If you wonder what climate change means in real time, and how it impacts people’s lives on a daily basis, just read the news about the on-going water crisis in Bolivia.
Over the past six weeks, hundreds of thousands of people living in El Alto and La Paz -the world’s highest capital- have been subjected to constant water shortages and cuts, which are now reaching dangerous limits: more than 90 neighborhoods are getting water only every three days, and for three hours only. Others don’t see a drop for more than a week. And the luckier ones are getting water for two hours daily. (I know this because my extended family lives there).
The administration of President Evo Morales recently declared a state of emergency to cope with one of the worst droughts in the last 25 years. But the water situation has been deteriorating for a long time given that around 25 per cent of the water supply for La Paz and El Alto comes from the rapidly shrinking glaciers in the surrounding Andean Cordillera. Other cities around the country are also being affected by water shortages due to the climate-induced drought.
Add to that the fact that three main dams that supply water to almost two million people in the highlands are almost dry, and no longer depend on the glaciers’ runoff.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
So Software Has Eaten the World: What Does It Mean for Human Rights, Security & Governance?
Human Rights Watch
In 2011, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen famously wrote the startling essay, Why Software is Eating the World, in which he described how emerging companies built on software were swallowing up whole industries and disrupting previously dominant brand name corporations. Andreessen was prescient and almost giddy, in anticipating the dramatic, technological and economic shift through which software companies would take over large swaths of the global economy. What he did not anticipate was the extent to which software would also eat up the realms of governance, security and human rights. Digital technology has disrupted multiple dimensions of governance related to national security, including protection of human rights.
Digital Globalization and the Developing World
Globalization is entering a new era, defined not only by cross-border flows of goods and capital, but also, and increasingly, by flows of data and information. This shift would seem to favor the advanced economies, whose industries are at the frontier in employing digital technologies in their products and operations. Will developing countries be left behind? For decades, vying for the world’s low-cost manufacturing business seemed to be the most promising way for low-income countries to climb the development ladder. Global trade in goods rose from 13.8% of world GDP in 1985 ($2 trillion) to 26.6% of GDP ($16 trillion) in 2007. Propelled by demand and outsourcing from advanced economies, emerging markets won a growing share of the soaring trade in goods; by 2014, they accounted for more than half of global trade flows. Since the Great Recession, however, growth in global merchandise trade has stalled, mainly owing to anemic demand in the world’s major economies and plummeting commodity prices. But deeper structural changes are also playing a role.
Many critics of contemporary schooling practices have noted that, if a teacher from the 19th century was magically transported into a typical classroom today, she would feel very comfortable with how things look. The room itself would be very familiar.
(Whether that teacher would be comfortable with today's students is another matter entirely, given that they probably look a little different than they did 'back in the day' -- to say nothing of how they might act and some of the opinions they might have!)
Contrast this, such critics note, with the situation of a surgeon from the 19th century teleported into an operating room today -- he would be bewildered, and perhaps disoriented, by all of the technology on display.
Few would deny that, in many fundamental and obvious ways, technology has revolutionalized medicine and healthcare.
Why hasn't it done so (yet) for learning and education?
One way that critics illustrate and reinforce this question is to share pictures of 'typical' operating rooms in the 19th and 21st centuries, alongside pictures of 'typical' classrooms from both centuries. The classrooms in such examples usually do look quite the same, with a teacher standing at the front of the room and neatly lined up rows of students intently (if metaphorically) drinking from the fountain of the teacher's knowledge. The chief noticeable difference (again, apart from the students themselves -- and the teachers as well) is that there are now computing devices of some sort on display in the 'modern' classroom, sometimes (depending on the country) lots of them, although the room essentially looks and functions the same way. The arrangement and nature of these ICT devices don't fundamentally alter the architecture of the room, nor what occurs inside it. In others words, the changes are additive, not transformative. (It is of course possible to provide pictures of some of today's 'innovative' classrooms that complicate this simple and popular narrative, as well as to ask some fundamental and important questions about what such pictures may obscure and what they illuminate, but I'll ignore such inconvenient complications here.)
Side note: Over a dozen years ago I visited the launch of a computer lab at a school in Cambodia. The headmaster had proudly transformed a room formerly used for sewing instruction into a 'technology lab', with a new PC atop each desk in place of the 'old-fashioned' technology of the sewing machine, with neat rows of students facing forward toward a teacher who was energetically shouting instructions.
Let's also put aside for a moment whether all of this technology 'makes a difference' (as well as perhaps more relevant questions about how and under what circumstances ICTs have an 'impact'). Let's ignore discussions about whether or not today's classrooms are a legacy of a 'factory model of education' that once existed but is no longer useful, or about the potential need to re-think school architecture in the age of ICT. Let's also ignore related 'big picture' issues around policymaking and planning.
Let's focus instead just on the technology itself.
