Tuesday, December 24, 2002


I was going to try to do a Blog entry on higher education projects, and their role within a Knowledge for Development Strategy. The World Bank report at the following address does so much better than I could possibly, and thus saves me the trouble. It was prepared by a team lead by Jamil Salmi and apparently published in December 2002.


From the Executive Summary of the Report: "This World Bank report on tertiary education describes the role of tertiary education in building up a country's capacity for participation in an increasingly knowledge-based world economy and investigates policy options that have the potential to enhance economic growth and reduce poverty. The report examines the following questions: · What is the importance of tertiary education for economic and social development? · How should developing and transition countries position themselves to take full advantage of the potential contribution of tertiary education? · How can the World Bank and other development agencies assist in this process? The report has two complementary goals. The first is to provide information and insights that reflect current knowledge about successful reforms and effective implementation and that are applicable to World Bank tertiary education lending practices. The second is to engage client countries and the international community in a dialogue on the role of tertiary education in the context of overall World Bank strategies and policies, the justification for investing in the subsector, and ways of minimizing the negative political impact of tertiary education reforms." (PDF format, 634KB)

Monday, December 23, 2002


There are a number of periodic reports that together provide invaluable information on development and development priorities. Many are available online, and can be downloaded without charge. These include:

The Millennium Development Goals (from a consortium of donors)

The World Development Report (World Bank Group)

WDI Online (World Bank Group, only an excerpt is available without charge)

Global Economic Prospects (World Bank Group)

The Human Development Report (United Nations Development Program)

State of the World Population (UNFPA)

The World Resources Report (World Resource Institute; charge for this report)

State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization (UNICEF)

State of the World’s Children (UNICEF)

The World Health Report (WHO)

The World Communication and Information Report (UNESCO; access fee to download)

The World Culture Report (UNESCO; access fee to download)

World Education Report (UNESCO; access fee to download)

World Science Report (UNESCO; access fee to download)

The State of: Food and Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, World’s Forests, and Food Insecurity in the World (FAO)

Industrial Development Report (UNIDO)

Global Environmental Outlook (UNEP)

UN Peace Operations Year in Review

International Trade Statistics (WTO)

UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics

WIPO Industrial Property Statistics

The UN Refugee Agency Statistical Yearbook

The ICT Indicators page of the ITU

Economic Report on Africa (UNECA)

Economic Survey of Europe (UNECE)

The statistical publications of the UN ESCAP secretariat

International Development Statistics CD-ROM (OECD, charge for this document with statistics on development assistance)
Online access to these statistics is available at:

Sunday, December 22, 2002


I have been reading the book, "The Dinner Club: How the Masters of the Internet Universe Rode the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Boom in History" by Shannon Henry. I find it an interesting book generally. I note that it mentions the development in the Washington DC area of a very interesting philanthropic organization:

Venture Philanthropy Partners
"VPP was created by the Morino Institute," according to one presentation I found on the Internet, "in partnership with 30 new economy business leaders, Community Wealth Ventures and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to demonstrate venture philanthropy as a new approach to bringing the work of the nonprofit sector to scale."

There are a lot of similar groups of entrepreneurs who might be tapped for Knowledge for Development support:

Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund

Entrepreneurs Foundation

Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation

Entrepreneurs Foundation of North Texas

Entrepreneurs Foundation of Oregon

Entrepreneurs Foundation of New England

The are also some interesting articles on the topic of philanthropy that I found on the Internet:

"Giving Back the Silicon Valley Way: Emerging Patterns of a New Philanthropy"
by Peter deCourcy Hero, President, Community Foundation Silicon Valley

Strengthening Philanthropy in Asia Pacific: An Agenda for Action

Giving on Internet Time

I have excerpted from:

"Minority Philanthopies"

the following points:

"Asian Americans, like Hispanics, send back large sums of money to their native countries. Filipinos, for example, reportedly send back as much as $8 billion per year. (The Forum of Regional Associations of Grant makers)
"The Asian American community, like the Hispanic-American community, is composed of people from multiple countries and cultures that take different approaches to giving. Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans more commonly give to mainstream organizations than Korean Americans, who prefer to give to Korean organizations. ("The Roots of Minority Giving")".

Corporate Foundations may also be considered, especially for technology related philanthropy. Some that might be considered are:

The Bill Gates Foundations
MCI WorldCom Foundation
AOL Time Warner Foundation

It might also be interesting to promote Knowledge for Development philantropy in family foundations and small foundations. Good general sites for these are:


The Association of Small Foundations

Since originally posting this I discovered the Global Catalyst Foundation, which makes grants for ICT for development.

Friday, December 20, 2002


Let me note how important these are. Probably the best known are federal governmental foundations such as:

CONACYT in México

Colciencias in Colombia

CNPq - Conselho Nacional De Desenvolvimento Científico E Tecnológico in Brazil

The Brazilian Innovation Agency
FINEP - Financiadora De Estudos E Projetos

There are also state S&T Foundations, especially Brazil’s state Foundations for Support of Research, (Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa):

Most notably, perhaps, FAPESP in Sao Paulo (Fundação De Amparo À Pesquisa Do Estado De SP)

FAPERJ in Rio de Janairo (Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho De Amparo À Pesquisa Do Estado Do RJ)
http:// www.faperj.br

In general, these follow a model in which funding allocations are somewhat separated from political processes, and scientific expertise is brought to bear via peer review.

There are a number of bilateral foundations, such as the US-Israeli foundations:

The Binational Science Foundation (BSF)

The Binational Industrial Research Foundation (BIRD)

The Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD)

The Luso-American Foundation (A Fundação Luso-Americana) is in Portugal,

The United States-Mexican Science Foundation,

Or the German Israel Foundation for Scientific Research and Development

There are also in some cases important private S&T Foundations (which may be operating foundations as well as, or instead of grantmaking foundations) such as:

The Tata Trusts in India

Fundación Polar in Venezuela

The Mexican Health Foundation (specialized in biomedical S&T)
(La Fundación Mexicana para la Salud (FUNSALUD))

Fundación Chile

The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in India

The Habibie Foundation for Human Resources in Science and Technology in Indonesia

Thus in developing nations, local or locally-managed foundations or foundation-like organizations that benefit from scientific peer review and expertise can be important vehicles for science and technology. Notice, that official multilateral donors may have trouble reaching such foundations, since they usually fund central government agencies.

Monday, December 16, 2002


The December 14th issue of the Economist magazine includes its Technology Quarterly (TQ). The first essay of the TQ focuses on the Bayh-Dole Act, attributing to it a major role in the improvement of the rate of technological innovation in the U.S. I too am impressed by the benefits of the law which gave intellectual property rights for government sponsored research to universities, small and medium enterprises, government research laboratories (where the invention occurred, rather than to the entire government), and importantly, to people who did the inventing. I have spent far too much time over the past decades discussing IPR policy with lawyers and bureaucrats in large government and quasi-governmental organizations to take lightly the quality of insight that Bahy-Dole represents. Simply, it gets the incentives more-nearly right to commercialize inventions made with public money, and in so doing gets lots of producer benefits and consumer benefits from the publicly financed knowledge out to the economy and people. That is a great accomplishment!

The Economist economic bias comes through in the essay. In my opinion it attributes too much of the success in improving innovation rates to a single law, and not enough to the technological wave on which the US rode, to the improvement in knowledge of how to manage innovation, to the restructuring of the economy and reengineering of enterprises, to the marked success of the US in drawing talent and money to its industry and putting it to productive use.

The TQ describes a lot of advances in ICTs that can be expected shortly, as the result of what we might think of as normal technology. (Kuhn talked about normal science in his famous book – the science that most scientists do most of the time, filling in the knowledge gaps identified by the relevant community as important within existing theory. I think normal technology may be similarly conceived as those advances of the technology frontier that are relatively predictable and available to the industrial R&D labs.)

I was impressed by the predictions that there will soon be available
· Recordable CD-ROM (using blue lasers);
· 3D LCD displays for personal computers, affordable, with software to match;
· digital radio, improving radio quality and range and opening the AM and FM spectrum to new applications;
· organic semiconductors, bringing new information display options;
· new extensions of programs that allow publishing not only in visual forms over the internet, but in voice mode.
Anybody reading this who doesn’t know about these technologies should probably rectify that situation soon.

