These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
"Over the past several years two seemingly independent ideas have been gaining traction:
- New technology allows developing nations to leapfrog over traditional growth patterns (M-PESA, long-range wi-fi).
- The increasing move towards “convenience models” may be pointing the US’ tech sector away from innovation (Peter Thiel’s “they promised us flying cars but instead we got 140 characters”).
In a recent working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Robert J. Gordon writes that the US’ current wave of innovation is less of a step forward and more of a lateral move, merely finding novel ways to use innovations made 20 years ago, sitting him squarely alongside Thiel. To illustrate, Gordon asks the following hypothetical question between two options, A and B:
With option A you are allowed to keep 2002 electronic technology, including your Windows 98 laptop accessing Amazon, and you can keep running water and indoor toilets; but you can’t use anything invented since 2002. Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3am on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose?" READ MORE 
Open Growth 
“Data has been variously described as the new oil or the new raw material of the 21st century. Like other raw materials, its value is not always immediately evident – specialist tools and effort are required to locate, extract and refine data before it yields actionable information. And, unlike natural raw materials, data is not diminished when it is consumed. This is why the data that governments and public sector bodies have worked so hard to collect and publish under open licences is of such value. It represents a vast resource that can be tapped freely, time and time again by organisations and citizens alike, whether this is to understand the inner workings of government, learn about issues affecting local communities or to enable new business start-ups.” READ MORE 
KM on a dollar a day
The joy of polls 
“I’ve always been a fan of opinion polls. And after Nate Silver’s triumphant predictions of the US election outcome you’d think everyone would be. But the aid/development sphere has still a way to go to catch up.
In a recent blog post I explained a little about some of the challenges in the post-2015 global consultation. A while ago week I was a “discussant” at the recent Tech Salon organized on using technology for qualitative M&E and I talked a little more about this project. In preparing my thoughts and listening to the discussion one specific idea kept coming into my mind – that is the importance of opinions and perceptions as part of monitoring and evaluation. I’ve written previously about the need to “listen to beneficiaries” mostly from the point of view of it being the right way to do participatory development that also has a chance of being sustainable – but it also happens to be good, if not traditional M&E.” READ MORE 
Transparency & Accountability Initiative
Impact case studies from middle income and developing countries 
“Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed the way people interact and communicate. The past two decades have seen technology being used with astonishing creativity to bring people together, collect, analyse and spread information.
ICTs hold a great deal of promise for those looking to promote transparency and accountability – yet, as this report argues, they have yet to produce a sea change in the direction of increased accountability.” READ MORE 
More Than Elections 
“In a healthy democracy, elections are the starting point for a stable government that protects minority rights, ensures free speech, respects the rule of law, and promotes a strong civil society.
Democratic elections are widely recognized as a foundation of legitimate government. By allowing citizens to choose the manner in which they are governed, elections form the starting point for all other democratic institutions and practices. Genuine democracy, however, requires substantially more. In addition to elections, democracy requires constitutional limits on governmental power, guarantees of basic rights, tolerance of religious or ethnic minorities, and representation of diverse viewpoints, among other things. To build authentic democracy, societies must foster a democratic culture and rule of law that govern behavior between elections and constrain those who might be tempted to undermine election processes.” READ MORE