On the eve of World Health Day, we are reminded that improving health is a critical contributor to productivity and country competitiveness. Health contributes greatly to better learning in children, and better productivity overall, all essential for socioeconomic development. However, health is not only a contributor to development—it's a purpose of development.
Societies seek better productivity and country competitiveness not as results in themselves but as instruments for people to live healthy productive lives. Healthy productive people weave the fabric of socially stable and productive societies that are full of opportunity.
In most cases, in most places -- at least in most so-called 'developing countries' -- the use of computers and other ICTs in schools is in practice focused largely on the development of what is commonly referred to or understood as 'ICT or computer literacy'. In fact, in many low and even middle income countries, professed needs to develop 'market-relevant' things like keyboarding skills, a basic understanding of how to navigate computer GUIs and operating systems and a general facility with standard office applications inform some of the primary justifications for the roll-out of computers in schools.
In some such places (case #1), once you have become 'proficient' in using (e.g.) a word processor, the promotion of the development of 'ICT-related skills' stops. (You are now 'computer literate': Time to move along!)
In other places (case #2), there is no shortage of lofty rhetoric around the need to develop '21st century skills' through the use (in part) of ICTs, but if you look at how the equipment is actually being utilized, the reality of ICT use in case #2 is not terribly different in practice than what one sees in the first case.
That said, some people think that way basic ICT literacy is being promoted within many 'digital divide' initiatives in the education sector may over time actually impede progress toward the development of higher order ICT-related skills. This points to a phenomenon associated with the so-called 'Second Digital Divide' (related EduTech blog post), which (in the words of the OECD) "separates those with the competencies and skills to benefit from computer use from those without". For such people, a focus on developing only basic ICT literacy,
Foreign aid has always been a contentious issue – especially when donor countries are in recession or trying to struggle out of one, while (some) formerly developing countries emerge with a stable and growing economy. From the viewpoint of policy makers in donor countries, the issue certainly has two sides: allocating support to the poorest countries in the world or those plagued by hunger and conflict, or stocking up much needed domestic programs for the poor and disadvantaged at home. Pressure from national interest groups is likely to push policy-makers toward domestic programs.
“Turning on a light, warming a house, and using an appliance are activities that most of us take for granted. But in many parts of the developing world, access to electricity is scarce. Enter “sOccket,” a soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy of play to generate electricity. When kicked, it creates energy that can be stored and then used later to charge a battery, sterilize water or light a room.
SOccket has received a lot of attention recently – from the likes of Aneesh Chopra, the first White House chief technology officer, to former President Bill Clinton, who called sOccket “quite extraordinary.” The attention isn’t surprising – the invention is clever, it’s creative, it’s relatively cheap, and it takes on one of the biggest challenges in the developing world.” READ MORE
Given that we are in a somewhat reflective mood this week due to the fact that it has been a year since we started this blog, I figured I’d highlight some of the comments that we received so far here and share some of my thoughts on these comments and related issues that have been on my mind recently as potential posts…
Knowledge is as vital as oxygen. It drives innovation, allowing economies to grow and countries to prosper. As one of the primary creators and disseminators of knowledge, universities play a critical social role. Their proper management should be a top concern of governments everywhere. Much as the failure of a major organ affects the entire body, a malfunctioning university system has widespread consequences.
Suppose all of Kenya’s borders suddenly close. Goods and people can no longer enter or exit the country through the port of Mombasa, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or roadways. Quickly the lack of fuel brings economic activity—and daily life— to a stand-still. Tea and flowers rot in warehouses, and hotels shut their doors for lack of visitors.
Perhaps it is not surprising that trade with emerging economies is often more complicated, time consuming, and costly than one would want. In addition to lacking some of the necessary physical infrastructure to transport goods, emerging economies frequently have complex and opaque regulatory requirements that create additional delays and increase transaction costs at their borders.
A few weeks ago, I attended the launch ceremony of the new Palestine Capital Growth Fund, a subsidiary of the multibillion-dollar, Dubai-based private equity fund Abraaj. I found that many people questioned why Abraaj would operate in the Palestinian Territories. Some would even describe such a move as a pure act of social responsibility. But it is not. At least this is what Tom Speechly , a partner at Abraaj, confirmed during the event. He noted that there are many successful companies in the West Bank and Gaza and they are invested for the profit!