In one article, TQ suggested that telephone e-commerce is likely to be more important (for quite a while) than Internet e-commerce. Voice recognition, voice generation, and other technologies are coming online, made possible by cheaper computer power and memory. It occurs to me that the implication for developing nations may be that telephone service jobs may not last. Some developing nations have been using the mastery of European languages by their citizens as the basis to develop businesses offering these services. Low wage rates in India give Indian firms a competitive advantage in telephone based services over firms hiring highly paid U.S. workers. However, automating the service may be cheaper still. It might be fairly important to estimate how long before human telephone service providers go the way of buggy whips before investing heavily in the development of telephone-service boiler rooms in developing nations.

TQ spends considerable space on the advances in bio-computing, gene-chips, and biological research. I wonder how many developing nations will be able to utilize bio-computing sufficiently well to compete with the U.S., Japan and Europe. Not many! Were more being done with grid computing (the utilization of idle time on the networks of millions of PCs in the world) for developing nations, I would be less concerned. Perhaps more to the point, developing nations are more concerned with developing technologies to meet their own needs than are developed nations. There are exception opportunities to utilize bio-computing and other new techniques of biological research to increase the rate of discovery:
· of new vaccines and affordable treatments for tropical diseases and the other diseases of poverty;
· of better varieties of basic food crops; and
· of new vaccines and affordable treatments for veterinary diseases found primarily in developing nations.
I suspect that the developing nations will not sufficiently master the new techniques to fully take advantage of these opportunities. Developing nation researchers who do master the techniques will find powerful incentives to move to developed nations where they can be applied more productively (to solve the problems of developed nations).

Material for a lot of thought.

Friday, December 13, 2002


There are huge numbers of small ICT projects in operation, and indeed lots of stories, case studies, and other information on these projects. I am ignoring them here. Instead, I’m writing now about larger projects such as might be funded by development banks or large bilateral donors. In this Blog entry I’m also skipping mass media projects, such as those dealing with radio or television broadcasting in developing nations (not because they are unimportant, but because I want to keep this short).

Since good policies and good institutions almost always underlie successful development, let me start with them. Policy dialog is, I suspect, always involved in discussions of large ICT projects, and such projects often include funding of activities designed to improve policy or build institutions. However, technical assistance for policy or institution building would not usually in itself require the amount of funding found in large ICT projects. (The exception might be in large projects with a regional or global mission, providing policy or institution building assistance to many countries.)

Telecommunications infrastructure tends to be organized as a public utility, while computer infrastructure has tended to be privatized within organizations. Therefore investment in “communications technology” or telecommunications infrastructure tends to focus on organizations which run the telecommunications utility to be used by others; investment in “information technology” or computer infrastructure tends to be focused in support to organizations that utilize the technology in carrying out their missions. Projects focusing on building utilities tend to be quite different than those focusing on developing ICT applications in organizations!

First telecommunications infrastructure projects. Telecommunication privatization has swept the developing world; donor agencies have essentially stopped making loans to public telecommunications agencies, and seek instead to use investment instruments that facilitate access to capital for private telecommunications companies. Thus telecommunications infrastructure projects have moved from government loan windows, such as the IBRD, to windows promoting private investment, like the IFC. There are lots of people who know more than I about funding these telecommunications projects, so I will leave the subject of telecom projects to them.

Investment in telecenters and public access for the poor is perhaps worthy of a specific comment. Poor people by and large need to share access to telecommunications, and are not able to enjoy (multiple) private lines – access enjoyed by most people in rich nations. In my youth (many years ago), there were a lot of public phones in the U.S. With the proliferation of mobile phones, there is now discussion of reducing public phone service. On the other hand, in poor countries the public phone is now sometimes supplemented by other communications services such as fax, email, and even Internet browsing; the public phone becomes a telecenter. It seems that no two people mean the same thing by the word “telecenter”, and people refer to the same kinds of facilities by other terms such as “cybercafes” or “business service centers”. Telecenters range from things that are approximately phone boths, to facilities offering complex services capable of serving a number of clients simultaneously. Clearly there are private-sector based approaches to encourage rollout of public phones and telecenters, such as regulatory requirements for universal service placed upon private phone service provision, or the Grameen Bank’s program to loan to women micro-entrepreneurs to enable them to offer mobile phone based service to their neighbors. However, there are also possibilities of fairly large projects that would allow public or non-profit organizations to roll out telecenters by the hundreds or thousands.

Now we come to projects promoting the application of ICTs in government, health, education, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), civil society, etc. Perhaps the hottest applications areas are e-government and e-commerce, but telemedicine, e-learning, and distance education are all areas with long histories of projects and development. I would differentiate projects:
· dealing with one or more large government bureaucracies, such as e-government, e-learning in public schools, and applications of ICT in public health service delivery,
· from projects that focus on promoting ICTs in large numbers of small organizations, such as those emphasizing SMEs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The latter projects would most often be in the context of developing business service organizations or NGO service organizations. In my experience projects aimed at promoting the application of ICTs in specific economic sectors normally benefit from leadership from the experts in the sectors involved. In some cases one can justify a large project promoting ICT utilization within a sector, but such activities are perhaps more often developed as components of more general sector development projects.

I don’t recall seeing a large-scale, ICT-for-Development project that encompasses both development of the telecommunications infrastructure and also development of ICT applications within several sectors. I suspect such a project would be hard to develop, and hard to manage were it developed. Thus “ICT for Development”, in my opinion, is more often a term used to describe a variety of projects and project components with a common element, than a theme for the building of large development projects that build both the ICT public utilities and intra-organizational infrastructures and applications.

This is a nice web site that seeks to provide at least one entry for every country in the world. It was created as a reference work for netscout.net.


Wednesday, December 11, 2002


I suggest that there are impacts in the developing nations from the use of the Internet. There are also impacts from non-use of the Internet, both in terms of impacts of using it less than others do, or using it less than one might or might be expected to do.

I suggest that impacts may be positive or they may be negative.

Thus one can think of the following table that might be useful for considering Internet policy (pardon the dashes used for spacing within the table):

---------------l----Use of the Internet---l-Non-use of the Internet-l

I suspect that most of the popular literature on the Internet focuses on the potential positive impacts of use of the Internet, or (in Digital Divide literature) on the potential negative impacts of non-use of the Internet. It would probably be useful to spend time considering the other boxes in the table!
I hear that the American Association for the Advancement of Science is reorganizing and planning to close its International Office. This is apparently one of the cutbacks the organization is making due to falling revenues caused by the weak economic climate. I am sorry to hear it, for while international programs will continue managed by other units of the AAAS, the International Office has been a center for the scientific community's international activities, and it has carried out interesting and useful programs. I understand that the long-time director of the Office, Richard Getzinger will be retiring from the AAAS. Lets hope someone out there puts him in another leadership position in which he can continue to provide leadership in international scientific affairs.

The International Office URL is:

The National Map is the subject of an article in this week’s Science magazine. The Map will provide public domain core geographic data about the United States and its territories that other agencies can extend, enhance, and reference as they concentrate on maintaining other data that are unique to their needs. In order to produce this map, the US Geological Survey (USGS) will have to revise its previous methods, which no longer can keep up with the flood of geographic data, and coordinate the efforts of some 3,000 counties and other mapping agencies. Producing the US National Map is expected to have a central budget of $150 million per year for a decade. The UK, Canada and Australia are publicly debating the need for such computerized national maps. While developing nations will not be able to afford such massive programs, knowledge of the US experience might suggest approaches to better meeting their mapping needs.

This is the web site at USGS describing the project:

Wednesday, December 04, 2002


The African Studies Association Roundtable (see below) has sought people who could share their direct experience of negotiating the Internet in Africa. I don’t have much such experience to share, but I might make some comments from my experience within donor organizations. I will try to illustrate a few points:
· Negotiations don’t always take place where you might think they do;
· The negotiating position of donor agencies, itself the result of negotiations, influences the outcomes of negotiations in Africa;
· To some degree one can predict donor negotiating positions from their published policies and from knowledge about the donor organizations;
· To some degree one can predict the effect of the donor agencies from an understanding of the institutionalization of the interface between donors and African nations.

