Category Archives: Democracy

From Development 1.0 to Development 2.0

The Future - CG4TV

FreePint printed this article by Giulio Quaggiotto and Pierre Wielezynski – both linked to/working for the World Bank – on how Web 2.0 is changing the face of development. This is the first article of its kind, as far as I know, and it’s also the subject of my dissertation here at the London School of Economics and Political Science, so I am glad I’ll be one of the pioneers on the subject. It’s in fact more than this: it’s a manifesto for the future of development. 

I am reproducing the article below for your perusal. It’s an excellent and most comprehensive review of the subject, and I thoroughly recommend it.

The transition from Development 1.0 to Development 2.0

One interesting aspect – which is sometimes forgotten – behind O’Reilly Media’s coining of the term ‘Web 2.0‘ is that it stemmed from an analysis of the companies that survived the crash of the dot-com bubble. Not so much of a futuristic vision, then, but rather a reflection on tried and tested business models (as well as technologies) that weathered the storm to produce the likes of Google and Amazon.

What if one were to apply the same type of analysis to the development sector? One could argue that we are currently witnessing a crisis of the traditional aid and international governance models, which could have far-reaching consequences somewhat reminiscent of the dot-com crash. At the same time, the emergence of new approaches (such as microfinance and online campaigning) may herald the beginning of a whole brave new world – indeed, it would seem that the era of the wisdom of crowds and the Long Tail, as defined by O’Reilly, has caught on in the non-profit world. Out with Development 1.0, the era of the World Bank, the UN, the IMF (but also the traditional non-governmental organisations (NGOs)), and in with Development 2.0, whose ambassador could perhaps be Grameen Bank, funded by Noble Prize winner Muhammud Yanus, or Gapminder’s founder Hans Rosling with his iconoclastic zeal to deconstruct established development myths.

Intriguing as the prospect of identifying clear-cut boundaries might be, the reality is that it’s probably too early to tell whether we are truly witnessing the emergence of a new development paradigm (see here for a similar conclusion). Rather, we are in a fluid, transition phase where traditional NGOs and development institutions are testing the waters of Web 2.0, while, on the more innovative end of the spectrum, new start-ups are emerging whose entire business model is based on Web 2.0 opportunities. Somewhere in the middle are ‘hybrid’ projects that span the two worlds. For instance, Oxfam’s recent campaign to support Ethiopian farmers featured traditional campaigning tools such as faxes, postcards and demonstrations, but also shared pictures via Flickr and a YouTube duel with Starbucks.

Take a look at the interactive list of the ’59 Smartest Orgs Online’, which ranks non-profits based on their ‘Web 2.0 smarts’ – the extent to which they integrated Web 2.0 in their business model. On any given day, it will feature established organisations such as Greenpeace or Amnesty International, alongside the likes of MobileActive.org (‘cell phones for civic engagement’) or microloans site Kiva. Indeed, the list is perhaps the best place to test the pulse of ‘Development 2.0’, together with Change.org‘s intriguing tag cloud.

If it’s too early to talk about winners or losers, it’s still interesting to apply O’Reilly’s model of key Web 2.0 patterns and competencies to the development world. It may highlight emerging trends and identify areas that may be waiting for the birth of a Google equivalent for the development sector.

The Long Tail of development services

O’Reilly invites Web 2.0-savvy companies to ‘reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the centre, to the Long Tail and not just the head’. The emblem here is eBay. This concept has interesting applications in the development context. Traditionally, managing micro-donations has proven to be challenging for non-profits, whose back end was not designed to guarantee to, say, a donor in the UK, that their money will go to found a specific project in a given village in Rwanda. ‘Adopt a school’ type of projects have often incurred very high overheads. In come the likes of Kiva.org, which uses the Web to cut out intermediaries and allow for direct donations to small businesses in the developing world, or GlobalGiving, which guarantees that ’85-90% of your donation gets to local project leaders within 60 days’. This way, even donors with niche interests can find a way to support the cause that is dear to their heart through the Web. The same desire to cater for niche interests lies behind Change.org, a social networking site that aims to foster ‘a fundamental change in the way people engage in social issues’ by allowing grassroots activists to network with others who share their interests. It will be interesting to monitor how these new business models will fare and, on the other hand, how traditional NGOs will react to the challenge.

