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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Africa is moving toward a massive and important free trade agreement
Washington Post

African heads of state and government officials are meeting this week in Kigali, Rwanda, for the 27th African Union Summit. On their agenda will be taking the next steps to establish a free-trade area that would include all 54 African countries — which could be up and running by the end of 2017. This is news to much of the global community. Here are seven things you need to know about Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA):

Mobile Phone Data Reveals Literacy Rates in Developing Countries
MIT Technology Review

One of the millennium development goals of the United Nations is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. That’s a complex task, since poverty has many contributing factors. But one of the more significant is the 750 million people around the world who are unable to read and write, two-thirds of which are women. There are plenty of organizations that can help, provided they know where to place their resources. So identifying areas where literacy rates are low is an important challenge. The usual method is to carry out household surveys. But this is time-consuming and expensive work, and difficult to repeat on a regular basis. And in any case, data from the developing world is often out of date before it can be used effectively. So a faster, cheaper way of mapping literacy rates would be hugely welcome.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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


The IMF Confronts Its N-Word
Foreign Policy

The research department of the International Monetary Fund dropped a political bombshell last month. The furor was set off by the publication of an article — “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” — that sparked a near-panic among advocates of free market policies and celebrations among their critics. The piece concluded that, over the past 30 years, the proponents of the economic philosophy known as “neoliberalism” have been systematically overselling the benefits of the two planks at its heart — namely, fiscal austerity during economic slowdowns and the deregulation of financial markets.

Bridging data gaps for policymaking: crowdsourcing and big data for development
DevPolicy Blog

Good data to inform policymaking, particularly in developing countries, is often scarce. The problem is in part due to supply issues – high costs, insufficient time, and low capacity – but also due to lack of demand: policies are rarely shown to be abject failures when there is no data to evaluate them. The wonderful phrase “policy-based evidence making” (the converse of “evidenced-based policy making”) comes to mind when thinking about the latter. However, technological innovations are helping to bridge some of the data gaps. What are the innovations in data collection and what are the trade-offs being made when using them to inform policy?

Making procurement smarter: Lessons from the Amazon

Laura De Castro Zoratto's picture
 In the Amazon region of Brazil, near Manaus. Brazil. Photo: © Julio Pantoja / World Bank

When the word “Amazonas” is mentioned, what do you think of? Mythical rainforests and winding rivers?  The “lungs of the world”? A center of procurement excellence in the Brazilian federation?

Attention governments: Big Data is a game changer for businesses

Alla Morrison's picture


When I speak about big data with government leaders in our client countries around the world, I often find that many have some awareness of big data, but for many, that's where the story ends. Most are not sure how it is going to affect them or what they should do. Most leaders are largely unaware that the impact of big data is likely to be broad and deep. What governments do (or fail to do) will likely shape up the competitiveness of their countries' businesses for the next generation.  

In countries further along on its adoption curve, big data has already started to transform not only the information technology sector but almost every business in every industry. Incorporation of big data today is analogous in many ways to the transformative effect of electricity on industries in the 19th century. While electricity production and distribution became an industry in itself, it also led businesses in all sectors to redesign their processes to take advantage of this new resource, leading to unprecedented productivity gains of the Second Industrial Revolution. It isn't surprising therefore that at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, there was much talk about the global economy being on a brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by big data enabled innovations. Governments in emerging economies cannot afford to be left out of this conversation. 

In this blog I hope to show how big data, as a new resource – one that is abundant and rapidly growing – is transforming the business environment and changing the way companies compete with each other. I will also offer suggestions for actions and policies that governments can initiate to position their economies for the advent of the so-called Big Data Revolution, and show that if they don't, they risk losing market share to more digital data-savvy competitors. Finally, I will share a new tool: Open Data for Business (OD4B) Assessment and Engagement Tool, that the World Bank has launched to help governments lay the foundation for the use of one type of big data – open government data – by the private sector.

Four ways open data is changing the world

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

Library at Mohammed V University at Agdal, RabatDespite global commitments to and increasing enthusiasm for open data, little is actually known about its use and impact. What kinds of social and economic transformation has open data brought about, and what is its future potential? How—and under what circumstances—has it been most effective? How have open data practitioners mitigated risks and maximized social good?

Even as proponents of open data extol its virtues, the field continues to suffer from a paucity of empirical evidence. This limits our understanding of open data and its impact.

Over the last few months, The GovLab (@thegovlab), in collaboration with Omidyar Network (@OmidyarNetwork), has worked to address these shortcomings by developing 19 detailed open data case studies from around the world. The case studies have been selected for their sectoral and geographic representativeness. They are built in part from secondary sources (“desk research”), and also from more than 60 first-hand interviews with important players and key stakeholders. In a related collaboration with Omidyar Network, Becky Hogge (@barefoot_techie), an independent researcher, has developed an additional six open data case studies, all focused on the United Kingdom.  Together, these case studies, seek to provide a more nuanced understanding of the various processes and factors underlying the demand, supply, release, use and impact of open data.

