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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The Mobile-Finance Revolution
Foreign Affairs
The roughly 2.5 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day are not destined to remain in a state of chronic poverty. Every few years, somewhere between ten and 30 percent of the world’s poorest households manage to escape poverty, typically by finding steady employment or through entrepreneurial activities such as growing a business or improving agricultural harvests. During that same period, however, roughly an equal number of households slip below the poverty line. Health-related emergencies are the most common cause, but there are many more: crop failures, livestock deaths, farming-equipment breakdowns, even wedding expenses.  In many such situations, the most important buffers against crippling setbacks are financial tools such as personal savings, insurance, credit, or cash transfers from family and friends. Yet these are rarely available because most of the world’s poor lack access to even the most basic banking services.


Mozilla plans '$25 smartphone' for emerging markets
BBC Technology
Mozilla has shown off a prototype for a $25 (£15) smartphone that is aimed at the developing world. The company, which is famed mostly for its Firefox browser, has partnered with Chinese low-cost chip maker Spreadtrum. While not as powerful as more expensive models, the device will run apps and make use of mobile internet. It would appeal to the sorts of people who currently buy cheap "feature" phones, analysts said. Feature phones are highly popular in the developing world as a halfway point between "dumb" phones - just voice calls and other basic functions - and fully-fledged smartphones.

Where are the flawed elections?
The Washington Post
In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption and flawed registers. In countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Maylasia, for example, recent elections ended in mass protests, opposition complaints and political stalemate. The consequences undermine regime legitimacy and public trust and confidence in electoral authorities. Where there are disputes, however, which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers? The Electoral Integrity Project has just released new evidence, which compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards. The EIP is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, funded mainly by the Australian Research Council, under the direction of Prof. Pippa Norris.


Social enterprise: can it succeed where traditional development has failed?
The Guardian
Living in India, you would be forgiven for thinking that social enterprises were going to solve the many challenges of alleviating the country's poverty. After six decades of development initiatives, social entrepreneurs are now the child star in an otherwise much-maligned space. Governments sing their praises, business schools teach their methods and award schemes elevate them to iconic status. But can social enterprises fill the gaps left by traditional state and NGO-led development? Pressure to demonstrate that traditional development work is mounting from all sides. From budget cuts to demands for greater accountability from northern NGOs, it is facing a significant backlash, regardless of its practitioners' good intentions.


1bn down, 6bn to go: Zuck to grow Facebook by touting 'free internet onramp' for the poor
The Register
Mark Zuckerberg has used his keynote address at this year's Mobile World Congress to expound on his rough plan to expand basic internet services to all humanity as a human right, and then sell them something on the back of them.He told the Barcelona audience that Internet.org – a partnership between Facebook and mobile technology giants to provide free internet access globally – has run trials with network operators to offer a "free onramp" to the internet to get people online: this includes offering zero-cost internet messaging, search and (of course) social networking.
 

New Digital Map of Near-Real Time Deforestation Launched By Google and WRI
All Voices
Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost 2.3 million square kilometers, or 230 million hectares, of tree cover, according to research conducted by the University of Maryland and Google. That’s equivalent to 50 soccer fields lost every minute of every day for those whole twelve years. The countries suffering from the most tree loss include Russia, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Canada. Now, a coalition of businesses, conservationists and techies are coming together to come to a solution to this massive environmental problem. The World Research Institute (WRI), partnering with Google and over 40 other business partners, recently launched the Global Forest Watch—an online map that shows deforestation in almost real time.

 
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