The race for development data

What do Amazon, eBay and MapQuest have in common? They are backed up by the largest specialised database in their respective markets (books, auctions, maps, etc), O’Reilly observes. For this reason, he adds, ‘the race is on to own certain classes of core data’. The smartest companies are the ones who let users add value to their data through mashups or other types of interaction (e.g. book reviews on Amazon). Once again, there are intriguing parallels here with what is happening in the development world. Take, for instance, conservation – an area traditionally plagued by the lack of data interoperability. A number of initiatives are emerging, such as IUCN-backed Conservation CommonsEco-ishare that are trying to encourage open access to biodiversity data and build the biggest repositories in their category, to use O’Reilly’s language. Others, such as the above mentioned Gapminder and Maplecroft are adding value to their sets of development data through visualisation software (Gapminder’s so cool that Google had to get a piece of it). As for mashups, an example of an application with great potential that we’ve come across recently is a combination of Google Earth with meteorological data. Imagine for a moment the weather forecast being delivered to farmers in Ethiopia, specially trained for the purpose, via mobile phones, as in Wepoco’s plans. But see also the combination of Google Maps and ethnicity data done by Healthcarethatworks to prove that disenfranchised communities have more difficulty accessing care. and UNEP-WCMC’s

Letting users interact and play around with the data, ‘trusting them as co-developers’, (O’Reilly) is still a cultural challenge, as Gapminder’s Rosling found out, but the obvious next step. One could easily imagine, for example, that WWF’s recent partnership with Google, which allows virtual access to conservation projects on the ground may be followed by some interactive feature that allows scientists or volunteers on the ground to add or comment on the data. Ditto for the work Amnesty International has done with Google Earth, mapping out human rights abuses around the world (more here).

Getting datasets out of their respective databases is certainly a challenge due to intellectual property issues and data interoperability, but if the various owners of these datasets were willing to do it, the very 2.0 site Swivel would be the ideal place to get some collaboration going. After barely 4 months of activity, the site (still in beta) already offers over 3,000 datasets contributed by over 4,000 members (including OECD) and has all the 2.0 features you can dream off: blog it, digg it, badge it, Google widgetise-it, etc.

Harnessing collective intelligence

The key principle behind the giants of the Web 2.0 era, points out O’Reilly, is that they have embraced the power of the Web to harness collective intelligence. What better example than Wikipedia? NGOs in this respect would seem to have a natural advantage over the private sector, given their traditional reliance on volunteers’ passion and creativity. And Development 2.0 is creeping into perhaps unexpected areas of the development sector. It may come as no surprise to learn that the likes of Greenpeace and Oneworld have their own blog. Perhaps not many people, though, may know that the World Bank Group is running three blogs (as well as online discussions) and has recently developed Buzzmonitor, a tool to gauge stakeholder’s perceptions through social media. And what about UNICEF’s sponsoring of The One Minutes Jr. site, the YouTube equivalent that gives a voice to marginalised young people?

Campaigns, as in the case of Oxfam above, are the obvious place to harness Web 2.0 to create connections and galvanise supporters (readers may be interested in an interesting think piece by the author of ‘Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age‘). Online campaigning is by now a well established advocacy tool in the armament of the smart NGO campaigner. See here for a list of examples and here for an illustration of how EWG is using volunteer support to build an online database of labels for their water safety project.

