Tags: digital divide*

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  1. The idea: Documentation is often lacking in parts of Africa, leading to land disputes because it isn't clear who owns the land. Even when there are records, sometimes they have been tampered with. A record that cannot be deleted, using something called blockchain, could be used to prevent these disputes. Blockchain is a method of recording data - a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts - anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified. What makes a big difference is that this ledger isn't stored in one place, it's distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. Everyone in the network can have access to an up-to-date version of the ledger. So it can be an open, transparent auditable and verifiable record of any transaction.

    The application: Cybersecurity company WISeKey is using blockchain technology for the land registry in Rwanda.

    What happened in 2017: WISeKey announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan government in adopting blockchain technology, reports technology news site Cryptovest.

    What can we expect for 2018: The first step in adopting blockchain in Rwanda is digitising the Rwanda Land Registry, iAfrikan tech blog reports. The company is opening a blockchain Centre of Excellence in Rwanda, reports the New Times, which could go as far as developing a Rwandan cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin.
    Outsourcing IT work to Africa
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: The world has a scarcity of software developers. Meanwhile, Africa has a growing young population. Training software developers in Africa who US and European firms can hire taps into that human capital.

    The application: Andela is a startup company that trains developers in Nigeria and hires them out to global tech companies. The original idea was to teach people a practical skill and then use the money they make to pay for their education, Iyin Aboyeji, one of the founders of Andela, explained to the Starta podcast.

    What happened in 2017: In October Andela raised $40m in funding, reports TechCrunch. The previous year it had raised $24m from Mark Zuckerberg, reports Forbes.

    What can we expect for 2018: There are rumours that it is going to open up in Egypt according to iAfrikan.
    Making it easier to pay for things
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: Many people across Africa don't have bank accounts. Mobile money - sending money via your phone - has already proved a very successful alternative to cash. Africa has become the global leader in mobile money with more than 100 million people having mobile money accounts in 2016, according to McKinsey research. Mobile financial services now include credit, insurance, and cross-border remittances. The problem is that there are too many different systems which do not always work with each other. This means lots of people in Africa can't pay for products online.

    The application: Flutterwave is one of the new innovations coming through. It makes it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. It lets customers pay in their local currencies and allows people to send money from the US to a mobile money wallet, charging sellers a small service fee, which it shares with banks.

    What happened in 2017: In the first quarter of 2017 Flutterwave processed $444m in transactions across Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, it told BBC. From the start the company has processed more than $1.2bn in payments across 10 million transactions, reports CNN. The company received $10m of funding from the US this year, CNN adds.

    What can we expect for 2018: The new funding will be used "to hire more talent, build out our global operations and fuel rapid expansion of our organization across Africa," Flutterwave says. With that, it hopes that more people in Africa can buy things they are not currently able to pay for, like on online retailer Amazon. As the firm's boss Iyinoluwa Aboyeji puts it: "If we are successful, we might just inspire a new generation of Africans to flip the question from: 'What more can the world do for Africa?' to 'What more can Africa do for the world?'".
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  2. “The more data you have, the better the data products you can develop,” Professor Steven Weber said when discussing the link between data and development. “The better the data products you develop and sell, the more data you receive as those products get used more frequently and by larger populations.”

    But if all the world’s data flows back to a few tech powerhouses, without restrictions or taxes, this will further reinforce their monopolies, widen the privacy gap, and leave developing countries as passive consumers or data points, rather than participants in the digital economy.

    Those calling for liberalization use the rhetoric of creating opportunities for the poor — connecting the next billion — which sounds great, but only if we disconnect it from reality. Today, 60% world lacks even access to electricity. In the past, Spanish colonizers arrived in the Americas offering mirrors to the indigenous people in exchange for their gold. Is connectivity the “mirror” powerful actors are offering to the global poor today?

    Trade agreements eliminate the diversity of domestic policies and priorities, and impose costly restrictions on countries that want to address local inequalities and boost local industry. In the case of the digital economy, it will consolidate the position of few, to the detriment of the rest.
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/burcukilic/b...rade?utm_term=.nsr0Roja10#.oweb8lQZpb
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  3. The dominant narrative is that increases in mobile phone ownership and internet use signify development progress. The Sustainable Development Goals use mobile phone registrations and internet use as proxy indicators for sustainable evelopment. It was the statistics about increased levels of smartphone ownership and social media use in the Philippines that led us to base our research there. However once we were on the groun we learned quickly that these binary indicators disguise more than they reveal. Our study provides evidence that increases in mobile ownership can occur alongside widening technological and socio-economic inequalities. The people who were most able to make their voices heard on participatory governance platforms in the Philippines were ‘the usual suspects’: largely urban, middle-class and university-educated.

    What we learned in the Philippines was that development cannot really be understood in the binary terms of statistics on how many people are (not) connected. It is possible to 'connect the unconnected' at the same time as increasing inequality. In the Philippines new classes of device ownership and connectivity are forming that partly reflect and sometimes amplify patterns of existing privilege and disadvantage.

