Bitcoin is indeed a rather surprising mix of frightfully clever ideas and frightfully simplistic mechanisms, as I argue in a recent paper. You can dismiss bitcoin as a doomed monetary experiment, but you must not pass over the opportunity to let your imagination run with it as it can shake some basic assumptions you have on how financial systems must work. Might there be some lessons in there for how to 'fix' what's broken in our financial system? Take it as an invitation to dream about the following three questions, which are based around the three basic design premises of bitcoin.
First: What if digital money was something that I could hold for myself and pass onto others, without necessarily having to go through a licensed financial institution? You can't do that now: you cannot hold digital money without becoming a customer of Citibank, PayPal or M-PESA. We've been delivered into their hands, and yet they do not necessarily see it their business to serve everyone. It didn't use to be that way: you can hold coins and bank notes by yourself, there is decentralized management of that. What if we held the option to serve ourselves financially with electronic payments, on a peer-to-peer basis, even if only as a countervailing power or last resort?
This is a surfer’s dream: catching a great wave, far from the shore, and riding it for long beautiful moments as it stretches further and further gathering momentum until the very end, when it breaks right at the beach. This is how my generation, born in the 1970s (when the Beach Boys released their iconic Surf’s Up album), should feel, as we are riding on a “global demographic wave” which keeps extending further and further.
Now that the dust has settled around the PISA results we have been thinking about the reasons behind Indonesia's poor showing. For those of you who haven't seen them, Indonesia ranked lower than all participating countries except Peru in mathematics and science, and was fifth from last on reading. Perhaps more worrying were the low absolute levels of learning reported for 15-year-olds. In mathematics, three-quarters of students were rated at or below the lowest benchmark – a level associated with only rudimentary levels of proficiency and a lack of higher order thinking skills.
This is for anyone who ever found themselves frustrated by numbers -- myself included.
Right before college, I remember my parents asking me what degree I wanted to pursue. Vaguely, I answered “Anything without math.” Even during my post graduate studies, I consciously picked a degree with less mathematics in its curriculum. The irony is, I now work in the World Bank Group and numbers is its core language. But there is good news, not only for rookies like me, but for everyone – numbers can be fascinating, insightful and even fun.
‘My Favorite Number,’ is a YouTube series that shows how digits can give us unique insight into global development and humanity. World Bank Group’s economists share their stories on their favorite numbers – demonstrating how their brilliance (and humor) reaffirm that numbers are vital to everyday life. The videos show us that economists are not just about numbers. They bring passion and personal perspectives to relevant issues around the world.
Developing-country stocks are heading for the biggest weekly loss in six weeks amid mounting tensions over Ukraine. The benchmark MSCI Emerging Market Index dropped 0.9% to the lowest level since April 1 in afternoon trading, extending its weekly drop to 1.6%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 1% at the closing, and it slumped 2.9% this week amid concerns over Chinese economic slowdown. The developing-country stock gauge has declined 0.8% thus far this year, compared with a 1.2% gain for mature-market gauge.
Recent posts on the EduTech blog have explored some of the general opportunities, issues and challenges that are common to many efforts to use mobile phones as part of data collection efforts and have identified some of the key lessons as a result of projects which have used mobile phones to collect data in the education sector in Uganda.
Even where there is common agreement on the potential utility of deploying mobile phones as part of a particular data collection effort, as well as a consensus understanding about relevant challenges that may complicate such an effort, decision makers may still be unsure about how to start their related planning efforts – or how best to change course once such efforts are underway.
In many instances, an intriguing proposal by a vendor of a particular product or service may help instigate initial considerations to use mobile phones as part of data collection efforts; news reports and information sharing between key practitioner groups may as well. Whatever catalyzes consideration of the use of mobile phones as aids in data collection efforts – in some cases it may simply be a general dissatisfaction with the status quo – here are some general questions that may be worth asking:
'Our goal: Defeat malaria forever' is the title of a Path blog to commemorate World Malaria Day. Written by Dr. Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell and Bindiya Patel to commemorate World Malaria Day, it stresses that malaria control alone won't be enough to stop the disease.
Meanwhile, the economics world continues to be rocked by Piketty. His powerpoint on Capital in the 21st Century, presented recently at an IMF event where Martin Ravallion played the role of discussant, can be downloaded here. Ravallion provided his own take on historic inequality trends and explained why he thinks there is still hope that extreme poverty in the developing world will continue to fall, thanks in no small part to growth and other factors.