Chasing ICOs (away?)

Recent events seem to suggest the cryptocurrency bubble is finally starting to deflate. Bitcoin, Ethereum and most of their crypto cousins are significantly down while regulators in several countries are finally beginning to take action on the ground. Nobel laureate economists are also speaking up against the digital currency, arguing that the new currency is not capable of fulfilling the three core functions that define money.

Does this mean that ICOs are on the way out?

If we look at the latest ICO data,((Data was obtained from Sample size includes 1032 ICOs completed by the end of 31 January 2018. 485 or 47% percent did not report any funding. The total number of successful ICOs is thus 547. The DAO ICO is not included as it is considered a failure. Hdac, quoted by some

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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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Social Innovation Redux


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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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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Theories of the Mobile Internet: Book Review

There is certainly no scarcity when it comes to books and articles dealing with the so-called mobile revolution. While most present the now usual techno-utopian perspective, only a few offer an adequate analytical framework to try to explain the rapid evolution and diffusion of mobile technologies around the world. The recent book by Herman et al. is a good example of the latter.

The book, a collection of 13 articles from different authors, explores in detail the dynamics of the mobile Internet which is becoming the dominant form of access to the network of networks. It tackles the issue by posing two relevant and related questions: how does the mobile Internet creates “zones of connectivity that are fluid, transportable, and meaningful?” (pg. 2). And second, what are the immobility structures

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Innovation and Inequality in an Unequal World

Innovation has taken the world by storm. More than a simple 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  important 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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ICTs and Inequality: An Overview

economicinequalityNot without reason, Inequality seems to have taken command of most development, socio-economic and even political discussions. The fact that a supposedly “technical” and long (and excellent too!) book such as Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a best-seller of sorts last year is a good indicator of the relevance of this topic in our current historical juncture.

The focus of Piketty’s book is inequality regarding income and wealth. But it says little to nothing on the role new technologies can play in this evolution. The fundamental questions here are: is there a connection between the rapid growth of new ICTs and inequality?  And if so, what is the role of ICTs in fostering or taming income and wealth inequality?

ICTs are indeed no strangers to inequality. Here, we can

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Women, empowerment and new technologies

IWDYesterday we celebrated the International Women’s Day (IWD) for the 108th time.  The celebration  first took place in 1908 in New York CIty. Back then it was called the International Working Women’s Day (IWWD), first organized by the Socialist Party  of the US. At some point in time, the additional W dropped and the event became a celebration of all women.

Fast forward to 2015. Although significant progress has been made since, women still face many issues and challenges that must be properly addressed to achieve gender equality, One of the areas that seems to be falling behind is women’s political and policy-making participation. How can women be empowered in this regard? And what is the role of new Information and Communication Technologies here ?

We know that by the end of 2014 global

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Governments, Crowdsourcing and Innovation

citizensDualRoleThe paper on the role of governments in crowdsourcing I presented at the last ICEGOV 2014 gathering in Guimaraes, Portugal, is now available here – in this blog. The paper was supposed to be published by ACM press as part of the proceedings of ICEGOV.  However, the proceedings are still not available in the ICEGOV web site, nor at the ACM site. In any event, we have chosen a publishing license that allows the authors of the paper to publish it on their own web sites. Note that copyright still applies to this material (please read the license before downloading the paper!).

The paper makes the case for government to harness crowdsourcing as one potential way to improve service delivery and foster people participation in selected public policy making processes. It presents a governance-centered

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Pakistan Interview: e-gov and development

ICT Review - coverI gave the following interview to a local business newspaper during my mission to Pakistan. The interview was published on 15 December.

BR Research: You have previously worked in Pakistan. How was the e-governance situation like back then and how is it now?

Raul Zambrano: It was back in 1993 when UNDP launched an initiative called the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) that aimed at bringing access to development content via new technologies. Working with out local office here in Islamabad and using local expertise and human resources, we set up email nodes in four cities including Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi in addition to Islamabad. We essentially provided email access to the Internet and trained lots of people on how to effectively harness the new technologies to

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