Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Policy Making in Government

I was recently chatting with Australian visitors about the similarities and differences in our experience in policy making – theirs in the Australian government, versus mine in the U.S. government and international development agencies.

Their experience with physicians entering the bureaucracy had some parallels to mine with scientists entering government agencies for the first time. The ideas of these professionals about health policy or science policy can be rather naïve. People in these professions usually are not trained in policy or organizational decision making. (And they don't understand how to draw on their training in decision making as individual professionals and apply it to organizational decision making.) Indeed, they sometimes don’t realize that economics, sociology, and political science are needed for their new functions in government. People who would be deeply offended if a lay person came into their health center or laboratory without medical or scientific training, forget that they ought to have training in the policy sciences before seeking professional status in policy making.

I would (unfairly) characterize the attitude toward policy of some young professionals from the medical and scientific fields as “I will just tell them what to do, and when they understand all these foolish mistakes that they have been making will be cleared up.” I fear policy doesn’t work that way.

In fact, the average bureaucrat is supposedly implementing a large number of policies (perhaps 100) in every action he carries out. With so many policies in play, it is often difficult to see the role of one versus another policy.

Robert McNamara commented in a program shown the other day on CSPAN that he was not pleased by the U.S. formal policy determination on nuclear weapons. McNamara, in his interview, talked about the need for a policy on the use of nuclear weapons. During his time in office, there had not been such a written policy, but he had been told that such a policy document had been created in subsequent decades. He went and found the document, and read it. He characterized the policy as being, essentially: “nuclear weapons are very bad, and should not be used unless absolutely necessary.” Of course this is common sense, and one would hope that national leaders would not be elected or appointed without the sense to know these things. Indeed, it is hard to imagine an important statement of national policy being developed that did not reflect common sense. But equally, such a policy would not help much in a real situation in which a president was contemplating the use of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, McNamara wanted very much that there be a national debate, focused in the Congress, on nuclear weapons policy.

I suggest that this example illustrates two points:
1. Policies are not important, but policy making is;
2. Policies are not important, decisions are.

The importance of the policy making process

McNamara – who had a distinguished career as a military planner and corporate president before assuming the Secretary of Defense position, and a distinguished career as president of the World Bank after – called for a major public and Congressional debate on nuclear policy. I suspect he did so in the hope that such a debate would air the issues and educate the public and political leaders. I doubt that a written policy could be accepted through such a process that did not largely reflect common sense. On the other hand, the participants in such a debate would necessarily become much more expert in the issues of WMD policy, and would be likely to be better at decisions involving the use or threat of nuclear weapons in the future. Moreover, they would have better understanding from key constituents when it came to explaining such decisions.

In my experience with policy making, I have found that the process within a government is interesting. In the best examples, it has involved the review and analysis of scientific data as well as of experience. It has provided an opportunity for detailed discussion among government agencies that seldom have such opportunities. It has provided an opportunity for discussion of issues between people representing civil society and those representing government, and an airing of differences in viewpoint. The policy making process seldom has revealed anything that was not known, but it has informed individuals of things that they had not known.

The final development of a decision paper for top elected officials has tended to be an exercise in editing, cutting down complex issues to simple alternatives and explanations. Those who read this blog should realize that I favor legitimate complexity to oversimplification, but it is useful to go through the exercise of simplification of decision documents. The exercise forces one to prioritize issues and concerns.

I can think of development policies that have been unfortunate, in that they were unthinkingly implemented. But I can not think of a policy debate that itself was less than useful.

Decision making rather than policy making

Returning to McNamara’s interview, I don’t think that Viet Nam was so much the result of a poor policy as of a sequence of bad decisions. Certainly, no one in the U.S. government defined a long term policy that sought the long-term buildup of U.S. troops, followed by their departure, and the unification of Viet Nam under a North Viet Nam government. Rather, there were a sequence of decisions made, according to the circumstances at the time of each decision, which lead to that course of events. In retrospect, many of those decisions appear to have been poorly informed and badly made.

McNamara, in his interview, discussed the Cold War policy of containment of Communism, but did so noting that the “domino theory” was incorrect, but was only challenged in 1967, and that many decisions had previously been made escalating U.S. involvement in the war under the belief that Communist control of South Viet Nam would inevitably lead to future Communist overthrow of other non-Communist governments. I would note, however, that the “domino theory” was not the “policy”, and that it was subsequently possible to make decisions to allow the military defeat of the government in South Viet Nam without abandoning the Cold War nor abandoning the U.S. efforts for the containment of Communism. (I recall the comment at the time of the Communist government’s election in Chile, that “Chile is a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica.”)

I would agree with McNamara in what I take to be his contention, that for an important decision, key decision makers can examine cherished theories and revise or reverse policies. Indeed, I would suggest that “policies” seen in retrospect are often the cumulative result of a series of key decisions. Making the decisions well may thus result in processes which in retrospect appear to be the happy outcome of good policies.

For the young scientists and physicians entering government, I would suggest that they focus on helping to make good decisions rather than defining good policies. And I would suggest that they see decision making as a participatory process, rather than as a purely analytic one.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

ICT and Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

The Communication Initiative's summary of my essay:

"This paper explores how recent 'revolutionary' changes in information and communication technologies (ICT) affect environmental sustainability, with an eye to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) set up to ensure environmental sustainability in this century. The paper is part of a series of 7 essays by John Daly that address the role of ICT in meeting the MDGs; click here for access to the full series on the Development Gateway website."

Friday, August 26, 2005

"The Bolton Civil Wars in the State Department may have just re-started"

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: Guest-blogger, Steve Clemons

"There is evidence bubbling to the surface -- not altogether clear -- but pointing to the possibility that Bolton has already stepped out of his holding pen and is undermining Condi Rice and Bob Zoellick -- again with Dick Cheney's blessing.

"A short while ago, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns met with NGO representatives regarding the upcoming U.N. Millennium Summit and U.S. objectives.

"A reader of The Washington Note and TPM pressed some key questions Burns' way -- particularly why any reference to Millennium Development Goals was completely cut out of the recently leaked Bolton-edited Millennium Summit draft document.

"Remember, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not firm targets and in the past, the U.S. has for the most part robustly supported these goals. The MDGs were agreed to by 190 nations in 2000 and reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus and referred to in the Gleneagles Declaration this summer.

