Links & Contents I Liked 249

Hi all,

If you happen to be in Tallinn, Estonia early next week, I'd love to catch up at and around the DigitalisingDevelopment event which I will be attending!

In other news:

Development news:
Can robots take over garment-making? South Africa's development vision beyond growth; Kenya's election observer industry; the fake Brazilian surfing war photographer; India's Aadhaar biometric program; how to change the hierarchy of suffering? Fashion from Ghana; a level playing field for African tech innovation; geeze Louise (Linton)! ODA modernization.

Our digital lives:
Are nonprofit news sites preaching to the choir? Platform capitalism & the young; panel anxiety & diversity.

Social media & violence reporting; cash transfers plus.

IRB nightmares; de-/re-valuing work in China.


New from aidnography

Reading #Harvey through a #globaldev lens
This post now features some interesting updates!

Development news
A new t-shirt sewing robot can make as many shirts per hour as 17 factory workers

For now, SoftWear Automation only sells its automated t-shirt work line in the US. Santora says the company needed to start local because it would be too difficult to service all its technology if it opened up internationally. They still need time to scale. (The home-goods robot is already available internationally.) But if foreign firms, like Tianyuan Garments Company, want to produce in the US, SoftWear Automation is happy to supply them with their sewbots.
Marc Bain for Quartz. As careful as one has to be when tech sites report the disruption of an industry primarily based on one company, this is a glimpse into the future; the question of how low-skilled workers at the periphery will continue to participate in the global economy is going to be one of the biggest challenge for our generation as 'work 4.0' unravels.

Obsession with growth won’t help South Africa’s economic recovery

Not enough attention has been given to job creation. The South African economy has for a very long time experienced jobless economic growth. This meant that the country’s jobless rate remained stubbornly high for many years. Recent figures of unemployment touching 27.7% are indeed worrying. Youth unemployment is said to be 52%. Any plan that addresses only economic growth without the creation of job opportunities will be found wanting.
The South African government’s priority should be to boost employment, by focusing on sectors that can easily generate jobs. I welcome the suggestion to boost the small, medium and micro-enterprises sector by giving them a share in public procurement. Small enterprises have been recognised for their potential to aid sustainable economic development and to create jobs.
The plan does not give details of overhauling the most important sectors of the economy: mining and agriculture. These sectors are key to generating growth and employment and can be used to drive economic transformation and empower communities that are at the margins of the economy.
Mohammad Amir Anwar for The Conversation with a view from South Africa and similar questions of how 'sustainable development' can look like in a future of jobless growth and many challenges for young, low-skilled men.

Kenyan court ruling puts ‘election observer industry’ in a tight spot

“I think with this ruling, the Supreme Court has redeemed itself.”
The same, unfortunately cannot be said for international election observers, according to Wanyeki. “It shows there’s a problem with the election observer industry. They focus too much on the pre-electoral process and the process of voting. The problems are always with the counting and the tallying. They don’t focus on that enough, they don’t have the resources to look into that,” she explained.
“I feel a real anger about the way they treat us. I’ve had diplomats say to my face that, speaking in the light of history, this election was an improvement [from past elections]. I’m sorry we do not live in history, we live in the here and now and we have a right to free and fair elections,” said Wanyeki. “Their attitude in condescending, neocolonial and by saying things are improving, they’re treating us like small children. Hopefully this ruling is like egg on their face.”
Leela Jacinto for France24. A lot has been written on the Kenyan supreme court ruling, but I think we need to discuss traditional election observing further; in the age of the Internet and more sophisticated ways of influencing elections traditional notions of showing up at the polling station may become increasingly outdated. So what could election observing 3.0 look like?

Brazil 'surfing war photographer' Eduardo Martins exposed as fake

In between trips to Mosul in Iraq, the Syrian city of Raqqa under the control of so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Gaza Strip, Eduardo Martins enjoyed surfing.
He shared glimpses of his life with his almost 125,000 Instagram followers.
Until it all came crumbling down when a BBC Brasil investigation found out that Eduardo Martins was a completely fictitious character.
For years, someone using that name had been stealing pictures taken by professional photographers who had risked their lives in conflict to get them.
Eduardo Martins fooled journalists and picture editors by making slight alterations to the images, such as inverting them, just enough to elude software that scans pictures for plagiarism.
The BBC with a story about a fake war photographer with a life story too good to be true...

