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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.

Facebook Reaches a Landmark 100-Million Users in Africa Through Mobile
Thanks to mobile connectivity, half of Africa's 200-million internet users were accessing Facebook on a monthly basis in June 2014, indicating that the social media giant's efforts at penetrating emerging market are paying off. There's explosive growth and incredible momentum across Africa. "We now have 100-million people coming to Facebook every month across the African continent with more than 80% using mobile devices," says Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

UNICEF's Hidden in Plain Sight report details child homicides, domestic violence in 190 countries
Radio Australia
One in five homicide victims worldwide are children, a report by UN children's agency UNICEF has revealed. The Hidden in Plain Sight report analyses data from 190 countries and lists alarming statistics on child homicides, domestic violence and rape. The report found violence against children was most common in the home and with caregivers.  UNICEF spokesman for Eastern and Southern Africa, James Elder, said the report may not even capture the full extent of the problem.   "Violence is a very difficult thing often to detect, it goes grossly unreported, so one of the terrifying things from this report is knowing that in fact the numbers would be lower than the reality," he said.

Global Warming Is Just One of Many Environmental Threats That Demand Our Attention
New Republic
Our global environment has many problems. If the high volume of carbon emission is one, the low level of intellectual engagement with some of the major environmental challenges is surely another. There are, of course, many engaging and well-researched studies of particular environmental problems such as global warming, and we have good reason to be appreciative of that. And yet some of the foundational issues have remained unresolved—indeed, unaddressed.  I would like to comment on two quite different, but ultimately related, areas of neglected environmental analyses that demand immediate attention.
Why Violent News Images Matter
A recent slew of situations resulting in catastrophic violence and death, including the Israel-Gaza war, the armed expansion of the Islamic State, the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane in the Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and also the spread of the Ebola virus, has led to a renewed debate as to what kinds of imagery media outlets should be expected to show. One argument is that editors working for mainstream outlets, and perhaps even photographers as well, are unethically withholding from readers certain horrific imagery of contemporary conflicts and disasters because of a fear of offending or shocking, or even from a fear that readers will abandon the publication altogether. In his new book, War Porn, photographer Christoph Bangert asks: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”
Giving smallholders a seat at the table
The Guardian
Imagine a world without many of the foods we increasingly take for granted every day – a world without tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, bananas. The reality is that global trade in these commodities is heavily reliant on smallholder farmers, who grow as much as 70% of the world’s food. Yet, shockingly, smallholders also make up half of the world’s hungry people.  In the run up to the G8 summit in 2013, with global hunger and food insecurity gaining more public attention, the Fairtrade Foundation along with several other organisations campaigned to put the challenges facing smallholders on the political agenda with some encouraging results.
The ultimate limitation of big data for development
Recently, much has been written, talked, and done about the usefulness of big data for development. The UN Economic and Social Council recognises that “big data have the potential to produce more relevant and more timely statistics than traditional sources of official statistics, such as survey and administrative data sources”, while the OECD is convinced that “big data now represents a core economic asset that can create significant competitive advantage”. At the same time, obstacles and perils have been noted — mostly well-known challenges previously discussed in the context of the digital divide, including shortages in skills and infrastructure, and privacy concerns. But there is one ultimate, theoretical limitation on what big data can do and what it cannot do, and it is particularly relevant for development work. This is a limitation inherent to big data, and should make advocates alert and cautious when working with and trusting in it.

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Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomite

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