It is time to tell you a secret my friends. I am a girl who codes. Before joining the World Bank, I was fluent in ASCII, developing systems and applications to make it easier to get things done.
The way we communicate, produce, and relate to technology is evolving quickly.
Tell me something I don’t know, you’ll say.
That’s where Benedict Evans, a prominent tech guru from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz ('a16z') in Silicon Valley, comes in. In a recent presentation at the World Bank (Mobile is Eating the World) Evans shared inspiring, and at times, unnerving insights on how technology is shaping our world and how it might impact the global development community. Here are some key takeaways:
How does political context shape education reforms and their success? Lessons from the Development Progress project
Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 – ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ – is one of the most important and challenging tasks in international development. In order to fulfil it, we require a better understanding of why progress and the impact of interventions varies so widely by context. One striking gap in our knowledge here is a lack of analysis as to how education systems interact with political contexts that they operate in. This report addresses this gap by drawing on evidence from eight education-focused country case studies conducted by ODI’s Development Progress project and applying political settlements analysis to explore how political context can shape opportunities and barriers for achieving progress in education access and learning outcomes.
Combining satellite imagery and machine learning to predict poverty
Reliable data on economic livelihoods remain scarce in the developing world, hampering efforts to study these outcomes and to design policies that improve them. Here we demonstrate an accurate, inexpensive, and scalable method for estimating consumption expenditure and asset wealth from high-resolution satellite imagery. Using survey and satellite data from five African countries—Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda—we show how a convolutional neural network can be trained to identify image features that can explain up to 75% of the variation in local-level economic outcomes. Our method, which requires only publicly available data, could transform efforts to track and target poverty in developing countries. It also demonstrates how powerful machine learning techniques can be applied in a setting with limited training data, suggesting broad potential application across many scientific domains. Data imagery of the report is available on the project website.
"Our right for private communication and privacy is more important than the marginal threats that some politicians would like to make us afraid of. If you get rid of emotion for a minute and think about the threat of terrorism statistically, it’s not even there. The probability that you will slip on a wet floor in your bathroom and die is a thousand times higher than the probability of you dying as a result of terrorism."
Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur, best known for founding the social networking site VK and later the Telegram Messenger, on his admiration of the US but also his belief it has been corrupted by the country’s global dominance.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Future of News from 3 Silicon Valley Executives
The Dish Daily
"In a world transformed by the Internet and overrun by tech giants, the news industry has been irrevocably changed. Some lament, but few would argue. Those on the news side of things have been vocal for some time – analyzing and brainstorming, discussing and arguing – but we’ve not often heard what those behind the flourishing tech companies have to say.
Three notable Silicon Valley figures discussed the news industry with Riptide, a project headed by John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan and published by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab." READ MORE
I’ve been having some interesting conversations with some of our favorite people like Mari Kuraishi, Jim Koch and Marla Capozzi, about a topic we don’t probe much in development: what we do with an innovative project fails.
In Silicon Valley, as Mari and Marla reminded me lately, you earn your spurs trying and failing. It is almost easier to get funding if you have failed a few times. Venture capital firms assume you learned some valuable things in the process. It’s a credential. But in development? Failing with a donor’s money? Even when you said you were piloting something or trying something new? Surely you failed because you didn’t get the job done, weren’t smart enough, or ran into politics.