    Technology is changing rapidly, and uptake is expanding, but digital divides and economic inequalities are growing at the same time. The most disadvantaged remain unconnected whilst the already privileged race further and further ahead. It is those with the most disposable income, digital literacy and social capital that are first to own and make effective use of each new generation of technology. Those with least technology access experience new disadvantages.

    This does not mean that disadvantaged people are not active in appropriating technology to their advantage wherever possible – they are. Nor does this mean that development initiatives should not use digital technologies – they should. What it does mean is that digital development initiatives wishing to avoid unconsciously excluding those with lower-class device ownership or connectivity must conduct effective market research and on the basis of the research then 'design for equity'.
    http://www.appropriatingtechnology.org/?q=node%2F282
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  4. Who decides what the city really needs and will operate going forward? With a smart city comes a significant amount of decision making on what to do, who will do it, why and when to do it. The answers to the questions are not easy and can have massive repercussions. Take, for instance, the challenge of gentrification and urban displacement, which has long been framed simply as a symptom of wealthier people moving in to communities and effectively nudging out lower-income individuals. However, public investment can play a critical role in this process too. Perhaps the most shining, unfortunate example of this is what San Francisco Federal Reserve researchers refer to as “transit-induced gentrification” in which public investment in transit—light rail, buses, subway—attracts affluent individuals. So much so that several studies have found that transit investments can alter the demographic composition of the surrounding neighborhood, resulting in pushing out lower-income individuals and creating new problems within the city. Potential outcomes like these should prompt questions about who should be making these decisions about public investments associated with smart cities. Finding pathways to figure out what the public wants from its city (and perhaps more importantly, what it does not) is critical. This requires citizen participation early in the process and throughout. The New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network released a report, “India’s Smart Cities Mission: Smart for Whom? Cities for Whom?” The report highlights the massive problems with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to build 100 smart cities by 2020. Among the problems is the focus on technology of the future instead of issues of the present such as an agrarian crisis, insufficient civil rights for women, forced evictions to make room for the implementation of smart city projects, and so on.
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/...inconvenient-truth-about-smart-cities
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  5. Whether due to congestion in the network or some outdated hardware along the path, the most common internet connection we all encounter on a daily basis is unstable and slow.

    Why is it that the makers of the Web decidedly ignore this worldview? Besides blind optimism, we can surely say that they have fallen victim to the fallacies of distributed computing:

    The network is reliable.
    Latency is zero.
    Bandwidth is infinite.
    The network is secure.
    Topology doesn’t change.
    There is one administrator.
    Transport cost is zero.
    The network is homogeneous.

    “The network is reliable.” “Latency is zero.” “Bandwidth is infinite.”

    Don’t all of these sound an awful lot like the conversations you hear around Silicon Valley? “What if they don’t have a reliable internet connection?” “Let’s just focus on when they do, and we can figure out a solution to that later.” Many years later, very few internet services work without the web at all. On our mobile devices – devices much more prone to instability in its connection – almost nothing works without a stable, fast internet connection.

    It’s time for us to start considering an offline-first approach. Email is a brilliant example: the post office protocol (POP) available for all major mail providers allows users to download their mail when they have a stable connection, read & compose messages offline, and send them when they’re back to a stable connection. Web services should enable the same high-fidelity offline operation.

    Offline-first is the approach I will be using from now on for all web services I create and websites I create.
    https://byparker.com/blog/2017/the-internet-is-unstable
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  6. In Ghagaon, where a women’s cooperative runs the fair price shop, the internet has not worked even once. “We have to stand on the wall, or go near the pond, and ask everyone to come there to look for signal on the point of sale device,” said Mongra Sidar, a Gond Adivasi. “Or, we try inside the ration shop, then one person has to climb the chabootra elevated platform » , while another person stands on the ground to note down the details in the notebook.”

    In Raipur, officials said one lakh out of three lakh transactions using fingerprint authentication did not go through – a failure rate as high as 30%. They attributed the failures primarily to network connectivity problems and skin abrasions on fingers.
    Photographs as backup

    With fingerprint authentication failing for even genuine card holders who have been verified by local authorities, Chhattisgarh has come with an innovation: ration shop owners have been asked to take photographs of such people before giving them food rations.

    This photograph is stored in the government’s server. “It will serve as deterrent to ration dealers that even if there is a complaint six months later, the government can check if grains were given to the right beneficiaries,”

    “Earlier, we sent one boy on the bicycle to lift the rations for three households,” lamented Tapaswani Yadav, a middle-aged woman. “Now, it is a waste of time for everyone. Many elderly persons cannot walk, it is difficult for a few to even sit astride a motorcycle.”

    She added: “The machine is so slow, sometimes people reach the ration shop in the morning and return when the day is over.”

    Five technologies need to work together for biometric authentication to be successful – the point of sale device, internet connectivity, biometrics, the National Informatics Centre server, and the Unique Identity Authority of India servers. Invariably, one of the five fails.

    Shyamlal Dansena, the ration dealer in Dilari panchayat in Raigarh, said fingerprint authentication failed for 20% of the ration card holders on an average. But in October, he had to give grains to all 386 ration card holders after taking their photographs since the Samsung tablet purchased by the panchayat for enabling the Aadhaar-based transactions had stopped functioning.

