Blockchain and the Future of Society

Along side artificial intelligence and robotics, blockchain technology is enjoying widespread popularity around the globe. Hype around it seems to be increasing by the minute. Pundits and supporters see a plethora of applications for the technology which is not limited just to financial applications. But to the average person, blockchain technology is mystifying, given its seemingly technical complexity. If you do not know what a nonce is, then you are probably not as cool as those who do.

blockchain2Needless to say, there are now plenty of books, papers and newspaper articles dealing with blockchain. One of them, by Don Tapscott and his son, caught my attention. Indeed, this book is a sound attempt  to make the case for blockchain as a disruptive technology that will have impact on most aspects of

Read More

Uber in Abuja

Last March, Abuja, the Capital of Nigeria, became the 400th city where Uber has launched operations. However, it was not the first city in the country as Uber started operations in Lagos 18 months earlier.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Abuja for business reasons. I spent there almost two weeks. The hotel the company booked for me is about 20 kilometers (or 12.5 miles) from their local office which, by coincidence, is located in the same co-working hub as the local Uber office.

uber-abujaNow, Abuja has plenty of local taxis. But one of the problems foreign visitors face when hailing them is the lack of meters. This just means that one has to previously negotiate and agree with the driver on the cost of the ride. If one does not really know the city, then charges can vary substantially. Being that

Read More

Status of ICT diffusion in Nigeria

I have been engaged on a short term Nigeria-based consultancy on the role ICTs1 Just in case, ICTs = Information and Communication Technologies. could play in promoting citizen engagement in public policy and decision-making processes – or what some call e-participation.

Part of the job requires research on the rate of ICT diffusion in the country, especially at the state level as the project being designed will operate at subnational level. For our purposes, ICTs include both Internet and mobile phone, as well as use of social media platforms by local stakeholders. The usual expectation is that highest levels of poverty and overall socio-economic inequality are accompanied by lower ICT diffusion rates.nigeriaregions

Getting data for national ICT diffusion is relatively easy as they are in fact multiple

Read More

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Just in case, ICTs = Information and Communication Technologies.

App-based Car Services in Guadalajara

The last time I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, was in 2011. At the time, I was invited by the Jalisco Electoral Institute (IEPC in Spanish) to participate in a seminar on technology and citizen participation. Proceedings of the seminar were published and are still available here. Back then, regular taxis were one of the main options for moving around the city.  Fortunately, cabs in Guadalajara had meters so there was no need to negotiate ride fees with drivers before hoping into a car.

I was back in Guadalajara a few days ago, on a short-term consultancy. While the hotel booked by the company that hired me was centrally located, our work envisaged meeting a wide diversity guatrenelectricoof local actors dispersed all around an already large city that continues to grow on a sustained basis. Unlike 5 years ago,

Read More

Relation between ICT Adoption and State Capacity


According to many observers, the rapid diffusion of new ICTs such as the Internet and social media has empowered people all around the globe. Today, social media users for example have direct access to the public sphere and can thus launch campaigns to sway public opinion. At the same time, these new channels have given voice to millions of people who previously could not be part of public discussions on issues that directly affected their lives.

statecapacityGovernments, national and subnational, are also users of new ICT platforms that in most cases are beyond their own jurisdictions and do not require passports. Governments thus need to have clearly defined strategies to successfully promote the use of ICT and social media in policy and decision-making processes and foster the delivery

Read More

More on Measuring Human Development

In a previous blog we examined the relation between GDP and the Human Development Index (HDI) which has been published on an annual basis for the last 25 years by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). In this post, I want to dive a bit deeper into the latter and explore some of its potential policy implications.

HDI components and calculation

The HDI has three main components or subindexes: Income, health and education (or knowledge). The statistical indicators used to estimate the first two components are: Gross national Income per capita (GNI) and life expectancy. The education subindex is comprised of two indicators: literacy and quality of education. One can thus think of the HDI as a 3D index where each of the subindexes constitutes one of its three orthogonal axis. And the HDI is the

Read More

Is Postcapitalism on its way?

For most people, including many well-known economists, the 2007 global economic crisis was a rude awakening: It seemed to have come out of nowhere, but it certainly managed to capitalism-crashbring deep pain to billions of people – and pockets. Soon thereafter, calls to revisit Marx’s theory of capitalism became frequent from both left and right. After all, it seemed he had a plausible explanation for what had just happened.

Nine years later we all can easily agree that capitalism has not collapsed – at least not yet. But has it reach its limits?  The latest book by Paul Mason tries to answer this question. And in simple terms his answer is yes. Indeed, he argues that capitalism unique adaptation skills to almost any situation have now stalled. And the rapid development of new technologies have opened the

Read More

Saving Capitalism – or Democracy?

Few will doubt both globalization and technology are putting a lot of people under economic stress. Symptoms of this in the US and other industrialized countries include raising inequality, stagnant wages, less opportunities and decreased social mobility, and little to no improvement in living standards for most.  Together, they have created an environment characterized by widespread distrust of the current economic system and its regular functioning. Nowadays, such distrust – not communism or fascism – is the main threat to modern capitalism. This is the starting point of Robert Reich’s latest book on how to save capitalism – and democracy too!

But how did we get to this point?

Reich first pinpoints that the ongoing and now repetitive debate on the “free market” vs. government alleged

Read More

Measuring Well-Being and Human Development

GDP: Thanks, but no thanks

A recent issue of The Economist had a couple of articles (plus the issue’s cover) on the topic of measuring prosperity, defined as the advance in living standards overtime. Nowadays, gross domestic product, GDP,1 We can also include here GDP’s sibling, Gross National Income or GNI. is king when it comes to measuring such progress.  However, The Economist argues, GDP is certainly not the best indicator to accomplish this. Unlike the 20th century, the issue today is that while GDP is still growing at a regular pace, albeit not as fast as in the past, living standards seem to be stagnant, thanks in part to rising global inequality.

This unintended divorce between GDP and living standards highlights the issue of the quality  of goods and services that people

Read More

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. We can also include here GDP’s sibling, Gross National Income or GNI.

Economics Rules or Economics Rule?

After the 2008 crisis, many observers expected changes of some sort in current economic thinking and academic teaching. After all, most mainstream economists never saw the crisis coming  – with some even claiming that the era of crises was essentially over. For economicsrulesmany non-economists, the crisis just demonstrated once again the perils of economics, the “dismal science”. Eight years later we can say that little has changed in economics since. Some will even argue that the current economic paradigms have in fact come back with a vengeance. The debates around austerity policies is but one example of this.

The new book by Rodrick can be described as an honest attempt attempt to try and rescue economics from the bad place it seems to be today, especially in the eyes of non-economists. In his view

Read More