Links & Contents I Liked 333

Hi all,

Returning from the summer break with link review #333 must be a lucky sign :) !
The picture of Moyland Castle in Germany has nothing to do with #globaldev & is merely a proof that I took a break ;)!

As in previous years, I will not make an attempt to 'catch up' with all the stuff that has happened over the last few weeks.
A few interesting posts and documents have caught my eye, though, and I am including them with a date attached to it so you can judge how relevant they still are and which discussions have evolved, disappeared etc.

I was also quite selective and don't want to share an overwhelming amount of readings as many are returning from breaks or are preparing for the autumn...

My quotes of the week

If this bill passes, then people like me will become undocumented in their own country, facing legal and civic death, and forced to exist at the margins. Eventually, our resistance might break and we may be compelled to register. But that will not be a choice at all - how does one choose between legal erasure or being commodified as data to be sold to the highest bidder?
(Kenya's Huduma: Data commodification and government tyranny)

In other words, WhatsApp can amplify and complement a candidate’s ground campaign. But it cannot replace it.

(WhatsApp played a big role in the Nigerian election. Not all of it was bad)

What if these tools are combined with relationship, deliberation, reflection, fragility, acceptance, self-determination, openness, collaboration, courage, joy, and revolutionary love? What if we completely let go of “convincing” and using enthusiasm to attract people? What if we only share information within context and within a conversation?
It’s time for nonprofits to reimagine communications in a hyper-connected world)

Their working class realities are un-marketable in this new opulent culture of influence. Just last week, an older feminist shared with shock about how unsisterly she found the new wave of activist influencers—impatient, confident yet also self-absorbed, and it seems unable to handle the generosity required to build flesh and blood community.
(The age of the influencer)


New from aidnography

Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa (10 July)

Doing in-kind donations well requires a lot of effort-and they should definitely not be sent to 'Africa'!
But just to go back to the beginning: Do not send stuff to charities that are planning to distribute it in 'Africa' (or other parts of the world that are far away from Europe...). 
Development news
Thank you for all of your support. Onward. (31 July)

We have created beautiful work that has deeply questioned what it means to do good. We've had real impact with some of our stories, like getting an ICE policy changed that reunited over a thousand undocumented families. We've won four journalism awards, including a National Edward R. Murrow award for excellence in writing. Our stories have been part of philanthropic funding decisions. We've helped students think through how they can best make a difference in the world.
I'm also so deeply thankful for the audience we've built, of curious and globally-minded people who hail from all corners of the world. My heart and inbox have been overwhelmed with the messages I've been getting in response to announcing our closure on social media.
One of my favorite #globaldev & solution journalism projects shut down...Sarika Bansal & the team at Bright Magazine did an amazing job and they definitely had an impact on my teaching and the non-academic readings I have recommended to students!

American With No Medical Training Ran Center For Malnourished Ugandan Kids. 105 Died (9 Aug)

She says she agreed to help the children. And before long she came to feel that this was God's plan for her: turn the house into a center where malnourished children and their mothers could live while the youngsters recuperated — complete with free rations of the special foods they would need, the medicines doctors had prescribed and lessons for the mothers on nutrition ... and the Bible.
In early 2010 Bach posted a blog entry titled "Here we go!" Her nutrition center was up and running.
Nurith Aizenman & Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda helped to get one of this summer's biggest and saddest stories into the #globaldev media mainstream. Although their approach to the story received some critical feedback, tough discussions about the work of white, particularly American missionaries, saviors will remain with us for the foreseeable future...

EXCLUSIVE: UN probe finds Sudan staff member solicited bribes from refugees (16 Aug)
UNHCR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told The New Humanitarian in an email that the probe, which began early last year, has now concluded and that the staff member in question has been on administrative leave without pay since 15 March.
“The case has been referred to the Division of Human Resources in accordance with the process for disciplinary action,” Pouilly noted. “We expect the disciplinary process to be finalised soon.”
Witnesses who gave testimony during the investigation told TNH this week that they believe UNHCR’s conclusion downplays the pervasiveness of corruption within the Khartoum office. All of the witnesses asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“[There is] not just one criminal. This type of crime does not work with one person,” said one refugee. “There is so much going on, from [the] reception to [the] senior protection officer.”
Sally Hayden for the New Humanitarian with a case of miscoduct at UNHCR Sudan's operation that raises more questions about the pervasiveness of corruption.