    Dansena was preparing to travel 20 kilometers to Raigarh to get the tablet repaired. “The food officer said we can give November month’s grains only after the software is loaded again,” he said.
    http://scroll.in/article/822764/chhat...ar-when-fingerprints-fail-take-photos
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  7. Given the Internet’s growing importance for education, health care and jobs, non-adopters are tragically mistaken about relevance. So the focus needs to be on persuading them to join us. And join us they must. The more users who join the network, the faster each added connection increases its value. The silence of older, rural and less-educated Americans from the online conversation makes all of us that much poorer.

    The new digital divide can only be bridged by making digital life more relevant. And there’s a relatively simple way to do it. Older, rural, and less-educated Americans share one important characteristic -- they are all heavy users of government services. For example, 53 percent of benefits go to people 65 and older. Migrating entitlements to easy-to-use applications, and providing training through community-based groups, will make the Internet essential, if not irresistible, to those still disconnected.

    What are those apps? For older Americans, they include one-stop shopping for information about Social Security, Medicare, and tailored services, such as telehealth. For rural users, as well as those with less education, key services are those that help with both education and employment: matching résumés with openings, signing up for vocational education for in-demand positions and financial aid. Health insurance and child welfare services are also critical.

    Different federal and state government agencies today provide these benefits, and in many cases, some information is already online. But we need apps that pull together relevant information across government and agency boundaries and a design that is focused on convenience for the user. Deploying them quickly would not only increase online adoption but also simultaneously improve government performance and lower its cost.
    http://www.saratogian.com/general-new...tary-a-new-digital-divide-has-emerged
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  8. Why are some of the world’s most powerful technologists so focused on providing internet access by hook, crook, drones, balloon or satellite?

    Silicon Valley techno-utopians also dream of rising above the planet’s problems.

    Above the Facebook flag at Facebook HQ flies another, bearing the symbol of Facebook’s non-profit organisation, Internet.org. The internet-dispersing drones under development are designed to bring about the objectives of Internet.org – connecting up the next three billion people yet to join the internet. But it isn’t the “internet” as we know it today, instead, Internet.org allows users to access only Facebook and select other sites, not the entire internet. In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 65 organisations from 31 countries criticised the project, claiming it violated the principle of network neutrality, that no site should be favoured over others. Security, privacy, censorship, and freedom of expression were among the other concerns voiced over Facebook’s growing control.

    can we really put our faith in Facebook’s drones? It is possible to overthrow a government and depose a dictator but it is nearly impossible to revolt against corporate drones and extraterritorial CEOs.
    https://theconversation.com/who-reall...onversationedu+%28The+Conversation%29
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  9. why are libraries still vital? Among other things, in Palfrey’s view, they provide access to the great equalizer of high-speed broadband, which not all communities have and is a crucial need for new immigrants and low-income families, especially those with kids, who need online access for homework.

    “A huge amount of the foot traffic is young people,” says Palfrey, who sends his history students to the library for projects. “They get assigned to go there. They’re consistently among the biggest library users.”

    Libraries also archive historical material, a task made easier and more user-friendly in the digital world. Summers says the Miami-Dade library has all of the newspapers ever published in the city on ancient microfiche, information that would be easy and relatively inexpensive to store digitally — but the library doesn’t have the money to pay for the technology or the bodies.

    “The biggest challenge at this moment is under-investment,” she says. “You’ve got to have the bodies. We had 600 librarians. Now we’re down to less than 400.”

    The Broward County Libraries Division has made some inroads in innovation with partnerships with Nova Southeastern University and local businesses, as well as through its Creation Station, a hands-on lab for learners of all ages that will expand throughout the county.

    “It really is a balancing act, to play into the history of libraries and how people viewed them and maintaining our regular book collection while also learning how to innovate and stay aware of technological advances,” says director Skye Patrick. “We’re a publicly funded agency, we don’t have endless amounts of dollars. ... But our original focus hasn’t changed. We provide free access to information as we always have. What’s changed is how the information is disseminated.”

    Palfrey also believes libraries need to exist as physical spaces
    http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/books/article23189208.html
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  10. Younger Internet users like to joke about how Facebook “is the new TV,” but in the case of political news consumption that appears to be literally true, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center for Media and Journalism. More than 60% of millennials who were surveyed said that during the previous week they got their political news from Facebook, compared with 37% who got it from TV.

    Facebook came under fire recently for a study that it funded, done by a number of in-house scientists, which looked at whether news-feed users were subjected to differing political points of view. Although the study said that the decisions of users themselves determined how much they were exposed to different points of view, a number of experts took issue with that explanation.

    These experts pointed out that Facebook’s own data confirmed that for one test group, the algorithmically filtered news-feed did affect the amount of alternative political commentary and news they were exposed to. But even more important than that, Facebook’s study pretended that a user’s experience on the site could be looked at separately from the functioning of the algorithm, when the two are so closely linked that it’s almost impossible to separate them.

    For older members of the “Baby Boom” generation, meanwhile, those figures were almost exactly reversed:
    https://fortune.com/2015/06/01/facebook-algorithm-news-millennials
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