After receiving and integrating comments from dozens of peer reviewers through a unique open process, we are delighted to share an initial batch of 10 case studies, as well three of Hogge’s UK-based stories. These are being made available at a new custom-built repository, Open Data’s Impact, that will eventually house all the case studies, key findings across the studies, and additional resources related to the impact of open data. All this information will be stored in machine-readable HTML and PDF format, and will be searchable by area of impact, sector and region.

Picture Trade: Types of tariffs explained

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Let’s start with the basics. What is a trade tariff? It’s a customs duty, or tax, on imported merchandise. For example, if a store owner is importing shoes, a tariff collected by her government might add to the price she has to pay for them. There has been a global effort to reduce tariffs around the world because they make goods more expensive for firms and consumers alike. Lowering tariffs was a major objective of the Uruguay round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization. But in certain circumstances, some governments consider tariffs helpful as a policy tool – they raise revenues and protect local industry from foreign competition (in the shoe example, a locally produced shoe might be cheaper than the imported one with a tariff).

While we’ve used a simple example, tariffs can be quite complex. There are three main types of tariff and they can be queried in UNCTAD TRAINS available through World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS). The three types of tariff are Most Favored Nation (MFN), Preferential and Bound Tariff.  

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Corruption Is Just a Symptom, Not the Disease
Wall Street Journal
If you ask development experts, Western politicians and pundits how to end global poverty, you’ll hear one answer more than any other: Fight corruption. Even the Catholic Church agrees. In Nairobi last week, Pope Francis urged young Kenyans, “Please, don’t develop that taste for that sugar which is called corruption.” In a packed stadium in the same city in July, President Barack Obama was even more emphatic: “Corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life,” he said. “It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.” In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two days later, he told the African Union, “Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.”  But this conventional wisdom has it backward. For all its crippling costs, corruption is a symptom, not the disease. To get rid of corruption (and, for that matter, global poverty), we must build and strengthen institutions that work for the people of the developing world, rather than tolerate existing structures that typically serve the narrow, graft-addicted elites that often suck poor nations dry.

Global Media Monitoring Project 2015
Who makes the news?
Every five years since 1995 a growing number of scholars, activists, media professionals and policy-makers around the world has looked forward with intense anticipation to the results from the Global Media Monitoring Project. The 2015 edition, spanning a record number of 114 countries, has been awaited with particular intentness. This 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) has catalysed much reflection. Two decades after the BPfA identified the media as one of the ‘areas of particular urgency that stand out as priorities for action’ in advancing gender equality and women’s human rights, where do things stand? The GMMP findings provide some answers.

Big data to improve transparency and performance of our infrastructure

John Kjorstad's picture

Infrastructure requires a lot of coordination throughout the development, construction, maintenance and day-to-day operations of projects and the systems they operate in. Yet, with all of that sophisticated organization, the easiest and often most overlooked issue is communication and the real-time flow of management information.

October 21st, 2015 was “Back to the Future Day” – the date when time-travelling protagonist Marty McFly from the film "Back to the Future Part II” journeys 30 years from 1985 to 2015 in a souped-up flying DeLorean powered by an environmentally sound waste-to-energy system.

Apart from making me feel old for having arrived in 2015 the traditional way (waiting out the passage of time), the media circus around this unusual anniversary of a future temporarily made present -- which has now passed -- got me thinking about how technology might impact my working life in the coming years. What I envisioned is not revolutionary – you can read about it in a separate blog that I published on LinkedInIn fact, everything I described as occurring in 2020 is currently possible by simply applying existing technologies, coordinating information, and communicating efficiently.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Lagarde-ian of the Galaxy
The Huffington Post
The morning scene at New York’s Carlyle Hotel is about the most perfect illustration of the term “power breakfast” that you could envision. On the ground floor of the opulent art deco hotel—a longtime favorite of American presidents, and the preferred Manhattan residence of visitors from Princess Diana to Mick Jagger to George Clooney—impeccably attired men enjoyed the buffet as several different security details milled about the lobby. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was sitting at a secluded table with an aide. Since Lagarde, 59, replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF—a formerly staid institution created in 1944 to ensure financial stability largely through the maintenance of exchange rates—she has found herself at the center of not one but several global emergencies.

The Complexities of Global Protests
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Major protests have occurred around the world with increasing frequency since the second half of the 2000s. Given the superficial resemblance of such events to each other— especially the dramatic images of masses of people in the streets—the temptation exists to reach for sweeping, general conclusions about what is happening. Yet it is in fact the heterogeneity of this current wave of protests that is its defining characteristic. The spike in global protests is becoming a major trend in international politics, but care is needed in ascertaining the precise nature and impact of the phenomenon.

What’s behind a number? Information systems and the road to universal health coverage

Fernando Montenegro Torres's picture



Maya is waiting for the physician to call her name. Her three children play in the waiting room, making happy noises, but she is worried about her health. The physician confirms her worst fears: it turns out that she has cervical cancer. Now what? A social worker tries to comfort her, saying that the medical staff will do their best to get her treated soon so that she can keep on working to sustain her family.


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