Overall Perspectives on Technology

Disruptive, transformative and revolutionary are some of the adjectives commonly used to describe the potential impact of new and emerging technologies on society. Joblessness, human decay, and the Singularity sit on the opposite side constantly reminding us of the darker side of technologies.

Indeed, there are two traditional approaches to the social impact of technology which, despite their very divergent predictions, share a common trait.

The first and most commonly accepted approach is the instrumental approach. Here, technology is a tool: A hammer is a hammer; the Internet is the Internet, ready to be used by people – but lacking any intrinsic social value. In this perspective, technology is neutral meaning 1. Technology can be used in any social environment and can thus be easily

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Cryptocurrencies and Development

While not the only cryptocurrency around, Bitcoin was the first to solve the well-known double-spending problem that characterizes digital currencies. Tackling the issue demanded the creation of blockchain technology (BCT) combined with the use of a brute force algorithm known as proof of work.

Created in 2009, Bitcoin is now one of the largest (and most unstable) currency in the world (Says & Says, 2017). Launched in the fringes of the Internet and initially used only by computer geeks, the cryptocurrency has now become a hot financial asset attracting both traditional and new investors. Word out there is that Bitcoin billionaires do not spend because they fear losing money as Bitcoin rapidly appreciates over time and ad infinitum (Tucker, 2017).

Bitcoin and its crypto-cousins have

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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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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.

25 Years of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme, SDNP

The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) was a UNDP global program that ran between 1992 and 2004.  SDNP’s core goal was to enhance access to sustainable development information on a multi-stakeholder basis using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its scope of work was driven by Agenda 21, the sustainable development agenda endorsed by UN member countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 was composed of forty chapters, organized under four separate headings. The very last chapter of the agenda called for increased access to information for decision-making as one of the means of implementation of the agenda. Adding to its approach the targets of chapters 27 (strengthening non-government organizations) and 37 (capacity building in developing

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Global Allocation of IP Addresses

Akami recently published its latest State of the Internet report for the 3rd quarter of 2016. As a content delivery provider, Akamai has access to real-time data on the status of Internet traffic and even monitors Internet attacks by country. Using primary data, Akamai reports summarize Internet traffic by quarter for over 150 countries. The report’s main focus is on broadband but also includes an analysis of security related events.1 The company produces a separate report on Internet security.

Data Collected

The report’s data comes from the company’s support network which comprises over 800 million IPv4 addresses representing over a billion Internet users. The latter is about 25% of all global users, according to the latest statistics((There are now 4.1 billion people using the Internet

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. The company produces a separate report on Internet security.

Towards a Philosophy of Technology

Written back in 1984, the content of Albert Borgmann’s book loudly resonates today.

Borgmann argues that contemporary life is shaped by technology that stamps its imprint all over the place, and can even define its whole character. However, such a pattern is not usually evident nor always utterly dominant as technology has to compete with other factors while simultaneously threatening to obliterate some aspects of our lives.

The book is an attempt to study these phenomena which demand a robust analytical framework. The first and shorter part of the books attempts to develop this. Part 2 considers the character of technology or what the author calls the pattern of technology and its central traits in modern society. And section 3 of the book deals with the issue of reforming technology

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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 primary 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 stages, and not many people were aware of the internetwork, never mind using it. My visit, supported by both colleges and competent Guyanese 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

Alongside artificial intelligence and robotics, Blockchain technology is enjoying widespread popularity around the globe. The surrounding hype seems to increase by the minute. Pundits and supporters see a plethora of applications for the technology not limited just to the financial sector. But to the average person, Blockchain technology is mystifying, given its technical complexity. If you do not know what a nonce is, then you are not as cool as those who do.

blockchain2There are now plenty of books, papers and newspaper articles dealing with Blockchain. One of them, by Don Tapscott and his son, caught my attention. This book is a sound attempt to make a case for Blockchain as a disruptive technology that will impact most aspects of our lives – and not just financial services as first Read More