Committing to a Responsible Data Revolution

By Neha Rauf

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Data scientists evaluate satellite data at the Center for Satellite-based Crisis Information. Photo courtesy of DLR German Aerospace Center, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The Push for a Data Revolution

In order to accomplish the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international community is rallying for a data revolution. The emphasis has been on increased access, interoperability, and actionable use of data, omitting necessary considerations of responsible use. Moving forward, the push for a data revolution which spans international development organizations and the private sector needs to be reined in by common ethics standards.

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Development Unplugged: Driving Progress Without the Internet

By Elizabeth Melampy

Earlier this year, the US-based NGO Digital Democracy held a coding conference in Peru called “Hack the Rainforest.” While most coding relies on the internet, this conference took place in a rural outpost of 100,000 people in the Peruvian Amazon where there is limited internet access. Coders addressed an unpopular question in development: how can technological advances help those with no internet access?

Despite high predictions of the growth of internet penetration, some of the world’s most rural regions are years away from reliable internet access. In South America, some 54.7 percent of people have access to the internet, a 1,455.6 percent increase in users since 2000. That progress is impossible to discount, and many development agencies and proposals are looking at ways to both increase internet penetration and then to use the internet as a valuable developmental tool.

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For some areas, like this stretch of Peruvian Amazon, internet access is not yet available.

At the same time, almost half of the region remains without internet access. Creating development strategies that rely on internet access ignores half of the population, and this ignored half is often based in remote regions most in need of development. Infrastructure barriers to internet access remain massive in many places; while universal internet access is within the future realm of possibility, it is still years away. Development shouldn’t have to wait for people to get access to the internet, even if that means we need to come up with new, “offline” strategies in the meantime. 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