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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.

Trading Privilege for Privation, Family Hits a Nerve in South Africa
The New York Times

“Regina Matshega was gossiping with a neighbor over a fence between their shacks in the Phomolong squatter camp last month when a very unexpected sight suddenly popped into view: two ruddy-cheeked white South Africans, a man and a woman, with two towheaded toddlers running at their heels.

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes,’ Ms. Matshega said. ‘What are white people doing here? They live in the rich places. They never come this side.’”  READ MORE

What’s the point of open data?
Open Up

“I’ve been puzzling for a while how the open data community can help the many great groups that have been fighting for transparency of key money flows for the past decade and more. I think one answer may be that open data helps us go beyond simply making information available. If done well, it can help us make it accessible and relevant to people, which has been the holy grail for transparency advocates for a long time.

The transparency community has focused too much on just getting information out there (making information available). But what’s the point of having information available if it’s not accessible? What’s the use of public reports that are only nominally ‘public’ because they languish in filing cabinets or ‘PDF deserts’ hidden within an obscure website?” READ MORE

How Cell Phones Are Transforming Health Care in Africa
MIT Technology Review

“In a little over a decade, Africa has gone from a region with virtually no fixed-line telecoms infrastructure to a continent where one in six of the billion inhabitants now owns a cell phone. But as this mass adoption of technology continues to gather momentum, it is causing a fundamental shift that goes beyond merely connecting people; it is creating one of the largest, low-cost distributed sensor networks we’ve ever seen, one which has the potential to completely transform global health care.

Since 2000, when the number of cell phone subscriptions in Africa outstripped landlines, the enthusiasm with which people across the continent have embraced this technology has been unparalleled. Nigeria alone has gone from a nation of just 30,000 cell subscriptions in 2000 to more than 140 million today, or roughly 87 percent penetration. Given how vast Africa is and the entrepreneurial nature of its people, perhaps that’s not so surprising. But what is unexpected is the life-saving role these handsets are beginning to play in helping to bridge gaps in our knowledge.”  READ MORE

5 Takeaways From UN's Global Report on Happiness
National Geographic

“Denmark is the happiest country in the world, followed by Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report, released today by Columbia University's Earth Institute.

Sponsored by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the global survey took place between 2010 and 2012 and ranked the happiness levels of people in 156 countries, using such criteria as wealth, health, freedom to make life choices, having someone to count on in times of trouble, freedom from corruption, and the generosity of fellow citizens.”  READ MORE

Are women less corrupt? New study suggests it depends on cultural expectations
Rice University 

“Women are more likely than men to disapprove of — and less likely to participate in — political corruption, but only in countries where corruption is stigmatized, according to new political science research from Rice University.

“‘Fairer Sex’ or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender and Institutional Context” finds that women are less tolerant of corrupt behavior, but only in democratic governments, where appropriating public policy for private gain is typically punished by voters and courts.” READ MORE

Opaque Transparency and Transparent Opacity in African Budget Systems
Matthew Andrews 

“In a post last week I showed how PEFA data can be used to illustrate the implementation gap in public financial management reforms. My goal is to use the data that donor agencies employ and show that reforms are often yielding limited results: They make governments look better but often fail to make the governments function better.

Today I am turning my attention to Open Budget Index data (OBI) with the same intention. While I analyze the data I want to make two things clear: 1. I'm not criticizing the data (in fact I know the people who constructed the dataset really well…as with PEFA…and I applaud the fact that we have data to work with—much better than in the past where we had to assume reforms were working); 2. I'm not assuming the data are perfect (in fact I am well aware of the many limits of the data…generally and in particular cases…with OBI, for instance, there are questions about how the data are collected and what they measure). I am using the data in a specific and focused sense and think that this is totally appropriate—to show patterns in the kind of reform results we are getting across developing countries.” READ MORE

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