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Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Center for Global Development
Development and the Death of Aaron Swartz

“Aaron Swartz, who died on January 11th, worked and fought for key freedoms of our time: the right to information, to share knowledge and ideas, and to speak freely.  He did not just campaign: he built  the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons licence. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He died, apparently by killing himself, aged just 26. Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony charges for having downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online repository, JSTOR, allegedly with the intention of publishing them freely online.

The death of Aaron Swartz has made me think about how important it is for development that we continue to fight his fights, and continue to build what he began.” READ MORE

Civil Society, Public Action and Accountability in Africa

Duncan Green's picture

An important new paper from some big development names – Shanta Devarajan and Stuti Khemani from the World Bank, and Michael Walton (ex Bank, now at Harvard Kennedy School) – directs a slightly fierce (but welcome) political economy gaze at donor efforts to strengthen civil society (one of the more recent developmental fads). As with most such papers, after a monumental literature review, one of the striking conclusions is how little we really know, but it gropes gamely through the fog of ignorance and confusion and arrives at some interesting conclusions.

First, the authors find that something significant is going on among Africa’s citizens: “a large shift in Africa in organization among citizens. Village-level group formation in Africa increased dramatically over the 1990s when participatory approaches were emphasized in international development paradigms, promoted through aid, and adopted deliberately by country governments to deliver projects to communities.” Interestingly, that increased participation applies to both democratic and less democratic systems. The question is in what situations that upsurge in civil society has impact, and how (if at all) aid agencies can help.

The paper adds its support to the growing demand that aid interventions abandon futile searches for ‘best practice’ in favour of understanding what are the ‘best fits’ for any given context:

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

ICT Works
The Choice Between Facebook and Running Water Isn’t Obvious

"Over the past several years two seemingly independent ideas have been gaining traction:

  1. New technology allows developing nations to leapfrog over traditional growth patterns (M-PESA, long-range wi-fi).
  2. The increasing move towards “convenience models” may be pointing the US’ tech sector away from innovation (Peter Thiel’s “they promised us flying cars but instead we got 140 characters”).

In a recent working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Robert J. Gordon writes that the US’ current wave of innovation is less of a step forward and more of a lateral move, merely finding novel ways to use innovations made 20 years ago, sitting him squarely alongside Thiel. To illustrate, Gordon asks the following hypothetical question between two options, A and B:

With option A you are allowed to keep 2002 electronic technology, including your Windows 98 laptop accessing Amazon, and you can keep running water and indoor toilets; but you can’t use anything invented since 2002. Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3am on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose?" READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

TechCrunch
Meet The $35 Tablet That Could Connect The World

“TechCrunch just got its hands on the new Aakash UbiSlate 7Ci, the super-cheap tablet that will attempt to connect every student in India to the Internet. Educators have long hoped that cheap computing devices could bridge the global information divide, but previous attempts have been dogged by disappointing performance, lack of Internet access, and financial barriers. The latest version of India’s $35 tablet comes equipped with WiFi and has an optional upgrade ($64) of a cellular Internet package of $2/month for 2 GB of data (roughly 25 emails, 25 websites, 2 minutes of streaming video, and 15 minutes of voice chat a day). More importantly, it is expected to launch this month in India with the government’s commitment to connect even the most remote areas to the Internet. The impact of a successful rollout is difficult to overestimate: rural schools that have been connected to the Internet show immediate and tremendous gains.”  READ MORE

Helping People, Improving Lives – The AusAID -World Bank Group Partnership

Ulrich Zachau's picture
More information on the World Bank-AusAID partnership in worldbank.org/unlockingpotentialreport

Making a difference for people, he

Media Coverage and Funding for Disasters

Maya Brahmam's picture

During the latest round of the global Development Data Challenge held in London at the end of August, various members of the open data community got together at the Guardian to explore the limits of recently released aid and government spending data. One of the challenges proposed was to explore whether media coverage influenced funding for disasters.

This is interesting, not only because a fair amount of research has been done on the topic, but also because popular wisdom supports the idea that media coverage spurs disaster funding – the so-called "CNN effect."

Provocations for Development: Superb New Collection of Robert Chambers’ Greatest Hits

Duncan Green's picture

This is not an impartial review – Robert Chambers is a hero of  mine, part development guru, part therapist to the aid community. His ideas and phrases litter the intellectual landscape. Or ought to: if you don’t recognize some of his major contributions to the development lexicon – ‘hand over the stick’, ‘uppers and lowers’, ‘whose reality counts?’, participatory research methods or seasonality, (there are dozens of others) you have seriously missed out, and Provocations for Development, a greatest hits collection of his speeches, writings, reflections and one pagers should definitely be on the top of your reading pile.

Chambers is also playful. ‘Fun is a human right’ he announces in the foreword, and the book duly starts with a beginner’s guide to bullshit bingo, that essential way to survive particularly mind-numbing meetings. He even provides handy photocopiable bingo tables for you.

What Can Aid Agencies Learn from McDonalds?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a guest post by Kate Wareing (right), Strategy Development Director for Oxfam and a partner at the ICSF.

Too many of the people reading this blog will have experienced the familiar trajectory of a development project: prove the need, find the funding, define your outputs, deliver against your targets and either find more funding to carry on, or regretfully exit.

There is a fundamental mismatch between what I take to be the objective of development projects (sustainable, transformational change at scale) and a funding environment and model of project design based on a time bound, linear, output driven delivery model. So what lessons are there from elsewhere to help us move beyond this hamster wheel?

Bill Clinton observed that “there is no shortage of good ideas …the real problem is how to scale them”. There also far more people in the world interested in improving the lives of their communities than there are budding social entrepreneurs. Social franchising – taking a successful idea working in one place, distilling its essence and helping someone else in another place to create their own version of it – is one way of trying to break this cycle.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

International Center for Journalists
Digital Map to Track Corruption Launches in Colombia

“A new digital mapping tool to track and monitor corruption in Colombia on a national scale, launched July 24th a result of our partnership with the Consejo de Redacción, a country-wide organization of investigative journalists.

The "Monitor de Corrupción" (or "Corruption Monitor") will provide journalists and citizens a platform to submit reports that will expose and map incidents of corruption.

It’s a project I anticipate will contribute to making Colombia a more transparent and stronger society. The idea for this grew out of another similar project by Knight Fellow Jorge Luis Sierra.”  READ MORE 
 


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