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September 2016

Can the middle class really guarantee good governance?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
When social scientists and historians look back on the transformation in the quality of governance that took place in, first, Great Britain and, later, much of Europe in the course of the long 19th century, one explanatory factor often stands out: the rise of a large enough middle class.  What is large enough is, of course, a question of fact, and varies depending on the particular country context. This explanation is often contested, but it has stuck. People refer, for instance, to the revolts against monarchies that occurred across Europe around 1848 as the middle class revolutions. The sense that this explanation makes sense is so strong that when you attend seminars on improving governance in developing countries at some point or the other someone is bound to say: “Let’s be patient folks. Once these countries have a large enough middle class the pressure for improved governance will be unstoppable.”

I write about this now because I have just read an essay by Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development that restates the view with some sophistication. Please see: “Middle –Class Heroes: The Best Guarantee of Good Governance.” The essay is worth reading in full. I am going to focus only on her core case. Key quote:
Having a large middle class is also critical for fostering good governance. Middle-class citizens want the stability and predictability that come from a political system that promotes fair competition, in which the very rich cannot rely on insider privileges to accumulate unearned wealth. Middle-class people are less vulnerable than the poor to pressure to pay into patronage networks and are more likely to support governments that protect private property and encourage private investment. When the middle class reaches a certain size – perhaps 30 percent of the population is enough – its members can start to identify with one another and to use their collective power to demand that the state spend their taxes to finance public services, security, and other critical public goods. Finally, members of a prospering middle class are unlikely to be drawn into the kinds of ethnic and religious rivalries that spur political instability. (Italics mine.)
 

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.

Global Anticorruption blog
International summits come and go, and all too often the promises made at these summits are quickly forgotten, lost in an online catacomb or otherwise hard to track. We at Transparency International are determined that the commitments made by government representatives at last May’s London Anticorruption Summit (648 total commitments by 41 of the 43 participating governments) must not slide into oblivion in this way. That’s why, as Matthew announced in a post earlier this month, we’ve gone through every single country statement and compiled all commitments into one central database, sortable by country, theme, and region. Our goal is for this database to be used by anticorruption advocates and activists to monitor what their countries have committed to, and whether and where they are making progress.
 
Wall Street Journal
The ubiquity of cellphones could allow a rapid expansion of financial services throughout the developing world, with major implications for growth and credit accessibility, a McKinsey & Co. report concludes. “With the technology that’s available today you could provide billions of people and millions of businesses opportunities that don’t exist to them today,” Susan Lund, co-author of the McKinsey Global Institute report on digital finance, said in an interview. The report found that with coordinated action by financial firms, telecommunications companies and developing-country governments, some 1.6 billion people could gain access to financial services by 2025, all without major new expenditures on physical infrastructure.
 

Campaign Art: End the Silence

Sangeetha Shanmugham's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
 
Violence against women is a major hurdle to development, and unless its root causes are addressed, many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will not be met. It’s an issue that stains the futures of millions of women and girls, every day, all over the world.
 
In a 2005 report, the World Health Organization stated that violence against women is a major threat to social and economic development. It has been linked to poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, child mortality and maternal illness. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.
 
Up to 7 in 10 women report having been physically or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime. Up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. One in four women experiences physical or sexual violence during pregnancy.

Those are grim numbers and part of the problem is that violence against women is simply not recognized.

So how can we tackle this global issue? One way is by bringing more awareness to it.

The science behind collective lying: How and why employees cheat

Roxanne Bauer's picture

It’s well understood that everyone has the capacity to be dishonest and almost everyone cheats— even if it’s just a little. Sometimes we fill our water cups with soda, we take the pens from the credit union, or we may speed when we’re running late. But what is going on when institutional deception, involving multiple people, occurs?

As most of us are now aware, Wells Fargo recently received a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Bureau of the United States after it was uncovered that its employees were engaging in illegal banking practices. This brought the bank's total bill for these infractions to $185 million and coincided with the firings of about 5,300 Wells Fargo employees. According to reports, the 5,300 employees who were allegedly involved secretly issued credit cards that customers never requested, set up fake bank accounts that resulted in customer fees, created fraudulent email accounts to sign up customers for additional services, and actually transferred customers' money between accounts— without permission.
 
