These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Transparency, Accountability, and Technology
The recently launched Sustainable Development Goals have kicked off a renewed development agenda that features, among other things, a dedicated emphasis on peace, justice, and strong institutions. This emphasis, encapsulated in Goal #16, contains several sub-priorities, including reducing corruption; developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions; ensuring inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making; and ensuring access to information. Indeed, the governance-related Goals merely stamp an official imprimatur on what have now become key buzzwords in development. Naturally, where there are buzzwords, there are “tools.” In many cases, those “tools” turn out to be information and communications technologies, and the data flows they facilitate. It’s no wonder, then, that technology has been embraced by the development community as a crucial component of the global accountability and transparency “toolkit.”
Freedom in the World 2016
The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
In this season of making resolutions (and hopefully sticking to a few of them) we invite you to join us for a year long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks.
TAG is a term we have coined to describe the use of simple web programming tools and techniques to do basic gut checks on data - big and small. TAG does not replace data science, rather it complements it. TAG empowers you - the development professionals - who rely on the story the data tells to accomplish your tasks. It does so by giving a you good enough idea about the data before you delve into the sophisticated data science methods (here is a good look at the last 50 years of data science from Stanford’s Dr. Donoho). In many cases it actually allows you to add your own insights to the story the data tells. As the series progresses we will talk a lot about TAGs. For the eager-minded here’s an example of TAG usage in US politics.
In this series, we will use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data. Just in time learning, as the name implies, is all about providing only the right amount of information at the right time. It is the minimum, essential information needed to help a learner progress to the next step. If the learner has a specific learning objective, just-in-time learning can be extremely efficient and highly effective. A good example of just in time information is the voice command a GPS gives you right before a turn. Contrast this with the use of maps before the days of GPS. You were given way more information than you needed and in a format that is not conducive to processing when you are driving.
Our oceans are in deep trouble. Uncontrolled pollution and overfishing have brought the state of many of our seas and oceans to an unprecedentedly precarious situation.
In recent years, multiple campaigns have sparked to raise awareness of this situation and motivate people and governments to take action. For example, the Ocean Health Index measures ocean health across the regions in the World. One of these campaigns is One World One Ocean. Based in California, United States, this organization produces films, infographics, short videos and other media products to raise awareness of ocean degradation and to spark a global movement to protect the seas.
The video “Why the Ocean?” by One World One Ocean provides interesting and alarming data on the oceans’ situation and encourages everyone, everywhere to take action.
For a detailed account of how the city dealt with this rule, see here. An excerpt:
During the odd-even period, the use of cars fells by 30 per cent while those car-pooling went up by a whopping 387.7 per cent, indicating the success of the government’s push towards that option. Delhiites using private auto-rickshaws went up by 156.3 per cent compared to the period before odd-even, while Metro use went up by 58.4 per cent.
On average, the respondents’ took 12 minutes less to commute from home to work during the odd-even period. Car and bus users reached their workplaces 13 and 14 minutes faster during the 15-day period
I will come to the outcomes of this pilot in just a moment. Outcomes aside, the Delhi government’s Odd-Even plan has yielded a rich bounty. It sets the template for citizen engagement with a public policy reform experiment: heightened awareness regarding the core issue, mass participation, intense public scrutiny, and a data-driven discourse. Let’s take these one-by-one.
“If we actually look at the few countries that have achieved smart, innovation-led growth, you’ve had this massive government involvement. How can we square that with the whole austerity discourse?”
-Mariana Mazzucato, an economist and author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths, which was featured on the 2013 books of the year lists of the Financial Times and Forbes. She is also the RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, SPRU. She has also blogged for the World Bank in the past.
It is a year since I blogged about my early impressions of the Inspection Panel and specifically a complaint from a Maasai community that was resettled to accommodate a geothermal plant in Kenya.
Since then I have heard variants of the question: Do accountability mechanisms make a difference? In this case, I believe the Inspection Panel has made a positive contribution. But the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the Bank process, of which the Panel is only one part, must be the redress of any harm caused. Signs are encouraging, and we shall see.
We submitted our investigation report in early July. The Board meeting in October resulted in a clear direction for the future (see press release). This was followed by the Panel’s debriefing of the community and other stakeholders in Kenya.
