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Let's make it short and sweet:
Happy Friday! Enjoy lots of interesting readings on development, ICT4D, detoxing your tech mind & decolonize our thinking!

New from aidnography

The development blogging crisis

So is development blogging dead then – and is it about shorter attention spans, the rise of videos or podcasts - or perhaps something about men?
Development news
Senior UN figures under investigation over alleged sexual harassment

Three alleged victims said they had lost their jobs, or been threatened with termination of contract, after reporting sexual harassment or assault. Two cited concerns with investigations, and said there had been errors in transcripts, or that key witnesses had not been interviewed. Alleged perpetrators were allowed to remain in senior positions – with the power to influence proceedings – throughout investigations.
Rebecca Ratcliffe for the Guardian continues coverage of #aidtoo.

The Red Cross Helped an Executive Get a Job at Save the Children After Forcing Him Out For Sexual Harassment

Save the Children has a reputation in the industry for in-depth background checks. The group said its recruiter conducted interviews and background checks on Anderson, as well as receiving the positive reference from the Red Cross.
Save the Children said there have been no allegations of misconduct about Anderson during his time there. Anderson has since been promoted and is now associate vice president of humanitarian response.
For many years, the aid industry has been beset by scandals in which workers committed sexual abuse against vulnerable people in war and disaster zones. But it wasn’t until recently that the industry began to look inward at the problem of harassment and violence by staffers against other staffers.
Justin Elliott & Ariana Tobin for ProPublica. There have been similar cases in academia and among the many noteworthy issues is always how complicit the US legal system is when it comes to fears of lawsuits or non-disclosure agreements that often protect perpetrators.

For the First Time in History, There is Full Gender Parity in the Top Leadership of the United Nations

There are forty-four most senior positions in the United Nations system, excluding the Secretary General himself.
As of this week, twenty three are held by women.
On Tuesday, Nahla Valji, the UN senior advisor for gender equality, announced on Twitter that half of the 44 members of the Secretary General’s Senior Management Group are women. Full gender parity among this group had been achieved.
Mark Goldberg for UN Dispatch with some good news from UN leadership.

Dutiful dirges of Davos
They are loath to pay a living wage, but they will fund a philharmonic orchestra. They will ban unions, but they will organize a workshop on transparency in government.
So in a year, they will be back in Davos and perhaps a new record in dollar wealth per square foot will be achieved, but the topics, in the conference halls and on the margins, will be again the same. And it will go on like this…until it does not.
As the meetings in Davos are wrapping up, Branko Milanovic's short post is among the clearest critique I have read this week.

The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem

For years, in determining this spending, the needs of poor Americans (or poor Europeans) have received little priority relative to the needs of Africans or Asians. As an economist concerned with global poverty, I have long accepted this practical and ethical framework. In my own giving, I have prioritized the faraway poor over the poor at home.
Angus Deaton for the New York Times has provoked a lot of discussions as to how poorly worded his piece was in terms of arguing for cutting foreign aid in favor of spending the money domestically. We discussed this on Twitter as well:

Volkswagen to start Rwanda car assembly in May
“We are trying to break this thought-pattern that Africa is poor; they can’t afford (new) cars,” he told a news conference.
Volkswagen will produce three models; the Hatchback Polo, the Passat and possibly the Teramont, a large sports utility vehicle, it said in a statement.
The carmaker said it had registered a local company to run its ride-sharing service and signed up a local software firm to develop a smartphone application to hail rides.
Global ride-sharing companies such as Uber have not yet moved into Rwanda.
Volkswagen said 500-1,000 jobs would be created in the first phase of the investment, including the drivers of the first batch of cars for the ride-hailing service.
Clement Uwiringiyimana for Reuters. Manufacturing is moving to Africa and so is the car-driven discourse of growth that will clog cities and foster a replication of the same transport mistake 'the West' did decades ago...

