Relation between ICT Adoption and State Capacity

Introduction

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. These new channels have given voice to millions of people who previously could not be part of open discussions on issues that 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 defined strategies to promote the use of ICT and social media in policy and decision-making processes and foster the delivery of public services for all.

Harnessing ICTs

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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

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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 decisive role in fostering economic development and economic growth. While that might be 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 1988.

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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 the 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

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A “social” history of Bitcoin?

A recent article by one of its lead developers argues that Bitcoin, defined as an experiment, has utterly failed. While the initial concept was to develop a form of digital money that was completely decentralized and autonomous from any bank or institution, today Bitcoin is controlled by a few people. In addition, Bitcoin technology has now reached serious limitations that will prevent it from expanding in the near future. Is this really the case?

bitcoin1Created in late 2008 right after the bank bailouts by a still anonymous geek that used a Japanese-like name as an alias, Bitcoin has quickly gone from geekdom to stardom. The number of books published on the subject has grown exponentially since 2014. At the same time, banks and other financial institutions are now seriously thinking about adopting

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Humans vs. Robots: A False Dilemma?

Nowadays, autonomous vehicles are all the rage. We even hear that perhaps in a few years cars will make human drivers obsolete. Instead, roads and highways will be filled with vehicles that drive themselves and carry humans as passengers only.  We are also informed that such vehicles will increase safety, at least for accidents triggered by human error (or over the limit alcohol consumption!).  And the same will also happen with airplanes,  space exploration, manufacturing, retail, war, you name it.

robotevolutionAutonomy seen in this context results from the advances of both automation and robotics. Automation is not new as it has been taking place since the 1st Industrial Revolution. Back then, mechanical automation was king and queen and, in no small extent, facilitated large-scale manufacturing first,

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How the West Came to Rule: Book Review

What role if any did non-Western nations played in the emergence of the West as a dominant historical force? This seems to be the key question the comprehensive book by Anievas and NIsancioglu attempts to answer. The problem is undoubtedly closely related to that of the emergence of capitalism in Western Europe and the role it played in vanquishing other regions of the world, the part that, we should not forget, is still continuing today.

According to the authors, existing socio-economic and historical research seems to agree that the emergence of the West was primarily the result of internal factors, with the UK taking the lead in the late 18th century, soon to be followed by other Western European countries in the 19th century.

capitalismFeudalHowever, our authors argue, all these perspectives take

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New Technology and Surveillance: An Odd Couple?

Snowden’s revelations had put into evidence the seemingly strong link between new technologies such as the Internet and the capacity of some states to harness it as a tool for massive surveillance in real time. As some had argued, these revelations were not that shocking after all as they only confirmed what many have been discussing for a few years but had no real evidence in hand. Now they do.

internetSurveillanceBut is this link inherent to the new technologies? In other words, does the rapid development of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) necessarily has a positive correlation with surveillance?  By the way, these sort of questions also relates to the common notion out there that technologies are “neutral” by default. But we will deal with this issue on a later post.

In any event,

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Belated review of “Why Nations Fail”

The book by Acemoglou and Robinson is now quite famous book and certainly does not demand yet another review. The debate between the authors and Jeffrey Sachs is also well known (see http://bit.ly/1Ed4maK for the latest and here for an independent assessment). The book proposes a seemingly simple model for the evolution of humanity since “the Neolithic Revolution” (pg. 429). In a nutshell, political institutions are the key determinants in the  evolution of power, prosperity and poverty.

More specifically, inclusive political institutions path the way of inclusive economic institutions creating a virtuous cycle where prosperity, democracy, innovation, media, etc. can flourish and then be sustained in the long run. In turn, extractive political institutions drive extractive economic institutions

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Innovation and Inequality in an Unequal World

Innovation has taken the world by storm. More than a pure storm, it is now looking more like a stationary looping hurricane. No escape. Embrace or die. Only a few have opted for the latter. In any event, this is, without doubt, a critical development. New technologies are creating wave after wave of innovation perhaps in a scale not ever seen before. They are in fact triggering significant changes at most levels of society, from personal relations and family to politics and conflict management.

Gini_Coefficient_World_CIA_ReportIt is usually assumed that the innovation brought forward by new technologies is almost always positive. When it comes to diffusion, we regularly get to hear about the rapid diffusion of new technologies on a global scale, mobile phones being the example most frequently quoted. Some even speak about

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