Let me begin with a few cases:

1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) used its Leland Initiative in order to promote policies conducive to the rollout of the Internet in Africa. The Initiative was the subject of considerable Congressional interest, perhaps because it was named in honor of a U.S. Congressman who died on a fact finding mission to Africa, and perhaps because the Republican Senate was skeptical of the Democratic Administration’s initiative. It was modestly funded, given the magnitude of its task of promoting the rollout of the Internet in Africa, but it was the centerpiece of USAID’s efforts on ICT in Africa. USAID and the U.S. Department of State collaborated closely in the policy dialog. The program involved policy dialog with African nations, with its representatives striving for policies favoring open competition among Internet Service Providers (ISPs), cost-based pricing of Internet-enabling telecommunications services, and freedom of content on the Internet. Technical assistance, financial assistance for installation of VSAT terminals, and training for potential Internet users in development organizations were offered as incentives to countries that had or moved toward policies appropriately favorable to the development of the Internet. This negotiating stance was arrived upon as a result of debate among professional staff within USAID, and discussions between representatives of USAID, the Department of State, the Congress, and other organizations.
2. The World Bank Group was a significant lender for telecommunications infrastructure projects, utilizing its loan windows through the 1980’s. The Bank in this respect was an intermediary, getting funds from other sources and making loans available to African nations at rates lower than they would otherwise obtain (as a result of risk sharing, and subsidies from the Bank’s donors). With the development of the so-called “Washington Consensus”, which included concepts about the superiority of private sector approaches over governmental provision of (telephone) services, the Bank Group essentially ceased making such loans. Instead it switched action to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) within the Group, using IFC investments and technical assistance in order to facilitate private sector investment in telecommunications. The Bank policy group has consistently offered policy advice and services to developing nations. The Bank’s negotiating position thus switched from one enabling governmental telecommunications investments through development finance, to one encouraging privatization by facilitating the flows of financing to privatized telecommunications companies. This stance was undoubtedly arrived upon in part by Bank staffers examination of the research on telecommunications, and the recognition that governmental telecommunications agencies would be less effective in raising funds for investment in telecommunications infrastructure than would be the private sector. The enthusiasm for telecommunications investment in global markets in the late 1990’s must have been noted. It would seek likely that the Directors of the Bank, representing the member nations, and especially the major contributors to the Bank, also played a role in moving Bank policy toward the Washington Consensus, as did the Presidents of the Bank.
3. The ITU Regulatory Forum was established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and infoDev to provide a forum in which regulators, industry, scholars, and others could discuss regulatory matters. Of course, this supplemented the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Assembly, which is a forum for discussion of telecommunications policy issues among the representatives to the ITU of its member states. When the ITU withdrew its sponsorship from the Forum, infoDev offered a challenge grant for a non-governmental organization to develop a sustainable independent regulatory forum. The result was the World Dialog on Regulation for Network Economies. The African Connection has also received two grants from infoDev to encourage communication among African policy makers on telecommunications issues and policies. infoDev is a program hosted by the World Bank, and receiving funds from a consortium of donors. In funding the activities noted above, it has acted on the assumption that better understanding of policy issues relating to telecommunications, and specifically to the Internet, would improve the negotiations involved in rapidly and sustainably expanding the information infrastructure. The decision of infoDev to support these initiatives can be understood within the context of infoDev’s grant review process, the bureaucratic processes and staffing of the World Bank, as well as the influence of infoDev’s various donors, and also in terms of infoDev’s mission of providing relatively small grants to facilitate improve ICT policy and pilot ICT applications in developing nations.
4. The U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute was created as a U.S. initiative at the beginning of the Reagan Administration. Supported by contributions from a consortium of firms, its secretariat arranges for courses telecommunications courses offered in the U.S. to be attended by people from developing nations without charge. USAID has supported the transportation and living costs of many trainees, and has emphasized support for African experts with that funding. The U.S. delegate to the ITU Assembly provided the key leadership in the creation of USTTI, and the program has been described by subsequent U.S. delegates to ITU meetings as making a significant improvement in the negotiating climate. The improvement in the negotiation atmosphere has been attributed both to better understanding of various parties of the rationale for positions of the others, and for improved relations with the large number of delegates to ITU meetings who have benefited from USTTI training. The ITU plays a key role in international telecommunications policy, and is where key decisions on spectrum allocation and other matters are made. It is an important source for technical information and assistance on telecommunications. U.S. officials often share an ideological belief in technical rather than political solutions in international affairs – a belief which probably helped in the creation of USTTI. The creation of USTTI should be understood in terms of the policies of the Reagan Administration, and the efforts of U.S. industry to be and be seen as socially responsible, as well as the bureaucratic processes within the U.S. government and industry.

Where do negotiations take place? One thing I think these examples illustrate is that negotiations relevant to the Internet take place not only within a national setting, but also internationally. They take place in the ITU. Moving discussions to forums like the World Dialogue on Regulation relieves people from the responsibility to promote and fully support the negotiating positions of the organizations that they represent and allows them more freedom in discussions. Regional forums are also important for some issues. And of course, negotiations that determine the U.S. negotiating position on African Internet rollout take place largely within the United States, as negotiations about other donor agencies’ positions take place in the offices of those agencies.

Why are donor agencies important in African Internet negotiations? Foreign donor agencies play a larger role in decision making in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions because:
· African governments on the average depend more on foreign aid for their budgets than nations in other regions;
· Many African governments are relatively weak or lacking in stability, and therefore draw on the institutional strength and continuity of donor agencies;
· Donor agencies have been able to place highly qualified personnel in key locations to participate in decision making as consultants or technical assistance experts, and thus draw on the personal intellectual authority of these people;
· Many African governments depend on donor agencies for occasional emergency assistance, giving those agencies influence not only during the period of emergency but also in other times.
Moreover, the donors use powerful instruments in their negotiations. As the cases above illustrate, the donors, of course, adduce evidence based conceptual arguments. They also offer subsidies for countries with policies the donors desire (as USAID did with the Leland initiative), and change the cost and availability of policy options (as the World Bank did with the change from lending to government to facilitating the flow of private investment). One suspects that the U.S. State Department representatives who worked with the Leland Initiative offered other inducements for adoption of pro-Internet policies.

How can one predict the positions of the donor agencies? In analyzing donor negotiation positions, one can consider (in addition to the classification of the donor given below):
a. The charter and formal mission of the donor agency;
b. The governance of the agency;
c. Spheres of influence (e.g. Commonwealth agencies are more active in Commonwealth countries, French in Francophone countries);
d. Sources of financing;
i. Government allocations;
ii. Tax financing;
iii. Commercial sources of financing, etc.
e. Organizational dynamics; and
f. Staffing.
Thus, UN Agencies, governed by Assemblies with a one-country, one-vote rule tend to have different objectives than multilateral banks (which are most responsive to their largest donors), while bilateral agencies are most likely to reflect the (multiple) objectives of their governments. Bilateral agencies, dependent on parliamentary budget allocations are likely to be more political in operation than endowed foundations. Yet foundations and non-governmental foundations, dependent on tax financing, are likely to be constrained in their negotiating instruments by the tax laws under which they operate. USAID did not enjoy the telecommunications expertise in its staff for which the ITU excels, and was probably limited by this factor in starting the Leland Initiative mentioned above.

The influence of individual donors should not be overestimated. The Donor agencies are many and diverse. For example, there are:
· The International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank;
· The UN family of Agencies, including the ITU, UNESCO, the UNDP, and UNECA;
· Bilateral Donors, including USAID and many European bilateral donors;
· Foundations;
· Private Voluntary Organizations channeling donations from the private sector to Africa; and
· Corporate Donors.
· There are hybrid organizations, and partnerships are increasingly common.

How has the interface between donors and African nations has been institutionalized? In predicting the effect of donor negotiating positions on African outcomes, it would be a mistake to assume that the donors represent a single unified negotiating unit. One metaphor that might help understand the situation would be to consider donor agencies as the suppliers in a number of markets, such as a market for development finance and the one for technical assistance. Developing country organizations would be equated with the consumers in such markets. Of course the market analogy is not exact, but negotiations between donors and recipients do take place in a situation in which each may negotiate with others; governments may engage in donor shopping, and donors may take their resources to other countries for deals that better achieve their objectives. Negotiation would take place not only between donors and governments of developing nations, but among donors, and indeed within donor agencies. The donors will tend to form coalitions to encourage certain kinds of policies, but the nations also form coalitions, and in fact have direct roles in the governance of multilateral donor agencies. One may also note that “geographic spheres of influence or focus”, specialization in assistance instruments (e.g. financing versus technical assistance), and topical specializations have been institutionalized in the interface. Moreover, some donors deal only with governments, while others only with non-governmental organizations.

