Paper by Tiago Peixoto et al : “Benjamin Franklin famously once said that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In developing countries, however, tax revenues are anything but certain. Madagascar is a prime example, with tax collection as a share of GDP at just under 11 percent. This is low even compared with countries of similar levels of economic development, and well below what the government could reasonably collect to fund much-needed public services, such as education, health and infrastructure.
Poor compliance by citizens who owe taxes remains a major reason for Madagascar’s low tax collection. Madagascar’s government has therefore made increasing tax revenue collection a high priority in its strategy for promoting sustainable economic growth and addressing poverty.
We took a group of 15,885 late-income-tax filers and randomly assigned some of them to receive a series of messages reminding them to file a tax declaration and emphasizing various reasons to pay taxes. Late tax filers were told that they could avoid a late penalty by meeting an extended deadline and were given the link to the tax filing website.
The results of the experiment were significant. In the control group, only 7.2% of late filers filed a tax return by the extended deadline cited in the SMS messages. This increased to 9.8% in the treatment groups who received SMS reminders. This might not sound like much, but for every dollar spent sending text messages, the tax authority collected an additional 329 dollars in revenues, making the intervention highly cost-effective.
In fact, the return on this particular investment was 32,900 percent! Although this increase in revenue is relatively small in absolute terms—around $375,000—it could be automatically integrated into the tax system. It also suggests that messaging may hold a lot of promise for cost-effectively increasing tax receipts even in developing country contexts….(More)”.
OD Mekong Blog: “Considering Indigenous rights in the open data and technology space is a relatively new concept. Called “Indigenous Data Sovereignty” (IDS), it is defined as “the right of Indigenous peoples to govern the collection, ownership, and application of data about Indigenous communities, peoples, lands, and resources”, regardless of where the data is held or by whom. By default, this broad and all-encompassing framework bucks fundamental concepts of open data, and asks traditional open data practitioners to critically consider how open data can be used as a tool of transparency that also upholds equal rights for all…
Four main areas of concern and relevant barriers identified by participants were:
Self-determination to identify their membership
National governments in many states, particularly across Asia and South America, still do not allow for self-determination under the law. Even when legislation offers some recognition these are scarcely enforced, and mainstream discourse demonises Indigenous self-determination.
However, because Indigenous and ethnic minorities frequently face hardships and persecution on a daily basis, there were concerns about the applicability of data sovereignty at the local levels.
Intellectual Property Protocols
It has become the norm in the everyday lives of people for big tech companies to extract data in excessive amounts. How do disenfranchised communities combat this?
Indigenous data is often misappropriated to the detriment of Indigenous peoples.
Intellectual property concepts, such as copyright, are not an ideal approach for protecting Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights because they are rooted in commercialistic ideals that are difficult to apply to Indigenous contexts. This is especially so because many groups do not practice commercialization in the globalized context. Also, as a concept based on exclusivity (i.e., when licenses expire knowledge gets transferred over as public goods), it doesn’t take into account the collectivist ideals of Indigenous peoples.
Ultimately, data protection is about protecting lives. Having the ability to use data to direct decisions on Indigenous development places greater control in the hands of Indigenous peoples.
National governments are barriers due to conflicts in sovereignty interests. Nation-state legal systems are often contradictory to customary laws, and thus don’t often reflect rights-based approaches.
Consent — Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
FPIC, referring to a set of principles that define the process and mechanisms that apply specifically to Indigenous peoples in relation to the exercise of their collective rights, is a well-known phrase. They are intended to ensure that Indigenous peoples are treated as sovereign peoples with their own decision-making power, customary governance systems, and collective decision-making processes, but it is questionable as to what level one can ensure true FPIC in the Indigenous context.²
It remains a question as too how effectively due diligence can be applied to research protocols, so as to ensure that the rights associated with FPIC and the UNDRIP framework are upheld….(More)”.
Paper by Hadrien Salat, Zbigniew Smoreda, and Markus Schläpfer: “High quality census data are not always available in developing countries. Instead, mobile phone data are becoming a go to proxy to evaluate population density, activity and social characteristics. They offer additional advantages for infrastructure planning such as being updated in real-time, including mobility information and recording temporary visitors’ activity. We combine various data sets from Senegal to evaluate mobile phone data’s potential to replace insufficient census data for infrastructure planning in developing countries. As an applied case, we test their ability at predicting accurately domestic electricity consumption. We show that, contrary to common belief, average mobile phone activity is not well correlated with population density. However, it can provide better electricity consumption estimates than basic census data. More importantly, we successfully use curve and network clustering techniques to enhance the accuracy of the predictions, to recover good population mapping potential and to reduce the collection of informative data for planning to substantially smaller samples….(More)”.
Moses John Bockarie at The Conversation: “Global collaboration and sharing data on public health emergencies is important to fight the spread of infectious diseases. If scientists and health workers can openly share their data across regions and organisations, countries can be better prepared and respond faster to disease outbreaks.