But this natural affinity doesn’t mean that all opportunities have been explored. Far from it, one can only imagine what would happen if the development sector were able to fully galvanise the ‘wisdom of crowds’ in support of its goals. One has to love the interactivity of Amnesty’s Guantanamo campaign, which allows users to create a virtual alter ego and join an online flotilla to the US base in Cuba. But what if you were to take this one step further? What if, as in the case of WWF Russia’s strategy game to save the leopard, you create a full- scale simulation of a real conservation challenge, let users compete to come up with their best solution and then use it in the real world? Likewise, one likes to think that it is it just a matter of time before an NGO (or development institution) will use a tool like Second Life or equivalent to interact with funds recipients to jointly create a virtual version of an ideal project scenario before funding it.

Joi Ito, a prominent venture capitalist, has written an interesting paper entitled “weblogs and emergent democracy” where he outlines how blogs and other 2.0 technologies will help shape democracy. Yochai Benkler has written a riveting book (available free online) titled “The Wealth of Networks”, in which he explains and documents how peer productions are changing markets and freedom. The arguments used by these two authors revolve around the network effect. How can an issue go from obscure to front page in a matter of five links and lead people to act and change things? A site like dotherightthing.com leverages the wisdom of the crowd to evaluate corporations and hold them accountable. By asking users to vote, tag or flag issues, these sites hope to become forces of change and get organisation to, well … do the right thing. A similar issue aims at doing the same for the US government. GovTracks mashes up various information sources to help regular citizens track their elected officials, key legislative issues, voting records etc.

If these initiatives do not yet have huge visibility, they are a model of the things to come.

Making a difference, in hard, cold cash: the Long Tail of micro-donations

And finally, what about fundraising? Raising awareness, having conversations around development issues and sharing photos could be labelled the first wave of 2.0 applied to development. But what if there was something much more tangible (money for example) coming?

Over 3 years ago, Fred Wilson, a popular blogger and venture capitalist out of New York City decided to sign up for the AdSense program offered by Google and to contribute the revenue generated by his traffic to the Grameen Bank. Small step, yes. But scale that up and it could make for a significant amount of cash for various social causes.

See also GoodSearch, which helps monetise traffic much in the same way most site do, via advertising, except that, here again, a portion of the revenues are contributed back to social causes. Even Microsoft launched their own program, labeled I’M. The idea is that a portion of the advertising revenue generated by users of the Live Messengers IM software would be allocated to social causes.

There is something more than just a gimmick here. As it becomes increasingly easier to put your money where you mouth is, why not think about fundraising through Linked In and other social networks where you put your money on causes that you, your friends and the rest of the crowd filtered and recommended for you?

The very secretive Project Agape seems to want to do something along those lines by ‘applying virality to altruism’. No specific details are available at the time of writing but given that the founder was behind Napster and Facebook, a healthy dose of ‘sociality’ is to be expected.

More to come

We have seen that many of the initial uses of Web 2.0 were focused on raising awareness around issues by leveraging word of mouth. We also discussed a second wave where applications and sites are more focused on getting people to collaborate, and a third wave focused on monetising traffic and attention to support social causes. Given the short time frame in which these three phases have happened, and given the increasing pressure on governments, international organisations and large NGOs to be more transparent, there is little doubt that much is yet to come.

As our world increasingly looks like a village, as new information sources become available and as more people get connected (see “The Internationalisation of Web 2.0“), it is inevitable that new, revolutionary applications will spring up and take the development sector by storm. The challenge therefore for existing 1.0 players like the World Bank and the United Nations is not to decide whether they should ‘comply’ to Web 2.0 but to actually embrace the technology and principles and maintain (or redefine) their relevance. Medium to large size non-profits also need to ask themselves questions about their relevance in this highly competitive, highly fragmented environment. How can they invest in technology, people and applications, not to be cool but to leverage their competitive advantage (be it their donors, knowledge, data or assets)? Smaller non-profits have proven the most innovative so far in their use of 2.0 and the question arises whether they will still be able to compete for attention once the entire sector has moved to this brave new world. The upcoming Web2fordev conference, hosted by FAO, looks like an interesting place to get the discussion going.


