Should Developing Countries Send Their Best Students Abroad?

By Elizabeth Melampy

Iraq’s Higher Committee for Education Development (HCED), established in 2009, provides scholarships for promising students to study at foreign universities, mainly in the US. In 2015 alone, HCED has a budget of $125 million. This program is a long-term investment in improving Iraq’s public sector efficiency and stability; educating the brightest students abroad in the best universities, where they can benefit from new perspectives and better education, will pay off when the students return to Iraq’s public sector. Thus, ensuring that students return home and enter public service is key to the success of this investment. Convincing these students to return home, however, can prove challenging when employment prospects in Iraq seem limited.

There are many critiques of this type of program, especially in a fragile, post-conflict context like Iraq, where $125 million could certainly help fix more immediate domestic issues. For example, critics argue that the health sector in Iraq is in a dire need of money, and rerouting the HCED budget to the health sector could save lives. Why, then, is Iraq investing in this education program?

Road sign to  education and future

Many countries are investing in sending students abroad as a means of securing their national future.

Iraq is not alone in sending its best students to foreign universities.  Many developing countries have similar programs to educate students abroad with the expectation that they will return to work in the public sector. Countless world leaders have been educated in the U.S., and this trend of sending students abroad to developed countries to study is only growing. Continue reading

Online Outsourcing: How Can Developing Countries Benefit?

By Elizabeth Melampy

In 2014, 40,000 Kenyans were registered on Elance, an online platform coordinating virtual employment for people living continents apart from their employers. With internet accessibility increasing worldwide, this kind of employment is becoming a more attractive possibility for the 201 million people unemployed in 2014.

McKinsey and Company wrote a report in 2013 suggesting that the internet could play a key role in economic development, especially in Africa. Africa’s iGDP, the internet’s contribution to the overall GDP, is currently 1.1 percent. This study estimates that by 2025, Africa’s iGDP will rise to somewhere between five and 10 percent. While only 16 percent of the continent has access to the internet today, estimates based on the rapid dissemination of mobile technology say that Africa has the potential to dramatically increase that number to almost 50 percent by 2025.

A visualization of a portion of the internet maps connectivity that spans the globe.

A visualization of a portion of the internet maps connectivity that spans the globe.

The internet is crucial for economic growth in today’s global economy; McKinsey says that up to 10 percent of the total GDP growth in China, India, and Brazil in the past five years is due to the growth of the internet. Developing the internet in Africa, as well as in other developing regions in the world, could inspire similar growth. Beyond merely increasing internet access for economic growth, big names in global development are thinking about how the internet can transform the job market. The World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation just published a study on online outsourcing.

Online outsourcing has two major components: “microwork,” a process in which companies contract virtual workers from around the globe to complete low-skill “microtasks” online; and “online freelancing,” where companies can hire out more complex, professional services via a virtual platform. The main differences between those two types are the size and difficulty of the tasks. Microtasks, appropriate for people with limited training and basic literacy, might include image tagging, data entry, or text transcription. Workers are paid per task. Online freelancing requires greater skill and is more lucrative; this might involve graphic design or web development. There are many platforms already coordinating this type of outsourcing (cloudfactory, CrowdFlower, and UpWork, just to name a few). Continue reading

International Youth Day: Focusing on Mental Health

By Nicole Goldin and Katherine Perry

IYD_2014August 12th is International Youth Day, and offers a time to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing global youth.  This year’s theme, “Youth and Mental Health,” brings the often sidelined issue of mental health to the fore of the global health and youth development conversation. The United Nations recently estimated that a shocking 20 percent of global youth experience mental health challenges. Leaders are taking note.  In Africa for example, recognizing that mental health is a serious issue, and accounts for “a huge burden of disease and disability, and where in general less than 1 percent  of the already small health budgets are spent on these disorders,” medical experts from several countries recently published a Declaration on Mental Health in Africa in an effort to promote access to services.

Facilitating better mental health among youth is a complex challenge, as mental health is rooted in both biology and circumstance. A recent study in the United Kingdom found that the long-term unemployment crisis has had harmful effects on youths’ mental wellbeing. In a survey conducted by the Prince’s Trust, 40 percent of jobless youth “faced symptoms of mental illness…as a direct result of being unemployed.”  At the same time, the social and economic costs of underinvestment in youth mental health services are large; the United States’ National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that “70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system also have mental health disorders.”

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