Such an outrage might remind you of the Volkswagen scandal last year in which the German car manufacturer admitted that it had used sophisticated software to trick emissions regulators. If a car was being tested, the emissions controls would operate as they should, but if the car was not undergoing a test, the emissions controls would switch off, resulting in cars that emitted 40 times the legally sanctioned levels of air pollutants.  Volkswagen has since has admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide were equipped with the program that duped emission testing and had to recall a total of 8.5 million diesel vehicles in Europe alone.
 
How in the world did that many people get involved with such unscrupulous behavior? How could over 5,000 Wells Fargo employees engage in such obviously deceptive and fraudulent behavior? And how could so many Volkswagen employees, from software technicians to senior management, go along with blatantly circumventing the rules? How does a group of people end up lying together?

Quote of the week: Philip Stephens

Sina Odugbemi's picture
"Once in a while capitalism has to be rescued from the depredations of, well, capitalists. Unconstrained, enterprise curdles into monopoly, innovation into rent-seeking. Today’s swashbuckling “disrupters” set up tomorrow’s cosy cartels."
 

- Philip Stephens, an associate editor and chief political commentator of the Financial Times

Complexities of reputation management and policy making in a globalized world: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

On April 24, 2013, a building called Rana Plaza in Dhaka came crashing down on thousands of workers, killing more than 1,100 and injuring more than 2,500 individuals. Unlike any other building collapse, this received widespread international attention - and continues to do so - because the building housed factories that sewed garments for many European and American clothing brands. As a result, a chunk of blame for the collapse and deaths was placed on retailers and brands that outsourced their work to Bangladesh, and particularly Rana Plaza.

Since the tragedy, these retailers and companies, both big and small, utilized several brand reputation management strategies. This, in turn, impacted the policies of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Primarily, two retailer blocs, The Accord and The Alliance, emerged which have created their own local and international dynamics.

The Accord is a legally binding agreement that has been signed by many European and North American companies and allows for factories to be vetted and shut down in case of non-compliance with safety standards. The Alliance, signed by North American groups such as Walmart and JC Penny, however, does not guarantee any such protections and allows companies to use their own rules with any legal requirements.

Interestingly, many companies who are either part of The Alliance or The Accord, choose not to publicise their participation in such agreements on their own websites. This allows them minimize any attention that could turn into criticism while still taking part in initiatives in case there ever is an inquiry from media, regulators, or other interested parties.

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.


Middle-Class Heroes: The Best Guarantee of Good Governance
Center for Global Development

The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.

The State of Broadband: Broadband catalyzing sustainable development
Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development/UNESCO

The report finds that global broadband connectivity shows strong growth, with 300 million more people connected in 2016 than in 2015, putting the number of people online by the end of 2016 to 3.5 billion. However, more than half the world’s population (some 3.9 billion people) remains offline. The report highlights that offline populations, who are now found in more remote, rural areas, consist disproportionately of poorer, minority, less educated, and often female, members of society. The report traces the progress made towards achieving the Broadband Commission’s targets for broadband. Progress has been mixed.

Media (R)evolutions: Audiences trust established news brands more than new brands or journalists

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.

News audiences typically trust institutions more than individuals. It is the news brand — its heritage, values, and journalistic standards — that people identify with, not the celebrity journalists or talking heads, according to the Reuters Digital News Report 2016 that surveyed over 50,000 online news consumers in 26 countries.

Who is this anonymous source? Did somebody pay the outlet to run this story? Can I trust the journalist to give me an unbiased report? These questions remain pertinent for contemporary news consumers, and the Digital News Report suggests that trust in the news is more strongly tied to trust in specific news brands than any other factor. In all 26 countries, trust in news organizations was the most important driver of overall trust, and was significantly more important than trust in journalists or freedom from undue governmental influence.  This perhaps signals that news audiences are weary of citizen journalism, blogs, and other forms of news that have not been vetted and, therefore, cannot be readily screened for bias.

However, an important point, often made by participants in the follow-up focus groups, was that trust in news brands takes a long time to build. Some news brands – typically those that have been around a long time – are often seen as main sources of news, and new outlets, even if they have a large reach, are considered secondary sources.


 

The world’s top 100 economies: 31 countries; 69 corporations

Duncan Green's picture

The campaigning NGO Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) have done us all a favour by updating the table comparing the economic might of the largest countries and corporations. Headline finding? "The number of businesses in the top 100 economic entities jumped to 69 in 2015 from 63 in the previous year’ according to the Guardian’s summary.

The last such table that I know of was produced by the World Bank, and became one of FP2P’s all time most read posts (it included cities as well as countries, which made it even more interesting).