Negotiating the Internet for Africa turns out to be an international undertaking, and one of considerable complexity. Donor agencies count; and to some degree their negotiating positions and instruments can be predicted. If an African country differs from the policy desired by the European nation which once colonized its lands, it can reduce dependency on the former colonial power by seeking assistance from another bilateral donor, multilateral donors, or indeed its neighbors. And while I favor policies based on theory and evidence of what works, I must admit that there is room for considerable debate on what those policies might be.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002


The donor agencies with which I am familiar don’t see the creation of knowledge for the sake of knowledge as a priority for sustainable development, much less for poverty alleviation. Thus their focus in S&T has been applied science and technology.

Donor agencies like multimillion dollar projects: their procedures tend not to adapt well to smaller projects. On the other hand, few scientific projects run to that kind of funding. The result is that donor agency applied science funding typically goes through intermediaries who accept relatively large amounts of funding in order to fund relatively large numbers of small projects. Such projects may be either:
· centrally operated to fund activities in many nations, such as the International Foundation for Science, or the PSTC and CDR programs of USAID, or
· funded to one large country, through an agent in that country, as in the cases of USAID’s S&T project in Egypt, or World Bank S&T projects in Mexico and Brazil.
The network of International Agricultural Research Centers coordinated through the CGIAR is an example of high funding levels and activities focusing on Centers in a number of nations.

The focus of the applied science projects and project elements tends to be applied research. Historically agricultural and biomedical research have been important elements of agricultural and health sector assistance. Bureaucracies within donor agencies and governments tend to be territorial, and the agricultural and health offices have retained control over much applied research in their fields. As a result, donor agency “S&T” projects tend include be “all other” types of applied research.

Typically not enough such research is done in small countries to justify donor projects. Consequently S&T projects tend to be concentrated in large and/or relatively affluent nations. Donor agencies generally deal with individual governments, and have little opportunity to develop (multi-national) regional S&T projects; the experience of USAID in encouraging the development of the Central American network of schollarly institutions did not seem to be such as to encourage emulation. The site for applied research funded under S&T projects is typically the university or government laboratories (since there would seem to be little rationale for funding applied research in the laboratories of profit making firms).. Indeed I suspect that research scientists in universities have sought to develop science funding agencies to guarantee support for their research in the face of conflicting demands on the educational ministries for expansion of university education. Donor agency funding for applied science projects and project elements has focused on funding applied research in universities and government (non-agricultural and non-health) research laboratories.

In these cases the argument has to be made that the funding is a sustainable investment. I seems that as a result, the funds are usually justified as building research capacity, rather than in paying the recurring costs for applied research. Emphasis is on acquisition of capital equipment and training of cadres of researchers. At the same time, donors tend to emphasize changing policy under which applied research is carried out, and institution building, especially in funding agencies (national science foundations). Interestingly, I have never seen a donor agency applied science project that focused importantly on building other scientific institutions, such as professional associations networking researchers, or research regulatory institutions such as those needed to assure biosafety.

As in the case of science, donor agency technology efforts in “S&T” projects tend to exclude agricultural and biomedical technologies, leaving them to agriculture and health projects, programs, and bureaucracies. The focus then seems to turn toward technology in the manufacturing sector. Indeed, since “S&T” has seldom been seen as a sector per se, there seems to be tension as to whether they should be seen as projects within the education sector or the private enterprise sector.

Again, policies promoting technological innovation and deepening are of concern, as is certain kinds of institution building. Supported institutions can include those dealing with intellectual property rights, standards and mensuration, and technological business services (especially those focusing on SMEs). I have seen one project (in Mexico) in which there were efforts to institutionalize better links between university and government research laboratories and commercial firms. I have not seen S&T projects that explicitly sought to build other critical institutions such as markets for engineering and other technological consulting services or professional associations allowing the networking of technological professionals.

Ultimately, the issue is selecting a portfolio of applied science and technology activities that fulfill several criteria:
· sufficient in total funding needs to justify a reasonable size project;
· sufficiently coherent to be managed by a small number of intermediaries, who in turn may be coordinated easily within the project framework;
· sufficiently oriented toward economic development and poverty reduction to be justified within the donor agency justification frameworks;
· sufficiently distinguishable from the activities undertaken within other projects and sectors to justify a new project.

Whether projects so constructed are optimal in terms of sustainable development and poverty alleviation can be questioned.

Monday, December 02, 2002


There is a roundtable on this topic at the African Studies Association meeting here in Washington on Thursday. It occurs to me that it is important to consider the Internet in broad context in Africa, and consider negotiating the Internet also in this broad context.

In my experience most people associate negotiation primarily with the rollout of Internet services. The key policy issues related to the rollout seem to be related to whether or not to have a monopoly ISP, whether or not to allow VSAT terminals to access the net internationally, (in many countries) the role of national telephone service provider monopolies vis a vis the ISPs, and regulation or limitation of content. Many seem to be interested in the rollout of telecenters which allow local community access via local “points of penetration” of the Internet in urban neighborhoods or rural communities.

Those already equipped with personal computers and (hard-wired) telephone service have been relatively quick to seek Internet service. (It has been suggested that there is little digital divide between nations in Internet connectivity, if one considers the denominator population in each country to include just those with hard-line telephone service and computers.) However, to achieve per capita rates of connection to the Internet approaching those in other continents, Sub-Saharan Africa is going to have to greatly expand telephone service and penetration of computers. Thus Africa’s negotiation of the Internet involves its negotiation of telephone and computer policy.

I would note that these negotiations are quite different in nature from that for Internet service for the already wired, and one from the other.
· The telephone system is a common property or commons. The key elements of negotiation have revolved around privatization of the telecommunications infrastructure, regulation, competition in provision of services, and pricing.
· The computer infrastructure is private property - owned piecemeal - with huge numbers of organizations and individuals investing in computers to serve their own individual needs. Negotiating the rollout of PC’s has involved issues of tariffs on hardware, software intellectual property rights and open-source policies, budgets for information technology within government agencies, incentives to the private sector for computer acquisition, and providing enabling services, such as computer training and computer related business services.

The “last mile problem” may be considered the problem of how one gets information between the ultimate users and the Internet terminal. In Africa, the vast majority of people will not have direct Internet access in the foreseeable future. Thus the last mile will be through intermediaries. Radio could be a major vehicle for getting information from the Internet to large numbers of Africans, and thus negotiating radio access may be a major element of “negotiating the Internet”. This involves not only negotiating the interface between the Internet and large scale broadcasters (often government radio networks), but also negotiating community radio – low power, low cost radio stations that can broadcast to local communities, and indeed broadcast in local languages.

I suggest that negotiating the Internet is also a matter of negotiating for content to be provided on the Internet that serves the need of the broadcast communities.

Intermediaries that can help large number of people to request and receive information from the Internet also include teachers, health workers, extension agents, officers of non-governmental organizations, etc. Indeed, in Africa, the most important aspect of the “last mile problem” for the next decade may be interconnecting these folk with the Internet rather than directly connecting the masses of the poor. I would suggest a role for telephone, such as the Voxiva system being test run in Peru, in addition to a role for radio and television (mass) media. The explosive growth of wireless telephony in Africa suggests that this will also be an important vehicle for dealing with the last mile, especially for the critical intermediaries. Again, I am suggesting an amplification of the concept of “negotiating the Internet” to include negotiating the availability and utilization of the Internet by a large class of intermediaries (individuals and organizations in which they function), as well as negotiating the content to be made available via the Internet to serve these intermediaries and (indirectly) their client populations.