Many regular readers of the EduTech blog are no doubt familiar with scenes of ICT equipment sitting unused in schools, locked away in computer labs or even still resting peacefully (and undamaged!) in unopenedboxes. Often times, getting teachers and students to use such equipment, let alone to use it 'productively', can be a rather tall order, for all sorts of reasons. Nevertheless, education ministries, local educational authorities, and schools around the world are buying lots of technology: PCs, laptops, tablets, projectors, and lots of other devices and peripherals.
What are they doing to make sure that this stuff doesn't get stolen?
This blog was first published on September 15, 2015 by Alexandre Marc, Chief Specialist for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank and author of the recently published book, “The Challenge of Stability and Security in West Africa. It is being re-posted this week to highlight the book’s launch event in Europe, at the Agence Française de Développement in Paris.
A few months ago, as I was walking through the streets of Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, I reflected on what had happened to this country over the last 20 years. It had gone through a number of coups and a civil war; its economy had barely been diversified; electricity and water access was still a major issue. There was the city of Bissau on one side, where a semblance of services where provided, and the rest of the country on the other.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Illicit financial flows growing faster than global economy, reveals new report
$991.2bn was funneled out of developing and emerging economies through crime, corruption and tax evasion in 2012 alone, according to the latest report by the Washington-based group, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), published on Monday. The report finds that, despite growing awareness, developing countries lose more money through illicit financial flows (IFF) than they gain through aid and foreign direct investment. And IFFs are continuing to grow at an alarming rate – 9.4% a year. That’s twice as fast as global GDP growth over the same period. Though China tops the list of affected countries in terms of the total sum of money lost, as a percentage of the economy, sub-Saharan Africa was the worst affected region as illicit outflows there average 5.5% of GDP.
Development’s New Best Friend: the Global Security Complex
International Relations and Security Network
The United Nations’ blueprints for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reveal an interesting trend. Whereas the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused exclusively on development initiatives, the SDGs look set to interweave security into what was once solely a development sphere with the inclusion of objectives that seek to secure supply chains, end poaching and protect infrastructure. This shift reflects lessons learned from 15 years of implementing the MDGs and, even more so, broader global trends to integrate security and development initiatives.
This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)
Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.
Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?
These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’
Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.
Migration, security, and development are inextricably linked. Understanding these linkages is important to correct public misperceptions as well as promote more effective policies; but they have largely defied research and analysis to date. KNOMAD Thematic Working Group on Migration, Security, and Development seeks to articulate an analytical framework on the linkages, drawing on a range of existing empirical case studies.
It is clear that migration, security and development are linked. Policies in one arena can promote positive outcomes in another. For example secure borders are an integral component of well-managed migration, which in turn can help match migrants’ skills to labour market demands, while also empowering migrants to contribute to development in their countries of origin. Equally, and especially where policy is poorly coordinated, unintended consequences can ensue. While numerous factors contribute to the global growth of migrant smuggling, there is strong research evidence that smugglers may profit when border controls tighten, in turn exposing migrants to risk, exploitation and vulnerability.
In post conflict countries, those who have made it out of the country are keenly aware that the livelihoods of those left behind vitally depend on remittance transfers. While concerns have been expressed about the possibility that remittances may stoke conflict, the majority view is that Diaspora support from abroad can contribute to democracy. It has been clearly established that private remittances are of central importance for restoring stability by enhancing human security in strife-torn societies. As in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, due to the predominantly informal nature of remittance delivery mechanisms, the magnitude of remittances to the economies of these regions has been under-estimated.
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — For too long the people of the Great Lakes region of Africa have suffered from conflict and insecurity. We need to bring peace, security, and development to the region with great urgency to build on an 11-country peace framework arrangement. I am joining with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on a historic trip to the region — the first ever taken together to Africa by the heads of our organizations. Watch the video of my crossing the Congo River, from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, at the very beginning of the trip.
The accelerated changes in communication flows are posing both opportunities and challenges in the global system. A recently published book entitled ‘Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age,’ edited by Shanthi Kalathil (a former colleague and contributor to this blog), seeks to better understand the changing face of international relations in a new era, by examining two emerging themes: heightened transparency and increased volatility. Leading up to the publication, practitioners grappled with these themes, and how they are affecting international affairs. Craig Hayde, one of the authors, notes that transparency and volatility are increasingly inextricable concepts. He says “transparency does more than simply put information out there – it inculcates a shared value that information should be available”, but that it is also “facilitated by the same technologies that promote instability, risk, and uncertainty in the business of international relations.”
The collection of essays provides fresh thinking in an area that has mainly focused on the use and impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). While several essays discuss ICTs, Kalathil points out that “the premise for the series is not to minutely examine new forms of technology and their impact. Rather, the premise for the series is that ubiquitous global communication flows have, over time, created an encompassing information environment that nurtures transparency and volatility in pervasive conditions and/or guiding norms.”