People complained that the Bank table compared apples and pears – national GDP and corporate turnover. GJN have tried to do a better job by comparing government revenues (from the CIA World Factbook) and corporate turnover (Fortune Global 500 – ditto). That reduces the country figure – in the case of Argentina, revenues come to about 30% of GDP, generally a higher slice for developed, and lower for poorer countries, and so boosts the relative importance of transnationals. Is that a fairer comparison? Over to the number crunchers on that one.

Quote of the week: Edward Snowden

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"We are living through a crisis in computer security the likes of which we’ve never seen, but until we solve the fundamental problem, which is that our policy incentivises offence to a greater degree than defence, hacks will continue unpredictably and they will have increasingly larger effects and impacts.”

- Edward Snowden, an American computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the United States government who copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without authorization. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.

Where the glass ceiling is already smashed

Monique Villa's picture

There is a growing sector where women are rising to the top, smashing through the glass ceiling as never before, and transforming the world with big ideas.

It’s called social entrepreneurship and it’s disrupting the traditional status quo, fostering innovation and developing sustainable business ideas to solve the world’s most pressing social problems.

From training rats to detect landmines, to offering micro-lending to Indian farmers, these entrepreneurs see success not just through financial returns, but also in terms of social impact. The ultimate business goal? To set up successful companies that improve the lives of underserved and marginalized communities. It’s not just about the balance sheet, but it’s not charity either.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, conducted in partnership with Deutsche Bank, UnLtd, and the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network (GSEN) shows that women are embracing social entrepreneurship, especially across Asia.

According to our survey, 68 per cent of those polled across the world’s 44 biggest economies said women were well-represented in management roles within the industry. The Philippines ranked first as the country where women were most active in the sector, while Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand took five of the other top ten slots.
 

Are campaign consultants, and their techniques, of any use?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Political communication consultants (in their modern incarnation, an American invention) have become global celebrities. Political leaders in particular listen to the major ones with rapt attention, and their books and diaries tumble unto bookshelves with regularity. An example is Dispatches from the War Room: in the Trenches with Five Extraordinary Leaders by Stanley B. Greenberg. In the memoir, Greenberg, one of the most notable pollsters and campaign consultants of his generation, chronicles the campaigns he ran with Bill Clinton of the United States, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Tony Blair of Great Britain, Ehud Barak of Israel, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada of Bolivia, and many more. What is more, major documentaries and movies are being made about what these political communication consultants do. The most recent is Our Brand is Crisis (2015), starring Sandra Bullock and Bob Thornton. 

Not only are these consultants getting to work all over the world and earn container- loads of cash, their methods are spreading. And the methods are also influencing what other campaigns do, including efforts by social movements and civil society organizations worldwide. The challenge is more or less the same: how do you get citizens to make a move (vote, protest against injustices, support a good cause/reform efforts etc.)?

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.

Views on National Economies Mixed as Many Countries Continue to Struggle
Pew Research Center

Almost a decade after the global financial crisis rattled national economies, many in the world feel their respective countries’ economies remain weak. A new Pew Research Center survey reveals a bleak picture in parts of Europe, with more than eight-in-ten in Greece, France and Spain describing their country’s economic situation as bad. This gloom is not shared by all in the European Union, however – most Swedes, Germans and Dutch say their economy is doing well. And in China, India and Australia, views are mostly positive. Just three of the 12 nations for which trends are available have seen an increase of public confidence in their national economy in the past year. This mirrors the International Monetary Fund’s projection that 2016’s global growth will be modest and fragile.

Predicting The Break: How Nations Can Get Ahead Of The Next Refugee Crisis
Co.exist

Europe's leaders were so caught off guard by the refugee crisis when it first erupted in 2014 that the German city of Cologne—overwhelmed by the number of asylum-seekers that November—bought a luxury tourist hotel for $7 million to house some of them. It would only get worse. The whole of Europe, in fact, was shell-shocked (and who wouldn't be at the sight of Aylan Kurdi?). The big question now, for governments, migrations researchers, and analysts, is: Can we do better next time?

Campaign Art: Reducing poverty through education

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
Education is one of the most powerful tools to reduce poverty and combat inequality. According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report: universalizing secondary education completion in low income countries by 2030 would increase per capita income by 75% by 2050 and bring poverty elimination forward by 10 years.

The Asian Institute of Management, an international management school based in Manila, Philippines, published the video below to illustrate how increased education translates into increased earnings and better functioning societies.
 