"When pressed -- several times -- on why these are apparently being knocked out by the United States in the Millennium Summit document, Nick Burns and subsequently Philo Dibble ducked the question and stated that they opposed the target of 0.7% of gross national income for official development assistance as an example of an old paradigm. They stated that that those kinds of numeric targets yielded poor results and stale discussion."

The Bolton Markup of the UN Summit document

Purpotted "Bolton" markup of the draft 2005 World Summit declaration. ( from Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall).

Guest blogger Steve Clemons writes:
Recess-appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton is doing exactly what his critics expected of him. He is sticking it to the world. . .hard and nasty.

I received this morning a leaked copy of U.S. comments on the draft document for the Millennium Summit in September. I have been informed that these are John Bolton's personal draft modification suggestions that appear on the document.

And here is the original version from the UN website for the summit.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Best of Practices?"

Warren Feek's complete essay:

"The phrase that really gets me going is...'best practice'. And this makes my life difficult as 'best practice' seems to be everywhere. Most organizations I know have a person or a team of people trying to identify and/or describe 'best practice' related to their field and there are all manner of 'best practice' publications in existence and being produced regularly."

It gets me going too! Feek states further:

"Compounding this problem is the implication of judging something the 'best': that we all need to think about also doing what that practice is doing because it is the best! The 'best practice' highlighted after an exhaustive international search may work in the poor barrio on the outskirts of Cali, Colombia, but may be completely inappropriate - perhaps even 'bad practice' - if replicated in Blantyre, Malawi; Puna, India; Kuala Trenggannu, Malaysia and even the town in which I was raised - New Plymouth, New Zealand. Probably even Barranquilla, Colombia would not do what they do in Cali, Colombia because it just would not work in Barranquilla. Things are different in Barranquilla! And, if the point of labeling something the "best" is not that others replicate, then why label it the 'best'?.........

"Now before anyone says - ah hah! - but the whole of The Communication Initiative process is based on sharing best practice - let me try to clarify! We are not. We try to share everything. There are now over 35,000 pages of summarized practice, thinking and initiatives [so that you can quickly review if information and ideas on a page are useful to you and your work]. The experiences, ideas and information on those pages come from you within the network. We put them up without favor or qualification. Why? - because you will all have different interests and demands. So, we try to put the power in your hands. You can decide - in your setting - what is the "best practice" for you to learn from. And, by using the page review forms at the bottom of each page, you can provide your view of the idea, experience and information on any page - a peer review process - providing a practitioner's and network view on practice."

Feek is addressing a key misunderstanding about “Knowledge for Development”. Many people feel that the point is to know what the best alternative is in key situations. I think the real issue is to develop expertise useful in analyzing situations and problems. Development practitioners should have a wealth of structured knowledge. They should analyze each important situation or problem specifically, bring the appropriate knowledge to bear, in order to diagnose, prescribe and prognosticate.

I use the medical terms deliberately, because I think we all know the difference between consulting a fully qualified physician, and consulting a medical manual that contains a lot of codified medical knowledge. The physician uses his/her expertise to diagnose the problem, prescribe a remedy, and make a prognosis of the evolution of the treated problem. He/she knows that the treatment may be in error, and is plans to make mid course corrections. There is a major effort to move physicians more fully into “knowledge based” practice, which involves physicians mastering the body of evidence that has been accumulated over time as to the efficacy of different remedies as applied to different conditions. In the past, much medical knowledge has been tacit, acquired by physicians through an aprenticeship, and now efforts are under way to move to more explicit knowledge based on results of controlled studies. But everyone should recognize that the physician faces a complex interaction of differences in the agents of the same disease, differences of patient physical responses to the same disease agents and remedies, and differences in the environmental responses to both patients conditions and disease agents. It is the expertise of the physician that brings knowledge to bear on the complex interaction of agent, host and environment. Many health problems are minor, and can be self-diagnosed and self-prescribed by the lay person, but for life and death situations, I want an expert at my side.

So too, development practitioners should develop expertise, mastering large bodies of codified development experience, not so they should choose the best recipe from their big development cookbook for each problem, but so that they can guide a development process after analysis.

"Lessons of War"

CSpan program website:

"Robert McNamara, former Defense Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (1961-68) discussed lessons he learned from his involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. He also discussed clips from the documentary about his life The Fog of War, which recently won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature."

I found this a very interesting discussion. McNamara said that it was not until 30 years after the Cuban missile crisis that he learned from Fidel Castro himself that there had been missiles in Cuba with nuclear warheads, and that Castro had recommended to Khrushchev that they be used, recognizing the implications for Cuba of such use. The comment raises a number of questions: Did McNamara remember correctly? Did Castro tell the truth? But it illustrates most clearly McNamara's point of how difficult it is to find "truth" in the fog in which crucial decisions are made.

McNamara also pointed out that in the Cuban missile crisis, there were men at the elbows of the key actors in the decision process who had lived in and studied Russia for a long time, and could advise out of their understanding of Russians and Russian culture. He said that during the Viet Nam decision making, there were many fewer people who understood North Viet Nam and its leaders thinking, and that they were are a far greater distance from the key decision making venues. In the case of Iraq, the situation seems to be even worse. There are only a few people coming out of the universities each year with understanding of Arabic and Moslem culture, and very few of people with long time experience of Arab and Middle Eastern culture are senior advisors in U.S. government.

I had been wondering about Japanese involvement in World War II. It seems that it was based on the belief that the United States and United Kingdom would make a reasonable settlement, and not engage in full scale, protracted war after the initial successes of the Japanese military. If so, the belief was fatally flawed, and millions died as a result. How could a government come to such a false belief? If I understand McNamara's point, governments can make such mistakes easily, and often do. He says it is important for decisions to be made in knowledge that they may be wrong, based on wrong assumptions and/or wrong information. He suggests that it is often better to delay action, get more information and analyze more deeply rather than move immediately. He stresses how difficult it is, and how necessary, to get people with alternative views to speak up in policy making fora; how important and how difficult to reexamine classic assumptions (such as the “domino theory” – that if one country turned Communist, others would necessarily follow – which was not challenged until 1967 during the Viet Nam war, and proved false). And he suggests that if all your allies disagree with your analysis and the resulting policy, it is best to reexamine it in the understanding that governments are fallible.

