2016. A new year and a new emphasis on data-driven performance for local government. Cities are accelerating at a fast pace to put data to use. Not just to understand what’s happening on the street level, also to improve service delivery systems.
Until recently, Boston’s Department of public works kept track of jobs on paper. And there was no efficient system to track what jobs were done and what needed to be done.
But that has changed.
- Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher whose work focuses on the political domain and rationality. He is best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere. Associated with the Frankfurt School, his work also focuses on the foundations of critical social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, human freedom within modern society, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics-- particularly German politics.
There seems to be much enthusiasm today for efforts to improve access to information about poor people’s rights and entitlements. In a much debated recent example, Facebook’s “Free Basics” platform provides free access to a selected slice of the internet (including, of course, Facebook). In arguing for Free Basics, Mark Zuckerberg says that “everyone … deserves access to the tools and information that can help them to achieve all those other public services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights.” I think we would all agree; less obvious is whether Free Basics will help do that. Critics argue that it is a “walled garden” approach—indeed, a threat to net neutrality. There have been proposals for other options using subsidized internet data packs, as in the proposal for India made recently by Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah.
This is a key message in the Global Monitoring Report 2015/2016 – Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change, recently issued by the World Bank and the IMF. The countries in this category are labeled “pre-dividend,” (see Figure 1); two thirds of the world’s countries most affected by fragility, conflict and violence belong to this group.
Figure 1. Global Monitoring Report Demographic Country Typology: Pre-dividend countries.
According to the latest statistics, 51% of African women report that being beaten by their husbands is justified if they either go out without permission, neglect the children, argue back, refuse to have sex, or burn the food. This is startling.
To be sure, the numbers reflect attitudes, not incidence. About one third of African women report to have experienced domestic violence (physical or sexual). But the attitudes are arguably even more pernicious. They shape behavior, reflect social norms toward conflict resolution, also outside the home, and could bear importantly on development and poverty reduction. They are also correlated with the incidence of violence. In assessing people’s poverty status and well-being, a much more systematic discussion of the acceptance and incidence of domestic violence is called for.
So, what has been happening to women’s attitudes and incidence towards domestic violence following Africa’s hopeful economic turn-around? Two decades of systematic data collection through the Demographic and Health Surveys make it possible to examine this. The latest Poverty in a Rising Africa report summarizes the findings.
Oil prices fell below $30 a barrel on Friday amid continued turmoil in Chinese markets and concerns over Iranian oil exports, with the lifting of international sanctions possible within days. Brent crude, the global benchmark, slid 3.6 percent to $29.76 a barrel in London, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the U.S. benchmark dropped 5 percent to $29.64 a barrel in New York. Brent and WTI prices were on track to close lower for a third straight week, down nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the year.
In the build up to the Arab uprisings, data was doing its part to deceive those who follow the region closely. Tunisia and Egypt provide great examples. Both nations closed the first decade of the century implementing the kind of classic economic reforms often praised by western-based multilateral and international organizations. Extremely qualified, intelligent and well-meaning experts on both countries took an objective look at reforms, GDP trajectories and other traditional metrics, such as infant mortality rates, poverty reduction, etc., and concluded that these countries, while not perfect, were moving forward along a path of increasing correction. A few weeks later, both nations were in complete political upheaval.
- Chris Blattman picks up on the underappreciated benefit of researchers getting involved in evaluations – that they actually get out there in the world and see how policy is implemented
- Justin Wolfers does a nice summary of the work showing how female economists don’t get credit for co-authored work done with men
- From Moody’s Analytics, six examples of where careful empirical work in economics has changed someone’s mind
- From the Africa Can blog, Dominique van de Walle has an interesting discussion on widowhood in Africa, including age patterns, and socioeconomic status.
- Funding: IPA SME initiative call for proposals, due Feb 15.
- development impact links
In the Fall, I had the opportunity to participate at TEDx MidAtlantic and talk about some of the things we are doing at the World Bank's Innovation Labs. I was excited at this opportunity to share the stage with inspiring speakers such as, Barbara Amaya, anti-trafficking advocate; Katie Bechtold, flight controller Pluto mission; Kavita Shukla, social entrepreneur; Jose Andres, renowned chef; Lawrence Lessig, democracy reformer, and many other truly inspiring speakers.