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August 2014

The Data Minute: What is Inequality of Opportunity?

Tariq Khokhar's picture

What happens when a person’s potential to succeed in life is simply determined by the lottery of birth?  We call this Inequality of Opportunity.  Characteristics like gender, economic circumstances, geography, and ethnicity can trap large groups of people in poverty, and specifically affect access to basic services among children.  Watch this video to learn more about Inequality of Opportunity -- what it is, how we measure it, and where you can find more information.

The Data Minute: What is Inequality of Opportunity?

 

Does Your Country Export What It Should?

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Customs reforms have made trade easier in Georgia. Photo - Irakli Tabagari / World Bank.One of the core principles of trade economics is that of “comparative advantage.” First described by David Ricardo, the theory says that countries are best off if they specialize in products that they can make relatively more efficiently – with lower opportunity cost – than other countries. If this happens, the theory goes, global welfare will increase. This concept is more difficult than it sounds, however – as Paul Krugman has pointed out quite eloquently – and benefits from illustration.

Basketball genius Michael Jordan stars in one example sometimes used in textbooks and classrooms: If Jordan mows his lawn faster than anyone else in the neighborhood, he has anabsolute advantage in lawn mowing. But that doesn’t mean that he should mow his neighbor John Smith’s lawn, because that would come at an opportunity cost: in the same two hours it would take Jordan to cut the grass, he could earn much more by playing basketball or making a commercial.

While it is difficult to measure comparative advantage in world trade, one indicator is something called “Revealed Comparative Advantage” (RCA). This is a measure of how a country’s exports compare to those of a bigger group, such as a region or the rest of the world. For example, if a country’s RCA in wheat is high (typically greater than one), that means wheat makes up a higher share of that country’s total exports than it does of the world’s exports. This suggests that that country is a more efficient wheat-producer than the average country.

But countries don’t always produce the products in which they have a revealed comparative advantage. Sometimes Michael Jordan mows the lawn. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from this new data visualization tool.

Open data on the ground: Nigeria’s Follow the Money initiative

Sandra Moscoso's picture

Follow the Money (http://followthemoneyng.org/) is a community action organization that leverages open budget and aid spending data from the Nigerian government and its aid partners.  The organization also advocates for specific issues that impact communities, most recently, in the Zamfara State. 
 
Follow the Money activists collect, publish, and visualize data, then connect findings to national and global social media networks in order to bring government attention to crises on the ground that require resources or immediate action. Once visualized, the data become a resource for citizens in affected communities to track government expenditures against actual outcomes.  
 
The team has tackled issues like lead poisoning, flood relief, and most recently, education. They also host partners with other organizations, like Indigo Trust U.K. to offer regular data literacy events for other non-profits, journalists, government officials, legal professionals, and open data activists.
 

What exactly is the US Government’s Digital Services Playbook?

Tariq Khokhar's picture
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US Digital Services Playbook on Github

The White House launched a new “US Digital Service” yesterday - a small team of of word-class technology experts tasked with working with other government agencies to improve the design and delivery of digital services. This is a similar idea to the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) which has succeeded in bringing into government the technology approaches once found only in the more dynamic elements of the private sector.  What are these approaches?

The Digital Services Playbook

The playbook outlines 13 specific strategies that draw on successful best practice from the private sector that, if followed together, “help government build effective digital services.” The plays are:

  1. Understand what people need
  2. Address the whole experience, from start to finish
  3. Make it simple and intuitive
  4. Build the service using agile and iterative practices
  5. Structure budgets and contracts to support delivery
  6. Assign one leader and hold that person accountable
  7. Bring in experienced teams
  8. Choose a modern technology stack
  9. Deploy in a flexible hosting environment
  10. Automate testing and deployments
  11. Manage security and privacy through reusable processes
  12. Use data to drive decisions
  13. Default to open

As with the GDS’ 10 Design Principles, I like the clarity with which these are explained,  and that the entire playbook is published on Github, and open for public comment and collaboration. I’d recommend taking a few minutes to read it and think about how many of the approaches your government or institution uses.

Where in the world are young people out of work?

Leila Rafei's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español

As International Youth Day approaches next week, I've found myself wondering what are the primary issues affecting young people throughout the world. One topic that seems to be a common thread across regions and income groups is youth unemployment, which remains more than double the rate of unemployment for the general population.

It's well known that youth populations are on the rise in the developing world, particularly. What does this mean for the millions of young people who enter the workforce every year?

Youth unemployment is defined as individuals aged 15-24 who are without work, but are currently available for work and have sought it in the recent past. Below, I analyze data from World Development Indicators. These data come originally from the International Labour Organization (ILO), which produces its own estimates that are harmonized to account for inconsistences in the data source, definition, and methodologies. ILO estimates may differ from official unemployment statistics produced by national statistical offices.  

Asia maintains lowest levels of youth unemployment
Regional levels of youth unemployment have barely changed in the past two decades. South Asia and East Asia and Pacific have maintained the lowest rates, hovering at about 10% for the last 20 years. Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa region has had the highest rate of youth unemployment since the 1990s, and clocked in a figure of about 27% in 2012. The biggest increase in the youth unemployment rate has been in the Europe and Central Asia region, where after years of steady decline rates have risen to over 20% since the financial crisis in 2008.

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Three things I learned at the 2014 Open Knowledge Festival

Tariq Khokhar's picture
 

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I was lucky to be in Berlin with some colleagues earlier this month for the 2014 Open Knowledge Festival and associated fringe events.

There’s really too much to distill into a short post - from Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, making the case for “Embracing the open opportunity” to Patrick Alley’s breathtaking accounts of how Global Witness uses information to expose crime and corruption in countries around the world.

A few things really stuck with me though from the dozens of great sessions throughout the week, here they are: