Topic: Technology

New books on development: bad microfinance; climate change and war; what works; inside the World Bank; mobile activism

One of the perks of writing a blog is that I can scrounge review copies of development-related books. I’m sure they’re all fascinating and I really want to read them but alas, they don’t come with extra hours in the day attached. So I now have a growing pile by my desk that is in […]

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What future for peasant communities in the North? A holiday report

Back from a week’s holiday and a ‘South in the North’ experience attending a wedding in Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (go to the top of Scotland, and turn left). My father-in-law comes from there, and his family still run a croft – a smallholding with a few sheep and cattle in one of Britain’s […]

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Brazil's boom; Africa's pentecostals; food fears and more reasons to invest in health: highlights from this week's Economist

Another bumper issue of the Economist this week. Here are some snapshots from my four favourite articles: Politics: A three page feature on Brazil, as its election campaign kicks off today. Constitutional term limits means that Lula is stepping down, despite 75% approval ratings (amazing, after eight years in office), but the country’s success means […]

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A surprising World Bank recipe for industrial policy: new proposal from Justin Lin

Justin Lin, the World Bank’s chief economist, was in London last week and presented his new paper on ‘Growth Identification and Facilitation’. Two years ago he came through just after being appointed, promising to bring a ‘new perspective’ to the Bank (see post here). His new paper certainly does that, as its subtitle ‘the role of […]

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What distinguishes a nice technology from a nasty one?

Gave a short presentation to the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum last week on the thorny topic of food security, innovation and safety. The speakers and audience were mainly on the science/policy interface, (a very different epistemic community from last week’s EU aid gabfest, but the powerpoints were just as bad). Most of the discussion […]

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How can a whole developing country switch to renewables? The example of Tonga

Continuing the theme of renewables, here’s a (small) developing country which has decided to pursue an energy transformation. I bumped into a Chatham House researcher called Cleo Paskal the other day, who was singing the praises of the Pacific island of Tonga. She wrote a piece for the Toronto Star on this – here’s a […]

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Are renewables the answer to Africa's energy deficit?

Thanks for the feedback on yesterday’s post – let’s continue this mini-series of posts on energy. A new paper from the energy wonks at the World Bank. ‘The Economics of Renewable Energy Expansion in rural Sub-Saharan Africa‘ asks whether renewables (solar, hydro, wind and so on) are mainly an issue for the rich north, or a […]

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Four big trends that advocacy NGOs need to watch

It’s obviously that strategic planning time of year again. Owen Barder recently posted his top tips for up and coming megatrends that should shape thinking in advocacy NGOs and last week I spent a self-indulgent morning doing my crystal ball thing with Traidcraft, an excellent UK NGO currently immersed in some long-term navel-gazing, (sorry I […]

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Successful Green Industrial Policy – Brazilian biofuels

The highly polarized debate on the role of industrial policy in development is dominated by discussions of the East Asian tigers, so good to see a discussion from another continent on what makes for successful state intervention – Brazil and biofuels. Here’s the highlights from a recent article by Tarun Khanna of the Harvard Business […]

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Ending energy poverty in India is part of tackling climate change

Energy for all Is vital in India Can outsiders help? NGOs don’t often talk about energy poverty and they should. Electricity means kids are more likely to do their homework; dirty energy for cooking fills the houses of the poor with smoke and does terrible damage to health. Two recent items in my inbox brought […]

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How to insure crops with a mobile phone – an experiment from Kenya

For technophiles everywhere, an uplifting story from a recent issue of The Economist: ‘One of the things holding back agriculture in developing countries is the unwillingness of farmers with small plots of land to invest in better seed and fertiliser. Only half of Kenyan farmers buy improved seed or spend money on other inputs. Many […]

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Why no-one believes what scientists tell them

The Guardian’s George Monbiot is a former environmental scientist turned journalist-activist. Many moons ago I studied physics, before joining the development and human rights dark/light side (depending on your point of view). So his recent meditation on the nature of science and ‘public reason’ as Amartya Sen would call it, struck a chord, (and not just […]

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