Greed and Graft at U.N. Climate Program
(14 Aug)

For Ershov and others, the donors’ reaction was a depressing reminder that rooting out corruption was a low priority.
“There are rich countries which are sending huge amounts of money to provide this support” for environmental programs, Pashyk said. “In the end, this money disappears like water in the sand.”
Colum Lynch & Amy Mackinnon for Foreign Policy with excellent reporting from inside UNDP in Russia...

Kenya’s primary school laptops project failed (15 Aug)

This project was bound to fail for the following reasons:
It would be extremely costly to run the project. This was actually going to cost more than all the other costs associated with free primary education currently offered by the government.
Lack of skilled personnel to run the program was a major hindrance. Most of the teachers were not very computer literate, and a one week training by the government would not make them experts, when the children they were supposed to teach could easily outdo them in using smartphones and tablets. The content was also not ready and it delayed the launch for a quite a long time
The priorities were wrong from the beginning. Schools lack teachers, classrooms, connection to the grid, and in some places, there are no schools! It is also common for children to drop out of school due to lack of books or even food.
Lack of requisite infrastructure. Only 10% of schools were connected to the grid, while 50% were far away from the national grid. Schools also lacked the facilities to safely store the devices, considering the many cases of school break-ins where books were being stolen.
Lack of support mechanism when technology failed. This left both teachers and learners stranded, and often having to wait for long to receive technical support.
Jacob Mugendi for iAfrikan. Unfortunately, this article almost reads like a manual on how to set up a flawed large-scale ICT4D project...

Driving Nepal deeper into debt (16 Aug)

And the irony of it all is that the SUVs are driving along roads that are in advanced stages of disrepair because the money has all gone for expensive cars.
Though the government has been slow to provide development and service delivery, vehicle-related expenses have grown six-fold since 2013. The federal government is the biggest spender: provincial governments accounted for just Rs20 million spent on cars in the past three years.
Ramesh Kumar for the Nepali Times. This is a small story, but at the same time an interesting reminder about car-/SUV-centric transportation and (lack of) infrastructure in an age of Greta Thunberg setting sails...

Are we suffering from obsessive measurement disorder? (15 Aug)

Recognising when we have gone beyond useful monitoring and it now significantly undermines the implementation;
Developing strategic, targeted monitoring and evaluation systems that focus on essential data needs. Guidance papers such as Ten reasons not to measure impact – and what to do instead can be helpful in thinking through when something is not needed or feasible;
Building structured opportunities for joint sense-making and learning in programmes, with room to make changes based on this analysis. While doing this, we should draw in insights from behavioural science to mitigate against the most common biases in decision-making (e.g. how to avoid ‘group think’, how people are influenced by their previous experiences and the effects of polarised political contexts);
Having honest (and yes, difficult) conversations with donors to see whether there’s room to scale back from excessive monitoring and oversight requirements and focus on what is really needed and useful. Let’s start by deleting ‘nice to have’ indicators and prioritise ‘must haves’ – keeping a few that donors need but otherwise concentrating on those needed to make programme improvements.
Tiina Pasanen for fp2p on how the #globaldev community is focusing a bit too much on data and measuring stuff...I also complained on Twitter that I don't like Duncan's use of Dilbert cartoons in fp2p posts...

Head to Head: Biometrics and Aid (17 July)

Privacy advocates are concerned there isn’t yet enough research to prove the efficacy or necessity of biometrics, worrying about keeping the details of vulnerable people safe.
Aid agencies argue the new technology can make sure aid gets where it is supposed to go, and could even make it easier to pick up assistance. After all, you don’t have to keep track of an ID card that entitles you to aid when an iris scan does the job.
Linda Raftree & Karl Steinacker for the New Humanitarian.
Really good overview over the debates, very nicely presented 'head to head'!

