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For Political Communication, the Age of Nerds and Big Data is Here

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sophisticated campaign communication (an important part of political communication) is a field both invented and dominated by American practitioners and scholars. When I ask my associates in the field why this is so, the reason they usually give me is the sheer quantity and frequency of democratic elections in the American political system. Therefore, they point out, human and material resources have been poured into the science and the art of winning election campaigns.  What is important for our purposes is that  the practices of American political communicators tend to spread worldwide... like much else in American culture. Politicians in newly democratizing polities have for decades now invited American political consultants to help them run and win elections. Local specialists have also mushroomed, many of them trained by the American universities who offer amazingly good degrees in communication, particularly political communication. If you are interested in campaign communication as a global phenomenon, a good place to start is Fritz Plasser's Global Political Campaigning: A Worldwide Analysis of Campaign Professionals and Their Practices (2002).

My bet is that at least two aspects of the recently concluded presidential election campaign in the United States -- a spectacular showcase of political communication at work -- will prove influential globally. President Obama was re-elected and it was a big win, but for campaign communication two methods won big victories of their own and they are likely to be flattered with imitation worldwide. They are as follows:

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

CIMA
Mapping Digital Media

“The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project includes data on how these changes affect news about political, economic, and social affairs.  Visit the Open Society Foundations’ website to see the full version of each country’s report.

CIMA worked with the Open Society Foundations to identify the most important digital media indicators in the series of reports. The mapping tool allows for the visualization of these indicators from each report and enables the comparison of digital media penetration in various countries. Please note that some data from the reports has been recalculated to ensure that comparable data is presented in the map.”  READ MORE

Linda Raftree
ICT for WASH and public service delivery

“In June, two organisations focussed on using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in the water and sanitation sector joined forces in Cape Town. SeeSaw, a social enterprise that customises ICT to support sanitation and water providers and iComms, a University of Cape Town research unit (Information for Community Oriented Mu nicipal Services) co-hosted a two day event to look at how ICT tools are changing the way that public services function in developing countries.

There are growing expectations that harnessing ICT intelligently can bring about radical improvements in the way that health, education and other sectors function, particularly in developing countries. SeeSaw and iComms wanted to look at this in more detail – and to build on the open sharing of experience to provide general principles to those planning to harness ICT for public service delivery. Their overarching goal is to help practitioners cut through much of the complexity and hype surrounding ICT usage and give them a robust set of guidelines with which to plan and negotiate partnerships and projects on the ground.”  READ MORE

Doing Development Differently - A Chimera?

Maya Brahmam's picture

A lot has recently been written about “doing development differently” from crowdsourcing the next Millennium Development Goals (a la ONE’s Jamie Drummond) to the Copenhagen Consensus and their 16 investments with the biggest payoffs for development (listed here).

Enter Ha-Joon Chang, a noted Cambridge economist, who sees development as a different game altogether –the analogy he uses is that current development thinking is like “Hamlet without the prince.” According to Duncan Green’s recent blog post, Chang believes that with all the focus on health, education, poverty reduction, we are missing the elephant in the room (the prince): We are missing what poor countries really need, which is “productive capabilities” and an important focus on upgrading skills and industry, which has largely been set aside since the 1980s by donors and international organizations.

Leveraging New Tools to Report Fraud and Corruption: The World Bank Launches its Integrity App

Stephen Zimmermann's picture

The World Bank has been making increasing use of Apps to make its information and data more accessible via mobile devices. The launch of the Integrity App expands the World Bank’s open data universe, and - perhaps even more excitingly - enables users to engage as 'citizen corruption fighters' to help protect the integrity of its projects, and ensure that development funds are used for their intended purposes.

So what does the new World Bank Integrity App do? It enables users to report concerns of fraud or corruption in Bank-financed projects. As with all such reports received, these are handled by the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency, a specialized unit responsible for investigating and pursuing sanctions in cases of fraud and corruption in World Bank-financed projects.

Users of the Integrity App can identify projects (by name, country, sector or key word) and submit a confidential report of their concerns. Other features include attaching an image or recording the location of the complaint through the optional use of GPS. Users can also view the World Bank’s integrity policies.

India's Fight for the Right to Education

Duncan Green's picture

Education is fine example of the strengths and weaknesses of judicial activism in India. The Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed in 2009, arising out of constitutional amendment in 1999 that redefined the right to life as including education (!). Private schools challenged the act, especially its requirement that they reserve 25% of places for lower castes, but the Supreme Court upheld it.

To see what all this means on the ground, I duck out of my boring conference and head for Madanpur,  a colony for slum dwellers ‘rehabilitated’ in 2000 – i.e. their previous homes were steamrollered and they were shunted to the margins of Delhi. Its current population of 145,000 earns income from construction, domestic work etc – almost entirely in the informal economy.

Oxfam India’s partner, the slightly ungrammatical EFRAH (Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic and Health) is an RTE activist NGO working with schools to implement the Act – part support, part watchdog (‘they like us, and they are afraid of us’). There is plenty to work on, as the gap between the Act and reality is great: it mandates school management committees with equal teacher/parent representation, but there are none to be seen in Madanpur.

It’s Not about the Technology, It’s about the People: Evaluating the Impact of ICT Programs

Shamiela Mir's picture

How can we better design ICT programs for development and evaluate their impact on improving peoples’ well-being? A new approach, the Alternative Evaluation Framework (AEF) takes into account multiple dimensions of peoples’ economic, social and political lives rather than simply focusing on access, expenditure and infrastructure of ICT tools. This new approach is presented in How-To Notes, Valuing Information: A Framework for Evaluating the Impact of ICT Programs, authored by Bjorn-Soren Gigler, a Senior Governance Specialist at the World Bank Institute’s Innovation Practice.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

The Atlantic
How Social Media Could Revolutionize Third-World Cities

“When a housewife in a working-class district of Mexico City gets fed up with the lack of working lights in her local park, she logs on to Twitter and complains directly to the city's mayor.

In an age of incessant digital chatter -- and in a city of 22 million -- this might seem futile. But the mayor, who has more than 600,000 Twitter followers, replies to her complaint within hours. He orders the city's public works department to take action. Several weeks later, he posts photos of new lights being installed in the park and thanks the woman for bringing the problem to his attention.

In fact, the mayor's Twitter feed reads like a gritty chronicle of life in a megacity. Potholes, of course, but also complaints and announcements about garbage collection, crime, traffic lights, construction delays, power outages, water supplies, bike lanes, flooded sewers, corruption, air quality, and the proverbial rude bureaucrat.”  READ MORE

India's Middle Class Debate Continued: Should NGOs be Looking in the Mirror? Guest post from Bipasha Majumder

Duncan Green's picture

On my recent trip to India, I discovered some talented bloggers – here’s Bipasha Majumder, Oxfam India’s Communications Officer in Mumbai, writing in a purely personal capacity on the Great Middle Class Debate. She also writes a personal blog.

I have had discussions and I have had heated discussions.  Sometimes I have just let the question float in the air, sat back and observed what others had to say.

Whichever way you look at it, one thing is very clear. The great Indian rising middle class is just not bothered. They are largely happy and keen to contribute to the ‘growing’ economy. But when it comes to any kind of contribution to a cause, especially those related to poverty, there is a big wall of apathy around them.

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