One can assume that for McNamara, it is critical to have an exit strategy, in case the decision to go forward was erroneous. That it is critical to have means to make mid-course corrections.

All of this seems reasonable enough in theory. But it must be hard to achieve in practice, since so many problems arise from failure to follow such steps.

US Proposes to Change Focus of 2005 World Summit

Read the full article by Colum Lynch in the Washington Post. (August 25, 2005)

The United States government has only recently proposed more than 750 amendments to the draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending next month's World Summit at the United Nations. The Summit has been planned for years, and more than 170 Heads of State and Government are expected to attend. The 2005 Summit was originally planned as a follow-up to the 2000 Millennium Summit, which produced the Millennium Declaration and which resulted in a global agreement to eradicate poverty with specific Millennium Development Goals, indicators and targets. "The U.S. amendments," according to this article, "call for striking any mention of the Millennium Development Goals, and the (Bush) administration has publicly complained that the document's section on poverty is too long. Instead, the United States has sought to underscore the importance of the Monterrey Consensus, a 2002 summit in Mexico that focused on free-market reforms, and required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief."

"The proposed U.S. amendments, contained in a confidential 36-page document obtained by The Washington Post, have been presented this week to select envoys. The U.N. General Assembly's president, Jean Ping of Gambia, is organizing a core group of 20 to 30 countries, including the United States and other major powers, to engage in an intensive final round of negotiations in an attempt to strike a deal.......Russia, Pakistan and several other developing countries have also introduced plans for changes in the power of some U.N. bodies." The possiblility of successfully negotiating 750 ammendments to an important United Nations declaration in a short period of time seems to me to be remote. According to the article, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, John "Bolton and a spokesman did not respond to requests to comment Wednesday."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Games people play - for peace

Israel21c full article

"Working toward intercultural understanding and world peace may seem like serious business, but to Tamar Meshulam, it's a game.

"Not just any game, however, - a large, beautifully designed prize-winning game.

"A unique project that Meshulam designed and built, entitled 'Master Peace' won first place at the recent UNESCO Design contest in Japan, which has been held annually every five years in order to encourage young designers to develop creations that contribute to society and help to change the world for the better.

"The contest, which carried a $10,000 prize, included more than 700 entrants from around the world, with a different theme each year. This year's theme was interpersonal communication, with the title 'Love/Why?'"

Production and use of ICT: A sectoral perspective on productivity growth in the OECD area

The full paper:

"OECD Economic Studies No. 35, 2002/2. This paper examines the roles of the ICT-producing sector and of key ICT-using industries in overall productivity growth in OECD countries. The ICT manufacturing sector, in particular, has been characterised by very high rates of productivity growth in many countries and provides a large contribution to labour productivity growth in Finland, Ireland and Korea. In a few countries, notably the United States and Australia, certain ICT-using services have also experienced an above-average pick-up in productivity growth in the second half of the 1990s. Further structural reform may be needed before ICT use will also show up in the productivity statistics of other OECD countries. Differences in the measurement of productivity in ICT-producing and -using industries across countries complicate the cross-country analysis."


The full report.

Summary: This "document reviews the existence of links between ICTs, productivity and economic growth in OECD countrie, set out in "ICT and Economic Growth, Evidence from OECD Countries, Industries and Firms" (2003), and discusses the relevace of these findings for developing countries." The document has been prepared and reviewed by Professor David Souter. OECD DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE COMMITTEE document DCD/DAC/POVNET(2004)6/REV1, 10-Dec-2004. (PDF, 30 pages.)

"Information and Communication Technology, Poverty, and Development in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia"

The full Working Paper

Abstract: "The objectives of the paper are: to examine patterns of utilization, ownership and affordability of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia; to discuss applications of ICTs to the poor by the private sector, the Government and external donors; and to suggest ways in which ICTs can best be used in poverty alleviation strategies. The paper finds that SSA and South Asia have the lowest access to ICTs resources. There are two critical access gaps, between urban and rural areas, and between the poorest and the richest 20% of the population. For their infornation needs, the poor rely mostly on the informal networks that they trust, such as family, friends and local leaders. By contrast, formal sources of infonnation, such as NGOs, newspapers or politicians, are less trusted and used. The new forms of ICTs, including Internet, fax and computers, have touched only some 2% of low-income households, mostly in urban areas. Evidence indicate that in a sufficiently competitive and liberalized market the private sector is most effective in providing commercially viable communications services, even in rural or less viable areas; Government-led initiatives have mixed results; externally funded initiatives have potential benefits but also several drawbacks in terms of financial as well as technological sustainability. The paper proposes the following principles for using ICTs in poverty alleviation strategies: i) information is a dynamic process of acquisition and use; ii) the effective use of information by the poor may be constrained by lack of skills, financial resources and the existence of urban/rural, gender and other inequities; iii) the effectiveness of ICTs must be assessed along with existing information systems; iv) ICTs must focus on areas where complementary investment has already been built and encourage the participation of the communities and of the poor; v) long term strategies for ICT diffusion must be centered around integrating ICTs into wider educational programs." Miria Pigato, World Bank Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 20, August 2001. (PDF, 82 pages.)

The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication

Journal homepage:

"The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication is published annually by the LINK Centre in order to encourage debate in the area of policy, regulation, management and development of broadcasting, telecommunications and information technology in Southern Africa."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Reports of the Economic Statistics Division, 2002

The reports website with these and other reports in various formats:

Digital Economy 2002 (4.3 MB)

A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use Of The Internet (PDF)

Main Street in the Digital Age: How Small and Medium-sized Businesses Are Using the Tools of the New Economy (PDF)

These are major reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce dealing with the economic impact of the Internet.

A Nation Online

The full report in several formats, with links to survey instrument

Summary: "With computers now almost as common in American homes as cable television service, the Internet continues to expand in importance as a communication, information, entertainment, and transaction tool. One sure sign of growing reliance on this medium is the dramatic jump in high-speed, or broadband, Internet connections. The number of households willing to pay a premium over the cost of a basic dial-up connection for broadband access more than doubled between September 2001 and October 2003, growing from 9.9 million to 22.4 million. Underlying this growth is an evolution in the way people are connecting to the Internet. One in five (19.9 percent) U.S. households and over one-third (36.5 percent) of Internet households now have a high-speed connection, while the number of U.S. households using dial-up service declined by almost 13 percent between 2001 and 2003." The Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005.