Aid agencies rethink personal data as new EU rules loom

Under the new law, the General Data Protection Regulation, individuals in the EU can demand to know what data an organisation holds on them and why, and insist on removal or changes. It also puts particular limits on the use of biometric data, like fingerprints or eye scans. The legislation sets up stringent standards and imposes severe fines.
But it’s not just European aid agencies that will need to get up to speed quickly on data protection. A wide range of interviews conducted by IRIN confirms that, as it lays down standards for transferring personal information into and out of Europe, the GDPR will push most international aid organisations and non-profits to change as well.
Ben Parker for IRIN continues important coverage on data, privacy and its implications for the aid industry.

Has global development reached 'peak blockchain hype?'

“Blockchain is being thrown around like mHealth was five or six years ago … No one seems to really understand it, but everyone wants in,” said James Michiel, mHealth innovation lead at University of California Davis. “When will ‘methodically designed interventions using proven technology with a clear plan for sustainability’ be the new buzzword?” he asked.
Kelli Rogers for DevEx blockchain as the new black...

The controversial Silicon Valley-funded quest to educate the world’s poorest kids

It’s hard to tell how much of the controversy surrounding Bridge arises from entrenched players feeling threatened (which they clearly do), and how much stems from Bridge being single-minded about its mission to the detriment of its own cause—a familiar malady in Silicon Valley. Part of the conflict is the model itself: To scale, it needs a highly replicable approach like scripted learning. But automating such a large part of teaching is necessarily fraught.
Some argue that Bridge is simply being punished for being a first mover in an institutionally conservative space. “I have an affinity for Bridge and I will scream that from the mountaintop,” said Gbovadeh Gbilia, head of the education delivery unit, set up to continue the implementation of the education ministry’s reforms with the new administration (Liberia just elected a new president). “When you want to do something first—an innovation, something disruptive—and you are the first entry, you get the biggest hit.”
Jenny Anderson for Quartz with a long-read on Bridge academies.

School has laptops but no desks and classrooms in West Pokot, Kenya

“We have been forced to lock the gadgets in a cupboard since we cannot expose them to dust. Moreover, how will the pupils operate the laptops with no desks?” he posed.
Chomil said the school had only three classrooms which were incomplete and also too dusty. The other mud-walled structures are in decrepit state.
Irissheel Shanzu for the Standard with an educational reality check from rural Kenya.

Drama out of crisis: how theatre and improv teach lessons in sexual consent

Improsexual work with an eclectic mix of scientists, magicians and actors. The audience are asked to suggest titles, themes and answers to questions such as “What do you most want to know about sex, but are afraid to ask?” The narratives of the shows are then formed from their responses. After a magic show, a health presentation and three short sketches, a presenter takes to the stage to discuss the stories, clarify uncertainties and promote safe and consensual sex.
Because of the company’s unique approach to education, Urbina says the number of consultations in local sexual health clinics has “increased significantly”. The productions have proved popular with teenagers: “Some like it so much that they come to watch the plays several times.”
Kate Wyver for the Guardian on innovative theater for development collaborations between Malawi and the UK.

Five questions you need to ask yourself if you (want to) work in international development

And that feeling of powerlessness is what greases the machine. So ask yourself: What is one thing, however small, I can do today to throw a bit of sand in the eyes of the colonial zombie?
Then, get louder. Break the silence, name what no-one else around you is naming and give others the space and encouragement to do so, too.
Then, get bolder. Break the rules of this game that we all play so well.
Agnes Otzelberger on how to get started in the aid industry with a decolonized mindset.

This is How Photographers Stage Scenes to Win Prizes

Ahad then shared the video to his Facebook page, pointing to it as an example of how prizing-hunting photographers have been descending upon Bangladesh during major annual Muslim holidays in recent years to try and capture award-winning “photojournalism”.
“For the last couple of years, during the Bishwa Ijtema and Eid al-Adha time, there are hundreds of Malaysian and Chinese tourists carting cameras and doing things,” Ahad tells PetaPixel. “They are all around making images and ruining things for professional photographers.”
Michael Chang for PetaPixel on the invasion of 'photo journalists' in Bangladesh.

