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Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector

Hyea Won Lee's picture
Nguyen Van Khuyen (right) and To Hoai Thuong (left). Photo: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
 
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
 
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

Media (R)evolutions: How users purchase goods online differs by country

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

The 2017 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust conducted by Ipsos (global research company), on behalf of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Internet Society reveals interesting findings on Internet security, user trust, and e-commerce behaviors.

The survey found stark differences between countries in terms of how users purchase goods online. While in China, India and Indonesia more than 86% of respondents expect to make mobile payments on their smartphone in the next year, only 30% in France, Germany and Japan expected to do so. The chart below shows the percentage of respondents likely to use mobile payments on their smartphone in the next year.
 

Source: Ipsos

Most G-8 countries mark near the bottom of this list, while emerging economies are near the top, with Indonesia leading at 55%. 

The survey also found that among those surveyed 49% said that lack of trust is the main reason they don’t shop online, suggesting that Internet users are increasingly concerned about their online privacy.

Media (R)evolutions: Trends in information and communication technologies

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Every year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) publishes Measuring the Information Society Report that looks at the latest developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Here are some of the latest ICT trends according to ITU.  

Regional comparisons:
  • Europe continues to lead the way in ICT development;
  • A number of countries in the Americas significantly improved their performance in the ICT Development Index (IDI);
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region is the most homogeneous in terms of ICT development;
  • The Asia-Pacific region is, by contrast, the most heterogeneous;
  • There is great diversity in ICT development across the Arab States;
  • Africa is working on pushing up its IDI performance.
Internet potential underused:
  • Many people have access to Internet, but many do not actually use them;
  • The full potential of the Internet remains untapped;
  • Many people still do not own or use a mobile phone;
  • Progress in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – mobile-cellular prices continued to decrease in 2015, and the price drop was steeper than in previous years;
  • Affordability is the main barrier to mobile-phone ownership;
  • Fixed-broadband prices continued to drop significantly in 2015 but remain high – and clearly unaffordable in a number of LDCs.
The issue of affordability of various ICT services needs to be at the forefront of the development agenda in order to decrease the digital divide. Despite the fact that the overall mobile-cellular prices, as well as fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband prices have dropped in recent years, affordability of ICT services is still one of the key barriers to ICT uptake.  The role of ICTs is crucial in ending poverty, providing millions with access to a wealth of educational resources, and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The recent report also finds that the gender gap is prominent in many aspects of technology. For example, “data on mobile-phone usage by gender shows that the percentage of male users is higher than that of female users in most countries, although differences are small in most economies.” However, in some countries gender gap is significant in the mobile-phone ownership. For example, in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone.
 

Apples are not oranges – but bad questions will make you think so

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

While global wave-based country surveys may be asking boring questions, many others are not.

Consider this survey by Pew on why American workers use social media at work. Instead of merely relying on the number of estimated hours and types of social media used or attempting to calculate the internet subscriptions per 100 people in a community, the survey goes ahead and gives respondents a chance to explain their behaviors. Interestingly, a majority use social media to take a “mental” break from work, followed by connecting with family and friends.

Similar results were found by World Wide Web for a different demographic: poor urban women in developing countries. When asked why they access the internet, 97% of them said they used the internet to maintain existing social ties.

Now forgive me for making a leap, but millions of users around the globe “could be” using social media primarily to take breaks or to connect with friends and family. If that is true, it means that a huge majority may not be very interested or active in social campaigns or political participation via social media. In this scenario, the usual largely accepted link between political activity around the world and the number of social media users may require serious readjustment.

 

Media (R)evolutions: Dramatic spread of internet, mobile phones not enough to get women online

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Also available in: Español

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

The global expansion and near ubiquity of the internet is now taken for granted in many spaces in upper- and middle-income countries. The number of internet users has more than tripled over the past decade—from 1 billion in 2005 to an estimated 3.2 billion at the end of 2015. Mobile phones are the most pervasive way for people to access the internet, and their use has spread through developed and developing countries alike.   

However, this is still not the case for everyone.  Nearly 2 billion people do not own a mobile phone, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population has no access to the internet. The World Bank’s recent World Development Report 2016 (WDR) on “Digital Dividends” notes that “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access.”  

