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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.

The Library’s Global Future
Discussions of the future of libraries are often surprisingly nostalgic endeavors, producing laments for vanished card catalogs or shrinking book stacks rather than visions of what might be. Even at their most hopeful, such conversations sometimes lose track of the pragmatic functions that libraries serve. Imagined as unchanging archives, libraries become mere monuments to our analog past. But envisioning them as purely digital spaces also misses the mark, capturing neither what they can be nor the way their patrons use them.

The world’s urban population is growing – so how can cities plan for migrants?
The Conversation
The world’s population is becoming increasingly urban. Sometime in 2007 is usually reckoned to be the turning point when city dwellers formed the majority of the global population for the first time in history. Today, the trend toward urbanisation continues: as of 2014, it’s thought that 54% of the world’s population lives in cities – and it’s expected to reach 66% by 2050. Migration forms a significant, and often controversial, part of this urban population growth. In fact, cities grow in three ways, which can be difficult to distinguish: through migration (whether it’s internal migration from rural to urban areas, or international migration between countries); the natural growth of the city’s population; and the reclassification of nearby non-urban districts. Although migration is only responsible for one share of this growth, it varies widely from country to country.

Drugs and Illicit Practices: Assessing their impact on development and governance
Christian Aid Occasional Paper
In a new, much-needed investigation, Christian Aid has begun to expose a major blind spot in development thinking, an area that has so far been hidden from view: the impact of the illicit economy on poverty eradication. In-depth case studies from four of the countries at the heart of the illicit drugs trade – Afghanistan, Colombia, Mali and Tajikistan – show how the illicit drugs trade is shaping the economies, governance, and social fabric of entire nations. This synthesis report explains the urgent need for this analysis, sets out the case studies’ main findings, raises the questions we need to start grappling with, and begins the search for solutions.

The Future of FinTech: A Paradigm Shift in Small Business Finance
World Economic Forum
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are often cited as the major driver of economies and a force in job creation, but they still have difficulty securing proper financing to prosper. The global financial crisis of 2007-2008, coupled with higher regulation and capital costs for loans to SMEs, has made it even more difficult for SMEs to secure financing. However, the financial crisis has also created a plethora of disruptors in the FinTech area (“FinTech”, a contraction of “finance” and “technology”, is defined as the use of technology and innovative business models in financial services) who, with their innovative ways to originate, assess credit risk and fund SME loans, have provided alternative ways for SMEs to secure funding for their growth.

Beating climate change is key to making nutritious food needed to beat hunger
The Guardian
With hopes high that a new global climate change agreement will be signed at the UN’s COP21 talks in Paris, the world faces a difficult question. How do we feed and nourish an increasing number of people while ensuring that expanded agricultural production becomes more sustainable, and does not put more strain on the world’s natural resources? The balance is especially difficult to strike given that 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and, in developing countries, agriculture – particularly small-scale farming – is the main source of income and employment. But improving food security is critical: today, one in every nine people goes to bed hungry, while one in four children are undernourished.

Removing barriers to competition in mobile payments platforms
Brookings TechTank
Despite some early success, the mobile money industry’s future remains unclear as many markets remain slow to ignite. For either a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) or a bank, starting mobile money operations is expensive, complex, and relatively high-risk. As a result, mobile financial systems in developing countries tend to be dominated by a few large players, mostly mobile operators. This dynamic often reduces incentives for the dominant firm to lower prices or innovate. In the end, these market dynamics hinder financial inclusion as customers tend to use mobile money systems infrequently, for a limited range of applications, and continue to rely on cash.

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Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomite