Links & Contents I Liked 179

Hi all,

After a busy week of teaching, blogging and ranting about #allmalepanels let's enjoy the new week with fresh food for thought!

Development news features a great think-piece on how empowerment became a product for women to buy; more input for the World Humanitarian Summit; special ICT4D section feat open data challenges, hashtag fails, challenging platform capitalism & the story behind hacking Hacking Team;
Our digital lives with a new Twitter tracking app; Etsy's struggle to be a perfect marketplace; how Instagram is ruining vacations (and soon development communication?).
New readings including new open access book on Africa; handbook for modern development data peeps; using useful evidence & the bottom of the data pyramid.
Finally, in Academia a look at a new MOOC study on job skills and MOOC users in developing countries.

Enjoy!


New from aidnography
Keep uploading papers to ResearchGate so its founder can pursue his beach volleyball ambitions

There is a particular reason why this story caught my attention: Madisch never mentions the people who work for him in the entire article. No, I do not mean his hip Berlin office crew with its table tennis matches and app to select lunch options, but us, the researchers who upload their documents to his website.
(...)
Especially in the context of Lyons Disrupted, we should be more critical about digital economy’s promises of how they are helping the (research) community to shape a better world. This may happen ‘by accident’, but as three-in-the-morning-calling-Silicon-Valley guys like Madisch clearly show when they let their guard down is that we are selling (out) to the digital economy-and getting not much back in return…
#allmalepanels in international development are about more than just the absence of women
But these pictures say so much more about development in general and development banks in particular than simply highlighting gender disparities; what I always find astonishing is the uniformity created by men wearing suits-zoom out a little bit and everybody pretty much looks the same. It distances and depersonalizes core aspects of development-inclusiveness, diversity, change-and given that it is 2016 this cannot simply be addressed with an ‘old habits die hard’ shoulder shrug.
Development news
How ‘Empowerment’ Became Something for Women to Buy

This consumption-and-conference empowerment dilutes the word to pitch-speak, and the concept to something that imitates rather than alters the structures of the world. This version of empowerment can be actively disempowering: It’s a series of objects and experiences you can purchase while the conditions determining who can access and accumulate power stay the same. The ready partici­pation of well-off women in this strat­egy also points to a deep truth about the word “empowerment”: that it has never been defined by the people who actually need it. People who talk empowerment are, by definition, already there.
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Sandberg and Kardashian are perceived by most to be opposites, two aesthetically distinct brands fighting for our allegiance, when each has pioneered a similar, punish­ingly individualistic, market-driven understanding of women’s worth, responsibility and strength. In the world of women’s empowerment, they say the same thing differently: that our radical capability is mainly our ability to put money in the bank.
Jia Tolentino's essay is the best non-development development piece in a long time; the conditions of consumerism, 'empowerment' and modern forms of capitalism are exactly the big issues philanthropy and new forms or aid and development should and need to struggle with!

The mounting call for a humanitarian revolution

Ms. Lindborg, whose organization also contributed to the “World at Risk” report, says that a more efficient – and dependable – system for funding global humanitarian needs must be taken up at the humanitarian summit and figure more prominently on the global agenda. An estimated $15 billion gap this year between need and delivered assistance underscores the urgency of developing a funding system that gets beyond the emergency donor conference and uncertain annual budgets, she says.
Howard LaFranchi summarized key humanitarian challenges as yet another report is published in the build-up to the World Humanitarian Summit which will probably not deliver all the great expectation the community probably anticipates...

Responsible open data: an oxymoron? Discuss!

Though there are plenty of good intentions and rationales for open data, said one discussant, ‘open by default’ is a mistake. We may have quick wins with a reduction in duplicity of data collection, but our experiences thus far do not merit ‘open by default’. We have not earned it. Instead, he felt that ‘open by demand’ is a better idea. “We can put out a public list of the data that’s available and see what demand for data comes in. If we are proactive on what is available and what can be made available, and we monitor requests, we can avoid putting out information that no one is interested in. This would lower the overhead on what we are releasing. It would also allow us to have a conversation about who needs this data and for what.”
One participant agreed, positing that often the only reason that we collect data is to provide proof and evidence that we’re doing our job, spending the money given to us, and tracking back. “We tend to think that the only way to provide this evidence is to collect data: do a survey, talk to people, look at website usage. But is anyone actually using this data, this evidence to make decisions?”
Linda Raftree reports from the latest Technology Salon, adding more food for thoughts and nuances to the 'make it open and it/they will come' debate.

