AI and the Global South: Designing for Other Worlds


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)”.

Number of fact-checking outlets surges to 188 in more than 60 countries


Mark Stencel at Poynter: “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.

Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.

Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.

The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own.

Over the past 12 months, five separate multimedia partnerships enlisted more than 60 different fact-checking organizations and other news companies to help debunk claims and verify information for voters in MexicoBrazilSweden,Nigeria and the Philippines. And the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network assembled a separate team of 19 media outlets from 13 countries to consolidate and share their reporting during the run-up to last month’s elections for the European Parliament. Our database includes each of these partnerships, along with several others— but not each of the individual partners. And because they were intentionally short-run projects, three of these big partnerships appear among the 74 inactive projects we also document in our database.

Politics isn’t the only driver for fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation — often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads.

We also continue to see new topic-specific fact-checkers such as Metafact in Australia and Health Feedback in France— both of which launched in 2018 to focus on claims about health and medicine for a worldwide audience….(More)”.

From Theory to Practice : Open Government Data, Accountability, and Service Delivery


Report by Michael Christopher Jelenic: “Open data and open government data have recently attracted much attention as a means to innovate, add value, and improve outcomes in a variety of sectors, public and private. Although some of the benefits of open data initiatives have been assessed in the past, particularly their economic and financial returns, it is often more difficult to evaluate their social and political impacts. In the public sector, a murky theory of change has emerged that links the use of open government data with greater government accountability as well as improved service delivery in key sectors, including health and education, among others. In the absence of cross-country empirical research on this topic, this paper asks the following: Based on the evidence available, to what extent and for what reasons is the use of open government data associated with higher levels of accountability and improved service delivery in developing countries?

To answer this question, the paper constructs a unique data set that operationalizes open government data, government accountability, service delivery, as well as other intervening and control variables. Relying on data from 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the paper finds a number of significant associations between open government data, accountability, and service delivery. However, the findings suggest differentiated effects of open government data across the health and education sectors, as well as with respect to service provision and service delivery outcomes. Although this early research has limitations and does not attempt to establish a purely causal relationship between the variables, it provides initial empirical support for claims about the efficacy of open government data for improving accountability and service delivery….(More)”

Journalism Initiative Crowdsources Feedback on Failed Foreign Aid Projects


Abigail Higgins at SSIR: “It isn’t unusual that a girl raped in northeastern Kenya would be ignored by law enforcement. But for Mary, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, it should have been different—NGOs had established a hotline to report sexual violence just a few years earlier to help girls like her get justice. Even though the hotline was backed by major aid institutions like Mercy Corps and the British government, calls to it regularly went unanswered.

“That was the story that really affected me. It touched me in terms of how aid failures could impact someone,” says Anthony Langat, a Nairobi-based reporter who investigated the hotline as part of a citizen journalism initiative called What Went Wrong? that examines failed foreign aid projects.

Over six months in 2018, What Went Wrong? collected 142 reports of failed aid projects in Kenya, each submitted over the phone or via social media by the very people the project was supposed to benefit. It’s a move intended to help upend the way foreign aid is disbursed and debated. Although aid organizations spend significant time evaluating whether or not aid works, beneficiaries are often excluded from that process.

“There’s a serious power imbalance,” says Peter DiCampo, the photojournalist behind the initiative. “The people receiving foreign aid generally do not have much say. They don’t get to choose which intervention they want, which one would feel most beneficial for them. Our goal is to help these conversations happen … to put power into the hands of the people receiving foreign aid.”

What Went Wrong? documented eight failed projects in an investigative series published by Devex in March. In Kibera, one of Kenya’s largest slums, public restrooms meant to improve sanitation failed to connect to water and sewage infrastructure and were later repurposed as churches. In another story, the World Bank and local thugs struggled for control over the slum’s electrical grid….(More)”

Can tracking people through phone-call data improve lives?


Amy Maxmen in Nature: “After an earthquake tore through Haiti in 2010, killing more than 100,000 people, aid agencies spread across the country to work out where the survivors had fled. But Linus Bengtsson, a graduate student studying global health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, thought he could answer the question from afar. Many Haitians would be using their mobile phones, he reasoned, and those calls would pass through phone towers, which could allow researchers to approximate people’s locations. Bengtsson persuaded Digicel, the biggest phone company in Haiti, to share data from millions of call records from before and after the quake. Digicel replaced the names and phone numbers of callers with random numbers to protect their privacy.

Bengtsson’s idea worked. The analysis wasn’t completed or verified quickly enough to help people in Haiti at the time, but in 2012, he and his collaborators reported that the population of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, dipped by almost one-quarter soon after the quake, and slowly rose over the next 11 months1. That result aligned with an intensive, on-the-ground survey conducted by the United Nations.

Humanitarians and researchers were thrilled. Telecommunications companies scrutinize call-detail records to learn about customers’ locations and phone habits and improve their services. Researchers suddenly realized that this sort of information might help them to improve lives. Even basic population statistics are murky in low-income countries where expensive household surveys are infrequent, and where many people don’t have smartphones, credit cards and other technologies that leave behind a digital trail, making remote-tracking methods used in richer countries too patchy to be useful.

Since the earthquake, scientists working under the rubric of ‘data for good’ have analysed calls from tens of millions of phone owners in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and at least two dozen other low- and middle-income nations. Humanitarian groups say that they’ve used the results to deliver aid. And researchers have combined call records with other information to try to predict how infectious diseases travel, and to pinpoint locations of poverty, social isolation, violence and more (see ‘Phone calls for good’)….(More)”.

