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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

It’s not what you spend
The Economist
FOR decades rich countries have sought to foster global development with aid. But all too often there is little to show for their spending, now over $135 billion a year and rising. Success depends on political will in recipient countries, says Erik Solheim of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries that includes the biggest donors. And that may well be lacking. What donors will pay for may not be what recipients deem a priority. So poor countries’ governments say what they must to get cash, and often fail to keep their side of the deal. Aid to build schools may be used to give fat contracts to allies, and the schools left empty. Ambulances bought by donors may rust on the kerb, waiting for spare parts. Now donors are trying a new approach: handing over aid only if outcomes improve. “Cash on delivery” sees donors and recipients set targets, for example to cut child mortality rates or increase the number of girls who finish school, and agree on how much will be paid if they are met.

Forget The Fitbit: Can Wearables Be Designed For The Developing World?
Fast Co.Exist
When we think of wearable technology today, we think of the Fitbits or the Apple Watch. But to many people, tracking our steps or sleep in unprecedented detail or getting a notification slightly faster is interesting but ultimately not quite useful enough. The quantified self, in the context of people who have access to any technology they want, can be inherently self-absorbed. Imagine a different use case: An impoverished woman in rural Africa, pregnant with her first child and many miles away from medical care. Here, a wearable that helps her track her pregnancy and let her know if she needs to get to a doctor could mean life or death for her unborn child.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015
This year´s annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report takes stock of progress made towards achieving the internationally established Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) and World Food Summit hunger targets and reflects on what needs to be done, as we transition to the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. The report reviews progress made since 1990 for every country and region as well as for the world as a whole. Progress towards the MDG 1 target, however, is assessed not only by measuring undernourishment, or hunger, but also by a second indicator – the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age. Progress for the two indicators across regions and over time, is compared, providing insights into the complexity of food security.  Overall progress notwithstanding, much work remains to be done to eradicate hunger and achieve food security across all its dimensions. The 2015 report not only estimates the progress already achieved, but also identifies remaining problems, and provides guidance on which policies should be emphasized in the future.

How clamping down on tax avoidance can unlock billions for development
The Guardian
Tax evasion is a major cause of underdevelopment. Against the backdrop of Greece struggling to plug budgetary holes, aggravated by rampant tax evasion, the upcoming UN financing for development conference to support achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is giving increased attention to cultivating domestic resources to promote development.  Rather than adopting new initiatives to bolster tax bases and reduce evasion, UN members ought to focus on making existing tools work better. Among the most powerful instruments available is the anodyne-sounding convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters, which was developed under the OECD and Council of Europe, but is open to all jurisdictions. 

Toward data-driven development: Big improvement or big buzz?
Let’s face it, we’re a data-obsessed society.  The question as to whether or not data is increasingly interpenetrating our lives is obsolete. Data is everywhere: in our daily commute, our credit card transactions, our activities on the Web, our communications, our electricity consumption, and more.  The digital breadcrumbs we left behind have already been collected, stored, processed and acted upon by data-fed artificial intelligence. While not new, it is now faster — a lot faster — and on its way to becoming systematized.  This raises huge societal challenges: privacy, discrimination, inequality and, ultimately, free will. It has also generated high expectations for delivering better and timely decisions — and for improving our understanding of the social fabric.  The movement seems irreversible. We can deny it, cope with it or try to get the best out of it.

Google Brings Back Tweets To Its Mobile Search Results After 4 Year Hiatus
International Business Times
The next time you search Google on your phone you'll also find real-time search results pulled from Twitter as the tech giant announced Tuesday that it will once again feature tweets.  Google had shown tweets in its search results until 2011, when its deal with Twitter expired. But now that Twitter is struggling mightily to gain users, the two companies have forged a deal that returns tweets to Google search results. The tweets will first appear in English searches done on mobile devices, but over time, Google said it will bring tweets to desktop search results as well as those conducted in other languages.  "Now when you’re searching on the Google app or any browser on your phone or tablet, you can find real-time content from Twitter right in the search results," Google said in a blog post Tuesday.


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