Hashtag fail? #BringBackOurGirls two years on

#BringBackOurGirls was an initial success, bringing protesters out to the streets in a country where mass public demonstrations are rare.
But domestic politics in Nigeria trumped global outrage, as the online protest became entangled in the complicated web of identity politics and partisanship, said Akpojivi.
(...)
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who leads the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Washington, said she has struggled to get more funding for security assistance in Nigeria.
"Too many people think it's okay to limit their advocacy for this cause to tweeting," Wilson said, adding she is worried for the girls.
Stephanie Findlay's short piece on the second anniversary of the #bringbackourgirls campaign highlights the complexities around hashtag activism, local and global engagement and the fact that Yahoo News is still reporting about it even if the issue has not be 'resolved'...

The Short-Sighted Use of Social Media in International Development

While sites like Tsu, Synereo, and others might not meet our short-term needs, writing them off completely misses the opportunity we have to potentially transform the distribution of wealth in the digital economy and increase the direct economic benefit that the world’s poor may be able to get from it.
I wish I could share Josh Woodard's optimism; I doubt that 'we' in the ICT4D and development community really have the time, skills and leverage capacity to change the digital economy. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to explore other, local platforms and keep trying!

The Vigilante Who Hacked Hacking Team Explains How He Did It

“And that's all it takes to take down a company and stop its abuses against human rights,” the hacker proclaimed at the end of his guide, which Motherboard has seen in advance. “That’s the beauty and asymmetry of hacking: with just 100 hours of work, one person can undo years of a multimillion dollar company’s work. Hacking gives the underdog a chance to fight and win.“
Phineas Fisher argued that leaking documents to show corruption and abuse of power is real “ethical hacking,” as opposed to doing consulting work for companies who are often the ones that actually deserve to be hacked.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai follows up on the Hacking Team story, a company that is still in business and I wrote about on the blog as well: Why the #HackingTeam hack should be a wake-up call for the #globaldev community
Our digital lives
TwitterWeave: new IDS web app tracks research messages

TwitterWeave - www.twitterweave.org - is our new web application (app) for tracking exchanges about research on Twitter in real-time. Launched today and free-to-use, TwitterWeave is designed for researchers, communicators, campaigners and anyone who wants to learn more about how people engage with research. It is a tool for generating narratives about what is being discussed, when and by whom
My dear friend Alistair Scott designed a new Twitter tracking app which I will definitely check out!

Etsy Wants to Crochet Its Cake, and Eat It Too

But whether the company works as a business proposition is another question. At the end of trading the day of its IPO last April, Etsy was worth about $4 billion; today, it hovers around $1 billion, which means that while the company and angel investors reaped an initial windfall, the scrutiny of the market has cut the value of the company threefold in under a year. In this tech boom, Wall Street has tended to really like the sound of entrepreneurs hawking not just a new business but a new kind of business. Etsy’s post-capitalist tea-cozy utopia offered exactly that. But if nobody’s yet made any real money on that pitch, just how seriously should we take it?
(...)
But Etsy was something different: The company is not just skimming a little profit to donate somewhere or other but sees the work of Etsy itself as fundamentally beneficent.
Amy Larocca's long read on Etsy is the tale of our time of how to align 'doing good', 'changing the economy' and running a business all at the same time for the greater good...