As we analyzed the facts it became clear the Bank had failed to bring to bear its rich experience with resettlement and the full force of its safeguard policies. This had negative repercussions for many of the project-affected people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
In a nutshell, the requirement to engage resettlement expertise was not met, consultations were hampered by the absence of Maa language and by sidelining the traditional Maasai authority structure, and there was no effective monitoring against a comprehensive socio-economic baseline. We also highlighted many positive aspects, including the climate-neutral generation of electricity and the investment in new infrastructure for schools and dwellings in the resettlement area.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond
World Economic Forum
We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
Media, discussion and attitudes in fragile contexts
BBC Media Action
Drawing primarily on quantitative data from nationally representative surveys collected for BBC Media Action programming in Kenya and Nigeria, the paper develops and tests the hypothesis that balanced and inclusive media-induced discussion can be a positive force in mitigating attitudes associated with conflict. The results reveal a rich but complicated picture. We find relatively consistent evidence in both countries that our discussion-oriented media programmes are strongly linked to private discussion among family, friends and others. Evidence from Kenya also suggests that exposure to debate-style programming is potentially linked to public political discussion, but that this relationship is likely to be mediated through other variables such as private political discussion. Finally, in both cases, both private and public discussion is strongly associated with individual attitudes towards conflict. However, the relationship is a complex one and bears further examination.
Those working on reforms- whether they involve energy subsidies or education stipends- know that implementing change can be difficult. Government ministries often disagree on policy, the private sector may resist changes to their operating environment, and the public may be wary of any policy that increases their financial or social burden. So how can leaders and strategists increase the likelihood they will be successful at achieving sustainable reforms?
Communication is usually at the center of any successful reform initiative. It rallies technical experts, builds support within government and the private sector, and educates the public on the importance and meaning of a reform. Indeed, successful implementation of policy reforms depends significantly on non-technical, real-world issues that relate to people and politics.
The 2016 Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment was developed with this in mind. During this 10-day program, held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, May from 23- June 3, 2016, participants will learn the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation.
We encourage interested applicants to apply today- the first early registration discount ends this Friday, January 29, 2016.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
Traditionally, those with the largest empire or who controlled the most resources were considered to be the most powerful and successful. However, recent developments in digital technology have spawned a new breed of enterprise that dominates their respective industries without actually “owning” tangible assets.
The world's largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, doesn't own real estate. Alibaba, the world's leading e-commerce company, doesn't have any inventory. Facebook, the most popular media owner worldwide, doesn't create its own content. And Uber, the largest taxi company in the world, does not own any vehicles.
Nowhere is the sharing economy more disruptive than in rental/leasing services. This graphic, from PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK, illustrates the expected growth of various rental sectors within the sharing economy. These sectors are likely to grow much quicker than traditional rental sectors, and "the least developed sectors today, such as P2P finance and online staffing, could grow the quickest of all."
This is a three-part series from Brian Levy on the manner in which the media, activists and politicians talk about the role of government. This post focuses on the importance of engaged democratic debate and the rhetorical traps that can derail political discussions.
I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about how we talk about government. So, spurred on in part by the truly appalling tone of discourse in the Republican Party’s nomination contest, I’ve decided to write a few United States-centric blog posts on the subject (though I’ll stay away entirely from chauvinistic slurs, or comments about ‘walls’ or ‘roads to serfdom’).
Somehow, in the area of governance, our usual ways of measuring (and honoring) human endeavor don’t seem to apply. Ordinarily, working and playing in teams teaches us how to master the challenges of co-operative, collective achievement — which can be way, way harder than striving alone. Governing is a quintessentially collective endeavor, especially in democracies. Yet all too often the discourse (and not only by nameless plutocrat presidential candidates…..) is resonant of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby:
“They were careless people….. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
In a series of complementary blog posts — on Washington’s Metro on Obamacare;, and on South Africa’s public sector — I explore some consequences of our carelessness in the way we speak about the public sector. Here I focus on the underlying logic of the conversation. A good place to begin is with the analysis of institutions.
The great institutional economist, Douglass North, defined institutions formally as “humanly devised constraints which govern human interaction”. (‘Rules of the game’ is his classic, informal definition.) Another Nobel-prize-winning economist, Oliver Williamson, built on North’s definition. “Governance”, Williamson suggested, “is an effort to craft order, thereby to mitigate conflict and realize mutual gains”. Crafting governance arrangements for the public sector is hard – much harder, Williamson emphasizes, than governing a private firm. Yet, somehow, seduced by high-sounding bromides, we trivialize the challenge. We gloss over the complexities, imply that what is extraordinarily difficult should be straightforward, and end up fueling disappointment and despair. The result is the pervasive distrust of government evident across much of the industrialized world.