Contentious Politics in the AI Age

Initially touted as revolutionary and progressive in the 1990s, the lightening evolution of digital technologies, running on the coattails of continuous innovation, has been accompanied by the rise of both extreme socio-economic inequalities and loud and widespread populism, nationalism and overt racism. Many countries are undergoing de-democratization processes undergirded by very resilient neoliberalism, while claim-making by conservative political actors has gained considerable ground in the always contentious political arena.

The unexpected and devastating pandemic triggered by the accelerated spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus has put into evidence the real constraints of a now aging and highly monopolistic digital sector. While information and communication tools and platforms are indeed

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Covid19: A “Swedish” Model?

Having been trashed for the last forty years or so, Governments have unexpectedly taken back center stage thanks to the Covid19 pandemic. The virus does not need a passport to travel around the world, nor any tough immigration legislation has managed to prevent it from freely crossing national borders. No country will be spared seems to be its harsh mandate, in a world where technology and globalization permeate most human interactions. Highly contagious, the only way known today to decelerate its spread is by minimizing direct human contact. In the absence of a global governance mechanism, only national governments can take effective action.

When China first opted to completely shut down Wuhan earlier in the year, the usual suspects immediately criticized the action as “authoritarian” and

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Deadly COVID19

Over a week ago, a mainstream media news outlet published an article (behind a paywall) suggesting that the disease caused by the SARS–CoV-2 virus, COVID19, was not as deadly as initially thought. The article cited the results of a non-peer review study completed by a Stanford-led team seemingly showing that the number of people infected in one California county was over 55 times higher than initially assumed. Using COVID19 immunity tests to check the actual population infected, the study went on to conclude that the county disease death or fatality rate was around 0.17 percent. By the way, such a rate is still 70 percent higher than the overall U.S. flu mortality rate for the 2018-2019 season of 0.10 percent.

The study was certainly not welcome by experts and statisticians due to glaring

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Innovation in the Public Sector

I. Introduction

For the last 30 years, relentless technological innovation has seemingly conquered most, if not all, corners of the world. While in its early stages, the focus was on infrastructure and social networks, the latest phase has set its eyes on core productive and financial processes that will undoubtedly have profound socio-economic and environmental impact across the board. Rapidly adapting to the emerging global context is the clarion call for most countries if they want to remain relevant and competitive at the global level.

Many developing countries find themselves in a unique situation. For starters, most innovations and technologies hold a foreign passport and thus need to first travel and then be adopted and adapted to the national context. Having local capacities  –

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Natural Disasters and Carbon Concentration

In 1988, the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) launched the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) with the idea of promoting national and international humanitarian support to countries and regions affected by such events. Having a structured set of global data on the subject can also help policy and decisionmakers develop more comprehensive preparedness plans, properly assess vulnerabilities and facilitate on the ground interventions based on previous experiences.

Disaster data included in EM-DAT must fulfill at least one of the following conditions. 1. 10 or more people dead.  2. 100 or more people affected. 3. A declaration of a state of emergency. And 4. A call for international assistance. Data coverage starts in 1900 and covers 230 countries and

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Yet Another Global AI Index

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) seemingly continues to permeate all interstices of society, measuring its undaunted progress in the age of data is more than a priority. In a previous post, I share some insights on the Global AI Readiness Index that covered almost all UN member states. The new Global AI Index (GAII), created by Tortoise media with the support of experts from government, academia and the business sector, is geographically less ambitious but aims at a more sophisticated target. It covers 54 countries and its core goal is not readiness but rather capacity. The company informs us that the index is a response to demands from some government on the subject. However, the report is intended not only for governments but also for businesses and communities.

In spite of obvious differences,

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The Development Onion

Governments in developing countries are just one of the many players involved in promoting sustainable development –  in many cases, with direct support from bilateral and multilateral donor organizations. However, governments are, in principle, bound by the overall development commitments they make at the national and international levels.

There are indeed several different interconnected layers here that constitute what can be called the development onion.

At the international level, most governments in the Global South have committed to the SDG agenda and should achieve the many targets set by 2030. This is the outer layer of the onion. However, international cooperation is not limited to the SDGs. Global themes such as cybersecurity, terrorism, refugees and other humanitarian issues

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More CO2: Consumption-based Emissions

In a previous post, I explored the relationship between C02 emissions, country income levels and population looking at production data only. Here, emissions are assigned to the country where goods or services are produced or generated, disregarding final consumption. In a globalized economy, however, we should expect that many products are indeed consumed far away from their home countries. Migration is the normal state of affairs. For example, steel produced in China, Japan or India, the top three world leaders, might travel to the U.S or the E.U for final consumption. CO2 emissions generated by such steel consumption should thus be allocated to the countries importing steel – and not to the steel producers.

Note that in our example the U.S. and the E.U can, in turn,  export products that

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Blockchains and Food Safety

Trade is one of the main trademarks of the globalization process. Nowadays, most countries in the world exchange products and services on a regular basis and use local comparative advantages to specialize in specific trade sectors and/or commodities. Food and agricultural products are important components of this process. Within countries, rapid urbanization has increased the demand for food. At the same time, the number of people working in the agricultural sector and living in rural areas has decreased substantially. While some food staples are imported, others are still produced locally but must travel from rural areas to urban centers and big cities to meet the demand.

Food products are thus in perpetual motion, moving from their place of birth as soon as possible towards a wide variety

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E-government Development II

In this sequel post, I will look at the various components of the UNDESA e-government index and then introduce the EIU democracy index to explore potential interlinks between the two,

 Components

The e-government development index (EGDI) comprises three distinct components 1. Online services. 2. Telecom infrastructure. And 3. Human capital.  While the last two are obtained from external data sources (ITU, UNESCO, UNICEF), the first one is directly developed by the UN.  A combination of website checking and a questionnaire sent to UN member states is used to generate the required data – albeit the data is not publicly available. The e-participation index comes from the same source.

The telecom index relies on user access to the Internet, mobiles, analog phones, and broadband. The human

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