and “To the Next Billion”. It also includes case narratives entitled “A Mobile Guide Toward Better Health” and “A Social Network for Farmer Training” and more.
The Right Choices for 2015
As 2015 begins, policymakers around the world are faced with three fundamental choices: to strive for economic growth or accept stagnation; to work to improve stability or risk succumbing to fragility; and to cooperate or go it alone. The stakes could not be higher; 2015 promises to be a make-or-break year for the global community. For starters, growth and jobs are needed to support prosperity and social cohesion in the wake of the Great Recession that began in 2008. Six years after the eruption of the financial crisis, the recovery remains weak and uneven. Global growth is projected at just 3.3% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015. Some important economies are still fighting deflation. More than 200 million people are unemployed. The global economy risks getting stuck in a “new mediocre” – a prolonged period of slow growth and feeble job creation.
Are anonymous companies a ‘getaway vehicle for corruption’?
We know that corruption is bad for business. Corruption adds significant costs, undermines competition, and negatively affects sustainable and human development. Anonymous companies are the “getaway vehicle” for corruption. They appear as a common thread in cases of crime, corruption, and schemes to defraud investors. Ethical and effective businesses do not require anonymous companies to operate and succeed, yet such businesses may suffer the consequences of their use by business partners, or be targeted by patent trolls hiding behind them. Since the B Team began to advocate for beneficial ownership, and against anonymous companies, people have asked us: “What is the business case for beneficial ownership?” Beneficial ownership transparency involves knowing the identity of the real, living people who ultimately own and control companies and other legal entities.
Internet of Things — The Space Junk Challenge
As we power on towards the new and exciting future the Internet of Things (IoT) promises, I’m reminded of the single greatest issue we all face, more challenging than the networks, more problematic than the security challenges, and certainly more likely to impact adoption than user acceptance. That challenge is single function platforms or devices. Consumers are unlikely to be willing to carry or use more than 3 to 5 independent devices, especially wearable devices. For example, I use a smartphone, a wrist based activity tracker, and a small form laptop, and I refuse to drag more than this collection around with me, and I’m confident this is par for the course for most of us.
The economics of optimism
“THE lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.” So predict Bill and Melinda Gates in their annual letter, published on January 22nd. The wealthy philanthropists expect the rate of infant mortality to halve by 2030, from one child in 20 dying before turning five to one in 40. They also forecast the eradication of polio and perhaps three other deadly diseases. Improvements in agriculture will mean that Africa will be able to feed itself. Financial security will improve as the 2 billion people who do not have a bank account start storing money and making payments using mobile phones. And affordable online courses will open up huge educational opportunities for poor people, especially girls. Yet the letter has surprisingly little to say about the United Nations initiative that is intended to bring such predictions to fruition: the “Sustainable Development Goals” to be agreed by world leaders at the UN General Assembly in September.
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