Kenya's Huduma: Data commodification and government tyranny
(6 Aug)

The bill also provides for the collection wide variety of biometric data, including "fingerprint, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, toe impression, voice waves, blood typing, photograph, or such other biological attributes of an individual obtained by way of biometrics." With the phrase "other biological attributes", the text technically leaves the door open for the collection of DNA data, contrary to the court's directive.
If this bill passes, then people like me will become undocumented in their own country, facing legal and civic death, and forced to exist at the margins. Eventually, our resistance might break and we may be compelled to register. But that will not be a choice at all - how does one choose between legal erasure or being commodified as data to be sold to the highest bidder?
Christine Mungai for Al-Jazeera with a powerful example of what the 'data' discourse means for Kenyans & the far-reaching implications for digital ID structures.

The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa (18 July)

The question of technologization and digitalization of the continent is a question of what kind of society we want to live in. African youth solving their own problems means deciding what we want to amplify and show the rest of the world. It also means not importing the latest state-of-the-art machine learning systems or any other AI tools without questioning what the underlying purpose is, who benefits, and who might be disadvantaged by the implementation of such tools.
Moreover, African youth leading the AI space means creating programs and databases that serve various local communities and not blindly importing Western AI systems founded upon individualistic and capitalist drives. It also means scrutinizing the systems we ourselves develop and setting ethical standards that serve specific purposes instead of accepting Western perspectives as the standard. In a continent where much of the narrative is hindered by negative images such as migration, drought, and poverty, using AI to solve our problems ourselves means using AI in a way we want, to understand who we are and how we want to be understood and perceived: a continent where community values triumph and nobody is left behind.
Abeba Birhane for Real Life with a great essay on AI, big data and the dominance of Western approaches to digital developments.

WhatsApp played a big role in the Nigerian election. Not all of it was bad  (29 July)

It’s also important not to overstate the significance of WhatsApp. Things look very different below the national level, for example, where campaign structures were less developed and a significant proportion of activity remained informal.
We found that while candidates for Governor and Member of Parliament did set up WhatsApp groups, they were much less organised. In many cases, candidates relied on existing networks and social influencers to get the message out.
Candidates were also keen to stress that while they used WhatsApp during their campaigns, they did not rely on it. Voters expect to see their leaders on the ground, and expected them to provide a range of services for the community. Advertising good deeds over WhatsApp could help a leader get credit, but only if they had fulfilled their responsibilities in the first place.
In other words, WhatsApp can amplify and complement a candidate’s ground campaign. But it cannot replace it.
Nic Cheeseman for the Conversation with a nuanced view of how tech tools (mis)inform elections.

Decolonising the environment: race, rationalities and crises (8 Aug)

Moreover, many of the big conservation NGOs some of which are colonial in origin have barely changed their key operating principles today.
While contemporary environmental projects and interventions are constituted by partly novel and more diverse purposes and interests than was the case during colonial times, the wholesale transplantation of tropes, laws, principles, strategies and practices must be recognised for what it is. This is not least to help locate more accurately the origins of many of the uniquely racist practices in environmental management but to also help render them familiar while at the same time signalling the tough struggle needed to break such long-standing and deeply-ingrained practices.
Adeniyi Asiyanbi for the Sheffield Institute for International Development adds an important ecological aspect to the discussions around decolonising development research and practices.

Opinion: An Anti-Greenwashing Checklist for Coffee Practitioners
(18 July)

I’ve created a mental checklist to use when I think about partnerships, as a way of making sure that my salary doesn’t keep me from understanding essential facts:
Would I feel comfortable being honest with this donor? Have they displayed an openness to feedback, a desire to learn together, and an understanding of the language of sustainability? Is everyone being honest from day one about what we’re getting out of the partnership?
Does this program serve farmers, industry, or both? Have we consulted thoroughly with farmers to ensure that we’re meeting their real needs?
Could someone argue in good faith that the project is greenwashing? How would I respond to such an accusation?
How does this project shape the overall revenue mix of my work? Am I so reliant on any one donor, or even any one type of donor (public, corporate, foundation, or individual), that I would hesitate to do the right thing for farmers for fear of losing donors’ favor?
How did the donor set their priorities? What business need are they meeting in supporting sustainability work?
Do I think the donor has a fundamental respect for the role of sustainability NGOs and an understanding of why our work matters?
Jan von Enden for Daily Coffee News with a great checklist that seems applicable to many other CSR efforts as well!