Towards Zero Poverty in the Philippines Project

Does superior information make us more discerning? What Uber drivers can teach us about learning and rationality

Roxanne Bauer's picture

In 1957, Herbert A. Simon (Nobel Prize in economics 1978) introduced the concept of bounded rationality that recognizes that in decision making, human rationality is limited by the information we have, our own cognitive biases, our training and experience, and the finite amount of time we have to make a decision. Individuals and firms do the best they can with the information they have, and since they don’t have time to evaluate and rationally pick the optimal solution, they simplify their choices and go with one that is satisfactory rather than rationally optimal—this is called stastificing.

Behavioral economics accounts for this by attempting to incorporate psychological insights. While most economists agree that there are some limits to the reasoning capabilities of individuals and firms, there has been much discussion about where and how to account for bounded rationality.  On the spectrum between perfect rationality and the total absence of it, where are humans?

To explore this question, let’s take a look at cabdrivers and Uber drivers.

What explains advocacy success in setting global agendas? Comparing Tobacco v Alcohol and four other global advocacy efforts

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam researcher/evaluation adviser Uwe Gneiting introduces a new set of case studies

It’s an age-old puzzle – why do some advocacy and campaigning efforts manage to influence the political agendas of governments, international institutions and corporations but others don’t? What explains the difference in attention, resource mobilization, and policy traction of some issues (e.g. anti-Apartheid, HIV/AIDS) compared to others (e.g. the limited success of gun control advocacy in the U.S.)?

The technical response to these questions is that it’s an evidence problem – issues gain traction if there is sufficient evidence regarding their severity, cause and an effective solution. But as has been discussed elsewhere (including on this blog), focusing on evidence alone neglects the role of power and politics in explaining which issues gain attention and policy traction and which ones don’t.

This was why a group of researchers (including me) recently published a set of studies that put forward a more nuanced explanation for the variation in advocacy effectiveness. The way we approached the task was to analyze and compare pairs of issues (we focused on global health) of similar types and harm levels but varying attention (newborn vs maternal mortality, pneumonia vs tuberculosis, and alcohol vs tobacco). We ended up with ten factors across three categories that in conjunction help to explain varying levels of advocacy success (see table below)

Quote of the week: Adam Gopnik

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There are sins of omission but there are also virtues of patience. Many of the wisest things we do, in life and in politics, are the things we don’t. Affairs not started, advice not given, distant lands left uninvaded—the null class of non-events is often more blessed than the enumerated class of actions, though less dramatic."

-Adam Gopnik, writing in the The New Yorker August 29, 2016, "Learning from the Slaughter in Attica: What the 1971 uprising and massacre reveal about our prison system and the liberal democratic state." Gopnik is an American writer and essayist, best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism since 1986.

Transcending fragility – The importance of inclusive leadership

Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan's picture

2016 continues to witness a growing incidence of violent conflict around the world. These conflicts are particularly problematic in the group of 60 countries often referred to as Fragile States. Donor agencies pour billions of dollars annually, through policy advice and conditional loans to alleviate fragility and promote development. For the citizens living in these countries, change cannot come soon enough.
 
Development, however it is defined, involves economic, social and political transformation. Such a transformation is shaped by ideas, engages multiple interests, and proceeds within rules and norms set by political institutions. Since the structure of political institutions is influenced by human agency, leadership becomes an important factor in determining development trajectories. It is clear that leadership is crucial particularly in fragile states, where institutions are weak or have been destroyed by conflict. Leadership as an institution is paramount because it provides a transitioning society with the means to solve problems, make decisions, and craft policies. Leaders can help shape institutions that reduce uncertainty.[1]
 
There is widespread agreement in the international community and among researchers that institutions matter for stable and secure states, economic growth, political democracy and inclusive social development. Policy makers and international financial institutions have been insisting on the adoption of ‘appropriate’ political, economic and social institutions in the belief that these would promote economic growth, accountability and responsiveness through good economic governance and political democracy.[2] It takes effective leadership to achieve this.
 

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.

Digital News Report 2016
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

This year we have evidence of the growth of distributed (offsite) news consumption, a sharpening move to mobile and we can reveal the full extent of ad-blocking worldwide. These three trends in combination are putting further severe pressure on the business models of both traditional publishers and new digital-born players – as well as changing the way in which news is packaged and distributed. Across our 26 countries, we see a common picture of job losses, cost-cutting, and missed targets as falling print revenues combine with the brutal economics of digital in a perfect storm. Almost everywhere we see the further adoption of online platforms and devices for news – largely as a supplement to broadcast but often at the expense of print.