"The Impact of Investment in IT on Economic Performance: Implications for Developing Countries"

Full article

Summary.— "We review quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of IT on economic performance in developed and developing countries. In general, studies from the developed world have yielded evidence of a strong positive correlation between IT and economic performance, as well as IT-induced changes in workforce composition in favor of highly skilled or educated workers and organizational changes that allow firms to implement IT more effectively. To maximize social returns to IT investment, policymakers in developing countries must address two key deficiencies: (1) a lack of knowledge of 'best practices' in IT usage and (2) IT-related skill deficiencies in the workforce." ROUBEN INDJIKIAN and DONALD S. SIEGEL, UNCTAD, 2005. (PDF, 20 pages.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Heading Off an Influenza Pandemic"

Full Science editorial: Holmes et al. 309 (5737): 989 (Subscription required.)

"Continual news on the outbreak status of the H5N1 subtype of influenza A virus in Southeast Asia points to one of the greatest challenges facing 21st-century society: the prediction and management of disasters. Hundreds of thousands die from influenza annually, with widespread and often devastating pandemics occurring episodically. The last flu pandemic occurred in 1968. Are we better able to mitigate the effect of a new pandemic than we were 37 years ago? Advances in science, vaccine strategies, and antiviral drugs provide this potential, but whether these can be applied in the short term in an effective global policy is not guaranteed.........

"The potential for avian H5N1 to cause a global human pandemic is presently uncertain because it cannot be predicted with current data. However, if an H5N1 pandemic does not emerge in the near term, the political will to continue the global preparations necessary for a future pandemic may falter. We cannot afford such a misstep."

Sources of Knowledge and Understanding of the Situation in Iraq

Q. Where do most people get their knowledge and understanding of current events?
A. The media. Today that media includes the blogosphere!

The question that comes to mind is how good is the knowledge and understanding that people get from the media. The following posting looks at Iraq, and the quality of the information people get about Iraq. But I think it is clear that people come to very different conclusions about Iraq depending on their fundamental political positions and the media that they chose. Thus a survey prior to the 2004 presidential election found:

72 percent of Bush supporters believed Iraq had WMDs or a program to develop them;
26 percent of Kerry supporters shared these views.

56 percent of Bush supporters believed that experts agreed that Iraq had WMDs before the war;
18 percent of Kerry supporters shared this view.

75 percent of Bush supporters believed Iraq was directly involved in 9/11 or gave Al Qaeda support;
30 percent of Kerry supporters shared these views.

26 percent of Bush supporters believed the majority of the world supported the war in Iraq, while 31 percent believed the majority opposed the war;
the figures for Kerry supporters were 5 percent and 76 percent respectively.

In the analysis, the authors ask, “why are Bush supporters holding so clinging so tightly to beliefs that have been so visibly refuted?.....one key possible explanation for why Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had WMD or a major WMD program, and supported al Qaeda is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs.”

I would suggest that the differences may also stem from the specific media to which different portions of the public attend. I worry that the gap in knowledge and understanding of the situation in Iraq between the Arab peoples, the American public, and indeed the public in other nations may continue to widen, given the different coverage in their media.

I would suggest that people expose themselves to different sources of information, and fortunately, it is now possible to do so easily via the Internet. I would also suggest that people seek out sources that study the media and its role in public policy. Some suggestions are provided below:

Two articles appeared recently on military blogging about Iraq (the better one from the current Wired magazine). There was a complementary article about Iraqi blogs. One thing that I found interesting was the difference views of the war that they provided, and the difference in those views from that of the mainstream media.

"The Blogs of War"

"Soldiers' Blogs Bring Iraq Home: On Internet Blogs, Soldiers in Iraq Offer Up Inside Story on the War"

"Iraqi Bloggers Describe Life Lived Amid Long Turmoil"

Three articles appeared in the Washington Post recently on terrorism on the web. On the one hand, they illustrate the negative potential of the technology. On the other hand, they illustrate the view of influential media in the US on the issue.

"The Web as Weapon: Zarqawi Intertwines Acts on Ground in Iraq With Propaganda Campaign on the Internet"

"e-Qaeda: The Rise of a Radical Webmaster" Briton Used Internet As His Bully Pulpit"

"Terrorists Turn to the Web as Base of Operations"

The Reporters Without Borders Iraq War website seems worthy of attention.

I have thought the difference between the coverage by Al Jazeera versus Fox news is worth exploring. The viewers of the two clearly are looking at different wars! I wonder if the differences in coverage of Iraq in these media are resulting in (irreconcilable) differences in the views of the different audiences. Some centers that might shed light on the topic are:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs

News Hounds

The Stanhope Center’s Middle East Media Research Project

The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy



My favorite non-traditional source for information on Iraq is Juan Cole’s blog:

Informed Comment

Salam Pax had the most famous blog -- "Where is Read" -- but is no longer posting to it. You can find links to it, and two others here:
I think Pax went to work for the Guardian, and was interviewed on British TV, but seems to be back in Iraq now.

Some other Iraqi Blogs:

Baghdad Burning (Riverbend)
My son likes Riverbend's blog, saying she's very passionate, very much on the ground level. And Riverbend has a book.

Raed in the Middle
This is not the Raed of “Where is Raed”. But this is the brother of Khalid (see next entry)

Tell Me a Secret
The blogger, Khalid, has a posting on his experience being arrested and interrogated this summer.

Iraq the Model
My son notes: “I've been reading through the archives, and I'm kind of struck by the strangeness of it - the author is very current in his coverage, but he also seems to be an unabashedly pro-invasion Iraqi; his links are right-wing, and . . . well, for one thing, he has a long and clearly heart-felt passage asking Cindy Sheehan to understand that this is all a good cause. It's certainly not *illegitimate* because of that, but I don't know how representative it is, either.”

Other Websites of Interest
I found this interesting:

2003 Invasion Of Iraq Media Coverage

The following seems quite good for the K-12 school level:

Critical Media Literacy in Times of War

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"African migration: Home, sweet home -- for some"

Economist.com full article (Subscription required.)

