Friday, January 30, 2004

Georgia Takes on ’Evolution’

Georgia Takes on ’Evolution’

Lead: "A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word "evolution" and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species." By By ANDREW JACOBS, New York times, January 30, 2004.

Nonothingism is alive a well in Georgia!

Dr. Vess's World Civilization Virtual Library

Dr. Vess's World Civilization Virtual Library

This doesn't really relate that closely to the theme of this blog, but it is such a nice website, I wanted to share it!

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science and satellite navigation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

"Creative Class War" by Richard Florida

Richard Florida, a professor of economic development at Carnegie Mellon University, has written a great article linked below. He notes the role of a creative elite in economic development, one which has emerged in the last decade. The members of the elite brought the world the ICT revolution, but also the most popular music, movies, etc. In the modern world, they disproportionately are the products of graduate education at good universities.

In the 1990's this elite flocked to creative centers in the U.S. -- Silicon Valley, the Route 128 corridor around Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, New York, Austin. They came to these centers not only from all over the United States, but from India, China, and the rest of the world. This was not a brain drain, but a brain draw -- the creative people went to the places where they could join other creative people and create.

Florida notes that the result was a growing cultural divide -- the creative centers versus the farming states, industrial cities, and those people tied to the industries prototypical of previous waves of innovation. The creative elite tend to be socially liberal, internationalist, and technocratic. The Clinton-Gore administration represented them well.

The other camp tended to be socially conservative, nationalist, political, and technologically conservative. The Bush-Cheney administration represents them well. Their administration has subsidized the old industries, banned some kinds of research (i.e. stem cell), challenged the scientific basis of the Kyoto treaty and abandoned it, etc. They have also cut the rate of entry to the U.S. of foreign-born members of the creative elite in half, and created conditions that encourage creative people here to go abroad.

Florida points out that dispensing with the cream of a countries creative talent may not be good for its long term growth. Other countries are aware of the importance of creativity, and countries from Ireland, to India, to New Zealand are going to compete. In a world where geographic distances are ever less of a barrier to trade in the key products of the information age, the migration of creative people is important!

"Creative Class War" by Richard Florida

EUROPA - Research - Headlines - Chinese study ranks world’s top 500 universities

This website of the European Union provides rankings of the world's universities. The rankings seem to be objective, in that they are based on quantitative indicators. Those indicators stress knowledge creation rather than teaching or public service. Thirty five of the top 50 are in the United States, ten of them in California.

EUROPA - Research - Headlines - Chinese study ranks world’s top 500 universities

An article in the current Economist magazine, "Who pays to study?" (I think you need a subscription to view this online) notes that the United States devotes a larger portion of GDP to higher education than countries in Europe and Asia, and given that its per capita GDP is among the highest in the world, U.S. spending per capita on higher education is very high. That buys universities with strong knowledge creation capabilities.

Pakistanis Exploited Nuclear Network (

According to this story, renegade Pakistani nuclear scientists sold nuclear weapons technology on an international black market to states such as Iran, Libya. This seems to me a big story. It may be the antithesis of my blog's theme: Knowledge for Development. This is knowledge for destruction!

Pakistanis Exploited Nuclear Network (

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

ALAC on WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Actions

The At Large Advisory Committee to ICANN published this, also in support of the deliberations of the U.N. Working Group.

ALAC on WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Actions

More articles on the governance of the Internet are to be found on CircleID's topic page, "Rulling the Net".

Internet Governance

This paper has been produced by the International Chamber of Commerce. It is a contribution to the further discussion of Internet governance that has been stimulated by WSIS.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Tyranny of Copyright?

The Tyranny of Copyright?"
Does the radical extension of copyright threaten cultural and other forms of creativity rather than enhance them? This article describes the Copy Left movement, and the situations with Copyright and Public Domain to which that movement reacts. The article very well written and aimed at the informed, lay public. While the author is probably thinking about the United States for most of the article, its content is relevant to many nations. By ROBERT S. BOYNTON, The New York Times, January 25, 2004. (HTML, 6 pages.)

Most Viewed ICT for Development Resources on the Development Gateway

Each of the following lists has links to the metadescriptions of the resources, which in turn have links to the resources themselves.

Most Viewed Resources Last Week (5), Last Month (10), and last quarter (20)

50 Most Viewed Resources in 2003

Five Most Viewed Resources in in the Lifetime of the Portal

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Do Web search engines suppress controversy?

Do Web search engines suppress controversy? It is bad enough when the governments of closed societies censor the Internet, but when the search engines also make it hard to find controversial views, we need to really worry.


