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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.

Smartphones could provide weather data in poor nations
African Brains

“Smartphones can now be used to collect weather data such as air temperatures through WeatherSignal, a crowdsourcing app developed by UK start-up OpenSignal.

This helps crowd source real-time weather forecasts and could one day help collect climate data in areas without weather stations, its developers say.

Once installed, the app automatically collects data and periodically uploads them to a server.

The app’s ability to record air temperature is based upon the discovery that the temperature of a smartphone battery correlates closely to the surrounding air temperature, published in Geophysical Research Letters this month (13 August).” READ MORE

Public Open Data: The Good, the Bad, the Future
Idea Lab

“New technology tools, combined with raised expectations among voters and stakeholders for government transparency, have sparked a movement toward “open government.” Championed by advocacy organizations and a few high-profile elected officials, the trend seeks to promote greater accountability and responsiveness for the systems of representative democracy. An area of particular opportunity — as well as potential concern — is the growing cache of large datasets of public information now available on the Internet.

Government entities from cities to nations are making data not only public but accessible. Earlier, such data was often buried in City Hall filing cabinets, provided only after Freedom of Information Act requests, or published electronically but in cumbersome formats. Machine-readable formats allow new applications, analysis and visualizations to be developed by anyone with basic skills and an Internet connection. Datasets from many corners of government are coming online: public health and demographic information, business licenses and property ownership, campaign contributions and expenditures, crime reports, school test scores, and much more.”  READ MORE

Utilising Linked Social Media Data for Tracking Public Policy and Services 
Digital Enterprise Reseach Institute

“What are the concerns of citizens in relation to the new proposal for a ring-road? What are their views on means-testing for medical cards? Are self- employed people finding the online tax system helpful? Traditionally, such question would be answered through commissioned surveys, targeted consultations or journalistic research. Today, citizens are expressing views on topical issues such as public policy and services voluntarily on social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. contain views and arguments on a wide range of issues, which can be useful for informing policy-makers on public opinion. However, public policy isn’t the only topic discussed by citizens online; how can policy-makers distinguish relevant data from opinions on who should win X-Factor or what is the best sandwich filling? In this paper, we propose a solution for systematically tracking particular topics of interest across a range of social media sites. We also discuss how this solution may be employed for tracking topics related to specific public policy or service of interest.” READ MORE 

Billionaire investor Neilson backs mobile phone boom in Africa
Financial Review 

“Billionaire investor Kerr Neilson has championed the rise of mobile internet across Africa as a “game changer” that will challenge entrenched practices such as graft and corruption and spur productivity.

Mr Neilson, the founder of fund manager Platinum, said that the continent’s mobile users had swelled to more than 700 million compared with fewer than 10 million fixed lines mostly concentrated in one country at the turn of the century.

“What is so significant for countries that suffer from the poor ordering and allocation of resources is that the network effect created by communications and data mobility circumvents the dead hand of government. Moreover, the extraordinary leaps in technology and falls in equipment costs have made this change possible in even the poorest countries,” he said.”  READ MORE

A new approach to high impact infrastructure technical assistance
Global Development Professionals Network

“Infrastructure development is central to economic growth and poverty reduction: well-functioning infrastructure provides the foundation for the development of all other sectors. Donors are looking to new models of infrastructure programming that can adapt to the changing circumstances that characterise the long duration of infrastructure programmes.

The facility model is one such approach that is proving attractive to donors for delivering technical assistance. A facility is a large programme run by one service provider to manage hundreds of small, complementary interventions. Where traditional development programmes are implemented according to a pre-developed terms of reference, the facility model's core difference lies in its flexibility and demand driven approach to the delivery of technical assistance.”  READ MORE

The New Transparency in Aid Evaluation: The Millennium Villages Debacle Is a Good Sign of What We’re Learning
Center for Global Development 

“How can we know when an aid project ‘works’?

Today Nina Munk released a new book on the Millennium Villages Project, an intensive experimental “solution to extreme poverty” underway across rural Africa. Munk wrote her book, The Idealist, after observing the Project firsthand for six years, and her account is sympathetic to its founder while deeply critical of the Project itself. For Joe Nocera of the New York Times, the book makes it “tough to believe” the project is succeeding; for James Traub in the Wall Street Journal, the book shows how the Project was “beset by immemorial forms of misfortune that Mr. Sachs's team in New York hadn’t counted on.”

Right, but how do we know when a project works or doesn’t? There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that development economists have made little progress on answering big questions like how to ‘solve poverty.’”  READ MORE

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