I am interested in sustainable development in Africa, and especially in development that reduces poverty. I am not especially interested in rollout of the Internet per se, but rather in the way that rollout facilitates poverty-reducing and sustainable development. Thus I have been interested in the negotiations relating to the developmental applications of the Internet, such as those relating to e-commerce, e-government, telemedicine, distance education, etc. This too fits under my expanded definition of “negotiating the Internet”. Indeed, I suggest that negotiating the Internet may be an element within a Knowledge for Development framework, in which the application of knowledge to development becomes an overall approach to development, pervading all sectoral and institutional policies. If one can develop the institutions and policies that encourage people to seek and utilize more information well, then negotiating the role of the Internet in facilitating collection, organization, analysis and access of/to that information.

The above discussion has been positive in tone. I also believe that the Internet has considerable downside potential. In countries lacking sound policies promoting sustainable development and sound pro-poor policies, the Internet may prove to be a powerful instrument in implementing the wrong policies. It may enable African nations to move more rapidly toward isolationism, coercive government, adventuristic intrusion into the affairs of neighbor states, economic dualism, or general economic wrongheadedness. Moving faster in the wrong direction is not progress! How does one negotiate to avoid the “dark side” of Internet use?

Let me ask, to what degree does “negotiating the Internet” require negotiating overall development and poverty policies? Is it sufficient to negotiate the rollout and utilization of Internet services only in countries with good overall policy and institutional conditions (the approach which appears consistent with the new Bush Administration initiatives)? Or should our awareness of the development potential in the Internet suggest a more vigorous effort to negotiate for good overall sustainable development and poverty reduction policies and strategies? And how does one develop the right balance between negotiating on narrow issues to facilitate getting to positive results versus negotiating on larger and larger issues to assure the net will be well used?

Friday, November 29, 2002


Web sites of enterprises, I suppose, ought to be managed to achieve the objectives of the enterprises themselves. For a commercial enterprise, one assumes that the motive is profit. For a non-profit, how does one measure success? The figure of merit discussed in the following paragraphs will not really measure success, but still may be useful in managing and improving a web site.

I suggest that a web site should have a target audience, and that indeed it is usually helpful to disaggregate that audience into groups. Thus a web site may have a preferred target audience forming a “community of practice”, a secondary target of people from related communities of practice, and additional audiences of lesser perceived importance such as students, members of a larger “community of interest”, media, etc. I suggest not only that it is frequently useful to disaggregate the intended audience into such groups, but also to define a weight identifying the importance of serving each group. Thus one can define:

w(i) = the weight (say one for least important to 5 for most important) to assign to group i

In general I suspect that one would be interested in two measures of the use of the site by each target group:

n(i) = the number of people in group i using the site, and
f(i) = the average frequency (e.g. times per month) that users from group i visit the site.

One could estimate these figures in some cases from the email addresses of visitors to the site. For example, if one were seeking to attract an audience from certain countries, one could look for domain names from the countries. Alternatively, one could use simple pop-up questionnaires with a portion of the users of the site to estimate to which group they belonged, and how frequently they used the site.

I would suggest that such survey methods also be used to estimate two other parameters:

y(i) = the average importance (say on a scale of 1 to 5) that visitors from group i ascribe to the purpose of his/her visit, and
s(i) = the average satisfaction (say on a scale of 1 to 5) that visitors from group i ascribe to the outcome of the visit.

The figure of merit would then be simply the sum of:

w(i) * n(i) * f(i) * y(i) * s(i)

where the sum is taken over the groups of users.

I suggest such a figure of merit would be useful in tracking the changing value of a web site. It would be useful in allocating resources to improving the site. Thus one might decide that the figure of merit was most sensitive to improvements of one or another kind. If the issue limiting the figure of merit is not the number of eyes attracted, but rather that the users are not satisfied once attracted, there is one solution. If alternatively, the site was getting a lot of visitors, but most from relatively low priority user groups, different steps to improve the situation might be appropriate.

Of course data from survey instruments I am suggesting could be used for more sophisticated purposes. Thus if the users were satisfied with the site for their less important needs, but not for the more important, that would be a significant finding that could be made from cross tabulation of responses to two questions.

I would note that I have specifically left out a commonly used indicator – time on site. Satisfaction of user needs seems more likely to be important to non-profits. (Commercial sites seem to believe that the longer the user is at the site, the more that they will sell; for a non-profit, helping the user get what he/she needs as quickly as possible may be an even more important objective.)

The figure of merit approach is suggested in the context of a sustained effort by those responsible for a web site to improve that site. Variants of the formula given above would probably be more useful for specific non-profit sites than the formula itself. The important thing is to think what the site is to achieve, rather than simply accepting commonly used indices because they are available.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The World Bank Knowledge for Development web site (http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/knowledgefordevelopment/) provides the following framework “to help countries articulate strategies for their transition to a knowledge-based economy:
· An economic and institutional regime to provide incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship.
· An educated and skilled population to create, share, and use knowledge well.
· A dynamic information infrastructure to facilitate the effective communication, dissemination, and processing of information.
· An efficient innovation system of firms, research centers, universities, consultants, and other organizations to tap into the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilate and adapt it to local needs, and create new technology”
The Framework is echoed in the related Knowledge Economy page of the Development Gateway portal (http://www.developmentgateway.org/knowledge). I suggest that this framework is best understood within the context of the World Bank and its mission.

The Framework provides a focus on the economic and institutional regime, while emphasizing three sectors in which investments can be made. The Bank has rightly recognized that without an appropriate economic and institutional regime not much good will happen; it uses the leverage of its ability to mobilize financial resources to bargain for policy and institutional reforms, and indeed will fund technical assistance to improve these regimes. Thus policy conditions and reforms are frequently included in Bank projects.

The bottom line for the Bank is financing development, and so its initiatives are best conceptualized to result in “Bankable” projects. The above Framework suggests the development of projects that fund certain kinds of investments in education (especially higher education), in the information infrastructure (telephones, computers, etc.), and in the innovation system (involving firms innovating in products and processes, research centers, intellectual property rights, etc.).

It has been possible to conceptualize coherent projects combining financing for such activities, and relatively clear that such projects could be economically justified as producing economic returns consonant with their investment. Note that Bank projects have size constraints: too small and the development and implementation costs can not be justified by the return on the project; too large, and division of the project into smaller units tends to be preferred. Thus in large countries one might see a K4D program divided into several subprojects.

I think the Framework is a good one, which will work for many developing nations and stimulate useful Bank projects and efforts. It is not the only Framework however, and may not be adequate for some K4D needs or opportunities. In my next few postings I will try to consider some alternative ways to conceptualize K4D and projectize K4D approaches.
What is the Digital Divide in terms of the Human Development Index

The Human Development Index used by the UNDP was defined as a way to improve on the traditional economic indicators in measuring development. The HDI is based on life expectancy at birth, education (adult literacy and gross enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education), and Gross Domestic Product per capita (at purchasing power parity). (http://www.undp.org/hdr2001/back.pdf) The index is obtained by normalizing the value of each indicator and summing the three. Essentially the HDI is then:

HDI = a * x + b * y + c * z + d

a, b, c, and d are constants (derived from the ranges of these statistics),
x is live expectancy at birth
y is a composite index from adult literacy and gross school enrollment
z is per capita GDP

One way to look at the effect of ICTs is to look at the first order approximation to HDI with changes in connectivity:

DHDI = (a * dx/dw + b * dy/dw + c * dz/dw) Dw

w is a measure ICT connectivity
d /dw is the differential of the variable with respect to ICT connectivity.

Thus we can assume that (through various processes) that ICTs affect life expectancy, education and GDP. For example, ICTs penetration can affect life expectancy by improving the dissemination about health issues to the population, improving access to health service, improving the availability of health services by allowing increased efficiency in health service delivery, and other means.

One interesting concept of the “digital divide” would be in how much of the potential improvement in the Human Development Index estimated as available with expansion of ICTs in a country one actually achieved. An estimate of the digital divide between two countries might be the difference in HDI attributable to the difference in ICT penetration between them.

I would note that this kind of analysis tends to assume that the penetration of ICTs in a country only increases, and that it is only the absolute value and not the value of penetration as compared with other nations. However, countries with more rapid penetration of ICTs might take market share for world markets from competing countries with less rapid penetration, and per capita GDP might be reduced in a country that was standing still in ICT penetration.