Why it’s time for visual journalism to include a solutions focus

Another thing that needs to be done in any discussion of the purpose and impact of photographs is to think about the journalistic frame in which they appear. Often that frame is negative and focused only on problems. In this article, I want to argue that it is time for visual journalism to more thoroughly incorporate a “constructive journalism” or “solutions journalism” approach into its way of working. I will be arguing that this approach can provide better reports and significantly help the level of audience engagement with difficult stories.
David Campbell for witness on how visual journalism needs to participate in debates on solutions journalism.

Our digital lives
‘Never get high on your own supply’ – why social media bosses don’t use social media
If this is the case, then social media executives are simply following the rule of pushers and dealers everywhere, the fourth of the Notorious BIG’s Ten Crack Commandments: “Never get high on your own supply.”
“Many tech titans are very, very careful about how they privately use tech and how they allow their kids to use it and the extent to which they allow their kids access to screens and various apps and programs,” says Alter. “They will get up on stage, some of them, and say things like: ‘This is the greatest product of all time,’ but then when you delve you see they don’t allow their kids access to that same product.”
Alex Hern for the Guardian with one of the better pieces on social media, attention and addiction.

Publications

Essays from the edge of humanitarian innovation: Year in Review 2017

So what will the future of big data analysis and AI bring for the humanitarian field? In my view, we should imagine a future where we have understood how to augment (and not replace) the human condition by leveraging technology. Data-driven benefits can certainly help reduce inequality. This will require a new research agenda where scientists and technology companies work to solve problems that apply to a wider range of social groups and that include the 17 global goals we have vowed to achieve by 2030. To serve humanitarian practitioners, the current deep learning revolution should pay increased attention to methodologies that can work in data-scarce environments, that can learn quickly with few examples and in unknown crisis scenarios, and that are able to work with incomplete or missing data (eg. “one-shot-learning”).
A new UNHCR report.

Development Implications of Digital Economies

Apart from the lack of reliable or comparative statistics, the lack of critical and Africa-specific academic research also severely constrains both the macro-and micro-level understanding of the desirability, dynamics, promise and means to elevate digital labour into a means for development. Although the overall macro-level barriers and issues to leveraging digital labour have been enumerated and are widely understood, ways of addressing these through theoretical contingency models or pragmatic policy recommendations relevant to specific country contexts have not been forthcoming. At the micro-level, we have an even larger knowledge gap and our little empirical data is almost purely anecdotal; often biased by the researchers’ objectives.
Jean-Paul van Belle & Selina Mudavanhu for the Centre for Development Informatics with a new working paper.

Academia

Online Courses Are Harming the Students Who Need the Most Help

Online education is still in its youth. Many approaches are possible, and some may ultimately benefit students with deep and diverse needs. As of now, however, the evidence is clear. For advanced learners, online classes are a terrific option, but academically challenged students need a classroom with a teacher’s support.
Susan Dynarsk for the New York Times with a reminder about digital inequalities in the classroom.

Thinking, researching and writing Africa: insights from Nigeria’s Tutuola

Convivial scholarship confronts and humbles the challenge of over-prescription, over-standardisation and over-prediction. It is critical and evidence-based. It is a scholarship that sees the local in the global and the global in the local. It brings them into informed conversations, conscious of the hierarchies and power relations at play at both the micro and macro levels of being and becoming.
Like Tutuola’s universe, convivial scholarship challenges us – however grounded we may be in our disciplines and their logics of practice – to cultivate the disposition to be present everywhere at the same time. It’s a scholarship that cautions disciplines, their borders and gatekeepers to open up and embrace differences.
Francis Nyamnjoh for The Conversation on the Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola.

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