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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.

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

For Political Communication, the Age of Nerds and Big Data is Here

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sophisticated campaign communication (an important part of political communication) is a field both invented and dominated by American practitioners and scholars. When I ask my associates in the field why this is so, the reason they usually give me is the sheer quantity and frequency of democratic elections in the American political system. Therefore, they point out, human and material resources have been poured into the science and the art of winning election campaigns.  What is important for our purposes is that  the practices of American political communicators tend to spread worldwide... like much else in American culture. Politicians in newly democratizing polities have for decades now invited American political consultants to help them run and win elections. Local specialists have also mushroomed, many of them trained by the American universities who offer amazingly good degrees in communication, particularly political communication. If you are interested in campaign communication as a global phenomenon, a good place to start is Fritz Plasser's Global Political Campaigning: A Worldwide Analysis of Campaign Professionals and Their Practices (2002).

My bet is that at least two aspects of the recently concluded presidential election campaign in the United States -- a spectacular showcase of political communication at work -- will prove influential globally. President Obama was re-elected and it was a big win, but for campaign communication two methods won big victories of their own and they are likely to be flattered with imitation worldwide. They are as follows:

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

Dan Hoornweg's picture

After the post was vacant for more than a year, Jennifer Keesmaat started this month as the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. One of the first things she did was write an excellent article in the local newspaper arguing ‘our cities will define our future’. She makes the case for Toronto – but the same argument can be made globally and even more strongly for cities like Jakarta, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Nanjing and Kunming. We are truly in the thick of the Urban Century; we are building cities at a faster rate than ever before, and increasingly these cities are defining our and our children’s future.

Timing Is Everything: Are We Heading to a New Global Food Price Crisis?

José Cuesta's picture

Read this post in Español, Français

Today the world seems to hold its breath again amidst the sudden hike in food prices caused by a historical drought in the US and lack of rain in Eastern Europe.[1] It is a thorny task to predict whether the very recent increases in food prices will unfold into magnitude of the crises seen in 2007-08 and again in 2010-2011: differences between now and then in the price of energy, a critical driver of food prices, give a reason for optimism; as does the hope that governments now better understand the painful consequences of some panic policies that have been put in place during previous episodes. On the other hand, months of volatility in global food prices, low food stocks and food security crisis alerts in parts of East and West Africa all paint a gloomy picture.

Counting Women: Heavy-hitters can help make it happen

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

With a data revolution upon us and as we strive to keep up in this new age of participation, what counts matters and is acted upon. If advertisers can mine our online behavior, how we use our phones and where we spend to influence our consumer choices, then surely we can design smart social programs based on gender-disaggregated data that will narrow the gaps between men and women in social and economic life, right? These and other questions were posed at an event today on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap."

What was inspiring was that two heavy-hitters – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – spoke eloquently about the power of data to maximize results and shape policies, whether in terms of higher productivity on farms in Africa, better social safety net programs in Peru, or more effective peace and reconciliation initiatives in post conflict countries.

Closing the Gender (Data) Gap: Clinton, Kim Launch New Efforts for Better Gender Data

Donna Barne's picture

The phrase “gender gap” may be well known – but what about the gender gap for data? Today at an event at the Gallup Organization in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for better data-gathering on girls and women as an essential way to boost women’s empowerment and economic growth.

“Gender equality is vital for growth and competitiveness,” said Dr. Kim at “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap” in Washington, co-hosted by the State Department and the Gallup Organization.

But the lack of gender-disaggregated data hampers development efforts in many countries, Dr. Kim said.

“We need to find this missing data. We need to make women count.”

Social Tectonics and the Trust of Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Trust signThe strength of a country, and especially the strength of a city, is its ability to react to, and repair, the social fissures that originate wherever three or more humans live together. Social tectonics is the natural fracturing along societal lines like wealth, education, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, even color of skin, shapes of noses, or sports team preferences. Humans are amazingly adept at finding things in others to be wary of.

Social tectonics is active everywhere. No government or leader can stop it – but much can be done to reinforce our societies, institutions and cities, as well as reducing stresses. Like observant seismologists, social scientists sense where stresses are increasing and approaching breaking points. For example, the Occupy Movement that has popped up in many American cities represents growing stress in people who see too much concentration of wealth. The Arab Spring is a fracture between the general populace and the few who concentrated political power.


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