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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 Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance
Brookings Institution
How do improvements in information and communication technology (ICT) effect governance? Many have studied the role of the Internet in governance by state institutions.  Others have researched how technology changes the way citizens make demands on governments and corporations.  A third area concerns the use of technology in countries where the government is weak or altogether missing. In this case technology can fill, if only partially, the governance vacuum created by a fragile state.

Can Facebook’s Massive Courses Improve Education For Developing Nations?
Facebook is on a mission to prove that social media-empowered education can help some of the poorest nations on Earth. It recently announced a big industry and Ivy League alliance to bring experimental educational software to Rwanda, providing Internet access and world-class instructional resources to their country’s eager students. However, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) aren’t yet proven to work at scale even in the most well-resourced nations, let alone in a country with uneven access to technology and arguably limited educational opportunities. We took a look at what experts and evidence had to say about the prospects of Facebook’s education project.

Technology changing lives for visually impaired people in developing countries
Health Canal
He was planning to be a lawyer because he didn't think visually impaired people like him could do high-tech jobs in India. But after discovering special technology that allows him to use computers, he changed his mind and now wants to be a software engineer.  "I became crazy about computers. Now I want to do something with computers only," said the man, one of 176 people surveyed in India, Peru and Jordan about how their lives were changed by technology that enables blind people to use computers and other devices. The study shows that assistive technology—screen readers and other communication software—can boost the economic and social aspirations of visually impaired people, enabling them to pursue work they once thought was impossible. The technology also makes them less marginalized in low- and middle-income countries, where they are often stuck at home or limited to low-skilled jobs.

Facebook Will Use Drones and Lasers to 'Beam' Internet to the World
Facebook plans to use drones, satellites and lasers to deliver Internet to the world. After announcing last year, an initiative to improve Internet access across the globe, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Connectivity Lab, a new team of scientists that has been working on the ambitious project. He said that the Connectivity Lab would develop "new platforms for connectivity on the ground, in the air and in orbit," according to a post on on Thursday. "Connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post announcing the Connectivity Lab.

In Praise of the Almost-Journalists
Hope is the latest trend in journalism. Even hardened pessimists can’t help noticing when serious investment money and donations flows into startups and new initiatives from traditional media companies, as the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project documented this week in its latest annual “State of the News Media” report. “At a time when print newsrooms continue to shed jobs, thousands of journalists are now working in the growing world of native digital news,” says the report. … In a significant shift in the editorial ecosystem, most of these jobs have been created in the past half dozen years, and many have materialized within the last year alone.” I admire the work of the folks at Pew. But they, and most others who observe the journalism ecosystem, are actually underestimating the amount of journalism we’re getting. For one thing, they leave out the volunteer citizen journalism that is increasingly an essential element of what we know—somewhat reasonably, given that they’re focused in this report on people who get paid for what they report.

Why We're Not Satisfied with Social Media Sites
NBC News
How much time will you spend online today — to shop, bank, stay connected with friends, get the latest news or plan a trip? More importantly, how much of that time will be pleasurable and how much will be aggravating and unproductive? According to a new American Customer Satisfaction Index survey, most of us have a positive experience when we use the Web — 78.2 points on a 100-point scale. That's almost 2 points higher than the overall satisfaction rate for all the companies and services we deal with throughout the year. It found that credit unions (86 points), shipping companies (85), banks (85) and hotels (84) had the highest scores. "These industries do an extremely good job of providing a satisfying experience because they know they must have websites that are easy to navigate and provide users with the information they're looking for," said David VanAmburg, ACSI's director. With a rating of 78, Internet retailers were just below the national average (78.2) for all websites. Wireless telephone service and Internet travel (77), health insurance and Internet news (73), subscription TV services (72) and Internet service providers (70) also rated below average. At the very bottom of the list: social media websites, with a score of 68.

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