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Information and Communication Technologies

In Somalia, communicating about reforms is just as important as implementing them

Hassan Hirsi's picture

Also available in: Русский | Română | Türkçe

Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)



Did you know that, in 1755, Portugal suffered a catastrophic disaster so severe that it cast a long shadow over politics, religion, philosophy, and science?

During an All Saints’ Day mass in Lisbon in that fateful year, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake collapsed cathedrals, triggered a 20-foot tsunami, and sparked devastating fires that destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s 23,000 buildings.

The death toll was estimated between 10,000-50,000, leaving the center of a global empire in ruins, with losses equivalent to 32%-48% of Portugal's GDP at the time.

Never in the European history had a natural disaster received such international attention.

The “Great Lisbon Earthquake” had a resounding impact across Europe: Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature – the equivalent of today’s mass media – were reproduced for centuries and across several countries. Rousseau, influenced by the devastation, argued against large and dense cities in the wake of the disaster, while Immanuel Kant published three separate texts on the disaster, becoming one of the first thinkers to attempt to explain earthquakes by natural, rather than supernatural, causes.

In the years to follow, careful studies of the event would give rise to modern seismology.

What can satellite imagery tell us about secondary cities? (Part 1/2)

Sarah Elizabeth Antos's picture



The 2015 Economic Report on Africa by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) put Tanzania’s unemployment rate at 10.3 percent. It also reported that the number of unemployed women in the country is higher than that of unemployed men.
 
But there are a number of ways in which we can boost job opportunities for youth in Tanzania.

Data on firms by firms: how companies like Gap could remove investment barriers

Andreja Marusic's picture
To invest or not to invest? When determining whether to enter a new market, businesses must fully understand the potential risks and opportunities. To do so, they need access to information on relevant market players, such as potential suppliers, customers or competitors. While governments require businesses to supply data when registering as well as throughout their operation, these repositories of data held by business registries, tax authorities, statistical offices and other registries are often not updated properly nor are they made available to the general public in a comprehensive way.

Spotting fires from space helps India’s foresters

E. Vikram's picture
 Vikas Gusain (April 2017)
Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. Ground fire in Chir Pine forests in Gumkhal, Pauri Garwal District, Uttarakhand, India. Credit: Vikas Gusain (April 2017)

The three-day international workshop on forest fires organized by the World Bank and the Forest Ministry of India is a watershed event in the management of forest fires in the country (1-3rd November 2017). On the first day, discussions were held on the latest technology being used to alert foresters to fires.

Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, forest-dependent communities in central India burn the forest floor to encourage the growth of tender tendu leaves, and to collect mahua flowers which standout easily on the charred forest floor.

In the northeast and some parts of central India, forests are rotationally burnt to ashes to enrich the soil for agriculture. After a few seasons of cropping, the depleted area is left to nature and the trees grow back once again. In the western Himalayas, pine needles are cleared every year to encourage the growth of grass for cattle-fodder. When pine needles full of resin pile up year after year, it takes just one spark from a careless smoker to burn down an entire forest of enormous value.

In remote areas, forest fires may not be detected for hours or even days, leading to an irreversible loss of forest wealth. Like any other hazard, the earlier one gets to know about the outbreak, the better it is for both the authorities and the people. Since traditional ways of gathering information from people perched on watch towers are not very effective, satellite sensors that can detect heat and smoke from space have now come to the rescue of foresters across the country.   

Today, the Forest Survey of India, in partnership with the National Remote Sensing Centre, uses these satellite detections to alert foresters across the country about the exact location of forest fires. All steps in the detection and dissemination process have been fully automated – including the processing of satellite data, filtering out fires that burn outside forests, composing personalized SMSs to relevant people, as well as sending them across. This system has helped fire alerts to reach people within 45 minutes to 1 hour of detection, enabling foresters to reach the spot quickly and contain the damage.

The Internet of Things – from hype to reality

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
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Sensors in elevators that alert government agencies to public safety risks; data from school bags to keep children safe; garbage trucks with the smarts to save cities money… The Internet of Things (IoT) will change everything. That is the conventional wisdom. We set out to look for evidence of this change in the government. How fast is it coming? Is it real? And our findings were mixed – sobering, but also encouraging.

On the plus side, we found government agencies keen to apply IoT to improve their business environment or reduce the burden on businesses while simultaneously increasing compliance. On the downside, very few IoT initiatives have been scaled beyond pilots, the business models to sustain IoT infrastructure are under-developed, and the policy landscape is woefully inadequate. There’s significant potential but it requires systematic, informed work by the government, private sector, and civil society.

20 innovative edtech projects from around the world

Michael Trucano's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 
what did I miss?
what did I miss?
For the past two decades, I've worked on issues at the intersection of the education and technology sectors in middle- and low-income countries and emerging markets around the world. It's been a fascinating job: Over the past 20 years, I've been an advisor to, evaluator of, and/or working-level participant in, educational technology ('edtech') initiatives in over 50 such countries. When it comes to ICT use in education, the promised revolution always seems to be just around the corner. Indeed: I am regularly pitched ideas by people who note that, while many past promises about the potential of the use of new technologies in education have failed to pan out, they are confident that "this time, it's different".