"While 70,000 South Africans are thought to have left the country in 1989-92, the estimated number ballooned to over 166,000 in 1998-2001. Some 1.4m South Africans are thought to be living in Britain alone. According to official statistics, over 16,000 highly-skilled South Africans emigrated between 1994 and 2001, but the real numbers are probably three to four times higher. Close to half of the South Africans living in rich countries have higher-education degrees.........

"The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Geneva reckons that the global stock of international migrants more than doubled in 30 years to 175m in 2000 and the African continent probably has the most mobile population in the world......

"the departure of doctors and nurses, for instance, is hitting the region hard. The British Medical Journal has reported that 23,000 of them leave Africa every year. According to some estimates, 10% of hospital doctors in Canada are South Africans, while the countries whose nurses got the most British work permits in 2001 were South Africa and Zimbabwe. The IOM says that more Ethiopian doctors are practising in Chicago than in Ethiopia........

"An increasing number of diaspora networks, such as the South African Network of Skills Abroad or the IOM's Migration for Development in Africa, are trying to foster research and exchange programmes or even business links between those who have left and those who have stayed........

"Many African expatriates also send money back to their families. The amount is a lot higher than the $4 billion officially recorded in 2002, as cash often travels in suitcases or through informal channels. For small countries, such as Cape Verde and Lesotho, remittances make up 12.5% and 26% of GDP, respectively.

"In a regional powerhouse like South Africa, the migration door swings both ways. The number of foreign students enrolled in South African universities, most of whom are from other African countries, is reckoned to have grown from 12,600 in 1994 to 35,000 in 2001. South Africa has also signed agreements with several countries, including Cuba and Germany, to lure doctors to South Africa for a specific period. New immigration rules, in force since last month, are supposed to make it easier for educated foreigners to move south, while staunching the inflow of illegal migrants; some 2m Zimbabweans are now said to be in South Africa."

"U.S. science research may lose place on cutting edge"

Full article

I quote below more extensively than usual, this very well stated argument by Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal via the Pittsburg Post Gazette.com, August 12, 2005:

"According to the National Science Foundation, the U.S. share of scientific and engineering papers (a measure of how much knowledge researchers are generating) has been on a steady decline. From almost 40 percent in 1988, the U.S. share had fallen to 30 percent by 2001 (the last year for which the count is in), and is likely even lower now. That reflects, in particular, the rising scientific output of China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
As recently as 1995, the U.S. was the top producer of scientific knowledge, with about 200,000 papers. Since then, Western Europe has sprinted past, producing almost 230,000 papers in 2001. The U.S. was stalled at 200,000. Asia graduates more science and engineering Ph.D.s than the U.S. does; Europe graduates 50 percent more.

"Unless you treat science the way the media do Olympics, with country-by-country medal counts obscuring the inspiring achievements, it's not obvious why the U.S.'s fall from dominance should cause concern, at least for patients. Ill Americans benefit from the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, invented in a lab in Belgium. The extract that formed the basis for the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor emerged from a lab in Spain. Americans don't need a passport to benefit from either.

"That more smart people around the world are making more discoveries 'portends well for the future of all humankind,' Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, argued in an editorial in Science.............

"It's one thing to lose pre-eminence, it's quite another to lose eminence, and that's where the U.S. is heading.

"Americans are rightfully proud of the research we do, but this is not the only place really great science is being done these days," says Evan Snyder of the Burnham Institute, La Jolla, Calif., a leader in stem-cell research. "Countries that never had a tradition of cutting-edge biomedical research now have an entree as a result of U.S. (stem-cell) policy. Americans are at a disadvantage in not having the opportunity to develop the technical know-how."

"One sign of how besieged he and others feel: Lab space financed with private or state money for studies that can't be legally done with federal money is called a 'safe haven.'

"Allowing a minority opinion to stifle research is only one symptom of politics undermining science. Some appointees to federal scientific advisory panels have been chosen for their ideology rather than their expertise; staffers with no research credentials alter the scientific (not only the policy) content of reports on climate change. Politicians' attacks on the science of evolution continue, even though "intelligent design" may make a fascinating lesson for a philosophy class, but is not biology.

"'This anti-scientism couldn't be more damaging to young people contemplating devoting their life to research,' says neuroscientist Ira Black, whose own stem-cell institute in New Jersey has been stalled by political red tape. 'The sense of opportunity that was always predominant in the U.S. now lies elsewhere."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Crossroads for Planet Earth

Scientific American does a special issue devoted to a single topic each September. The September 2005 issue focuses on sustainability of the earth. There are articles by people who have been leading the effort to educate the public and bring attention to the problems of sustainable devleopment: Joel Cohen on demographics; Jeffrey Sachs on the elimination of poverty; Barry Bloom on the transition from communicable to chronic diseases, Herman Daly on sustainability economics; and others. The September edition will not be available online until next month, but should be on the news stands now. It is worth considering as a keeper for your personal library.

Friday, August 12, 2005

"Africa, Canada and UK Partnering in Science for Africa: Why Africa, Canada and the UK?"

Excerpts from CIDA President Introductory Remarks at An Africa-Canada-UK Exploration: Building Science & Technology Capacity with African Partners, Canada House, London, UK. January 31, 2005.

IDS policy briefing: new directions for African agriculture

Eldis provides a summary and link to the policy briefing:

"Despite the fact that most of Africa/s poor are rural, and rely largely on agriculture for their livelihoods, African agriculture is slow-growing or stagnating, held back by low yields, poor infrastructure, environmental change, HIV and AIDS and civil conflict. However, this sweeping picture hides some important success stories. This short policy brief, based on an IDS Bulletin of the same name (see further information), asks why agriculture is contributing to poverty reduction in some places but not all." It recognizes the role of technological improvement, but highlights how social, cultural and political relations shape agricultural production, patterns of investment, the uptake of technologies and the functioning of agricultural markets.

DFID Consultations: Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation (SETI) Strategy

View the summaries of comments:

DFID is now in the process of developing a Science and Innovation Strategy. The website encourages contributions of comments, and has provided a series of questions to guide those comments. While DFID will not respond to individual submissions in detail, an external moderator is providing summaries of the submissions, which are being posted on the website every two weeks. The closing date for receipt of contributions is 19 September 2005, so the last summary should be posted by the end of September.

