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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.

How democratic institutions are making dictatorships more durable
Washington Post
Voters in Uzbekistan, Sudan, Togo, and Kazakhstan will go to the polls in the coming weeks. Freedom House and others classify these countries as authoritarian and the elections are widely expected to fall short of being “free and fair.” How should we think about these elections — and the presence of other seemingly democratic institutions like political parties and legislatures — in non-democratic regimes? Why do leaders of authoritarian countries allow pseudo-democratic institutions? In a recent article in the Washington Quarterly, we use data on autocracies worldwide from 1946 to 2012 to show that authoritarian regimes use pseudo-democratic institutions to enhance the durability of their regimes.

Information Economy Report 2015 - Unlocking the Potential of E-commerce for Developing Countries
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD )
The 2015 edition of UNCTAD’s  Information Economy Report examines electronic commerce, and shows in detail how information and communications technologies can be harnessed to support economic growth and sustainable development. Electronic commerce continues to grow both in volume and geographic reach, and is increasingly featured in the international development agenda, including in the World Summit on the Information Society outcome documents and in the outcome of the ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. The Information Economy Report 2015 highlights how some of the greatest dynamism in electronic commerce can be found in developing countries, but that potential is far from fully realized.  The report examines opportunities and challenges faced by enterprises in developing countries that wish to access and use e-commerce. 

Why corruption matters: understanding causes, effects and how to address them
UK Department for International Development/Overseas Development Institute
This authoritative assessment of current literature on corruption has been drafted by a team of researchers led by Alina Rocha Menocal at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Nils Taxell at U4, in collaboration with the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is an important tool for DFID staff, providing a key source of synthesised knowledge to inform effective anti-corruption programming and policy development.  The main paper runs to nearly 90 pages and contains in-depth technical and academic analysis that addresses the overarching question: “What are the conditions that facilitate corruption, what are its costs and what are the most effective ways to combat it?”
As private education rises globally, researchers disagree on whether it's worth it
The Guardian
Sending a child to Gnana Deepam Matric School in rural Tamil Nadu, India, costs around 5,000 rupees ($80 or £54) per year. For the parents of the school’s 600 or so pupils, ages 3 to 15, it’s not an inconsiderable sum. Incomes in this predominantly tribal area average around 6,000 rupees ($96 or £64) per month.  So why do they pay? It’s a question an increasing number of parents – and researchers – in the developing world are asking. In India, around one in three children in rural areas attend private schools (30.8%), an increase of two-fifths over the last 10 years (pdf). In urban areas, the figure is higher still, with enrollment in fee-paying schools accounting for more than 75% of students in cities such as Mumbai and Patna (pdf).
Isolation From Tech Increases Vulnerability to Labor Trafficking
PBS MediaShift
Given the amount of time some of us spend online, on social media and on messaging apps, the idea that technology can offer a source of comfort may seem obvious. The reverse might also be a no-brainer — that without technology, some people may feel isolated.  But what happens when you apply these understandings to the various circumstances surrounding human trafficking? The lack of research on the relationship between technology and labor trafficking in particular pushed researchers at the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism to examine this issue. The findings, recently released in a new report, have found that migrant workers — anyone who might leave their families and homes for an extended period of time for work — are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor and exploitation when they are isolated from technology and social networks.
How Did Ebola Volunteers Know Where To Go In Liberia? Crowdsourcing!
Goats and Soda, NPR
From more than 900 miles away, Kpetermeni Siakor helped get volunteers to the right neighborhoods in his native Liberia during the height of the Ebola epidemic.  He did it with Ushahidi, crowdsourcing software that was developed in Kenya in 2008, when the country experienced a wave of post-election violence. The word Ushahidi means testimony in Swahili.  "The government had shut down internet connections and radio stations, so Ushahidi was born out of the need to let people know what is happening," says Siakor, 26. He's a computer science student at Ashesi University College in Accra, Ghana, and receives financial support from the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.  In its infancy, citizen journalists would map violent incidents and peace efforts on Ushahidi. Siakor worked with a team that used the software following similarly contentious elections in Liberia in 2011. Afterward, his colleagues continued to run a technology hub in Monrovia called iLab Liberia to develop technology knowledge. When Ebola broke out, they already had a perfect tool to share data and aid emergency responders in real time.

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