These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Democracy, voting and public opinion in the Arab world: New research evidence
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University
In 2002 the United Nations issued a much-discussed report highlighting the lack of progress in Arab countries relative to other developing regions, and there has continued to be scrutiny of various social, political and economic indicators there. But a combination of closed regimes, highly nuanced cultural norms and burgeoning areas of conflict often make it difficult to interpret complex political trends and events. The available data relating to perceived changes in public attitudes must be read carefully, with the conflicting results of the 2011 Arab Spring standing as a stark reminder of this complexity. Still, a variety of studies published in 2015 help shed light on emerging trends relating to elections and public opinion in the Arab world, which continues to go through a state of upheaval and transition. Interpreting voter intentions, attitudes and outcomes is particularly difficult in regimes that are neither fully democratic nor totalitarian: Where citizens are not necessarily forced to participate, and yet many turn out to vote despite the fact that the process is highly unlikely to influence the ultimate outcome of the election. A 2015 study published in the journal Comparative Political Studies, “Elections in the Arab World: Why Do Citizens Turn Out?” seeks to explain voter turnout in such situations under authoritarian regimes in Arab countries.
Open data ‘not enough to improve lives’
Governments in developing countries must ensure the statistics they publish can be used to improve citizens’ lives, practitioners told SciDev.Net following an open data meeting. Liz Carolan, the international development manager at host organisation the Open Data Institute (ODI), said countries should instead start with real-world problems and then work out how data can be part of the solution. “A government might say: ‘We put the data on the web, that’s enough’ — but it’s not,” she said. “You could not get away with that”, especially in countries where internet connectivity and literacy are low and it is difficult for people to access the data in the first place. Ivy Ong, outreach lead at government data provider Open Data Philippines, added: “Do not be blinded by the bright and shiny milestone of developing and launching an open data portal.”
Without Water, No Sustainable Development: World Water Week 2015
New Security Beat
The World Economic Forum recently named water crisis the world’s number one risk for the next 10 years for its potential impact on people and industry. Indeed, as the global community grapples with climate change – and environmental change of all kinds – understanding the fundamental nature if water to human society is crucial. The input report for this year’s World Water Week, released yesterday by the Stockholm International Water Institute, in fact argues that getting water management right is a prerequisite for sustainable development. The report, Water for Development: Charting a Water Wise Path, provides perspectives from key organizations and researchers involved in water and development such as the UN Development Program, UN-Habitat, WaterAid, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Stockholm Resilience Center, London School of Economics, and the International Water Association.
Researchers Find Security Flaws in Developing-World Money Apps
Wall Street Journal
Mobile-money services are growing at a rapid clip in the developing world, but new research suggests many of the apps that give the poor access to banking services have woeful security protections, leaving users exposed to fraud and theft. Computer scientists at the University of Florida studied seven mobile-money apps from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, and found what they considered major security flaws in six. “It was worse than we expected,” said Patrick Traynor, a computer science professor and author of the study. One app, India-based MoneyOnMobile, appeared to use encryption to protect data, but did so by sending sensitive data to a server unprotected before encrypting the information. That could allow the data to be stolen on the unprotected step.
Why is Corruption so Hard to Define?
The Global Anticorruption Blog
Last week Matthew wrote that too much time and energy has been wasted trying to define corruption. While I agree, I don’t think sufficient attention has been paid to why so many spend so much time arguing about what “corruption” means. Matthew pointed to the reason in one of the first posts on this blog but stopped just short of the explanation. Let me take the last, short step in the hopes it will end the interminable, unproductive wrangling over definitions. In the earlier post Matthew wrote that corruption “implies a deviation from some ideal state” and hence “involves an implicit or explicit selection of a baseline standard of ‘correct’ behavior.” He went on to explain that in the corruption literature the three most common baselines are the law, public opinion, and public interest. “Corruption” can then be conduct that deviates from what the law provides, that diverges from what the public thinks is wrongful, or that is at odds with the public interest.
Internet Users in Asia-Pacific Want More Opportunities to Participate in Internet Policymaking
A newly published Internet Society survey on Internet policy trends in Asia-Pacific found that the majority of respondents would like their government to provide more opportunities for multi-stakeholder involvement in policymaking for the Internet. The degree of satisfaction that stakeholders have with Internet policymaking processes was revealed in an annual study released today by the Internet Society. Now in its second installment, the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Survey this year polled 3,302 end-users from across the region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues. While a high proportion of respondents cared about matters related to the Internet, many felt that they were not adequately equipped with the tools and knowledge to participate in state-led policymaking.
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