I have been thinking about the Petersberg Prize for leadership in ICT for Development (ICT4D). It is a good time for others to do so too, since we are coming to the end of the nomination period for the €100,000 Prize to be presented this summer in Petersberg.

The Prize should probably be for work leading to successes in the last decade or so – it would not make much sense to choose Bell, Marconi or De Forest now, great as their contributions have been in the 19th century. What are the great ICT4D successes of the 1990’s? Are there any yet in the 21st century?

ICT Infrastructure

I suggest that the growth of mobile telephony and the Internet are obvious. In terms of poverty alleviation, however, the growth of coverage of mass media is very important, especially radio, in my opinion.

There were clearly technological factors driving all three successes, and in part all three successes can be traced back to the improvement in cost-effectiveness of electronics – to the microchip! But somehow I don’t think it makes much sense to nominate Intel. My colleague, Olof Hesselmark, has suggested that great credit might go to the Portuguese firm that invented the prepaid card for cell phones.

I would tend to emphasize some major policy reforms related to the so called “Washington Consensus”. Letting the private sector in developing countries drive the expansion of cellular phones and the Internet, especially in competitive environments seems to me to have allowed the rapid growth of the last decade to occur. I know that there was a general agreement, and the ITU, the World Bank group, the U.S. Government and others were supporting this policy. I wonder if there is some individual or organization that stands out especially in leading the policy reform either globally, or in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

In the case of radio, I wonder if it would not be useful for the award to draw attention to the community radio movement. I think low-power stations broadcasting to a geographically restricted local community have an important place in development, especially in Africa where they might serve the many language groups (often groups with low levels of literacy) with audio programming in their own languages. Linking such stations with the Internet might bring the world via transistor radios to the villages. Certainly the availability of low cost micro-radio stations (in a suitcase, or self built) supports the dissemination of radio. I wonder, however, whether it might not also be the result of regulatory reform, opening the spectrum to these stations, and to the social invention of community radio. Perhaps an award to AMARC might be considered.

ICT and ICT-Based Industry Development

Again, there are a few great success stories. The three I’s - Ireland, Israel, and India – developed important software industries. India also developed a large Internet-enabled service industry. Singapore comes to mind as a success story in the development of its computer and computer accessory industries; the story of Hewlett Packard’s Singapore facilities developing better and better printers comes to mind. HP thought to transfer work to Singapore to take advantage of low cost labor, and found instead a partner in technological innovation. But somehow I don’t think HP would be a good nominee for the Prize.

These industries in India now account for tens of billions of dollars per year. There were obviously many people working together to create that economic miracle. But perhaps one could give a Prize to a leading individual or organization to draw attention to the conditions that gave rise to the success, and to their critical role in creating those conditions.

I asked people in India in November what really unleashed the energy in the industry. Of course part of the answer was the general liberalization of the Indian economy. But my Indian colleagues suggested that ICT specific policies were critically important, such as those removing duties on software and hardware, and allowing duty-free status on a much freer basis than in the past. They suggested that there were key organizations that lobbied the government for such changes, and that these organizations should be recognized.

Perhaps China should be given a paragraph of its own. Over the past decade it has shown astounding growth in both ICT infrastructure and ICT industry. Again, the conditions were right because of the liberalization of economic policies, the huge domestic market, the human resource base and other factors. Still, I wonder whether some key individuals or organizations merit special recognition for their leadership of this transformation.


Connectivity and access are not much good without content! So the Prize might be directed to an individual or organization that has lead in making relevant content available to developing countries via ICT.

Agricultural content is especially important, given the importance of agriculture in the lives of the poor, and in the economies of developing nations. The Food and Agriculture Organization , the organizations of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research , and CTA might all be considered for the work that they have done in this respect.

The network of International Medlars Centers might be considered as a candidate for its contributions to the dissemination of medical content worldwide. It has produced virtual health libraries in a score of countries.

I suppose that, in a different way, the opening of the former Communist countries during the last decade greatly enhanced the availability of content to the public. The open media allowed a flow of information that greatly modified political positions and processes. Thus the Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation might be singled out for an award, in that Soros’ program focused significantly on the electronic media, including the Internet.

A little more than one-third of Internet content is in English, and about the same portion is in European languages, especially Spanish and German; an eighth is in Chinese; a tenth in Japanese. Automated translation of content then becomes a major tool in making content available worldwide. Perhaps then Systran would be a candidate for its development of machine translation and its work to put such translation online.