Giulio Quaggiotto <gquaggiotto@ifc.org> is the Programme Officer, Knowledge and Innovation at the IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. His interests include social network analysis, integration of KM in business processes and the link between KM and sustainability.

Pierre Guillaume Wielezynski <pwielezynski@worldbank.org> is a member of the World Bank’s Central Web Team, where he focuses on audience measurement, marketing strategy and social media. He designed and supervised the development of the buzzmonitor, the first open-source social media aggregator.

Re-Public on Wiki Politics

Raphael - Plato (in the School of Athens, Vatican City)

Re-Public – the sharply-named on-line journal on the latest and hottest trends in contemporary politics – has a whole new issue on Wiki Politics (they had already produced one earlier on), with contributions among others from Ward Cunningham on the rise of gift economies, Paul Hartzog and the wiki-fication of politics and Kingsley Dennis on wikis as expressions of collective intelligence.

Their core argument? While they are unsure about whether ‘the use of these new collaborative tools (wikis, blogs, forums, mailing lists, podcasting, and videos) can really transform the ways politics are practiced‘, they recognise that ‘they produce a particular form of political participation – horizontal and equitable – which operates on the basis of the principles of decentralisation and openness‘.

Evgeny Morozov on Web 2.0 as the future of activism

 

Evgeny Morozov, Director of New Media at Transitions Online, where he focuses on promoting citizen journalism in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union, has just written an article for the Globalist on Blogs As the New Frontier in Human Rights, which makes some really good points on the potential of on-line Web 2.0 networks for social change and political action. A broader selection of Evgeny’s thoughts on the future of media, technology, and activism will be found on his blog, which he has just started after closing down his previous one.

He’s going straight into my blogroll and RSS feed…

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 24/02/07-02/03/07

A whimsical image of the blogosphere from the edge of the core - via Datamining

This (late) update is a hasty one because over the last 2 weeks the real world is distracting me from the virtual… but this is what I collected from my feeds…

Africa

Middle East & North Africa

Globalisation debate

  • A couple of exchanges on Demos’ Greenhouse about a recent event they hosted with John Ralston Saul, a renowned philosopher, novelist, political penseur, who has provocatively pronounced the “end of globalism“. A quick scan, and it seems this provocative statement could simply be re-phrased as the rejection of neo-liberalism. Had he framed the debate in these terms, it would have sounded less plausible, slightly rehashed and probably less marketable than the grand statement above. But then, we all need to make a living.

ICT and creativity

International Development

  • Suzanne Smith on PSD blog puts an end to years of heated debates about the role of private finance investment in reducing poverty: ‘If you have ever doubted the importance of the finance sector in reducing poverty, a new paper will set your mind at rest. More finance sector development leads to more investment in tractors and fertilizers, leading to more food‘. If only we had more World Bank experts telling us children what’s right and what’s wrong, we’d all sleep better at night…
  • Meantime, always on PSD, new research reveals that privatization in 2005 has hit new records, with ‘transactions concentrated in China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine and the top ten deals are largely in banking and telecommunications‘.

Russia

Environment

Corporat Social (ir-)Responsibility

Blog Babble and random weird stuff

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 17/02/07-23/02/07

Febraury - Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry

Africa

Environment

  • The opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai will mark the unveiling of the newly constructed eco-city of Dongtan. The first of four eco-cities to be built in China by Arup, Dongtan will be ecologically friendly, with zero greenhouse-emission transit and self-sufficient water and energy systems. Read more on carljames’ blog.
  • Tree-Nation is a Barcelona-based project that wants to plant 8 million trees in Niger, in the shape of a giant heart. Their hope is that this re-forestation campaign will help the environment and the people of the country, as media continue reporting on the unstoppable march of the deserts, from Rwanda to Cameroon. What is particularly interesting for me is their incredibly innovative use of the Internet (especially the on-line map) to achieve this purpose [via Sociolingo].
  • The EU Observer lashes out at those corporations – such as Exxon Mobil – that fund NGOs in Brussels to spread doubt about the human causes of climate change. Wanabehuman has a good overview of how the global media have dealt with the issue, and in particular with the IPCC report published last week.