Moreover, the digital divide within countries can be as high as that between countries, and one reason for that is that women are less likely than men to use or own digital technologies.  According to a recent Pew Global Survey, “There are gender gaps on many aspects of technology use. For example, in 20 nations, men are more likely than women to use the internet. These differences are especially stark in African nations. Elsewhere, equal shares of men and women use the internet. But large gender gaps also appear on reported smartphone ownership (men are more likely to own a smartphone) in many countries, including Mexico (+16), Nigeria (+13), Kenya (+12) and Ghana (+12).”
Gender divide on internet use     Gender Divide on smartphone ownership
       

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.

Redefining aid could undermine fragile nations, says UN development chief
The Guardian
The decision to redefine overseas aid to include some military spending in fragile countries will hinder international efforts to help the poorest nations and could even undermine their stability, the UN’s development chief has warned. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) revised the rules on what can be counted as foreign aid – technically known as official development assistance (ODA) – following lobbying from the UK and other member countries. Although proponents of the new definition argue that supporting military or security forces in fragile or war-ravaged states should be seen as a development aim and paid for from the aid budget, the move has been criticised by charities who fear it will mean less money reaches the poorest countries.

Emerging, developing countries gain ground in the tech revolution
Pew Research
A new Pew Research Center survey shows that across 40 countries surveyed in 2015, a median of 67% use the internet and 43% report owning a smartphone. But one trend stands out: People in emerging and developing nations are quickly catching up to those in advanced nations in terms of access to technology. Here are five takeaways on technology use in the emerging and developing world:
 

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR


If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:

The things we do: How technology undermines our ability to lie

Roxanne Bauer's picture

We are told, on average, around 200 lies per day.  Most of these lies are harmless and meant to protect the self-esteems of the liar or the one being lied to.  However, as technology and social media become more integral to our lives, how will our ability to deceive change?

youth using smartphonesAs technology and the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ becomes more pervasive in our lives, the amount of information we leave as online bread crumbs also expands. Online advertising companies, for instance, collect huge amounts of information about our browsing histories, which can unearth a pretty comprehensive profile of what we've been up to on the Internet— and by extension in reality. Moreover, smartphones are very sophisticated tracking and eavesdropping devices that follow our every move, from fitness tracking and location services to text messages and social media apps.
 
As individuals, we can manipulate our online personas so that only the best of us is shown.  We may post photographs of our vacations, tweet about our chance encounters with celebrities, or write status updates that sound optimistic and cheerful— all the while omitting our headaches and heartaches.  But what happens when our Fitbits reveal our connection to our sofas or our smartphones expose our in previously denied affection for Taylor Swift?
 
In a paper published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law in 2012 Kathryn R. Brown distilled research on social media psychology and found that users screen photographs of themselves in order to present themselves as “attractive” and “having fun”. She also found that they adjust their personas to seem “socially desirable,” “group-oriented,” and “smiling.” At the same time, “individuals are unlikely to capture shameful, regrettable, or lonely moments with a camera.”
 

​“Smart Mobility”: is it the time to re-think urban mobility?

Ke Fang's picture
As smartphones have gained in popularity, so have such concepts as smart cities and smart mobility. This is not a coincidence – smartphones are changing how we travel in cities, to such an extent that we may need to reconsider the concept of urban mobility in the transport world. 
 
Traditionally, urban mobility is about moving people from one location to another location within or between urban areas. Policy makers, urban and transport planners, and engineers spend huge amounts of time and money to improve urban mobility, based on two basic assumptions:
  1. People need to move in order to access housing, jobs and urban services, such as education and entertainment.
  2. People prefer motorized mobility to non-motorized mobility, because the former is economically more efficient than the latter, especially as cities grow and the society becomes more affluent.
Those assumptions have already been challenged.

Accessing the Inaccessible

Adam Smith International's picture

Despite insecurity, development must continue. But how can donors be confident their money is well spent if locations are inaccessible?
 
Last month, insurgents killed more than 60 people in north-east Kenya. This is only the latest in a wave of violent incidents heightening insecurity along the remote Somali-Kenyan border.
 
The north-east is one of the poorest regions in Kenya. Weak infrastructure and limited public services are exacerbated by banditry and insurgency. The national primary school enrolment rate is over 90%, but in the north-east it is below 40%.
 
It is clear that despite insecurity, development and investment must continue. But how can donors be confident their money is well spent if locations are inaccessible to most implementing partners? If donors can’t see results, they are unlikely to reinvest.


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