The summaries to date are quite interesting. The first two summaries seem to represent comments from people who know and work in the SETI field, but in my view have a rather limited view, perhaps too restricted to current trends in foreign assistance thinking.

Science and Technology Forecasting

Here are some websites for those interested in science and technology forecasting:

Identifying Critical Technologies in Industrializing Countries: Related Readings (A brief bibliography prepared by Caroline Wagner of RAND for an online discussion.)

ICSU Foresight Analysis and SPRU report on National foresight studies

The U.K. Office of Science and Technology Foresight Project

Technology Foresight Ireland

UNIDO Technology Foresight Program

The Interdisciplinary Center for Technology Analysis and Forecasting at Tel Aviv University, which has a number of online presentations, and from which you can download:

Techcast This site, based on methods developed by faculty at George Washington University and George Mason University offers many forecasts to members. Currently, a free introductory membership is offered.

The Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council

Battelle: The Business of Innovation -- Technology Forecasting

David Donnelly's Media Futures Archive

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation homepage

"The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is a not-for-profit foundation that is designed to facilitate public-private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate technologies to the resource-poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Its mission is food security and poverty reduction, and its structure and operations draw upon the best practices and resources of both the public and private sectors. In pursuing its mission, the AATF links the needs of resource-poor farmers with potential technological solutions; it acquires technologies from technology providers through royalty free licenses or agreements along with associated materials and know how for use on behalf of Africa's resource-poor farmers; it establishes partnerships with existing institutions to adapt agricultural technology to African circumstances; it ensures compliance with all laws associated with the use of these technologies; and it promotes the wide distribution of the technologies as appropriate. AATF is registered as a charity under the laws of England and Wales. It was incorporated in the United Kingdom in January 2003 and registered in Kenya, its host country, in April 2003.

"The AATF facilitates partnerships and networks that link food security, poverty reduction, market development and economic growth in ways that will change the conventional approaches employed by African producers engaged in agri-business, to make these activities sustainable over time."

This is a great idea!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Journal of Community Informatics

The Journal of Community Informatics homepage:

"Community Informatics (CI) is the study and the practice of enabling communities with Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). CI seeks to work with communities towards the effective use of ICTs to improve their processes, achieve their objectives, overcome the 'digital divides' that exist both within and between communities, and empower communities and citizens in the range of areas of ICT application including for health, cultural production, civic management, e-governance among others. The Journal of Community Informatics brings together a global range of academics, CI practitioners and national and multi-lateral policy makers. Each issue of the Journal of Community Informatics will contain double blind peer-reviewed research articles as well as commentaries by leading CI practitioners and policy makers."

Why is DFID appointing a chief scientific adviser?

Full Article for Science and Public Affairs September 2004

"Science holds out the opportunity of bringing major benefits to the poor. But for these opportunities to be seized, every country has to have working systems of government and of commerce. The Department for International Development (DFID) is determined to back both the science and systems that together can make a real difference to people's lives.

"DFID has already committed substantial resources to scientific research, and ranks as the third highest research spender among development agencies worldwide. The DFID Central Research Department spent 80 million British Pounds last year, including 30 million British Pounds on agriculture, 26 million on health, and 10 million on infrastructure. I recently announced another 30 million over three years for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research."

Some Useful e-Learning websites

Development Gateway e-Learning topic page

U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET)

California Virtual Campus: Resources

E-Learners.com: Distance Learning Resources & Articles (This website, although designed for learners, has sections that would interest many others, including: Accreditation (Find out how schools get accredited online), Research & Theory (Distance education articles & research), Journals (Distance learning journals and publications), Accrediting Agencies (U.S. Higher Education accrediting agencies), Associations (The largest distance learning associations), Higher Education (Associations and resources in higher education), Corporate Training (Organizations and resources for corporate training), K-12 Online (Online virtual high schools and other online K-12 resources) and Educational Technology (Associations and organizations in educational technology).

Education Resources Clearing Center (ERIC) (A search on e-learning yielded 472 reports.)

e-Learning Guru

Online journals

California Virtual University List of e-learning journals (This website lists scores of journals dealing with ICT in education.)

E-Learners.com: Educational Journals & Magazines (This website lists many journals, including journals published in India and Turkey.)

The following journals are more specifically inclusive of materials on and about developing nations:


The International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT)

International Journal of Learning Technology (IJLT)

Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL)

Campus-Wide Information Systems (The International Journal of Technology on Campus)

Professional Associations

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

International Technology Education Society (ITEA)


Ictdeved -- ICT in Education in Developing Countries

The Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development (APEID) ICT in Teacher Training forum

ATETEGEB TESFAYE WORKU -- Ethiopian Computer Professional, Development Worker and Miss Universe Contestant

GlobalBeauties.com - Miss Universe 2005 Special interview (La Chica Merengue photo)

"I studied computer science in college because I had a great interest in the information technology. After completing college, I took various other trainings on Computer networking, Gender and development, Small business management. I worked as a manager of an IT company for about 2 years.

"Then I worked as a volunteer for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on their yearly meeting (African Development Forum IV). I organized interviews with various government officials and international media companies such as BBC, CNN."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Food crisis 'runs across Africa'

BBC NEWS full article:

"With attention on food shortages in Niger, aid agencies say a vast hunger belt is stretching across Africa.

"People across Africa are affected, from Niger in central Africa to Somalia on the Indian Ocean seaboard.

"Latest reports from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network say over 20m people are at risk from food shortages."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


This great site documents efforts by public and private institutions and individuals to use information and communication technologies to empower the poor and combat poverty. It's primary focus is on research and project work carried out in Latin America and the Caribbean. The views expressed are those of Francisco J. Proenza, who is a well known leader in the field of ICT for Development (and his co-authors). Proenza works for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), but this is not an official website. It provides materials in English, Español, y Português.

