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Information and Communication Technologies

Is a Data Revolution under way, and if so, who will benefit?

Duncan Green's picture

RicardoFuentesNieva croppedGuest post from the beach big Data Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, by Oxfam’s Head of Research and paid up member of the numerati, Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (@rivefuentes)

A spectre is haunting the hallways of the international bureaucracy and national statistical offices – the spectre of the data revolution.  Now, that might suggest a contradiction in terms or the butt of a joke – it’s hard to imagine a platoon of bespectacled statisticians with laptops and GIS devices toppling governments. But something important is indeed happening – let me try and convince you.

A new research report by ODI  “Data Revolution – Finding The Missing Million”  (launched yesterday in Cartagena during a Data Festival) tries to make sense of the coming data revolution, and what it means for international development. According to the authors: The data revolution is “an explosion in the volume of data, the speed with which data are produced, the number of producers of data, the dissemination of data, and the range of things on which there are data, coming from new technologies such as mobile phones and the internet of things and from other sources, such as qualitative data, citizen-generated data and perceptions data.”

For the numerically minded (I proudly include myself in this group) this is a rather welcome transformation. Data, data everywhere – but then why haven’t we, number geeks, solved all of the world’s problems yet?
 

Media (R)evolutions: mobile vs. desktop web traffic

Roxanne Bauer'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.

Mobile phones have received a lot of attention over the past few years, with predictions that they will overtake the desktop computer by 2017.  But is this mostly hype?  As societies around the world become increasingly involved in the mobile web, desktop computing still accounts for a large portion of internet activity. 

Desktop computing, with large screens and stationary set ups, are fundamental to many businesses.  They allow users to operate multiple screens and work over long periods.  Desktop usage grows from early morning and stays high until mid-afternoon, presumably demonstrating that many people work on computers as part of their jobs. Mobile phones, on the other hand, allow mobility and are perfect for shorter periods of activity.

Time Spent on the Internet by Country
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
World Press Freedom Index 2015: decline on all fronts
Reporters Without Borders
The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria that include media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.  The 2015 World Press Freedom Index highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014. Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.
 
Discontent with Politics Common in Many Emerging and Developing Nations
Pew Global Research Center
People in emerging and developing countries around the world are on balance unhappy with the way their political systems are working. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that, across 31 emerging and developing nations, a median of 52% are dissatisfied with their political system, while 44% are satisfied. Discontent is particularly widespread in the Middle East and Latin America, where about six-in-ten say their system is not working well. The opposite is true, however, in Asia – a median of 60% are either very or somewhat satisfied with their political system.

Technology Alone Will Not Save the World: Lessons from the 2015 Gates Letter

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Melinda and Bill Gates have made an annual tradition of publishing their thoughts on international development and its key challenges. Given the substance, I assume these letters reflect an annual manifesto for the organisation they head, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Last year, I wrote about how the Gates Annual Letter was disappointing, perhaps not in the context of what the BMGF itself does, but what it ought to be doing, given its $42 bn muscle and its influential promoter, Bill Gates.

This year, the letter makes four “big bets” for 2030: child deaths will go down by half, and more diseases will be eradicated than ever before; Africa will be able to feed itself; mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives; and better software will revolutionise learning. In short, fast-tracking the identification ­technological fixes and expanding their reach over the next fifteen years will deliver a better world.

Unfortunately, these bets seem to me to be wildly optimistic. I may be quibbling, but from what we have learnt from research, there seem to be many reasons to suggest that we should be cautious with our optimism regarding what we can achieve with technology. The complexities of working on power, politics and implementation find no mention in the letter. Let us look a little more closely at each one of the bets to find out why that matters so much.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Many in Emerging and Developing Nations Disconnected from Politics
Pew Research
In recent years, high-profile protest movements have erupted in several emerging and developing countries, roiling, and sometimes overturning, the political status quo in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, Brazil, Thailand and other nations. Millions have demonstrated, and activists have pioneered new forms of online engagement.  However, a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that many people in these nations remain relatively disconnected from politics. Although most vote in elections, few take part in other forms of political participation.
 
21st-century censorship
Columbia Journalism Review
Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”  It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom. 
 

#4 from 2014: How User-Generated Crisis Maps Save Lives in Disasters

Jing Guo's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on February 26, 2014

 

YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, blogs… This list could easily go on and on for paragraphs. Today, we are so immersed in social media that we can hardly go a day without reading or watching user-generated online content. Videos like “Charlie Bit My Finger” make us laugh. Free lessons on Khan Academy, which were originally started by a hedge fund analyst at home, help us learn.

