Geek Heresy, by Kentaro Toyama: book review

Duncan Green - July 10, 2015

Guest post by Gawain Kripke, Oxfam America’s Director of Policy  I love my smart phone. It’s awesome and it makes me more awesome. I honestly think that my life is much better with it than without. It makes me a better worker – able to review documents, communicate with colleagues, keep projects moving smoothly even when I’m out of the office.   It makes me a better …

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Big Data and Development: Upsides, downsides and a lot of questions

Duncan Green - July 23, 2014

One of the more scary but enjoyable things I do is be interviewed on stuff I know absolutely nothing about (yeah, yeah, I know – no change there then). You get to grasshopper around multiple issues and disciplines, cobbling together ideas and arguments from scattered fragments, making connections and learning new stuff. Great fun. This week, I’ll blog about a couple of these BS (blue …

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Why NGOs label technology as nasty or nice

admin - August 19, 2013

This post appeared last week on the Science and Development website SciDev There’s real substance behind activists’ polarised views of new technology, says Oxfam adviser Duncan Green. NGOs and activists often seem to hold contradictory views about science and technology, dividing the world up into ‘nice’ and ‘nasty’ technologies. Anything to do with mobile phones, crowdsourcing, ‘small is beautiful’ technology, renewables or labour-saving wonders such as …

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‘Technology Justice’ – what does it mean for how NGOs think about new and old tech in development? And would you like a job working on it?

admin - February 1, 2013

I had an interesting exchange with Practical Action’s policy director, Astrid Walker Bourne (right) recently, about one of my (many) hobby horses – technology and its absence from the NGO agenda. Practical Action is trying to fill the gap with a work programme on ‘technology justice’, but a failed recruitment has got her thinking about the wider issues of NGOs and technology. See below. The …

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A world of friendship networks revealed – great interactive infographic

admin - September 21, 2012

After a few days in the migrationtastic Philippines (more on the visit next week) this post seems particularly apposite. The world’s friendship networks revealed, or at least that chunk of them that are on Facebook (large and growing – 910 million and counting). This exercise in big data crunching is fascinating: click on the country and it tells you how many FB links its citizens …

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African techno-euphoria and the origins of Kenyan mobile exceptionalism

admin - August 30, 2012

I’m struck by one of those periodic waves of Africa techno-euphoria as I catch up on my post holiday reading (Google Reader, twitter, email, random subscriptions – is there no end to it?). The Guardian has pieces on how the web is changing Africa and 15 innovations that are transforming the continent. Meanwhile the Economist has a fascinating piece on mobile technologies in Kenya. Some …

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10 Challenges to 'business as usual' for development agencies: FP2P flashback

admin - August 18, 2011

OMG, nearly three years on and almost everything on this list would still be on today’s version. But at least I could point to progress, in the shape of specific bits of thinking, reseach and/or programming. on nearly all of them. What new additions would go on today’s list, I wonder? Domestic taxation; resource scarcity and planetary boundaries; the damage wrought by an excessively large …

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Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding. Review of Charles Kenny's new book

admin - March 21, 2011

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding—And How We Can Improve the World Even More, published this month, is an exercise in ‘framing’ – trying to shift the way we feel, as well as think, about development and aid. It does it rather well. Two big frames: 1. Lives are getting better everywhere, including in Africa. People are healthier, live longer, lose fewer children, learn …

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Genetics and food doesn't have to be just about GM: genetic markers

admin - March 2, 2011

The most interesting article in the Economist special report on ‘Feeding the World’, reviewed here yesterday, was on the question of new technologies. Quote: ‘The only reliable way to produce more food is to use better technology’. Some excerpts here: “There will not be big gains in food production from taking in new land, using more irrigation or putting more fertiliser on existing fields. Cutting …

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Agriculture is key to development – why I (partly) disagree with Owen Barder

admin - October 18, 2010

It was World Food Day on Saturday, in case you missed it, and Owen Barder had a typically thought-provoking reflection on the links between agriculture and development. He starts off by quoting Amartya Sen’s words from 30 years ago, “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat” and the subsequent …

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