Progress and its discontents (7 Aug)

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating progress. Humanity has made some extraordinary gains in recent history that deserve our attention. But that’s not really what New Optimism is about. The movement’s core argument isn’t just that things have improved, but rather that the progress we’ve seen has been fuelled by the spread of capitalism around the world.
Over and over again, the question of inequality emerges as a sticking point for the New Optimists. To paper over this problem, many have tried to claim that global inequality is declining, and that poor countries are catching up with rich countries. Charts produced by Gapminder and Our World In Data give the impression that the gap has nearly closed over the past few decades, abolishing the old colonial divide between North and South. This is Pinker’s ‘Great Convergence’. ‘The poorer countries have caught up,’ Max Roser proclaims. And from Bill Gates: ‘The world is no longer separated between the West and the rest.’ This narrative works by relying on a very particular metric of inequality – one focused not on the actual income gap but rather on relative rates of change.
Jason Hickel for the New Internationalist with a great overview on how to resist the Pinker-Gates-industrial complex on 'new optimism'!

Rethinking stress and wellbeing in the aid sector (6 Aug)

Cultural and situational differences in how we think about stress and burnout. The risk of designing policies around a small minority of aid workers coming from the global north.
Gemma Houldey talks to the One Step Forward podcast about her research, aid worker stress & much more!

It’s time for nonprofits to reimagine communications in a hyper-connected world (5 Aug)

What if these tools are combined with relationship, deliberation, reflection, fragility, acceptance, self-determination, openness, collaboration, courage, joy, and revolutionary love? What if we completely let go of “convincing” and using enthusiasm to attract people? What if we only share information within context and within a conversation? We aim always to align our grantmaking and fundraising with our values. What happens when we push communications to do so too, in even deeper ways? This requires a more profound conversation or dialogue than what can be shared in 280 characters, with market-driven tools.
And before the digital #globaldev machine gets into full gear again, Jennifer Lentfer has some great food for thought (as always...)!

Our digital lives
In the 1980s, One of the World's Cellphone Hot Spots Was ... Zaire
(1 July)

Despite being impressed, the dictator — like most people in 1985 — hadn’t fully grasped how life-changing the technology would be and he initially refused to grant Telecel an operating license. Gatt and Rwayitare knew they were onto a good thing, however, so they used their life savings to purchase an ailing U.S. mobile technology firm and obtained finance from Motorola to erect a small system in Kinshasa. All that remained was to buy a couple of hundred handsets — at $3,000 a pop — and give them to Mobutu and his inner circle.
“These 200 Zairean officials called each other and overseas over the next year without paying for a single call,” writes Sean Ndiho Obedih in a profile of Rwayitare. At the end of the trial period, and faced with the prospect of losing what had now become an essential cog in the state machinery, Mobutu agreed to give them their license … provided they could come up with legislation for the fledgling industry. Gatt and Rwayitare contracted the services of a Paris legal firm, which wrote the regulations from scratch.
Soon, everyone who was anyone in Zaire had a Telecel. The exorbitant cost of both handsets (Gatt and Rwayitare marked them up to $5,000) and calls (that $16 international rate was short-lived, but even local calls averaged $0.36 per minute) only made them more desirable among Zaire’s elite. Wrong “knew [she] was in the presence of greatness when [she] watched Zaire’s leading businessman juggle a row of Telecels on the coffee table in front of him.” (The batteries lasted only 60 minutes so he did have some excuse.)While Telecel was hugely successful — in the early days it made its owners an average of $800 per user per month — the company did encounter challenges.
Nick Dall for OZY with a fascinating story about early mobile phone adoption in Zaire in the interesting story about early tech colonization, regulatory innocence, American marketing genius & much short, the story of 'development'!

The age of the influencer (10 Aug)

Worse still, several recent conversations that I have had with African activists and creatives suggests that the over-occupation of space by “influencers” is starting to undermine people’s sense that their deep, engaged and un-self(ie)oriented work is “worth it.” As one person reflected “I used to think that if you just did the important work, it would be noticed.” Another commented how the community of women who taught them everything they know about brave activism don’t matter to the world anymore. Their working class realities are un-marketable in this new opulent culture of influence. Just last week, an older feminist shared with shock about how unsisterly she found the new wave of activist influencers—impatient, confident yet also self-absorbed, and it seems unable to handle the generosity required to build flesh and blood community. The once hallowed space of #afrifem online activism has become in some recent moments its own space of salty remarks and ungracious exchanges. The residues of those battles leave many feeling like a precious collective space for African feminists is slowly being undone.
Jessica Horn for Africa is a Country on African feminist influencers and how capitalism destroys everything...