Monday, August 08, 2005


There are a number of websites that describe themselves as "observatories", and deal with issues of science and technology. They are generally portals that contain many resources relevant to their topic of choice. Here are the ones I could find:

UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society
This portal also has links to Regional Observatories:
- Africa
- Arab States
- Asia/Pacific
- Latin America/Caribbean
- Portuguese Speaking Countries

The European Science and Technology Observatory (ESTO)

European Information Society Observatory

Netherlands Observatory of Science and Technology (NOWT)

The International Network for SMEs

The European Observatory of SMEs

The Canadian Observatory of Science and Technology

L’Observatoire des sciences et des techniques - (OST, French)

Osservatorio Filias (Italy)

Observatório da Ciência e do Ensino Superior (OCES, Portugal)

Observatorio Tecnologico Textil-confecciòn, textiles, técnicos (Spain)

Observatoire des Micro et Nanotechnologies (French)

European Observatory of Biotechnology

Anglo-German Biotech Observatory

L’Observatoire de la génétique

The Media-Educ Observatory

Antelope Consulting: Claire Milne's Affordability Page

Antelope Consulting: Affordability:

"In recent years there has been a welcome emphasis on the role of telecommunications liberalisation in promoting universal access to information and communication technologies. Less attention has been paid to ensuring universal affordability. This page lists current resources for the topic."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Vaccine Appears to Ward Off Bird Flu

Washington Post story in full

"An experimental vaccine appears to be effective against a strain of flu virus that experts fear could spark a devastating pandemic, offering the first evidence that any inoculation could provide a powerful weapon against the deadly microbe, a federal health official said yesterday.

"Two doses of the vaccine produced an immune system response potent enough to neutralize the virus in tests on 113 volunteers who were injected as part of a federally sponsored study being conducted at three U.S. universities."

Very good news, but this is not news to be over-interpreted. First, this seems to be a small test that reported anitbodies produced in response to two doses of the vaccine. It is not a demonstration of effectiveness in a population. Nor is it certain that the vaccine will be effective against the strain of the avian flu virus that will eventually emerge to threaten pandemic. And of course, vaccines don't work unless they are used to immunize people, and they don't prevent epidemics unless they are used in sufficient number of the right people at the right time. Still, this announcement means that work is progressing rapidly in a number of locations to produce what we need to avoid a pandemic!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Containing a pandemic

Economist.com Full Story:

"FOR many years, virologists have been warning that an outbreak of pandemic influenza is overdue. Unlike the seasonal version, pandemic influenza is usually severe and deadly?the result of a genetic mutation in the virus. Influenza pandemics happen from time to time. Three occurred during the 20th century. The worst was in 1918, when one-quarter of the world's population fell ill and 25m-50m people died. The strain of avian influenza (bird flu) that is currently endemic in Asia has just the characteristics that keep epidemiologists awake at night. In the past week, bird flu has also been reported in birds (and also a person) in Russia and Kazakhstan........

"Both papers conclude that between 100,000 and 3m doses of anti-viral drugs would be needed to stamp out an outbreak, if deployed within three weeks of detection of the first case and combined with household quarantine. Where the virus is more transmissible or where the pandemic emerges simultaneously in many places, the number of doses needed would be at the top of this range. To prevent the spread of disease, anti-viral drugs would also have to be given to a high proportion of people in the surrounding area (the figures include these doses).

"The papers' findings make it more urgent to complete current negotiations between Roche, the manufacturer of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and the World Health Organisation on the creation of a global stockpile that could be delivered rapidly to the source of an outbreak. David Reddy, who is in charge of pandemic preparedness at Roche, says that the firm is in advanced discussions over donating a stockpile of Tamiflu on this scale."

Friday, August 05, 2005

"Malnutrition Is Ravaging Niger's Children"

New York Times article (Registration required.)

"At Maradi, infants, some near death, and their mothers await aid provided by Doctors Without Borders. Some experts blame primitive farming and health care for the high death rate among children." Michael Kamber/Polaris, for The New York Times

"At sunset Wednesday, in an unmarked grave in a cemetery rimmed by millet fields, the men of this mud-walled village buried Baby Boy Saminou, the latest casualty of the hunger ravaging 3.6 million farmers and herders in this destitute nation.

"After Baby Boy Saminou, 16 months old, died of malnutrition at Maradi, a hospital worker lifted his body from the back of Mariama, his mother. At 16 months, he was little bigger than some newborns, with the matchstick limbs and skeletal ribs of the severely malnourished. He had died three hours earlier in the intensive care unit of a field hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, where 30 others like him still lie with their mothers on metal cots.

"One in five is dying - the result, many say, of a belated response by the outside world to a disaster predicted in detail nine months ago."

This is a terrible story, in the original sense of the word; it should strike terror! It also relates to a fundamental flaw of this blog. Knowledge and understanding are not enough. Indeed, knowing a disaster is in the making, and understanding its magnitude and how it can be prevented are no good at all, unless people actually act to prevent and mitigate that disaster!

SciDev.Net's quick guide to technology transfer

SciDev.Net: quick guide to technology transfer

SciDev.Net is introducing a new Quick Guide to Technology Transfer. Technology is (usually codified) knowledge and understanding about how to do things, and so technology transfer is a major subject of this blog, which of course deals with knowledge and understanding for development.

In her introduction to technology transfer, Eva Dantas states (correctly) that the technological knowledge that is transferred can be embodied in goods. Too often it is assumed that technology transfer is primarily embodied in machinery, which is only one form of goods. However, technology can be embodied and transferred even in the form of commodities. Take for example, anti-retroviral drugs used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. These drugs are the central element of the technology for treating the disease. Note especially, that the capacity to develop such drugs has not been transferred to Africa, nor has the capacity to manufacture the drugs. The drugs themselves embody medical technology.

On the other hand, for these drugs to be utilized well, patients and primary care practitioners have to learn when and how to use them; that means that technological knowledge has to be embodied in both the employees of the health services and their patients.

The health service organizations have to revise diagnostic and prescriptive norms, so that the drugs are prescribed in the right amounts to the right people. The pharmaceutical supply system has to be adapted to supply the drugs to where they are needed, to be available when they are needed. Indeed, the physical infrastructure of the health services may have to be modified and expanded to meet the needs for patient care involved in administering the drugs properly. These changes all might be considered as internalizing the new technology in the health service organizations.

Complementary material inputs are also needed. Thus, new diagnostic technologies (embodied in part in machines and diagnostic reagents) may have to be introduced to increase diagnostic accuracy and efficiency, and to track the evolution of the disease in individuals treated with the drugs. New information and communications technologies may have to be used to educate the public and to help manage the distribution process.