I would suggest that the most important dimensions of the digital divide are not those measuring connectivity per se, but those measuring the effects on the human condition related to connectivity. It is important that people are dying who could be saved and living in misery that could be alleviated by investment in ICTs and their appropriate use. There is no intrinsic merit that I can see to having a lot of infrastructure except in its use to help people.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I want to think a little about intangible forms of capital. If knowledge can be capital, it would seem to be intangible capital.

Paul Meyers defines capital as “something owned which provides ongoing services.” Alan Deardorff notes that it is “one of the main primary factors, the availability of which determines the productivity of labor, comparative advantage, and the pattern of international trade.” We tend to value capital investments in terms of the added income flows we can expect to realize utilizing the capital.

When I think of human capital, I tend to think of the knowledge, understanding and skills that are created, especially those created through education and training. Of course there are other aspects of human capital; investment in health services can result in improved physical and mental wellbeing with consequent enhancement of earnings.

Formal organizations (including enterprises) have intangible capital (as I mentioned in a previous posting). I have worked in several newly formed organizations, and my experience is that such organizations become more productive over time as work routines are established and as people learn to work better with one another; part of the effort of establishing routines and learning to work together then may be seen as an investment in organizational capital. Indeed organizations seem to spend a lot of time in reengineering, reorganizing, and other efforts that can be seen as investing in intangible organizational capital. Moreover, there is a consulting industry focusing on organizational learning, organizational development, building organizational capacity, etc. – services that allow organizations to invest in developing intangible organizational capital.

My colleagues at the World Bank and similar organizations sometimes talk about institution building, including investing in the development or improvement of markets. Some markets of course have physical capital – as the New York Stock Market is housed in expensive real estate, and operates via expensive ICT systems. There has also been a lot of investment in human capital, such as in the formal and continuing education about the market of people who buy and sell shares, brokers, analysts, reporters reporting on the market, etc. The market also depends on a lot of tacit knowledge, about where to go and what to do in investing.

One could go on to discuss the intangible capital involved in other institutions such as local communities, professional communities, clusters of businesses, chambers of commerce, trade associations, and other communities of practice.

The term Social Capital is described by PovertyNet at the World Bank as referring to “the norms and networks that enable collective action.” I would suggest that some of the intangible capital in people, organizations, markets, and other institutions would fit within this definition. Indeed, I wonder if the Bank’s concept is too restrictive, in that only a part of the knowledge embodied in these institutions is in the form of norms and networks. It seems to me that a key issue in Knowledge for Development programs should be in adding knowledge to institutions and thus building social capital.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Bill Gates, on his recent trip to India, announced the donation of Windows software for Indian Government applications. This donation has been the occasion for an expansion of the debate on the advantages of open source versus proprietary software. It has also been the occasion of discussion of the role of such donations in securing the market for Microsoft proprietary software.

I just want to add a thought on how countries might analyze the issues relevant to the decision between open source and commercial software aquisition.

There is the issue of the cost of developing the software, packaging it, and distributing it. What we might term the “economic” cost is the value of all the resources that go into this effort. The “financial” cost might be the money that an organization puts into this effort. They are generally different. The economic costs to a nation in the development of open source software may be hard to determine, since many people and organizations may provide in-kind resources to the effort. The costs are easier to measure if a firm carries out all of these functions, as firms developing commercial software do. One should not necessarily infer that the economic costs are less for open source than for commercial software. We, as a society, have been learning how to manage software development in formal organizations for decades, and it certainly seems possible that that process uses less manpower and less of other inputs than the informal processes that are involved in the production and distribution of open source software. One may also consider the scalability of open source software development; while there are important examples of such development that have been efficient, would open source approaches be efficient if used much more extensively? Indeed, would we have the same level of software innovation without profit motivation, or would we have more innovation based on more collaborative institutions, with other than monitary rewards for success (such as seems to occur in the physical sciences)?

I wonder about the software distribution costs. I suspect that firms spend more on marketing commercial software than the developers do on “marketing” open source software. Economics would suggest that the added marketing may be socially beneficial, resulting in greater consumer benefits. Could governments that choose to utilize open source software inadvertently reduce their nation’s benefit from new software because they make the market “unattractive”, and less investment in dissemination is made than would be optimal? If so, should the government add the costs of itself marketing software to the general public to its budget to make up for the “negative externality” of its software acquisition policy?

More generally, the reason we buy computers and software is to allow us to do things better and/or more efficiently. The question of whether open source or commercial software best contributes to these end objectives seems the most pertinent. I suspect that the answer will depend on the software and application, and that societies learn to make reasonably good decisions on such matters. Today open source software is dominant in areas such as Internet servers, while commercial software is dominant in other “commodity” applications such as word processing or spreadsheets. However, some economic analysis of the social and economic costs of software policies might be helpful in confirming the desirability of the current pattern, and in modifying the patterns of use of open source and commercial software as circumstances change.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Hernando de Soto's, "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else," and Lawrence Lessig’s “The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World” are both worth reading, and have complementary messages in terms of K4D.

De Soto’s work discusses “property” and its transformation into “capital.” While poor people in poor countries often have community-acknowledged rights to hold and work property, they often do not have legal title to that property; often they can not sell property that they own and more often they can not borrow against it. Their societies lack institutions that allow such transactions. The modern public corporation (a prototypical institution of the capitalistic society) is not an option for the poor in developing nations. De Soto shows how poorly economies work without these institutions that allow capital to be created from property.

I recently read that the average ratio of price of corporations to book value of corporations in the U.S. is 2.8. The book value should be a reasonable approximation of the value of the physical and financial assets of the corporation. Thus the intangibles owned by corporations contribute much more to the public valuation of corporations than do their physical assets. The corporation and the stock market are institutions that create capital out of intangible property.

Lessig’s book focuses on how the open nature of the Internet has been instrumental in promoting innovation, and how beneficial that burst of innovation has been. Thus the protocols that allowed transmission of information were available to all; Internet server software and other Internet software were open source; and the source coding for Internet pages could be viewed, copied and adapted freely. Lessig shows how some firms now seek to change the institutional framework of the Internet in ways that would move the Net from a commons to a controlled environment. Societies choose whether the Internet will be primarily a commons or primarily controlled (be it by market or government forces). The relevant national policies will indirectly affect both the rate of investment in the Internet and the rate of innovation around the Internet. He councils that we seek balance, and do so through an informed debate on these policies. He fears that few of us or our policy makers understand the nature of the issues underlying the debate we should be having.

De Soto’s book tends to focus on real estate and physical property, but his point is perhaps even more relevant to knowledge. The institutions that provide intellectual property rights are evolving quickly in developed nations, but poor people in poor countries have very little possibility of exercising rights over their intellectual property, and still less chance of utilizing such property as capital. Lessig’s book recognizes the value of providing (physical and intellectual) property rights to encourage people to invest in the creation of infrastructure and the development of innovations. But it also recognizes that for non-rivalrous goods (e.g. goods such as scientific knowledge where one person’s use does not diminish the value of the goods to others) a well-functioning commons seems to best promote innovation. Indeed, modern scientific institutions are perhaps an appropriate prototypical model for some aspects of the knowledge economy.

I think both Lessig and de Soto would agree that institution building and good policies are needed if developing nations are to better utilize K4D. Moreover, as we develop the technologies to embody knowledge in new ways, and as we make innovation a greater priority, institutions must also change. I think both Lessig and de Soto would agree that there is need for a serious policy debate on the appropriate institutionalizations for the development of knowledge societies in the Third World. Both would probably agree that innovation and stimulation of investment are both important, and that there is an appropriate balance between controlled economic spaces and commons. The devil is of course lie in the details: just where that balance is to be struck, what form the institutions and policies should take, and how should they be achieved/built?

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

The United States should rejoin UNESCO, and should encourage UNESCO to expand its program, and hire more U.S. citizens on UNESCO’s for its professional.

President Bush has announced that the United States will rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The U.S. quit UNESCO some 18 years ago, citing a number of problems the Government saw with UNESCO at that time, including poor leadership, excessive bureaucracy, and (a Cold War inflated) concern with UNESCO’s communication program. The leadership issues have long been resolved, the Cold War ended, and UNESCO has lived within budget limitations caused by the withdrawal of its largest contributor(s).

