Global flows of cross-border remittances exceed $500 billion in money transfers across a dizzying array of bilateral corridors. With over 200 countries, send-receive combinations exceed forty thousand. Moreover, the variables that drive these cross-border flows hinge on a multitude of factors from migration flows, economic growth, historical connections and more. In short, it’s an explosion of diversity that can be hard to fully comprehend and envision.
It’s tempting for those who work with numbers and spreadsheets, for those who live by the bottom line and whose minds run along quantitative paths to think that art exists for its own sake. It’s tempting to think of art as something nice for the wall, pleasant to look at, maybe even restorative or inspiring in its impact, but ultimately not essential to the running of the world.
Yet consider the work of University of Maryland Computer Science Prof. Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman is the inventor of treemaps — those graphics that chart often vast quantities of hierarchical data, such as electronic health records. He’s also famous for the eponymous “Shneiderman’s Mantra” of visual data analysis: look at an overview of the data first, then zoom and filter it, then, on demand, consider the details.
My experiences with field work thus far have been nothing if not adventurous. I seem to attract broken glass – a rock the size of a small coconut crashing through my 3rd floor window in Zanzibar, for instance, or the windows of my taxi being broken with baseball bats by an armed mob in Mali. Just the other day, my boss and I came within inches of dying in a fiery plane crash – we were on our way back to the main island of Zanzibar from Pemba island in a tiny 12-seater Soviet-era plane, and were just about to land in a strong crosswind when the engine on my side failed. We managed to land, somehow, and taxied to a stop right there on the runway to wait for a vehicle (ironically, it ended up being an ambulance) to take us to the terminal.
In Bangkok, a campaign to save land from being turned into another mega mall
brings people together online--and offline. Photo credit: Makkasan Hope
As a web editor and as a digital media enthusiast I’ve seen all sorts of content online: a close-up photo of someone’s lunch, a video of singing cats, selfies (for the blissfully uninitiated- these are self-portraits taken from mobile devices), and more.
Can such content change the world for the better? What if these were more substantial or inspiring, would it spur change more effectively? While messaging is important, I think the real power of social and online media is in its convening power. The changing the world for the better bit happens when the communities formed by social media take things offline and act.
Given confusion around the phrase “science of delivery,” it’s important to state that delivery science is not a “one-size-fits-all” prescription based on the premise that what works somewhere can work anywhere. And it does not profess that research and evidence ensure a certain outcome.
A few weeks ago, the World Bank and the Korea Development Institute convened a global conference on the science of delivery. Several development institutions assembled including the Gates Foundation, the Grameen Foundation, UNICEF, the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, and the mHealth Alliance. We discussed development opportunities and challenges when focusing on the extremely poor, including experiments in health care, how technology is reducing costs and increasing effectiveness, and the difficulty of moving from successful pilots to delivery at scale.
The consensus in Seoul was that a science of delivery underscores the importance of a data-driven and rigorous process to understand what works, under what conditions, why, and how. Too often in international development, we jump to conclusions without understanding counterfactuals and assume we can replicate success without understanding its constituent elements.
- Korea, Republic of
- Climate Change
- Labor and Social Protection
- Private Sector Development
- Science of Delivery
- world bank
- Korea Development Institute
- The Gates Foundation
- Grameen Foundation
- Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science
- mHealth Alliance
- health care
- World Bank Institute
The recent political unrest and violence occurring across the world have revived an old question, one that is so straightforward that it rarely gets a straightforward and convincing answer: Does democracy fuel or quench violence? For decades, sociologists, historians, political scientists, criminologists, and economists have hypothesized numerous associations, predicting just about any result.
Let’s focus on democracy’s relationship with crime. Democracies have been predicted to fuel crime (conflict theory); decrease crime (civilization theory); initially raise and then decrease crime (modernization perspective); have no impact at all (null hypothesis); or have an unpredictable impact depending on the development of their political institutions (comparative advantage theory).
In a recently published paper, I argue that the many existing explanations relating crime and democracy suffer from what I describe as an “identification” problem. The different explanations are not necessarily exclusionary in terms of their determinants, mechanisms, and predictions, which makes testing those explanations a rather difficult business. Furthermore, predictions are imprecise. This is unsurprising when dealing with concepts as fluid as democratization, political transitions, and democratic maturity. Arguments talk vaguely of early and late stages and of short or medium terms to describe the processes’ dynamics. The result is a broad range of predictions consistent with various hypotheses simultaneously.
- Surprising lack of consistent, reliable data on development effectiveness: Among the various sectoral interventions, we have no uniformly reliable data on the effectiveness of every dollar spent. For example of every dollar spent in infrastructure programs in sub-Saharan Africa, how many cents are effective? Based on the same assumptions, do we have a comparable number for South East Asia? In other words why don’t we have more data on possible development investments and the associated costs, benefits/returns and risks?
- Failure to look at development effectiveness evidence at the planning stage: Very few development programs look at the effectiveness evidence before the selection of a particular intervention. Say, a sectoral intervention A in a particular region has a history of positive outcomes (due to attributable factors such as well performing implementation agencies) as opposed to another intervention B where chances of improved outcomes are foggy. Given the same needs (roughly) why shouldn’t we route funds to A instead of B in the planning stage? Why should we give equal preference to both based purely on need?
The concept of privacy itself is notoriously difficult to define. In reading around the subject, I found this description of it by Larry Peterman in a 1993 essay in The Review of Politics titled ‘Privacy’s Background’:
We look upon the private as that part of our lives insulated against the communal or public broadly constructed, protected from unwarranted intrusion by others, including political authorities, and the place where, in the last resort, we can clothe ourselves in anonymity.
I think that is exactly right. It is what Grant Mindle, in an earlier essay, calls ‘concealment and seclusion’ that protected place where we can have parts of our lives that will not leak into the public arena.
The World Bank and Oxfam India co-organized a high energy event earlier this week - Joining Forces to End Violence Against Women. It was an intense two days – about 200 participants from diverse backgrounds gathered to listen, to educate each other, to speak up, and to build alliances; in short, to join forces towards the next step. Several of them congratulated the “movement” on progress – on having coopted unlikely allies, on the fact that more men were involved than ever before, and that public outrage against violence is widespread in South Asia. Surely, this will lead to change, is the implicit hope. But long-time warriors like Flavia Agnes, voiced angst and discouragement, as only those who have spent a lifetime of struggle are entitled to. Finally, the anger came from 21-year old Urmila Chaudhary – freed from bondage as a Kamalari – “where were you all when I was pledged to a family as a maid at the age of six”, she asked a somber audience?
Given the complex nature of the ICP and the fact that it has become the largest worldwide statistical operation, the program decided that the December release will be postponed until March 2014, in an effort to produce the utmost quality results. Read more ...
The preliminary results from the 2011 round of the International Comparison Program (ICP) will be released in December 2013 followed by a more in-depth report in March 2014. The first release will provide Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs), price level indexes, and real expenditures for gross domestic product (GDP) and major aggregates for over 190 countries. Major economic indicators on the global economy produced by the World Bank are based on PPPs which are used to provide internationally comparable price and volume measures for GDP and its expenditure components. The same PPPs are used to determine comparable poverty levels across countries based on the $1.25 per day poverty line.