Innovation & Information Technologies

Middle East

  • The IAEA publishes its report (PDF) on the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, basically stating it is towing the line, but not 100%, prompting declarations by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran will defend its nuclear programme to the bitter end.

Europe/EU

International Development

Russia

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 20-26/01/07

In memory of Ryszard Kapuscinski

Globalization

Africa

Information Technology & Innovation

Russia

Europe

  • A ‘vague’ (sic!) scent of elitism pervades Miguel Mesquita da Cunha’s commentary of the risks of increasing democracy in the European Union, perhaps forgetting that it is quite hard to get people’s support for a common endeavour without explaining to them what they’re buying into. Or perhaps he thinks the EU doesn’t need the Europeans’ support?
  • And finally, everyone has been wondering why the Danes are the happiest people in Europe. Apparently, the secret is not having too many expectations in life…!

PS: on the 23rd, a great Polish writer and journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, died aged 74. This entry is dedicated to him and to his restless search for the soul of Africa.

Bowling with Putnam…

Penguin Bowling? From www.istockphoto.com

Having left my cosy LSE Library corner for my native and cold Lombardy, mainly to do exactly what I have been doing in London for the past 3 months – i.e. bury my head in books about international political economy and political ecology, only without a decent Internet connection – I have to confess I miss not being able to post regularly on this blog. Alas, holidays are a curse we all need to endure, and like everyone else’s mine will be dominated by nosey relatives, with the added bonuses of Wade’s Governing the Market, Amsden’s Asia’s Next Giant and an array of essays and studies on snow leopards in Nepal and wolves in Central Italy.

Still, I have found some time to make a few notes while reading Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, the epic study of the collapse and revival of American community. Admittedly, I didn’t read it all, but enough to appreciate its depth and contribution to our understanding of social capital theory. I noted down a few passages which I reproduce here, especially those relating to Information Technologies, in the firm belief that the Internet will work its magic and spread the ideas far and away…

‘By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital … the core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so too social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups’

‘Social capital … can be directed toward malevolent, antisocial purposes, just like any other form of capital’.

‘Computer-mediated communication is, to be sure, more egalitarian, frank, and task-oriented than face-to-face communication. Participants in computer-based groups often come up with a wider range of alternatives However, because of the paucity of social cues and social communication, participants in computer-based groups find it harder to reach consensus and feel less solidarity with one another. They develop a sense of ‘depersonalisation’ and are less satisfied with the group’s accomplishments. Computer-based groups are quicker to reach an intellectual understanding of their shard problems – probably because they are less distracted by ‘extraneous’ social communication – but they are much worse at generating the trust and reciprocity necessary to implement that understanding’.

‘Much of Western political debate for two hundred years has revolved around the trade-offs between liberty and equality. Too much liberty, or at least too much liberty in certain forms, may undermine equality. Too much equality, or at least too much equality in certain forms, may undermine liberty. Less familiar but no less portentous are the trade-offs involving the third value of the triad: is too much fraternity bad for liberty and equality? All good things don’t necessarily go together, so perhaps a single-minded pursuit of social capital might unacceptably infringe on freedom and justice. […]

Is social capital at war with liberty and tolerance? This was and remains the classic liberal objection to community ties: community restricts freedom and encourages intolerance. […] Is social capital at war with equality? Thoughtful radicals have long feared so. Social capital, particularly social capital that bonds us with others like us, often reinforces social stratification. […] Does this logic mean that we must in some fundamental sense choose between community and equality? No. Community and equality are mutually reinforcing, not mutually incompatible’.