The Privacy Battle Over the World's Largest Biometric Database

Despite these implementation challenges, the scariest parts about the program for privacy advocates are its ubiquity and lax security. According to the technology engineer Anand Venkatanarayanan, when biometric information is used to access a service via Aadhaar, such as purchasing a new cell phone, the service provider receives that person’s demographic data (name, address, phone number), and the government receives the metadata—specifically, the date and time of the transaction, the form of identification used, and the company with which the transaction was carried out. That information can paint a fuzzy but intimate long-term picture of a person’s life, and raises concerns about both government surveillance and private-sector abuse.
Over the last few years, Russia, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria have all expressed interest in the Aadhaar program, and according to reports, representatives from Tanzania, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh recently visited India to learn more about implementing an Aadhaar system of their own.
Namrata Kolachalam for The Atlantic with a report from India and insights into their biometric database program.

Does the Data Security Risk of a Billion Indians Handing Over Biometric Information Outweigh the Benefits?

Instead, ordinary Indians are more focused on how Aadhaar has changed their lives. “I think it’s a good idea because before this, my two children and I had no identification, no passport, only a ration card,” says Anita Pereira, a domestic helper from the city of Pune. “The Aadhaar card supports so many things—if I want to do a passport, go to the bank, book a railway ticket.”The Aadhaar card has allowed millions to finally be included into the formal economy. They can now open a bank account, borrow money from the Reserve Bank of India (the country’s largest lender), send and receive remittances, and purchase SIM cards. It’s also enabled mobile payments and other cashless transactions, crucial in light of last year’s disastrous demonetization drive
Sandy Ong for Newsweek also writes about Aadhaar, highlighting benefits as well as stressing the unclear legal framework around it.

Editorial: We must topple the hierarchy of suffering

Our problems are not restricted to shrinking ad revenues, rapacious duo-polies and dwindling circulation. One of our biggest problems is our inability to tell the story of the person in Freetown calling the names of her relatives across the debris in such a way that she is heard as loudly as US First Lady Melania Trump in stilettos at the scene of a hurricane.
Our thoughts are with all the victims of flooding and mudslides in Texas, in Sierra Leone, in Niger, in Yemen, in South Asia. And our thoughts are also with all those whose suffering will never truly be acknowledged because the rest of the world has failed to realise humanity as a unified entity.
We need to talk about the multiple biases underpinning these inconsistencies. But it is not enough to talk. We must demand better of our media, of our governments, our aid agencies, ourselves.
An editorial from the Mail & Guardian raises interesting questions about the role of (South) African media in the global media landscape and how 'distant voices' can be heard in the global news mainstream.

We don’t need white tech saviours in Africa – we need a level playing field

And there were many innovators at TED. Bright young things whose eyes glistened as they spoke about how they were “excited and humbled” by the opportunity to help. It was all very virtuous, and all very useful, so why was my pulse throbbing in my temple?
What sat so uncomfortably with me was that not only does the narrative of the white saviour in Africa seem untarnished, it is now celebrated as the entrepreneur creates much-needed jobs, solves seemingly intractable problems and is clad in a T-shirt and not a dog collar. Our wide-eyed adoration ignores that success is only partly down to ambition and graft. There are cultural and economic impediments for the African innovator.
The economics are fairly obvious. As the journalist and author Aimee Groth wrote in 2015: “Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk – they come from families with money.” Access to capital, and to the collateral to put up, makes all the difference. The cultural explanation is, as always, far more nuanced, but equally debilitating. I suspect it to be pan-African, but can only speak for the parts of south, west and east Africa where I’ve lived. There, I’ve seen a system that privileges everything foreign and white.
Eliza Anyangwe for The Guardian on TED talks, white saviors and tech innovations that are still dominated by Silicon Valley discourses.

The social media fashion mogul from Ghana

Louise Linton Somehow Manages to Make It Worse

In the interview accompanying the photo spread, Linton offers a compelling apology. She takes all the blame onto herself, she says she learned her lesson, she says she’s growing as a human being. She pauses, “overcome with emotion.” She realizes the irony of apologizing while wearing a ball gown. She’s not a spoiled rich girl lording her wealth over others as though it imbues her with moral superiority; she’s a sweatpants girl! A nearby caption reads, “Louise Linton, seen here in her living room, wears the Easton halter neck trumpet gown with exaggerated bow back detail by Ines de Santo.” That particular line of dresses tends to cost from the upper-four to lower-five figures.
Erin Gloria Ryan for Daily Beast is not a Louise Linton fan ;)!

Changing the rules of aid: understanding ODA modernisation

This animated presentation provides an overview of the drivers behind aid reform and what the process and timelines for change look like. It also presents a summary of key changes expected, and introduces some of the implications for policy and practice, and for anyone who works with ODA data.
Development Alternatives with a great video-highly recommended to students (and in all fairness I also learned 1 or 2 things about the ODA reporting jungle...).

