Conventional wisdom holds that Sub-Saharan African farmers use few modern inputs despite the fact that most growth-inducing and poverty-reducing agricultural growth in the region is expected to come largely from expanded use of inputs that embody improved technologies, particularly improved seed, fertilizers and other agro-chemicals, machinery, and irrigation. Yet following several years of high food prices, concerted policy efforts to intensify fertilizer and hybrid seed use, and increased public and private investment in agriculture, how low is modern input use in Africa really?
From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
Agricultural transformation is a priority for Africa. Across the continent, the significant information needs of farmers—accurate local weather forecasts, relevant advice on agricultural practices and input use, real time price information and market logistics—remain largely unmet. To the extent that rural regions are typically sparsely populated with limited infrastructure and dispersed markets, the use of innovative information and communication technologies (ICTs) overcome some of these information asymmetries and connect farmers to opportunities that weren't necessarily available to them earlier. Harnessing the rapid growth of digital technologies holds hope for transformative agricultural development.
After a slightly disappointing ‘wonkwar’ on migration, let’s try a less adversarial format for another big development issue: Transparency and Accountability. I have an instinctive suspicion of anything that sounds like a magic bullet, a cost-free solution, or motherhood and apple pie in general. So the current surge in interest on open data and transparency has me grumbling and sniffing the air. Are politicians just grabbing it as a cheap announcement in austere times? Does it contain some kind of implicit right wing assumptions (an individualist homo economicus maximising market efficiency through open data)? And is there any evidence that transparency actually has much impact on the lives of poor people (after all, the proponents of transparency and results-based agendas are often the same organizations, so I hope they are practicing what they preach….)
I put these fears to three transparency gurus, and here are their fascinating responses, striking in their quality and level of, well, openness. It’s a long read, but I hope you’ll agree, a worthwhile one. Think we’ll just stick with comments on this one – doesn’t feel like a vote would be useful (but let me know if you think otherwise)
This week marks the launch of the new, World-Bank supported Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center (CIC). The center joins a global network of CICs and is designed to support local Ethiopian businesses that are responding to the challenges of climate change by providing mentorship, financing, access to markets, and policy support.
“Most teens aren’t addicted to social media; if anything, they’re addicted to each other.”
- Danah Boyd, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center.
“The modern world’s tech-giddy control and facilitation makes us stupid. Awareness atrophies. Dumb gets dumber. Lists are everywhere – the five things you need to know about so-and-so; the eight essential qualities of such-and-such; the 11 delights of somewhere or other. We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experiences. These lists are meaningless.”
- Roger Cohen, A Columnist of The New York Times.
Christine Lohmeier examines media-free zones within the context of ontological security. Christine is an Assistant Professor at the University of Munich and former CGCS visiting scholar. Her research interests relate to inter/transnational communication, media and collective memory and identity and belonging.
The recent New York Times article Step Away from the Phone! describes the growing trend of device-free-zones, a movement where people make a conscious effort to not use their mobile phone during designated times. The omnipresence of media has long been established among communication scholars. Many will not have missed the irony of letting a mobile phone, and perhaps in past decades a camcorder or camera, get in the way of ‘real-life’ face-to-face interaction.
There are many studies, theories and approaches to drawn on when trying to assess the value of media or device-free zones. Think of Sherry Turkle’s warning inquiry of whether we expect too much of technology and too little of each other. Or the insightful research by Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy where she demonstrates how constant connectivity seems to make people feel obliged to work on a constant basis. One of the underlying questions, of course, is why is it so difficult to step away from the computer, the mobile phone, or the TV? One explanation for our media-saturated life might be the need for a sense of security and belonging, of community.
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