ICT Applications

I have seen “e-government” described as now leading “e-commerce” as the most important application of the Internet. There are some countries and states eligible for the Prize that are widely cited as both using e-government to serve their own people, and serving as a model for other e-government applications, such as Estonia, and Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in India. (States in India have populations larger than many countries.)

One application of ICT to development that seems worthy of nomination is the integrated use of remote sensing, networking, computer models, geographic information systems and other techniques to monitor the food situation and identify risks of hunger and famine. The Famine Early Warning System Network was the first such project to come to my attention. It monitors agricultural and economic conditions in East Africa, Southern Africa and the Sahel, seeking to predict food shortages in time that national governments can step in to avoid hunger or famine. The Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a similar initiative with worldwide scope. A more recent, related initiative is the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS). Supported by an interagency group with 28 agency members, FIVIMS works at both national and international levels.

On the one hand, the examples above I am sure are only a few of the great successes in ICT4D in the last decade. On the other hand, if one is looking for the most outstanding successes, the number should be limited to a few. Join in and add a comment if you know of others that should be considered. Better yet, submit a nomination for the Petersberg Prize.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Taxonomy: Impediment or Expedient?

Quentin D. Wheeler, Peter H. Raven, Edward O. Wilson have written an important editorial in Science magazine: "Taxonomy: Impediment or Expedient?". (You may not be able to download if you don't subscribe to Science.) They call for putting the field of Taxonomy in with "Big Science, describing the organization of living beings on a global scale. They note that traditional taxonomy has been downsized in favor of molecular techniques, and as a result we are running out of knowledge with which to properly interpret the DNA data. They call for a new synthesis of traditional, molecular and ICT based approaches.

I strongly support their call for a new initiative. As the authors say, this is the first moment in history in which we have the tools to begin to understand biodiversity; and the astronomical rate of loss of biodiversity may make this the last opportunity to study biodiversity as it existed over the lifetime of our species.

President Bush has proposed a new program for exploration of space. I would have preferred a program of similar magnitude for the exploration of the biodiversity of earth. Such a program might help us to preserve that biodiversity. At the very least, such a program would yield enormous benefits in our understanding of life, and ultimately economic benefits.



The report has a very interesting discussion of international trade in coffee and tea, suggesting that while terms of trade have deteriorated for developing country exporters of these commodities, and online markets have done little to stop the trend, there may be some hope in online auctions of high quality goods.

There is also a discussion of free and open source software, which I would not have expected in a book of this title.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


The National Academy of Sciences has issued a report, Nat'l Academies Press: Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms, that should be of interest to those working on regulatory issues in developing nations.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology has also issued a report (today) titled: Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of GM Insects. I would suspect that there will be major advances in public health and agriculture to be had from release of recombinant insects -- results that will be very important to developing nations. The regulation of release of such organisms will require careful thought, and there are few regulatory systems yet in place that would be suitable models.

Bloglines | KnowledgeBoard's Blogs

In addition to the redesign of the look and feel of my blog, which you might notice, I have made some other changes designed to make it more useful to readers.

I have established an RSS feed for my blog. I want to thank Gary Lawrence Murphy for suggesting that I do this (with appologies for the time it took to do so.)

This Blog is also now reflected on Bloglines | KnowledgeBoard's Blogs, thanks to the help of Lilia Efimova. I recommend that site as several of the blogs it mirrors are very helpful in the area of Knowledge for Development.

I have added a feature that allows readers to leave comments, thanks to the suggestion of Caitlin Kelly.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Closing the Gap in Education and Technology


Closing the Gap in Education and Technology



I worked in Chile for several years in the 1960’s, and since that time I have retained a special interest in the country. Unfortunately, I have not been back in decades. But it is gratifying to see how well the country has done economically in the last 15 years.

An article by Jon Jeter in the Washington Post today describes that progress in a nice readable form.

There is also an interesting World Bank paper by Lauritz Holm-Nielsen and Natalia Agapitova titled “Chile - Science, Technology and Innovation”.

Note this report: “The Evolution of Science & Technology: Latin America and the Caribbean in Comparative Perspective” by Thomas Nikolaj Hansen, Natalia Agapitova, Lauritz Holm-Nielsen & Ognjenka Goga Vukmirovic.

Saturday, January 17, 2004


This is an interesting model for a portal. As I spend a lot of time on the Development Gateway, I was especially interested in the differences between Faculty of 1000 and the Topic pages of the Gateway.

