Identifying the Displaced

After remittances and land titles, refugees are perhaps one of the primary targets of blockchain technology (BCT) initiatives promoting development or social impact. Bitnation, Aid:Tech and the UN World Food Programme, among many others, are good examples. Last month, at a BCT meeting in New York, UN Women shared its plans to launch a blockchain lab in early 2017. And women refugees are a top priority in the lab’s agenda.

No doubt refugees have become a critical issue of global scope, especially after the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the last few years. Syrians escaping civil war had no choice but to leave their homes, belongings, and country seeking more peaceful and secure lands. What is different today is the scale of this forced migration which seems unprecedented

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Identifying the Unidentified

Identity access and management (IAM) is perhaps one of the areas where Blockchain Technology (BCT) could make a real difference. Research I am currently undertaken indicates that over one hundred BCT startups around the globe are focusing on this area. Add to this number the many other startups and organizations who have been engaged with digital identity for many years now but do not use BCT.1 See this report by OneWorld Identity for details and examples.

Also, factor in target 16.9 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that explicitly calls for universal legal identity provision, including birth registration for all children around the globe.2 Links to other SDG targets are listed here. The ID2020 global public-private partnership is now spearheading these efforts.

IAM

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. See this report by OneWorld Identity for details and examples.
2. Links to other SDG targets are listed here.

Social Innovation Redux

Context

I was invited to the Social Innovation – Driving Force for Social Change (SI-DRIVE) final conference which took place earlier this week in Brussels. SI-DRIVE is a four-year project funded by the EU and launched in 2014. The project has undertaken comprehensive research on the topic. It has also managed to create a network of European social innovators as well as selected representatives from developing countries.

After a few years of closely following the topic, I must admit social innovation fell off my radar screen around 2015. Partly to blame are new technologies such as blockchains and the rebirth of older ones such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) – now propelled by machine learning. Both could be used to foster social innovation. But this is still in the works.

Social innovation

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Blockchain Technology and Human Development

The blockchain tsunami has reached the shores of all seven continents in the world.  It would be fair to say most Capitals have been flooded, slowly coming to terms with the potential impact of the new technology. Cryptography, hashing, Merkle trees, peer-to-peer networks, distributed trust and governance, proof of work and stake algorithms, and smart contracts are a few of the buzzwords that many if not most are still trying to fully grasp. They come with the territory.

I started to follow Bitcoin from a distance in 2011. At the time, the cryptocurrency was closely associated with the Dark Web and dubious financial transactions. Two years later, blockchain technology (BCT) started to gain ground as perhaps the most relevant and innovative technology supporting cryptocurrencies. The creation

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Internet Access and Human Development

A recent news article nicely summarized efforts by Silicon Valley tech giants to close the so-called digital divide in developing countries. Not that this kind of initiatives is new – not at all. In fact, a plethora of projects and programs with a similar goal have been launched since the mid-1990s, with mixed results at best. Twenty plus years later, close to 60% of the world’s population is still not connected to the Internet.  And Internet access growth rates for most countries are now converging around 7% per annum, down from double digits in previous years.1 While mobiles have spread faster in the Global South, the latest GSMA report suggests that growth rates in the sector are also slowing down due to the socioeconomic barriers this group of countries face.

One common trait these

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. While mobiles have spread faster in the Global South, the latest GSMA report suggests that growth rates in the sector are also slowing down due to the socioeconomic barriers this group of countries face.

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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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 annually 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). Statistical indicators used to estimate the first two components are: Gross national Income per capita (GNI) and life expectancy. The education subindex comprises 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 point in that 3D space

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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 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 for measuring such progress.  However, The Economist argues, GDP is 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 quality  of goods and services that people consume and use over time. GDP assumes their quality

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Endnotes   [ + ]

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

Technology and Development in History

Nowadays, the diffusion pace of technologies on a global scale is unprecedented. This is true for Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) best represented by the Internet (and all its newer platforms) and mobile technologies. Most will also agree that technologies somehow play a positive role in fostering economic development and economic growth. While that might be the true in some contexts, was this always the case?

If we look back in history at the European expansion that started in the XIX Century, can we make the same argument? Did the European colonization of Africa and Asia of that time, which heavily relied on technological innovations and advantages, inevitably brought economic development to the colonies?

This is in part the question Headrick tries to answer in his

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Digital Dividends Déjà Vu

Background

The first time I run into the notion of digital dividends was at the end of last century. At the time, the first dot-com boom still running at full steam, totally unaware of the looming crash. Building on the hype of the new technologies and of the Internet, in particular, the G-8 launched the Digital Opportunity Task Force (aka DOT Force) in July of 2000 with the primary purpose of closing dotForce=digital-divide-19-638the global digital divide and universally spreading digital dividends to all. The DOT Force was not limited to G-8 governments. By design, it also included governments from developing countries, the private sector, and representatives from civil society, thus foreshadowing what is now known as a multi-stakeholder approach.

The final report of the DOT Force was approved at the G-8 summit in

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