Democracy Index and Human Development

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recently published the latest iteration of its democracy index. The biggest headline about the new EIU report was the demotion of the US from “full” to “flawed democracy”, complemented by the medium-term decline of democracy in Eastern and Western Europe, and in North America. The latter is based on trends that first emerged a decade or so, according to EIU. Even so, Norway continues to take top prize while North Korea seems to be persistently stuck at the very bottom of the rankings.

Figure 1 presents the overall distribution of the 167 countries that the report covers. Flawed democracies are the most common type of regime, followed by authoritarian countries. In fact, full democracies only account for 11% of the total, while hybrid and authoritarian

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Best Films – 2016

Stopping a declining trend, I saw 140 films this year. That is about 40 more than last year. One big change to note here: For the first time, I watched more than 50% of films either on line and/or on DVD. This is probably a reflection of increased competition as now we have many more players that just Netflix in the sector. For example, the wonderful Criterion Collection DVD outfit launched its own online channel just before the end of the year. Expect many other to jump into the fray.  Nevertheless, I still believe nothing can really beat going to see a film in a theater.

As with previous years, many supposedly “good” films were launched towards the end of the year. I did not have the time to watch them all so I will probably have those in my next year’s list, if they are indeed as good

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Basic Twitter Analytics

I joined Twitter in early 2008, 18 months after it was officially launched, but only started tweeting regularly after 2010. I have however never attempted to do any data mining on my tweets. I should probably say text mining instead, as Twitter is essentially a platform that captures words in sentences limited to 140 characters,1 Some studies suggest that in English the average number of words in a sentence should be between 9 and 14 to increase readability. See Note that hashtags are part of the analysis., including web links.

mytweetsallOne easy way to do a simple analysis is to generate a word cloud of tweets. A word could presents in graphical format the words used in tweets, ranked by frequency of use. Words most used

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Some studies suggest that in English the average number of words in a sentence should be between 9 and 14 to increase readability. See Note that hashtags are part of the analysis.

Internet and more in Guyana

The first time I ever visited Guyana was in July 1997. Back then, I was working for UNDP, running a global project called the Sustainable Development sdnpguyanaNetworking Programme, SDNP, whose main goal was to promote access to information via the use of new technologies such as the Internet. At the time, the Internet was still in its early states and not many people were aware of the internetwork, never mind using it. My visit, supported by both colleges and very capable Guyanase experts, was to launch the first ever public (and free!) Internet center in the country. Part of the job was to get a dedicated connection between the site, which was hosted by UNDP Guyana but had a separate and independent entrance, and the local ISP, GTT.

All required equipment had previously been purchased in the US

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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

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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

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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

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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,

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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

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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

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