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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Barefoot, like Abebe Bikila

The age of reason. No, not the Enlightenment but rather the age when children supposedly start thinking “rationally.”  For some irrational reason, I remember my parents and their adult friends having conversations on the topic in front of us, children, my siblings and I. After all, they believed most of us were still in the age of unreason, thus incapable of understanding adult language. Back then, the magic number of years to reach the reason realm was seven, give or take. Today little seems to have changed, and seven has managed to survive science evolution and the new Millennia.

Reaching the age of reason became a landmark for those of us under seven. It was empowering. Siblings and friends who had already reached the rational paradise used it as a way to either disregard our ideas or

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A Glance at Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data

Lack of data is certainly not one of the issues at the table when discussing energy production and carbon emissions. Well-known sources for the former include the UN Statistics Division, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and British Petroleum (BP).  The latter publishes an annual report while IEA data is behind a paywall. EIA offers open data access to a vast number of resources, including international carbon emissions. The main source for the latter is the Global Cabon Project created in 2001 and operating as an international partnership. The World Bank has carbon emissions data starting in 1960, but updates seemed to have stopped in 2014. The Global Carbon Atlas, initially funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation, is a good secondary source

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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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Measuring Artificial Intelligence Development

In the last decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI), including siblings machine learning and deep learning, has been growing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, the technology has been deployed effectively in a wide range of traditional sectors bringing real transformational change while raising fundamental socio-economic (joblessness, more inequality, etc.)  and ethical (bias, discrimination, etc.)  issues along the way.  As it stands today, AI, understood as a set of still-evolving technologies, seems poised to become a general-purpose technology that could leave no stone untouched.

As with other digital technologies, most developing countries face the daunting challenge of harnessing AI to foster national human development  Prima facie, AI looks mostly like software, code that one can

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Blockchains and Digital ID, II

The Evolution of Digital identity

The emergence of digital technologies provided the ground to shift from traditional systems based on physical identity. In the past, both foundational and functional identity mechanisms were centralized with individuals getting a physical document containing relevant personal attributes required by the issuing entity. Document management was totally in the hands of the end-user who used them as proof of identity to make claims in person.

The Internet and the digitalization of biometrics and other personal attributes propelled new ways of issuing and managing personal identity. This process started around the end of the last century and allowed Internet companies to start issuing online identities to its users. It also promoted efforts to release functional

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Blockchains and Digital ID, I


Like previous technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchains have been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed up by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still rapidly evolving, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many blockchain innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within the distributed network. In principle, such identities can be pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by their owners – thus not need for centralized or federated intermediaries This, in principle, make blockchains an ideal candidate to propel

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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,


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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