Food Security and the Data Revolution: Mobile Monitoring on the Humanitarian Frontline
Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Obtaining real-time and actionable information on the needs of affected populations has long been a priority for humanitarians; so keeping up with new technologies that could improve existing data collection systems is also a necessity. Innovations such as mobile phones and the Internet have already profoundly changed the nature of humanitarian work. They are proving to be faster and cheaper than legacy information systems, increasing the amount of information that decision makers have, and ultimately enabling them to save more lives. However, what is truly transformative is their potential to reach previously ‘invisible’ populations.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Digital news gains ground on traditional print press

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.

Many newspapers and media watchers around the world bemoan the “death of print”, stirring a sense of loss because print newspapers represent something historical, nostalgic, or dramatic to their readers.  Many who lament the demise of print newspapers do so because they believe it signals two broad trends: younger generations don’t see the point of buying a hard copy of newsprint and people are reading less and are, therefore, less informed.  On the first point, it is true that in developed countries there has been a steady decline in the circulation of newspaper print editions, but it should be noted that print media is still growing in developing media countries, like India and China.  

On the second point, it’s clear that people are not actually reading less news. Data from Global Web Index makes it clear that internet users are spending more time each day perusing digital news. On average, adults with internet access are now spending 50 minutes a day reading online press – more than 10 minutes longer than they spend reading print versions. Mobiles phones have had a clear impact, allowing users to keep up with the news throughout the day, and 6 in 10 adults are now visiting news websites on their mobiles each month, with 41% using a dedicated news app. 

This data suggests that the market for paid news is not failing and there are possible business models for online news. The need for information will not vanish and their remains a market for high-quality credible news. Press sites will have to work harder, though, to convince consumers to visit their sites directly rather than social networks as Twitter and Facebook, which have been positioning themselves as prime sources for news.

Netflixing learning: How to select a good learning video?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Welcome to the fifth blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series where we use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.  Our last post talked about web videos as a learning tool. We shared five questions one should ask before choosing a video source over text, audio or other media. Once you have decided that video is the most suitable format for your particular learning task - the next question is finding the right video for you to watch. This is the focus of this blog. When it comes to learning videos, one size does not fit all. A highly rated learning video on YouTube may not necessarily suit your needs. The two key determinants of a good match are the type of learning you need to do and your familiarity with the subject matter.
 

What and How-To learning types

When it comes to learning something, most belong to the What category or the How-To category.

Quote of the week: Barack Obama

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Last point I’ll make is, on good governance, one of the best inoculators against terrorist infiltration is a society in which everybody feels as if they have a stake in the existing order, and they feel that their grievances can be resolved through political means rather than through violence."

Barack Obama, the 44th and current President of the United States, speaking August 6, 2014 at a Press Conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

Where are the gaps in the way we campaign?

Duncan Green's picture

The summer is a time for relaxed chats in my Brixton office. This week it was with a seasoned NGO campaigner who’s been on a break and wondering about re-entry into the UK/global development and environment campaign scene at the research-y end. Where are the gaps and potential niches that a bright, reflective, experienced campaigner-turned-researcher could help to fill? Here’s a few that came up, inevitably influenced by How Change Happens and attendant reading.

Implementation Gaps: A lot of successful campaigning targets the gap between policy and practice – what the government or the law has said vs. what is happening in reality. It may not have the intellectual appeal of starting with a clean sheet and saying ‘if I ruled the world, I would do X’, but the chances of getting somewhere are much higher. So how about a guide to IGap campaigning – how to identify them, work out which ones are the most promising, case studies of success, questions to ask etc?

Positive Deviance: I’m getting increasingly obsessed with this as a huge potential addition to the development repertoire. Instead of jumping in and opening a project or campaign, start by looking for the positive outliers that already exist on any given issue. Go and study them, and then use social learning to spread the message. The outsider acts as a facilitator, not a ‘doer/intervenor’. But all the positive deviance examples I’ve seen refer to programming – tackling on-the-ground problems like child malnutrition in Vietnam. What would a PD-based campaign look like? Go out and identify existing positive outliers on tax evasion, respect for human rights, or smallholders in value chains, then build a campaign to scale them up?

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.
 

How does political context shape education reforms and their success? Lessons from the Development Progress project
ODI

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
Science

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.