But user-generated online content is not all about entertainment and free classes. Crisis maps on crowd-sourcing platforms like OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi have demonstrated a less expected yet significant capacity of user-led content creation online:  it saves lives in disasters.

#6 from 2014: Scaling up Development: Learning Innovations and the Open Learning Campus

Abha Joshi-Ghani's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on February 19, 2014

 

Learning is a key accelerator for development. In fact, knowledge and learning are intricately connected. As a global development institution, we produce world class knowledge on development issues. However, the impact of this knowledge can only be fully realized when we transform it into learning for our development partners, practitioners, policy makers, our staff and, in fact, the public at large. Barely two percent of our knowledge products get translated into bite-sized practical learning.

Today, we are seeing a revolution in education and learning. Digital and on-line learning is helping us to scale up and reach thousands of people who are eager to learn and apply new knowledge and continue their learning as they progress through their careers, face new challenges, and acquire new competencies. This outreach and democratization of learning takes on greater importance as we endeavor to provide the best possible solutions for vexing development problems.  Learning today is thankfully not a matter of sitting in a class room and listening to a lecture. It is available to us at our fingertips, just-in-time, and conveniently sized to our needs.

Today, innovations in learning technology enable us to take cutting edge knowledge to our development partners, our staff, and the public at large to create an action cycle of learning and applying learning to solving development challenges. We must seize this new technology, be creative, and use it to our advantage. This matters because, at the moment, most of our own learning efforts are based on expensive face-to-face (F2F) learning that is resource intensive and difficult to scale. If we want to provide continuous learning to our staff and clients to enhance performance and grow our talent – we must step out of the four walls of F2F learning and move away from a “one-workshop-at-a-time“ approach.

Thoughts on the Future of ICT Regulation in Nigeria

CGCS's picture

An Ox 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal discusses the issues surrounding Nigerian ICT regulation and the future of the Nigerian ICT sector.

What drew you to the study of telecommunication and media regulation?

The liberalization of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, which started in 2001, aroused my interest in regulation of the ICT sector. This, coupled with the rapid development of new technologies including next generation network access in developed countries, informed my decision to pursue the requisite academic and professional knowledge towards contributing to the development of the ICT sector in Nigeria.

What effect has learning about telecommunications globally and interacting with people from cultures and backgrounds had on your research?

Learning about global telecommunications has exposed me to various issues, including the importance of reducing the digital divide in developing countries. As a developing country, Nigeria continues to struggle with the provision of telephony, broadcasting, and internet access to people residing in under-served areas of the country. I intend to further my research in this area so as to understand how best to address and overcome the challenge of providing people with equal access to communication services, taking into consideration my experience and interaction with telecommunication practitioners around the world.

Media (R)evolutions: The Cloud and the Connectivity Revolution

Roxanne Bauer'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.

For many people, "the cloud" is a nebulous term, but it simply refers to software and services that operate on the Internet instead of directly on a computer. Dropbox, Netflix, Flickr, Google Drive, and Microsoft Office 365 (a/k/a Outlook) are all cloud services-- they do not need to be installed on a computer.

According to a report by Gartner, one third of digital data will be in the cloud by 2016. Cloud computing is an attractive option for many entrepreneurs, businesses, and governments in developing countries that seek to service large populations but which require an alternative to heavy ICT infrastructure. Moreover, as mobile apps and PC software are increasingly tied to the cloud, its adoption is likely to increase.  

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 
The Challenge Of Connecting The Unconnected
TechCrunch
Every time we return to or sign up for an Internet service (e.g. Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), we rely on what UX experts call a “mental model” for navigating through the choices. A mental model is essentially a person’s intuition of how something works based on past knowledge, similar experiences and common sense. So even when something is new, mental models help to make sense of it, utilizing the human brain’s ability to transcode knowledge and recognize patterns. For instance, most of our grandparents can hit the ground running with changing the channel or increasing the volume when handed the remote control for the latest television available in the market today, squarely because of a well-developed mental model for TV remote control units. But our grandparents may not have the same level of success when using Internet services, smartphones or tablets. Under-developed mental models in these domains are their primary obstacles

Beyond Magic Bullets in Governance Reform
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Domestic reformers and external donors have invested enormous energy and resources into improving governance in developing countries since the 1990s. Yet there is still remarkably little understanding of how governance progress actually occurs in these contexts. Reform strategies that work well in some places often prove disappointing elsewhere. A close examination of governance successes in the developing world indicates that effective advocacy must move beyond a search for single-focus “magic bullet” solutions toward an integrated approach that recognizes multiple interrelated drivers of governance change.
 

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