At the same time, I am quite often asked to help other folks identify intriguing initiatives that might, individually and/or collectively, illuminate emerging trends and approaches in this sector:

"I'm interested in examples of innovative educational technology projects from around the world, especially those primarily focused on helping teachers and learners in developing countries. In other words: Not the usual suspects. Can you suggest a few projects and companies that I might not know about -- but should?"

I receive a version of this request most every week (sometimes even multiple times in a single day). Given the frequency of such inquiries, I thought I'd quickly highlight 20 such efforts from around the world, in the hope that people might find this useful. The hope is to point readers in the direction of some interesting projects that they might not know much about, but from which there is much we can learn. 

While I am not sure if, indeed, things will turn out to be 'different this time around', the overall volume of such projects, and the sophistication of many of them, are quite notable. There is more happening, in more places, than ever before. A number of efforts have been informed (in good ways) by past failures. That said, others will no doubt attempt to 'reinvent the flat tire' and display a characteristic common to Einstein's definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Hopefully none of the groups profiled below will fall into that trap, but I suspect that a few of them might.

The list here, a mix of for-profit and non-profit initiatives, is deliberately idiosyncratic and non-representative (see the many caveats and explanations that follow below the list). Some of these projects are no doubt doomed to 'fail'; others will most likely be restructured more than once as they try, to borrow the words of Deng Xiaopeng, to "cross the river by feeling the stones". And maybe, just maybe, a few of them might actually turn out to be as 'transformative' as they hope to be. 

With that said, and in alphabetical order, here are:
 
20 innovative edtech projects from around the world

Expanding the conversation in education around 'access' to the Internet

Michael Trucano's picture
Photo by C64-92 via Flicker Creative Commons

Between 2010 and 2017, Chile was struck by 10 major natural hazard events. These disasters affected as many as 340,583 houses and cost $3.6 billion in reconstruction (Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile). Post-disaster assessments point to housing as one of the most affected sectors in the wake of climate-related and other natural hazards—most commonly floods, earthquakes, landslides, and fires. In a 22-year period between 1990 and 2011, minimum losses in the housing sector for 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) amounted to $53 billion.

In the LAC region, one quarter of the population lives in slums, characterized by the prevalence of substandard housing quality as well as incremental and self-construction of homes. Families living in these informal settlements are at greatest risk to natural hazard impacts. Programs providing new housing do not always reach families in the lowest quintiles; and without access to affordable and well-located housing alternatives, households have no other option than to build informally, and in areas most prone to natural disasters.

Project monitoring in fragile places does not have to be expensive

Andre Marie Taptue's picture

A little while ago, I blogged about an unprecedented meeting of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives from 28 countries that took place on the idyllic islands of Guna Yala, Panama, in September 2011.

One and a half years later, it is fair to say that we have come a very long way as we welcome over 30 representatives of Indigenous Peoples and southern civil society organizations from Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific for a workshop on the Carbon Fund of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) here in Washington, DC this week. The Bank serves as the Trustee and the Secretariat of the FCPF, a global partnership that is helping countries draft REDD+ readiness plans and will provide carbon payments to countries that meet certain targets.

Since our initial meeting in Panama, Indigenous Peoples’ representatives adopted an Action Plan, travelled the world to meet, dialogue and learn, and gathered in regional follow-up meetings to build capacity and prioritize demands.

When I look back at the beginning of the series of dialogues with Indigenous Peoples, I remember that discussions mainly revolved about the role of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+ (which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Indigenous Peoples were concerned that REDD+ could become a means for pushing them off their ancestral lands. With their livelihoods and cultural identity deeply connected to the forest and the land, losing access to them would mean losing everything. At the time, our engagement centered on broad questions such as, How do we ensure that REDD+ will not undermine customary rights to land?

Five years of investments in open data

Tim Herzog's picture
Loay Malahmeh, a co-founder of 3D Mena

تعمل شركة ريفوجي أوبن وير "Refugee Open Ware" على تمكين اللاجئين من خلال منحهم إمكانية الوصول إلى التكنولوجيا  الحديثة ، مثل الطباعة ثلاثية الأبعاد. يقول لؤي الملاحمة، الشريك المؤسس في الشركة الأردنية مينا للطباعة ثلاثية الأبعاد والشريك في شركة ريفوجي أوبن وير، " نسعى إلى رفع مستوى الوعي بشأن ما يمكن للطباعة ثلاثية الأبعاد أن  تقدمه ومع التركيز على أنه هذه التقنية لا تقدم حلولاً للمشاكل الصعبة فحسب،  بل ويمكنها أيضاً إطلاق العنان لإمكانات هائلة غير مستغلة".
 

Pipeline to Work: Including persons with disabilities in skills development and employment projects

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture



Picture this: A young ex-combatant who put down his weapons a few months ago, raises his hand to say he has decided to improve his life by going into agriculture, and his colleagues think the same. 


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