This was the case in with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Close to 100 scientists, clinicians, health workers and data analysts from around the world worked together to help contain the spread of the disease.
But there’s a lack of trust when it comes to sharing data in north-south collaborations. African researchers are suspicious that their northern partners could publish data without acknowledging the input from the less resourced southern institutions where the data was first generated. Until recently, the authorship of key scientific publications, based on collaborative work in Africa, was dominated by scientists from outside Africa.
The Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness, an international network of major research funding organisations, recently published a roadmap to data sharing. This may go some way to address the data sharing challenges. Members of the network are expected to encourage their grantees to be inclusive and publish their results in open access journals. The network includes major funders of research in Africa like the European Commission, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust.
The roadmap provides a guide on how funders can accelerate research data sharing by the scientists they fund. It recommends that research funding institutions make real-time, external data sharing a requirement. And that research needs to be part of a multi-disciplinary disease network to advance public health emergencies responses.
In addition, funding should focus on strengthening institutions’ capacity on a number of fronts. This includes data management, improving data policies, building trust and aligning tools for data sharing.
Allowing researchers to freely access data generated by global academic counterparts is critical for rapidly informing disease control strategies in public health emergencies….(More)”.
Anjana Ahuja at the Financial Times: “It should be a moment of cautious optimism: a second promising vaccine has become available to tackle the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instead, there is uncertainty and angst. Clinicians desperately want to see the new vaccine deployed. But officials in the DRC, unnerved by public reaction to an earlier experimental vaccine, worry that introducing a second one might stoke public suspicions and destabilise containment efforts.
Experts met in the capital Kinshasa last week to work out which way to jump. The dilemma illustrates that human behaviour can be as destructive to global health as any deadly pathogen. Addressing diseases — even the organ-destroying horror that is Ebola — is no longer a matter of merely concocting a vaccine but also persuading people to roll up their sleeves for it. Some academics are even calling for the World Health Organization to establish its own “nudge unit” to apply lessons from behavioural science. While dealing with disease outbreaks “require[s] modifying or working with human behaviour”, they wrote recently in Scientific American, “the global response to these threats lacks a coherent focus on behavioural insights.”…(More)”
Bvudzai Magadzire, Melissa West, Emily Lawrence, Julia Guerette & Barbara Jones-Singer at the Stanford Social Innovation Review: ” …At the core of our framework is the idea that solutions must exist within an “enabling context.” The enabling context comprises external conditions such as a country’s level of political stability, government independence, and economic prosperity. Each of these can have a major effect on whether a government entity succeeds in sustaining a solution after an NGO or private-sector partner exits. While these external factors are generally outside most organizations’ control, monitoring them can inform decisions about how to invest time and resources, with the aim of minimizing their negative impacts on a government’s ability to sustain projects.
We are using tools like the PESTLE framework to help identify external factors that could impact the success of programs, as well as reviewing resources from USAID, World Bank, World Health Organization, and other agencies to better understand the political, economic, and social context for transitioning solutions to our government partners. For instance, the government of Malawi has made high-level political commitments to support maternal, adolescent, and child health, but as a low-income country, it has limited funds to spend on health. Thus, reducing costs is critical. VillageReach initially developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the telecommunications provider Airtel—one of two major mobile service providers in Malawi. Since signing the MOU in 2015, Airtel has covered all incoming call and promotional text costs of the hotline, allowing callers to call CCPF for free from any Airtel phone. The government is now managing the MOU with Airtel as part of the transition process.
As organizations assess a social solution’s readiness for transition to government, they should consider both the external environment and each of the solution elements. (Illustration by The Medium)
The second tier of our framework combines all the elements integral to a solution’s success that (unlike the enabling context) are within the control of an implementing organization. We call this the “integrated solution,” and it has six elements:
Solution design: This includes standard operating procedures, guidelines, templates, and job and skill descriptions needed to manage and operate the solution. We are developing a toolkit specifically to support the government in managing CCPF.
Resource availability: This includes the financial and human resources, as well as infrastructure like buildings and equipment, needed to transition, operate, and maintain the solution. For CCPF, we are supporting the development of a memorandum of understanding between the government and the telecommunications provider Airtel to ensure that the company continues to cover the costs of calls to the hotline.
Financial management: This covers developing and managing budgets, estimating and managing costs, and disbursing funds in a timely fashion. This process has been important for understanding exactly which budgets need what amount of funds to ensure that operations continue.
Government strategy: This includes sector (in our case, health-sector) and related government strategies that support the solution’s transition, operation, and maintenance. For CCPF, we needed to ensure that these aligned with Malawi’s broader strategic plan for the health sector.
Policy and regulatory strategies: These are laws and regulations that affect the solution’s transition, operation, and maintenance. For CCPF, we needed to ensure that the cadre of hotline workers fit into government staffing protocols and that we could legally share certain types of health information with callers.
Organizational structure: This includes managerial roles and responsibilities, management effectiveness, and governance. CCPF established a steering committee to help maintain alignment and accountability.