We all know how expensive it will be for the countries of Africa to supply all their HIV/AIDS patients with anti-retroviral drugs. Thus there will have to be major changes in health care financing to allow the technology transferred in the commodity of the drugs to be applied in Africa.

The point I am making is that a bundle of changes must be made as part of a technology transfer, even when that transfer at first glance seems only the acquisition of a commodity embodying the technology. Leave out any element of the bundle, and the transfer may fail, as the transfer of anti-retroviral drug technology to treat HIV/AIDS in Africa is failing for lack of funding as well as for lack of the requisite changes in organizations and human resources. Technology transfer is a complex process, too often mischaracterized as simple!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sending Pharma Better Signals

Science magazine editorial (Science Avorn 309 (5735): 669) Subscription required.

"It's time to reassess what drives the discovery of new drugs.....Patentt laws usually allow a company bringing a final product to market to keep all the marbles, often shutting out the upstream basic research on which those products are based. Those same laws also guarantee a brand-new patent to a manufacturer that makes a trivial change in an existing molecule, even if the 'new' drug has the same clinical effect. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for its part, sends forth only a weak signal........The ultimate market signal 'dollars' comes from the country's health payors. With the notable exception of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a few large health maintenance organizations, payors in both the public and private sectors willingly, if complainingly, pay for whatever doctors prescribe and companies charge, however unremarkable a drugÂ?s therapeutic value or cost-effectiveness.

"How can we change these noise-laden signals into a message that could foster more useful pharmaceutical innovation? We can start by using patent laws to increase rewards for the basic science that undergirds so much of what the industry does. Those laws could also take a more conservative view of whether a company's one-atom changes or isomerization of an existing molecule warrant monopoly protection. The FDA could require more useful and demanding pre-marketing studies and ask its advisory committees to comment on whether a newly approved drug is an important therapeutic contribution or an unremarkable addition to an already-full class. Prescribing physicians could focus more on actual clinical trial data and refuse to help sell a drug just because it has a zippy marketing campaign. And patients could learn that advertisements are not the best measure of a medicineÂ?s therapeutic value. Payors inside and outside government could make purchasing decisions based solely on critical reviews of the clinical and economic evidence."

There are new developments in the offing that will increase the importance of "getting the prices right". On the one hand, we need to finance large scale information systems to track the successes and failures of medical interventions, now that such systems are technologically possible and affordable. On the other hand, we will need to develop an entirely new medical practice using genetic and proteomic information to guide the prescription of pharmaceuticals, in order to take advantage of the advances in molecular biology.

A Modest Proposal (perhaps partially in the spirit of Jonathan Swift)

It seems to me that paying for drug discovery by providing temporary subsidies to private firms through allocation of intellectual property rights to new drugs has one thing to recommeit it -- it generates a lot of revenue for innovating firms. Existing means of increasing the buying power of consumers have disadvantages: it is very expensive to educate the consumers to buy wisely, and the public often dislikes the regimentation that comes from government operated or HMO operated health services with their formularies. Publicly financed pharmaceutical research seems to have the disadvantages that it doesn't raise enough money, and that it raises funds primarily for those efforts that gain political support which are not always the most cost-effective. While a mixed strategy seems necessary, perhaps the current balance can be improved.

Dr. Avorn's recommendations seem quite reasonable. Let me also suggest that special purpose taxes be considered, such as taxes on health care and pharmaceuticals that would be set aside specifically for biomedical research and development. Patents given for pharmaceuticals represent something like "tax financing" for pharmaceutical R&D, and reforms of the patent law to reduce the government-imposed-monopoly subsidies might allow a "revenue neutral" direct tax on pharmaceuticals. If the patents on "me-too" drugs and drugs with questionable efficacy could be reduced, and the revenue directed to R&D on vaccines and drpreventiveventative properties, we might all benefit. Indeed, if the high-priced, long-term medical care for chronic conditions could be taxed, and the funds used for R&D on interventions to prevent the need for such care, we might also be much better off!

India constitutes a knowledge commission

OneWorld South Asia News release:

"The Prime Minister has constituted the National Knowledge Commission. Shri Sam Pitroda will be Chairperson and Dr P.M. Bhargava will be Vice-Chairperson. The Members of the Commission will be Shri Nandan Nilekani, Dr. Deepak Nayyar, Shri Ashok Ganguly, Dr. Andre Beteille, Dr. Jayati Ghosh and Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

"The Commission will advise the Prime Minister on matters relating to institutions of knowledge production, knowledge use and knowledge dissemination. The mandate of the Commission is to sharpen India's 'knowledge edge'."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Calling All Luddites

New York Times Op-Ed column by Thomas Friedman (Registration required.)

"I've been thinking of running for high office on a one-issue platform: I promise, if elected, that within four years America will have cellphone service as good as Ghana's. If re-elected, I promise that in eight years America will have cellphone service as good as Japan's, provided Japan agrees not to forge ahead on wireless technology. My campaign bumper sticker: 'Can You Hear Me Now?'"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ministerial Round Table --The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever for Development

Ministerial Round Table program:

A Ministerial Round Table will be held in conjunction with the UNESCO General Conference, at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 13-14 October 2005. It is to "provides a forum for an exchange of views and a political debate between high-level decision-makers on the challenges to be taken on by the basic sciences in their service to society and on actions to be taken by governments and the scientific community in order to build up an adequate capacity in the basic sciences and assure their use as a lever for development."

The Impact of Mobile Phones - Summary...

Vodafone website for the report

From the Summary: "Mobile telephony has a positive and significant impact on economic growth, and this impact may be twice as large in developing countries as in developed countries. A developing country which has an average of 10 more mobile phones per 100 population between 1996 and 2003 had 0.59 percent higher GDP growth than an otherwise identical country. Fixed and mobile communications networks, in addition to the openness of the economy, the level of GDP and other infrastructure, are positively linked with Foreign Direct Investment into Africa and the impact of mobile telecommunications has grown in recent years." By Diane Coyle, Leonard Waverman, Meloria Meschi, Mark Williams, Dominic Waughray, and James Goodman, The Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 2, March 2005. The full summary is found on the linked page, and the full paper can be downloaded as a 69 page PDF document.