These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Out in the Open: This Man Wants to Turn Data Into Free Food (And So Much More)
Let’s say your city releases a list of all trees planted on its public property. It would be a godsend—at least in theory. You could filter the data into a list of all the fruit and nut trees in the city, transfer it into an online database, and create a smartphone app that helps anyone find free food. Such is promise of “open data”—the massive troves of public information our governments now post to the net. The hope is that, if governments share enough of this data with the world at large, hackers and entrepreneurs will find a way of putting it to good use. But although so much of this government data is now available, the revolution hasn’t exactly happened.
Four mobile-based tools that can bring education to millions
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela is famed for saying. Yet access to good quality learning is still denied to millions around the world, particularly in developing countries where teaching standards and education facilities are often poor. The ubiquity of mobile phones is presenting educators with a new, low-cost tool for teaching. Here we look at four mobile-based solutions delivering real results for low-income learners.
The Price of Poverty
Poverty is powerful. For those within its grasp, it alters every aspect of existence. People who happen to be born poor consume less than those born rich. They have worse access to education and healthcare and frequent exposure to corruption, extortion, and violence. An average person born in a place like Sub-Saharan Africa lives in a very different world than an average American. But does poverty affect the way people feel, think, and act? This seems like an obvious question, and indeed, it is neither new nor mine: over the centuries, scientists, policymakers, and writers have asked whether poverty has psychological and behavioral consequences. Yet for many years, the question has been difficult to study because asking it has often been confused with blaming the poor for their poverty or attributing to them deficiencies that caused it.
How This Algorithm Detected The Ebola Outbreak Before Humans Could
When an infectious disease starts spreading, it seldom takes its time. And when that infection is called Ebola, any delay in halting its spread can take a very real toll in human lives. The trouble, of course, is that it takes time for people to even figure out that an outbreak has occurred. Thankfully, machines are getting smarter. Nine days before the World Health Organization announced the African Ebola outbreak now making headlines, an algorithm had already spotted it. HealthMap, a data-driven mapping tool developed out of Boston Children's Hospital, detected a "mystery hemorrhagic fever" after mining thousands of web-based data sources for clues.
How Social Media Silences Debate
New York Times
The Internet might be a useful tool for activists and organizers, in episodes from the Arab Spring to the Ice Bucket Challenge. But over all, it has diminished rather than enhanced political participation, according to new data. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers at Pew Research Center and Rutgers University. The researchers also found that those who use social media regularly are more reluctant to express dissenting views in the offline world.
Delivering Development After 2015
Center for American Progress
World leaders are set to meet in September 2015 to agree on a set of goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which will expire in 2015. People from all over the world have been engaged in opining, discussing, debating, and even voting on what those new goals should be. While significant attention is being paid to the vision of the post-2015 agenda, less attention has focused on the details of how to achieve this vision by 2030, the assumed deadline for the next set of goals. Fortunately, the conversation is now turning from the “what” to the “how” with the recent announcement of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, or FFD, conference to take place in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, just ahead of the September 2015 U.N. summit to adopt the post-2015 framework.
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