Instagram Is Ruining Vacation

That scene — the fight for the perfect Instagram — is one I’ve witnessed over and over, on at least three continents during the last year or so. At times, it felt like destinations were morphing into mere photo sets. In New Zealand, I saw adventure companies that made getting the perfect photo-op part of their pitch for kayaking, hiking or ziplining expeditions. In Thailand, a woman next to me on a beach squealed to her friends about getting her hair just right for a shot destined for her Tinder profile.
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“Everyone puts their best foot forward,” He said, “And we try so hard to make it all look so desirable, constantly, at the peril of tragedy by selfie stick. The thing that I, and I think society as a whole, is struggling with at this point in time is — what are the lines between our online personas and our real life ones?”
Mary Pilon reflections on Instagram and holidays are interesting in the context of instagramming aid and development (not just the voluntourism pics from the orphanage) as well; are we photographing too much, everywhere?!

Hot off the digital press
Growth and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

This book comprehensively evaluates trends in living conditions in 16 major sub-Saharan African countries, corresponding to nearly 75% of the total population. A striking diversity of experience emerges. While monetary indicators improved in many countries, others are yet to succeed in channeling the benefits of economic growth into the pockets of the poor. Some countries experienced little economic growth, and saw little material progress for the poor. At the same time, the large majority of countries have made impressive progress in key non-monetary indicators of wellbeing.
Overall, the African growth renaissance earns two cheers, but not three. While gains in macroeconomic and political stability are real, they are also fragile. Growth on a per capita basis is much better than in the 1980s and 1990s, yet not rapid compared with other developing regions. Importantly from a pan-African perspective, key economies-particularly Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa-are not among the better performers.
Colleagues at UNU-WIDER lead the way and make their research available open access!

Hand-book Of the Modern Development Specialist

This book is offered as a first attempt to understand what responsible data means in the context of international development programming. We have taken a broad view of development, opting not to be prescriptive about who the perfect “target audience” for this effort is within the space. We also anticipate that some of the methods and lessons here may have resonance for related fields and practitioners. This book builds on a number of resources and strategies developed in academia, human rights and advocacy, but aims to focus on international development practitioners.
Great new resource from the Responsible Data Forum!

Using Evidence: What Works? April 2016

‘Using Evidence: What Works?’ is an introduction to and discussion of the findings from the research project The Science of Using Science.
The aim of the project was to uncover the evidence on what works to enable decision-makers’ research use. We all have our favourite methods of knowledge exchange, but do we have rigorous evidence that these methods do actually change people’s use of research (and/or motivation, capacity or opportunity) to do so?
This discussion document is based on a systematic review of 36 existing reviews and a second scoping review of research from the broader social science literature conducted by the EPPI-Centre at UCL.
The Alliance for Useful Evidence adds more research the the evidence-of-evidence-based-research debate!

Bottom of the Data Pyramid: Big Data and the Global South

this article argues that in the context of the Global South there is a bias in the framing of big data as an instrument of empowerment. Here, the poor, or the “bottom of the pyramid” populace are the new consumer base, agents of social change instead of passive beneficiaries. This neoliberal outlook of big data facilitating inclusive capitalism for the common good sidelines critical perspectives urgently needed if we are to channel big data as a positive social force in emerging economies. This article proposes to assess these new technological developments through the lens of databased democracies, databased identities, and databased geographies to make evident normative assumptions and perspectives in this under-examined context.
Payal Arora's latest open access journal article engages with big data discourses in the Global South.

Academia

New report: TASCHA study on MOOCs in developing countries reveals half of users receive certification

Example findings
- Low- and middle-income populations make up 80% of MOOC users, in contrast to wealthier populations reported elsewhere.
- Over 80% of MOOC users only have basic or intermediate level ICT skills, challenging the belief that MOOCs are predominantly taken by people with higher level skills.
- 49% percent of MOOC users received certification in a MOOC, and another 30% completed a course. This is far above the single-digit rates reported elsewhere.
- Women are more likely than men to complete a MOOC or obtain certification.
- The main motivations of MOOC users were found to be in gaining specific job skills (61%), preparing for additional education (39%), and obtaining professional certification (37%).
- Among non-users, lack of time (50%) was by far the largest barrier to MOOC participation. Lack of computer access (4%) or skills (2%) was NOT found to be a barrier
This new study is quite interesting for academics thinking about setting up MOOCs-especially in the context of development; right now, specific job skills seem to be a clear driving-force for attending a MOOC-not so much the 'poor, but gifted student from Global South wants to attend MIT for free' narrative.

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