Organizations should evaluate and plan for the enabling context and integrated solution concurrently—ideally prior to or early on in the process of developing their solution, and periodically throughout its life….(More)”
Josh Gerstein at Politico: “The Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to businesses seeking to block their information from being disclosed to the public after it winds up in the hands of the federal government.
The justices ruled in favor of retailers seeking to prevent a South Dakota newspaper from obtaining store-level data on the redemption of food stamp benefits, now officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The high court ruling rejected a nearly half-century-old appeals court precedent that allowed the withholding of business records under the Freedom of Information Act only in cases where harm would result either to the business or to the government’s ability to acquire information in the future.
The latest case was set into motion when the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused to disclose the store-level SNAP data in response to a 2011 FOIA request from the Argus Leader, the daily newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The newspaper sued, but a federal district court ruled in favor of the USDA.
The Argus Leader appealed, and the U.S. Appeals Court for the 8th Circuit ruled that the exemption the USDA was citing did not apply in this case, sending the issue back to a lower court. The district court was tasked with determining whether the USDA was covered by a separate FOIA exemption governing information that would cause competitive injury if released.
That court ruled in favor of the newspaper, at which point the Food Marketing Institute, a trade group that represents retailers such as grocery stores, filed an appeal in lieu of the USDA….(More)”.
Paper by Richard Heeks et al: “The role of data within international development is rapidly expanding. However, the recency of this phenomenon means analysis has been lagging; particularly, analysis of broader impacts of real-world initiatives. Addressing this gap through a focus on data’s increasing presence in urban development, this paper makes two contributions. First – drawing from the emerging literature on ‘data justice’ – it presents an explicit, systematic and comprehensive new framework that can be used for analysis of datafication. Second, it applies the framework to four mapping initiatives in cities of the global South. These initiatives capture and visualise new data about marginalised communities: residents living in slums and other informal settlements about whom data has traditionally been lacking. Analysing across procedural, rights, instrumental and structural dimensions, it finds these initiatives deliver real incremental gains for their target communities. But it is external actors and wealthier communities that gain more; thus, increasing relative inequality….(More)”.
Report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation: “The immense power and value of data in the modern economy can and must be harnessed to meet the SDGs, but this will require new models of collaboration. The Panel discussed potential pooling of data in areas such as health, agriculture and the environment to enable scientists and thought leaders to use data and artificial intelligence to better understand issues and find new ways to make progress on the SDGs. Such data commons would require criteria for establishing relevance to the SDGs, standards for interoperability, rules on access and safeguards to ensure privacy and security.
Anonymised data – information that is rendered anonymous in such a way that the data subject is not or no longer identifiable – about progress toward the SDGs is generally less sensitive and controversial than the use of personal data of the kind companies such as Facebook, Twitter or Google may collect to drive their business models, or facial and gait data that could be used for surveillance. However, personal data can also serve development goals, if handled with proper oversight to ensure its security and privacy.
For example, individual health data is extremely sensitive – but many people’s health data, taken together, can allow researchers to map disease outbreaks, compare the effectiveness of treatments and improve understanding of conditions. Aggregated data from individual patient cases was crucial to containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Private and public sector healthcare providers around the world are now using various forms of electronic medical records. These help individual patients by making it easier to personalise health services, but the public health benefits require these records to be interoperable.
There is scope to launch collaborative projects to test the interoperability of data, standards and safeguards across the globe. The World Health Assembly’s consideration of a global strategy for digital health in 2020 presents an opportunity to launch such projects, which could initially be aimed at global health challenges such as Alzheimer’s and hypertension.
Improved digital cooperation on a data-driven approach to public health has the potential to lower costs, build new partnerships among hospitals, technology companies, insurance providers and research institutes and support the shift from treating diseases to improving wellness. Appropriate safeguards are needed to ensure the focus remains on improving health care outcomes. With testing, experience and necessary protective measures as well as guidelines for the responsible use of data, similar cooperation could emerge in many other fields related to the SDGs, from education to urban planning to agriculture…(More)”.
Chapter by Chinmayi Arun in Markus D. Dubber, Frank Pasquale, and Sunit Das (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI: “This chapter is about the ways in which AI affects, and will continue to affect, the Global South. It highlights why the design and deployment of AI in the South should concern us.
Towards this, it discusses what is meant by the South. The term has a history connected with the ‘Third World’ and has referred to countries that share post-colonial history and certain development goals. However scholars have expanded and refined on it to include different kinds of marginal, disenfranchised populations such that the South is now a plural concept – there are Souths.
The risks of the ways in which AI affects Southern populations include concerns of discrimination, bias, oppression, exclusion and bad design. These can be exacerbated in the context of vulnerable populations, especially those without access to human rights law or institutional remedies. This Chapter outlines these risks as well as the international human rights law that is applicable. It argues that a human rights, centric, inclusive, empowering context-driven approach is necessary….(More)”.