Faculty of 1000 | Identifying the Best Biology Papers

I just finished reading Philip Curtin’s book, The World and the West. It stimulated a lot of thought. Curtin defines “modernization” to be increase in productivity and consumption, and recognizes that most societies sought modernization as so described. He looks back to the roots of modernization in Europe, and then examines reactions in many other societies to the modernization of the West, to Western colonization, and then the process of decolonization.

The book follows earlier Curtin works in illuminating the importance of international trade patterns in the evolution of the relationships between the West and the rest of the world. (Curtin makes one think about the implications of e-commerce in a new way.)

The book also gives witness to the great influence of the military in the world. It of course recognizes the importance of Western weapons superiority in the creation of Western empires. But it also underlines the importance that military elites assumed in the rest of the world after European weaponry diffused to other societies. The book suggests that new military elites often arose to run the new organizational forms created around the new weapons.

The book ascribes great importance to the cadres of people in the rest of the world who were educated in Western schools, or in schools built on Western models. The apparatus of the modern state and the Western education were synergistic. The skills required to administer governments and economies were taught in the Western style schools, and the graduates became an elite through their power over the institutions they administered.

I was most by Curtin’s depiction of the nature, and even the concept of government as changing in history. He points out that territorial maps have very different meanings in different eras. Some of the early maps of colonial empires reflected claims to territory, not the ability to govern that territory. Curtin points to a long process of invention of institutional and social technologies that enabled the institutions of governance to collect more and more revenues (with which to support themselves), and to be more and more effective in influencing the behavior of subjects according to state decisions. (He perhaps underemphasizes the importance of technological change in enabling these administrative innovations.)

Curtin differentiates the history of Latin America from that of Asia and Africa primarily in terms of the devastating effects of the diseases that invaded the Americas in the Columbian Exchange of (disease) organisms that occurred after Columbus’ voyages to America. I find that argument attractive.

Reading Curtin’s book also made me wonder whether part of the explanation for the rapid colonization by Western powers is that it is easier to substitute for the power elite when that elite doesn’t really have much of power. If the governance institutions and technology are such that the elite have relatively little ability to tax, and relatively little power to enforce laws, then people might be less resistant to changes in the elites (except of course those few people who themselves constitute the reigning elite). Note too, that the Western powers didn’t usually seek draconian changes in the daily lives of people, at least during the early stages of their grabs for power.

Curtin also made me think about the implications of different institutionalizations of power. Western governmental forms are not the only way to organize power in a society, and in other societies religious, kinship and other institutions play some roles that the West would consider governmental. Again, the ease of substituting a European power elite for the previous governing elite during colonization may have depended on how limited government was in the colony by the influence of competing institutions. Colonial powers often left the power relationships in tact in institutions that they didn’t need to achieve the European’s desired ends – of wealth extraction via trade and sometimes taxation.

Curtin is especially strong in his descriptions of development of colonization and decolonization as complex processes, teleonomic rather than teleologic, path dependent, and “self organizing” (in the sense that the process is one in which outcomes arise from the actions of many participants, each acting with incomplete information and with faulty projections of the likely consequences of their actions).

People should read Curtin before they set out on “nation building”. It might help them to understand the process, and dissuade them from undertaking it in the first place.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


The Washington Post this morning had two articles that I find discouraging about the use of knowledge in the United States.

Dana Milbank in an article titled “White House Fires Back at O'Neill on Iraq” says:
“Comparing his time in the Bush administration and his stint in the federal government in the 1970s, O'Neill said: ‘The biggest difference between then and now is that our group was mostly about evidence and analysis, and Karl [Rove], Dick [Cheney], [Bush communications strategist] Karen [Hughes] and the gang seemed to be mostly about politics.’”

By Michael Dobbs’ article, “Middle East Studies Under Scrutiny in U.S.” looks at Campus Watch, a project of Middle East Forum, that is seeking to influence the balance of teaching in the United States on the Middle East. The points out that funding for area studies programs in the United States was cut at the end of the cold war, and it was only after 9/11 that funding for Middle East studies programs was again increased. Daniel Pipes, who appears to be influential in Bush Administration foreign policy, is the Director of the Forum. The article implies that he and his organization are seeking not to assure that a variety of positions are defended in public discourse, but to assure that government funds only go to those who support the position shared by the government.

Monday, January 12, 2004


Check out “The Timetable of Educational Inventions” Stu Conger, Journal of Innovations. (March 8, 2003)

Saturday, January 10, 2004


In the late 1960s a research institute in Bangladesh pioneered a treatment that has saved 40 million lives worldwide. That gives the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research-Bangladesh something real to celebrate. This article describes some of the history and current challenges of a unique biomedical research institute located in one of the poorest countries in the world. Geoff Watts, British Medical Journal, 2003;327:1308 (6 December), doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7427.1308.