The U.S. is scheduled to resume membership October 1, 2003. However, the current discussions call for no increase in UNESCO’s budget. The U.S. pays more than one-fifth of UN Agency regular budgets, and is expected to contribute about $60 million per year to UNESCO. If UNESCO’s budget does not increase with the return of the U.S. then our return will simply substitute U.S. funds for those which other donors have already been providing. UNESCO had to cut its budget when we left, and its program merits expansion as we return.

The U.N. family of organizations, in addition to UNESCO, includes: the UNDP, WHO, FAO, UNIDO, UNEP. UNICEF, ILO, etc. These organizations are technical in nature, providing technical standards and information, as well as technical assistance to developing nations. Together they have a very strong professional staff and a fundamental role to play in development. Note particularly, that while the international financial institutions (IFIs, such as the World Bank) continue to play a key role in financing, they depend heavily on the technical leadership and services provided by the UN agencies. Similarly, bilateral aid agencies, such as USAID also depend on UN agency programs, information and support.

UNESCO of course is the primary UN agency dealing with education, with science, and with culture. Its five programmatic areas are: Education, Communication and Information, Culture, Natural Sciences, and Human and Social Sciences. Thus UNESCO is the a key player in the UN system in terms of promoting Knowledge for Development. Since K4D is increasingly recognized as important, then UNESCO’s K4D program should be growing.

I have been following UNESCO for decades, first focusing on its science programs, and then on its communication and information programs. These programs are important, and have contributed importantly to development. Increasingly it is recognized that culture is an important determinant of development success, and that cultural products offer potential for development projects – and UNESCO is the only agency with culture specifically in its charter. UNESCO clearly plays a critical role in the international community in education~

The U.S. is of course dead last among developed nations in the portion of its GDP devoted to international development, providing much less than we have pledged in the past, much less than our allies would prefer, and much less than our foreign policy needs. The Bush Administration has pledged to increase development assistance. Doing so by allowing a needed increase in UNESCO (as one among many initiatives) seems most appropriate.

Moreover, support for UNESCO’s program and an enhanced U.S. role in UNESCO seem very appropriate to U.S. science policy. There seems to be a growing consensus that the NSF and other U.S. Agencies should do more in international scientific cooperation, including with developing nations. Support and a strengthened presence in UNESCO could contribute to this end. And of course, if UNESCO increases its budget, the U.S. pays only about one-fifth of the tab.

U.N. Agencies are under pressure to employ nationals of the countries that contribute to them. Since the U.S. has not contributed to UNESCO for 18 years, the organization has responded to the pressures of its continuing donors, and the proportion of U.S. citizens on the staff is reported to have dropped significantly. Given U.S. leadership in the areas of UNESCO programs, we should encourage UNESCO to employ more Americans. Paying the salaries of some added staff (by approving an increase in the UNESCO regular program budget) would help to encourage UNESCO to hire Americans quickly.

My last couple of posting have been about engineering sustainable development. Engineers should play a major role in the UN family, and in fact they do. Biomedical engineering as well as civil engineering of potable water and sanitation infrastructure are included within WHO, agricultural engineering within FAO, industrial and chemical engineering within UNIDO, etc. UNESCO has also played a role, dealing with engineering education as part of its higher education program, with telecommunications and parts of electronics engineering in its Communications and Information Program, and with various aspects of engineering in its Natural Science program. But areas such transportation and energy infrastructure, engineering science, and water resource management there is no lead UN agency supporting engineering. Moreover, there is no central Agency that provides support for the cross-cutting and interdisciplinary areas of engineering.

UNESCO could play a central role with regard to the engineering profession, much as the World Health Organization does with the professions dealing with health technology, the Food and Agricultural Organization with the professions dealing with agricultural technologies, or as UNESCO itself does with the scientific professions. A U.S. initiative to encourage UNESCO to take on the task of promoting engineering in the UN system in should be considered, and such an initiative might very well justify an increase in the UNESCO budget.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

My last posting was related to a meeting titled “Sustainable Development: A New Role for the American Engineering Community.” There were a lot of good ideas at the meeting about goals for the profession and first steps to improving the role of engineers in sustainable development. There follow a few thoughts on the subject.

I would love to see the engineering professions educating their members about sustainable development. Indeed I think the engineering professions should profess publicly on the importance of policies and institutions that enable them to engineer sustainable development! Advocacy for sustainable development seems to me a responsibility of the profession.

One of the suggestions made by Norm Neureiter, Science and Technology Advisor at the State Department, was that there be more engineering fellowships in the U.S. Government agencies dealing with foreign affairs. I observed first hand the effects of the AAAS International Diplomacy Fellowship program, and strongly endorse that idea. While the AAAS is not the home professional society for most engineers, the program was open to them. I would note that there seemed to be a limited demand for engineer fellows and for engineering fellowships.

I suppose the most important ways in which American engineers can contribute to sustainable development in the Third World is through those of their firms working in developing nations, or through engineering schools in colleges and universities.

USAID and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank are an obvious vehicle allowing American engineers to contribute, but I would guess that they are less important than private sector initiatives. The UN agencies will be the subject of a later blog entry.

There is also a role for private philanthropy. Corporations could play a more active role in building engineering capacity in developing nations through their corporate philanthropy programs. There are tens of thousands of US foundations, many founded by engineers, and many working internationally. The contributions of the foundation sector to building engineering capacity could be greatly enhanced.

New Internet approaches to financing small development projects, such as Development Space and the Virtual Foundation are extremely interesting, and warrant both the participation of engineers and consideration as a model for support of small engineering projects.

Some modest initiatives occurred to me as worthy of consideration:
· The African Virtual University is using the techniques of distance education to improve higher-educational opportunities in engineering and other fields for African students. Participation in this and similar initiatives would rank high on my list of priorities.
· CISCO Academies, Motorola University, and other private sector initiative in the area of information and communication technology education illustrate the role that the private sector can take in improving engineering education in developing nations.
· The U.S. Telecommunication Training Institute provides a model that could be emulated in other engineering fields. Its secretariat is supported by donations from private industry. Placements in short courses on telecommunications topics are offered (without charge) by corporate and governmental training programs. In some cases grants from governments are made to pay for transportation and expenses. As a result, thousands of telecommunications professionals from developing nations have received training in the U.S.
· The infoDev Conference Scholarship Fellowships provide another model that could be emulated. The program provides block grants for travel support for developing country information and communications technologies professionals to attend international professional conferences and meetings.
· Volunteer in Technical Assistance (VITA) and the Retired Executive Service Corps have established a distinguished record of providing technical advice on technical and managerial problems. Engineers could participate more vigorously in these organizations, or a new non-governmental organization could be developed focusing on allowing American engineers to volunteer service to worthy projects in developing nations.
· The Peace Corps remains a vehicle through which engineers can volunteer to work or teach in developing nations.
· The Development Gateway is currently establishing a Petersburg Prize for leadership in the application of ICTs to Development. Several other prizes are offered for developing country scientists, and an engineering prize could stimulate both better engineering and more public recognition of the role of engineering.
· There could be exchanges placing engineers from developing nations in US engineering firms and schools. I recall that B.J. Habibie, former President of Indonesia, early in his career lead a team of Indonesian engineers in a German aircraft company, forming a nucleus of leaders who later developed the Ministry of Science and Technology in Indonesia. U.S. companies could provide similar opportunities, probably enhancing their workforce and international programs while providing a valuable contribution to development.
· Habibie, while Minister of Science and Technology, invited the U.S. Government to place an American S&T advisor to join his staff. A similar arrangement was used with the National Research Center in Egypt, in both cases successfully.
· The University Linkages program managed by the Association Liaison Office might be used more by U.S. engineering colleges to build linkages with counterparts in developing nations.

There is no shortage of models by which engineers could participate in sustainable development. Lets see more participation!
There was a meeting on Friday (November 1) titled “Sustainable Development: A New Role for the American Engineering Community.” The meeting was held in the conference room of the National Science Foundation, and followed a June meeting at the National Research Council. Both of course were related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Joburg, South Africa a couple of months ago.

I got to thinking about the difference between “sustainable engineering” and “engineering for sustainable development”. The first seems to rquire engineers to conceptualize engineering projects including the environmental impacts of the project, and sustainability of the things engineered. “Engineering for sustainable development” seems to me to be a much broader topic.