Digital Development: what's in a name? (9 Aug)

On the course I argued that "Digital Development" is most useful when it is used as a collective term, inclusive of three things: Digital in Development, Digital for Development and Development in a Digital World. I also argued that #ict4d remains the best hashtag for all of the above. Let me explain why...
Tony Roberts on how to call 'digital development' and ICT4D.


Tackling violence against aid workers (23 July)

Thirdly, measures to mitigate these risks and threats, and ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and health workers and facilities, also inevitably impose costs, diverting resources that otherwise could be applied to the provision of essential services and assistance. Smaller aid organisations, with fewer resources and less capacity to cover these costs, are having to make difficult choices between safeguarding staff, facilities and equipment and providing humanitarian assistance. In addition, the appearance of substantial physical security measures can act to inflame negative narratives amongst local communities, creating a vicious circle of distrust and increased threat.In the long run, if unchecked, these trends inevitably can only pose the gravest threats to humanitarian relief—as a feasible activity and viable occupation.
New report by the UK House of Commons International Development Committee.

Unskilled graduates struggle to find decent jobs – Report (20 July)

The report highlights how many taxi drivers in the Algerian capital of Algiers hold graduate and even postgraduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences. In Douala in Cameroon, many commuter motorcycle riders, aptly known as ‘bensikineurs’, hold advanced degrees in engineering, mathematics and physical sciences. Such situations are also common in other major African cities.
“Yet, after their training, their skill sets do not appear to be in great demand in the labour market,” said Monga and his associates – Dr Abebe Shimeles and Dr Andinet Woldemichael, both lead economists at the African Development Bank.
In other circumstances, African graduates, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are victims of frequent ethnic conflicts, corruption, nepotism and industries dependent on outdated technology with low returns and low productivity. “Such is the Nigerian experience where the rate of youth unemployment stands at 37%, which is among Africa’s highest,” says the report.
Wachira Kigotho for University World News introduces a new report by the African Development Bank which deserves more attention.

And the winner is… or the tale of how difficult it is for a young professional from Sierra Leone to attend World Water Week
(14 Aug)

The issue is not only to do with the fact that he was not granted a visa – the difficulties for him to obtain this visa in the first place were prohibitively expensive and time consuming. The only place for Sierra Leone nationals to apply for a visa to Sweden are Nigeria and Morocco – and they have to apply in person. Benson had to travel more than 2,000 kilometres from Freetown to Lagos, and put his life on hold while waiting for a decision on his visa in a foreign country for almost two weeks. Admiringly, Benson managed to make the most of his trip by working on improving an unprotected well in the community where he was staying in Lagos.
Rural Water Supply Network on how visa issues for African professionals are not just limited to USA or UK-getting a visa for Sweden is no easy task either.

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This: The Climate Cost of Conferences (22 July)

Or should conference organizers initiate cultural shifts that are within reach, like emphasizing regional participation, while using venues with enhanced information and communication technology for remote collaboration?
But the real issues go deeper. Even assuming that technology breakthroughs for virtual meetings are around the corner, how does one balance the demands for an ethical approach to climate change with the reality that promotion and tenure can depend on part in number of invitations to speak at international conferences?
Additionally, any academic institute or organization that unilaterally aims to incorporate progressive environmental policies into its broader infrastructure risks being at a competitive disadvantage in the current academic environment, at least in the early stages.
Malabika Pramanik for the Tyee continues the debate about the climate crisis and its impact on academic traditions. This is not just about 'flying less', but also about breaking free from the conference-industrial complex!

How Not to Run a Panel
(28 July)
You know the scene. First come the long introductions. Then five people give opening statements of steadily increasing length. After that is a “conversation” in which the panelists talk past one another, sticking to the same old points they have made dozens of times before. This is followed by a few incoherent rants from the angriest members of the audience (question mark optional). Finally, a polite round of applause, which is anticipated with the same resigned longing as the saving bell on the last day of school.
It doesn’t have to be like that. At their rare best, panels can actually be fun and informative.
Yascha Mounk for the Atlantic on how to challenge the conference panel-industrial complex ;) !


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