The Digital Economy, 2003


Digital Economy 2003 (DE2003) is the U.S. Department of Commerce’s fifth annual report on conditions in U.S. information technology (IT) industries and the effects of IT on national economic performance. " DE2003 shows that: (i) recovery in IT-producing industries and increased use of IT throughout the economy are once again helping to drive very rapid productivity and output growth; (ii) employment growth in IT industries and IT occupations has yet to recover; (iii) highly competitive U.S. IT-producing industries are globally integrated; and (iv) even as we begin to take its presence for granted, IT continues to alter our lives, expanding our choices, and presenting us with new opportunities and challenges. In short, our continuing study shows that the digital era is living up to many of our expectations and hopes. But there is much more to understand about IT’s role in our growing and changing economy."

Information summit endorses key role of 'e-science'
Lead: "The first session of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) ended on Friday (12 December) with endorsement of a broad list of principles intended to guide the future development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and of a 'road map' showing how these should be put into practice. Included in the first of these is a statement recognizing that science has a central role in the development of the information society, and that there is a need to ensure that scientific data remains widely accessible." David Dickson, SciDev.Net, 14 December 2003.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


I just posted a PowerPoint presentation that I prepared for a class on e-Development. The course was one organized for staff of the Europe and Central Asia unit of the World Bank. My presentation complements those on e-government and the e-transition in the business sector, and focuses on the e-transition in several other sectors of the economy.

I would note that the special highlight prepared for the Development Gateway in support of the World Summit on the Information Society will soon be outdated by a new highlight. For those interested in ICT and the Millennium Development Goals, the report will still be available on the Development Gateway.

Monday, January 05, 2004


I recently (12/31/03) wrote recommending the e-Transition metaphor being used by the e-Development group of the World Bank. I want to extend the thoughts on that metaphor.

Nations receiving development assistance are in the process of many transitions. These transitions differ from country to country. Some of the more critical are likely to be:
· From poverty to affluence;
· From low economic productivity to higher economic productivity;
· From agricultural to industrial to information economies;
· From exchange or planned economies to market economies;
· From rural to more urban living;
· From Communism to free-market, democratic political systems;
· From economic, political or environmental crises to stability;
· From coercive or repressive government to freedom;
· From emphasis on domestic to emphasis on export production;
· From relatively closed to relatively open societies;
· From traditional culture to participation in global culture.

Nations are seeking to transform their primary, secondary and tertiary industrial sectors, their political systems, and other social and cultural systems.

The e-Transition does not stand alone – it takes place within the context of all these other transitions. Indeed, many of these other transitions are almost certainly more likely to influence the nature and speed of the e-Transition, than the e-Transition is to influence them. Nations which are not making economic, social and political progress are not likely to be making the e-Transition that the World Bank seeks to promote! Moreover, we know that the economic development and openness of a society are strong predictors of its ICT infrastructure, and we can infer that they are strong predictors of the stage that society has reached in its e-transition.

Thus the e-Transition metaphor leads naturally to planning and evaluating ICT for Development efforts within the context of the larger social and economic transitions taking place within and among nations. This seems a very productive direction for thought! It is a direction that complements, but goes beyond the growing literature on e-readiness. It is also a direction that will require considerable wisdom and energy to master and carry into effective development efforts.

It seems that one might well focus on the overall situation of a country and the directions its development efforts are taking in planning ICT for Development programs. A first decision is whether that development situation justifies ICT4D investments at all. Then one might think about the key areas for ICT4D investments to contribute to overall social and economic development – which sectors, which economic, political and social systems; which institutions? Where are ICT4D interventions likely to be most effective in overcoming constraints and enabling efforts to social and economic development. And what kinds of policies and strategic initiatives are likely to promote ICT4D interventions of these kinds?

Saturday, January 03, 2004


I have been impressed at the number of new initiatives seeking to develop or apply advanced scientific knowledge and technology to health problems in developing countries. Of course HIV/AIDS has only been on the global stage for a couple of decades, and merits global concern and global programs. However, other diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis have been hugely important health problems for centuries, yet are now apparently receiving renewed interest. Note the following programs:

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

The Gates Foundation

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

The Medicines for Malaria Venture

The Malaria Vaccine Initiative

The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI)

The Global Forum for Health Research

Pharmaceutical Industry programs and projects