Let me make an aside, that sustainability without development seems simply immoral. Someone pointed out in the meeting that a child dies somewhere in the developing world every 8 seconds; most of these deaths could be prevented. Who would want to sustain that death rate rather than save the lives of those children? Who would want to sustain the situation in which 1.2 billion people are trying to survive on less than $1 per day rather than see these folk get richer? Nearly half the world’s population are living on less than $2 day – who wants to sustain such poverty?

Think about food production in the context of engineering for sustainable development. The world population will grow by a billion people in the next 10 or 15 years. We will have to provide enough to feed them. Moreover, a lot of people are now malnourished, and we need to increase the food for these folk. To improve diets, we need to produce a lot more milk, eggs, and meat. In order to do so, we will have to produce still more feed for livestock. If this increase in food production is to be done within the context of sustainable development, then we need to find ways to increase food production without destroying forests, increasing desertification, depleting fisheries, degrading topsoil, or increasing the rate of pollution from agricultural wastes.

The key to sustainable agricultural development is to increase the productivity of existing agricultural land. The Green Revolution is the great example of such an increase. The plant breeders have claimed the credit for the Green Revolution, emphasizing the role of improved plant varieties. These improved plant varieties were basically dwarf varieties with strong stalks, resulting in plants that would not fall down from the weight of the added grain obtained when they were irrigated, fertilized, and protected from plant pests and diseases. The engineers have received less credit for the Green Revolution, although they were largely responsible. Civil engineers built the irrigation systems and built the dams and drilled the wells that provided the water; mechanical and electrical engineers designed the pumps and were responsible for generating the power to run them; chemical and industrial engineers designed the factories that produced the fertilizer and pesticides. To further increase agricultural productivity, engineers will again play a central role, and indeed the engineers designing farm equipment may be more important in the next rounds.

But doubling food production within a framework of sustainable development means more profound changes. More specialization will probably be needed, producing on the best agricultural land, and moving that food to where people need it. Such changes mean great improvements in transportation, communications, and food storage and processing. Again the engineering professions will play key roles in these developments.

Then there arises the issue of the costs of food. I have suggested that food on the average should be grown with more irrigation, more costly inputs, and that it should be transported further, and better stored and processed. How are the poor to pay for all this? I think it clear that they must earn more, and to do so, they must be more productive on average. Productivity increases go hand in hand with technological change, and technological improvement is one of the businesses of the engineering profession.

This situation generalizes. More people, demanding a higher standard of living, will require more and better housing, more goods, more information, more education. The world will be more urban, and the challenge of urban development is not only finding ways to build livable megacities. Cities historically destroy the lands around them, and the larger the city and higher the standard of living of its citizens, the greater and more complete the zones of ecological destruction they have created. Sustainable development means finding ways to supply the goods and services for the developing world without destroying the environment in the process.

I could provide other examples, but all of them would probably miss the most important point. The push for sustainability is not coming from the poor, who are consumed with the efforts to survive and having a decent life; sustainability is a goal of the affluent. If we want the billions of people in the developing world to really focus on sustaining the global ecosystem, then we these people need to be more affluent. Thus, as in the past, engineers will have to provide the infrastructure and technology to help people become more affluent.

Development agencies are increasingly recognizing that development programs and policies don’t work in many countries – countries marked by incompetent and/or corrupt governments, violence, and a myriad of other fundamental problems. Engineering will not be successful in these environments. Good policies and adequate social and economic institutions come first. If the politicians and economists can help develop the policies and institutions in which wealth can be created, then the engineers can really go to work producing the technology and the physical infrastructure needed for development! And they can not only do sustainable engineering, but engineer sustainable development.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It is easy to think of knowledge as embodied in people – as part of human capital. Commonly we think that when you absorb new information, it becomes part of your knowledge. Our “knowledge” is “information” which we have in our minds. This is a nice simple formula, but neurophysiologists have spent a long time trying to figure out how the brain learns. It seems to be through changes in the neurons, and especially changes that result in different responses of neurons to synaptic inputs. Thus one might consider that human “knowledge” is information that has been represented in changes in the brain, where those changes allow us to recall and/or utilize the information.

We also think of books and libraries as repositories of knowledge. I think the implication is that the authors of the books have recorded the information that they know in the books. It is clear that I don’t “know” all the information that is contained in the libraries that I use. Do I in some sense “know” everything that is in the books that surround me in my office, where I can with relative ease locate that information?

I like the idea that I think with my brain and its “surround”. Thus, while my brain does not spell very well, my computer and I can produce this document with pretty good spelling, since information on how to spell words has been stored in my computer. It is of course stored in the form of physical changes to the discs used by the computer. This is an example of a more general concept – that we can embody information in machines, and indeed in objects. I would suggest that information so embodied also may be considered to be “knowledge”. Thus if a computer controlled machine is transferred to a developing nation, then the knowledge to accomplish the tasks performed by the machine exists in the nation, even if no person in the nation “knows” independently how to build the machine or carry out its tasks without the machine. Moreover, the embodiment of information in machines is not new and is not dependent on computers. Since the Jaquard Looms were invented, it has been clear that machines can be made to do things that in ancient times required human intelligence.

I would suggest in like manner, that information can be embodied in materials and such an embodiment can be considered to be knowledge. An example of this would be pharmaceuticals, such as diagnostics and therapeutics. I participated in a decade-long research effort to understand the etiology of acute respiratory disease in children. That effort was possible only because new reagents had become available that simplified the diagnostic process. I suggest that we can consider information on the diagnosis of respiratory disease to be embodied in these reagents, and that such embodied information can be considered “knowledge”.

Increasing people talk about “organizational learning”, suggesting that an organization can absorb information, converting it into knowledge. Clearly this can happen if the people or machines in the organization store the information. I would suggest however, that an organization can know something that none of its people knows, and that is not represented in its machines. Information that is encoded in changes in organizational structure and processes would seem to fit the concept of “organizational knowledge”, even though none of the members of the organization “knows” that information. (Incidentally, organizations can learn by adding personnel who know things, or be moving personnel around so that people with applicable knowledge are placed where it is useful.)

Formal organizations are one kind of institution among many. I think that we can consider that knowledge is embodied in other institutions such as markets, communities and associations. Thus where information is embodied in the people, machines, materials, organization or processes of these institutions, it may be considered “institutional knowledge”.

Thus I see the K4D challenge to modify the information that is embodied in people, machines and materials, organizations and institutions in order to improve the lives of people. This is a big challenge.

Monday, October 28, 2002

There has been a lot written about the nature of scientific and technological knowledge. By technological knowledge, I am here talking about the knowledge held by the modern technological professionals such as engineers, physicians, agronomists, etc. – not “traditional” knowledge about production processes such as is held by artisanal farmers and fisherman or traditional health practitioners. In summary S&T knowledge is that which relates to bodies of theory, that is obtained from controlled, replicated experiments, that is validated through professional peer review, and that is organized and made available to a professional community via its professional media (such as journals, conferences, and professional education).

Contrast this nature of S&T knowledge with, for example, the nature of bureaucratic knowledge characteristic of large formal organizations and their management information systems. Or with the nature of legislative knowledge, as developed by hearings, staff work, consultation with lobbyists and constituents, and the executive agencies of government. Or with the nature of judicial knowledge, as developed through the investigative powers of courts (in some systems) or of the advocacy-based trial system (in others), the accumulation of precedents, and the codification of systems of law. Or economic knowledge embodied in the prices developed in markets and other commercial processes. I could go on. I suggest that institutions generally have their own knowledge systems for the production, validation, organization and validation of knowledge.

These considerations are consistent with a view that knowledge is socially constructed, and I wonder if the most important way knowledge is constructed is institutional. Different institutions construe knowledge in different ways.

The K4D crowd seems often to assume that by focusing on scientific and technological knowledge they will most effectively promote economic development. It seems to me that this is at best a hypothesis in need of evidence. I suspect that development will depend on institution building including on knowledge systems in many institutions. S&T knowledge is important, and consequently so is building S&T institutions! But I would like to see K4D programs also emphasize institution building to improve bureaucratic knowledge (in formal organizations), economic and financial knowledge (in market institutions), legislative knowledge, legal knowledge, etc. The problem is to develop a process by which all this institution building can occur in parallel, with a reasonable allocation of resources among all the parallel efforts.