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Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Why people prefer unequal societies
Nature
There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.

2017 Affordability Report
Alliance for Affordable Internet
A4AI is a global alliance of over 80 member organisations from across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in both developed and developing countries, dedicated to ensuring affordable internet access for all through policy and regulatory change. The Affordability Report represents part of our ongoing efforts to measure progress toward affordable internet. The 2017 Affordability Report looks at the policy frameworks in place across 58 low- and middle-income countries to determine what changes countries have made to drive prices down and expand access — and what areas they should focus on to enable affordable connectivity for all.

Skills for a changing world: National perspectives and the global movement
Brookings Institution
The Skills for a Changing World project presents evidence of a movement of education systems globally toward a more explicit focus on a broad range of skills that our 21st century society needs and demands. This movement can be seen in the vision and mission statements of education systems as well as through their curricula. Although clearly endorsed at the policy level, implementation is just beginning in some countries. The issues surrounding this, particularly in the context of within-country social and economic changes, are brought to light in this report by a study of education stakeholders in four countries—Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, and the Philippines.

The Power of Airwaves: The Role of Spectrum Management in Media Development
CIMA
Whenever we listen to a favorite band on the radio, watch a presidential debate on television, or access a social media profile on a mobile device, we are making use of the electromagnetic spectrum: the frequencies on which voice and data signals are transmitted. This invisible highway of information has long been managed by governments as a public and scarce resource to prevent interference among frequencies—keeping the lanes of the highway clear. This centralized management has been commonly accepted as a necessity to make sure that media technologies such as radio and television stations are accessible to citizens. Indeed, without government control, the spectrum would be subject to a “cacophony of competing voices,” as coordination and fairness among broadcasters and other interested parties would be hard to achieve. The rapid shift to digital communication, however, is increasing the demand for spectrum, especially as the Internet becomes one of the primary conduits through which media content reaches citizens. In particular, the use of mobile technologies, such as 3G/4G and other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, has increased dramatically over the past decade. This has led to a growing interest in reforming the rules and regulations by which spectrum is managed to create a system better suited to today’s diverse media ecosystem.

Yes, it’s possible to do research in conflict zones. This is how.
Washington Post
Studying active conflict zones in the 21st century is uniquely difficult. New forms of war and non-state armed actors blur the lines of the battlefield, and Westerners are increasingly targeted. We have spent years researching the politics of warlords, rebels and foreign interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and the Turkey-Syria borderland. These places have become increasingly perilous countries in which to work. But they remain of great concern for Western policymakers. And although innovative methods allow researchers to study certain elements of conflict from afar, fieldwork remains as important as ever. Without fine-grained, “on-the-ground” analysis, decision-makers may dangerously misunderstand the politics and players that shape the contours of war abroad. So how can scholars conduct meaningful research in such challenging contexts?

Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomit

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