Our digital lives
Are nonprofit news sites just creating more content for elites who already read a lot of news?
But I think the larger problem remains: Are they going to use that foundational support to figure out ways to extend their reach to new audiences and to audiences that aren’t already getting a lot of high-quality news? I think that’s one of the big questions.
Laura Hazard Owen talks to Rodney Benson for Nieman Lab. A vital discussion for those 'communicating development' and wondering what the future of development or humanitarian journalism can be beyond 'preaching to the choir' in the well-known niches of the Guardian, NPR or IRIN...

Trust, Technology and The Young

Platform capitalism is restructuring labour markets and social relations in such as ways that opting out from it is becoming an option available only to a privileged few. Moreover, we found teenagers whose parents prohibited them from using social platforms often felt socially isolated and stigmatised. In the real world of messy social reality, platforms can’t continue offload their responsibilities to parents and schools. We need some solutions fast because, by tacitly accepting the terms and conditions of platform capitalism – particularly when it tells us it is not responsible for the harms its business model facilitates – we may be now passing an event horizon where these companies are becoming too powerful, unaccountable, and distant from our local reality.
Huw Davies for iai on the challenges of resisting platform capitalism when there are teenagers around...

Panel anxiety & diverse representation

We managed to bring in our own examples of ensuring that diverse perspectives and backgrounds exist in our work, both in front of and behind the lens. We also delved into the essential benefits of working with cast and crew members of all orientations, genders, cultural backgrounds and abilities. In my own work, this is extremely important when working in local cultural contexts, or with vulnerable women and children, just to give a few examples. Wherever possible, I believe we should be working with local crews and supporting women in the industry— not only because they have greater knowledge and access, but also because we can then invest in more meaningfully developing those ecosystems.
Keeya-Lee Ayre shares her reflections on diverse panels and meaningful engagement at conferences, workshops or other public speaking opportunities.

Assessing the Role of Social Media and Digital Technology in Violence Reporting

This paper assesses the role of social media and digital technologies in the reporting of violent events, and evaluates their relative strengths and weaknesses as compared to other means available. It seeks to understand how social media and digital technology data are collated, how reliable the data are, and what practical and ethical issues are associated with their collection and use.
Tony Roberts and Gauthier Marchais with a new IDS Working Paper.

How to Make ‘Cash Plus’ Work: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors

Such initiatives have thereby addressed some of the non-financial and structural barriers that poor people face and have reinforced the positive effects of cash transfer programmes. In design of such programmes, further attention should be paid to the constraints faced by the most vulnerable and how such constraints can be overcome. We conclude with recommendations regarding the provision of complementary support and cross-sectoral linkages based on lessons learned from the case studies. More research is still needed on the impact of the many variations of ‘cash plus’ programming, including evidence on the comparative roles of individual ‘plus’ components, as well as the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour pathways which influence these impacts.
Keetie Roelen, Stephen Devereux, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai, Bruno Martorano, Tia Palermo and Luigi Peter Ragno with a new paper for UNICEF-Innocenti featuring vase studies from Chile, Ethiopia and Ghana.

My IRB Nightmare

I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. It’s everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.
Bureaucracy in science does the same thing: limit the field to big institutional actors with vested interests. No amount of hassle is going to prevent the Pfizer-Merck-Novartis Corporation from doing whatever study will raise their bottom line. But enough hassle will prevent a random psychiatrist at a small community hospital from pursuing his pet theory about bipolar diagnosis. The more hurdles we put up, the more the scientific conversation skews in favor of Pfizer-Merck-Novartis. And the less likely we are to hear little stuff, dissenting voices, and things that don’t make anybody any money.
Scott Alexander for Slate Star Codex. An interesting story about the bureaucratization of higher education and research (just like in any other industry really) and how well-intended ideas may stifle small-scale innovation, yet may indirectly support big players that have (unlimited) resources to jump through administrative hoops...

Devaluing Human Labor

This radical reduction in wages has been justified by claims that transportation is a deskilled profession and that service providers are merely acting as extensions of technologies (such as GPS navigation and customer-driver pairing algorithms). However, I found in my research on the ride-sharing industry in China that such characterizations are misleading. Firstly, ride-sharing services depend upon the knowledge, skills, and social relations of drivers. After joining the platform, drivers learn which smartphones work best with the app and which telecommunication networks offer the most reliable service in the areas that they operate. They develop strategies for making customers happy and boosting their user ratings. The drivers form online communities to share tacit knowledge about things like earning subsidies and promotions and avoiding getting caught by the police in places where the app is still illicit. Though these processes of enskillment, knowledge-making, and socialization often go unacknowledged by ride-sharing firms, they constitute an indispensable human infrastructure that enables the smooth functioning of technological platforms.
Shuang Frost for the Society for East Asian Anthropology. I am not entirely sure whether I share her enthusiasm of a bright, capitalist future-present in China, but definitely interesting food for thought!


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