Democracy in Retreat: Freedom in the World 2019


Freedom House: “In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat.

In states that were already authoritarian, earning Not Free designations from Freedom House, governments have increasingly shed the thin façade of democratic practice that they established in previous decades, when international incentives and pressure for reform were stronger. More authoritarian powers are now banning opposition groups or jailing their leaders, dispensing with term limits, and tightening the screws on any independent media that remain. Meanwhile, many countries that democratized after the end of the Cold War have regressed in the face of rampant corruption, antiliberal populist movements, and breakdowns in the rule of law. Most troublingly, even long-standing democracies have been shaken by populist political forces that reject basic principles like the separation of powers and target minorities for discriminatory treatment.

Some light shined through these gathering clouds in 2018. Surprising improvements in individual countries—including Malaysia, Armenia, Ethiopia, Angola, and Ecuador—show that democracy has enduring appeal as a means of holding leaders accountable and creating the conditions for a better life. Even in the countries of Europe and North America where democratic institutions are under pressure, dynamic civic movements for justice and inclusion continue to build on the achievements of their predecessors, expanding the scope of what citizens can and should expect from democracy. The promise of democracy remains real and powerful. Not only defending it but broadening its reach is one of the great causes of our time….(More)”.

A Smart City Stakeholder Classification Model


Paper by Anthea Van der Hoogen, Brenda Scholtz and Andre Calitz: “Cities globally are facing an increasing forecasted citizen growth for the next decade. It has therefore become a necessity for cities to address their initiatives in smarter ways to overcome the challenges of possible extinction of resources. Cities in South Africa are trying to involve stakeholders to help address these challenges. Stakeholders are an important component in any smart city initiatives. The purpose of this paper is to report on a review of existing literature related to smart cities, and to propose a Smart City Stakeholder Classification Model. The common dimensions of smart cities are identified and the roles of the various stakeholders are classified according to these dimensions in the model. Nine common dimensions and related factors were identified through an analysis of existing frameworks for smart cities. The model was then used to identify and classify the stakeholders participating in two smart city projects in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa….(More)”.

Politics and Technology in the Post-Truth Era


Book edited by Anna Visvizi and Miltiadis D. Lytras: “Advances in information and communication technology (ICT) have directly impacted the way in which politics operates today. Bringing together research on Europe, the US, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, this book examines the relationship between ICT and politics in a global perspective.

Technological innovations such as big data, data mining, sentiment analysis, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, social media and blockchain technology are reshaping the way ICT intersects with politics and in this collection contributors examine these developments, demonstrating their impact on the political landscape. Chapters examine topics such as cyberwarfare and propaganda, post-Soviet space, Snowden, US national security, e-government, GDPR, democratization in Africa and internet freedom.


Providing an overview of new research on the emerging relationship between the promise and potential inherent in ICT and its impact on politics, this edited collection will prove an invaluable text for students, researchers and practitioners working in the fields of Politics, International Relations and Computer Science…..(More)”

Drones to deliver medicines to 12m people in Ghana


Neil Munshi in the Financial Times: “The world’s largest drone delivery network, ferrying 150 different medicines and vaccines, as well as blood, to 2,000 clinics in remote parts of Ghana, is set to be announced on Wednesday.

The network represents a big expansion for the Silicon Valley start-up Zipline, which began delivering blood in Rwanda in 2016 using pilotless, preprogrammed aircraft. The move, along with a new agreement in Rwanda signed in December, takes the company beyond simple blood distribution to more complicated vaccine and plasma deliveries.

“What this is going to show is that you can reach every GPS co-ordinate, you can serve everybody,” said Keller Rinaudo, Zipline chief executive. “Every human in that region or country [can be] within a 15-25 minute delivery of any essential medical product — it’s a different way of thinking about universal coverage.”

Zipline will deliver vaccines for yellow fever, polio, diptheria and tetanus which are provided by the World Health Organisation’s Expanded Project on Immunisation. The WHO will also use the company’s system for future mass immunisation programmes in Ghana.

Later this year, Zipline has plans to start operations in the US, in North Carolina, and in south-east Asia. The company said it will be able to serve 100m people within a year, up from the 22m that its projects in Ghana and Rwanda will cover.

In Ghana, Zipline said health workers will receive deliveries via a parachute drop within about 30 minutes of placing their orders by text message….(More)”.

Facebook’s AI team maps the whole population of Africa


Devin Coldewey at TechCrunch: “A new map of nearly all of Africa shows exactly where the continent’s 1.3 billion people live, down to the meter, which could help everyone from local governments to aid organizations. The map joins others like it from Facebook  created by running satellite imagery through a machine learning model.

It’s not exactly that there was some mystery about where people live, but the degree of precision matters. You may know that a million people live in a given region, and that about half are in the bigger city and another quarter in assorted towns. But that leaves hundreds of thousands only accounted for in the vaguest way.

Fortunately, you can always inspect satellite imagery and pick out the spots where small villages and isolated houses and communities are located. The only problem is that Africa is big. Really big. Manually labeling the satellite imagery even from a single mid-sized country like Gabon or Malawi would take a huge amount of time and effort. And for many applications of the data, such as coordinating the response to a natural disaster or distributing vaccinations, time lost is lives lost.

Better to get it all done at once then, right? That’s the idea behind Facebook’s Population Density Maps project, which had already mapped several countries over the last couple of years before the decision was made to take on the entire African continent….

“The maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers’ time and resources on the places they’re most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs,” said Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, one of the project’s partners.

The core idea is straightforward: Match census data (how many people live in a region) with structure data derived from satellite imagery to get a much better idea of where those people are located.

“With just the census data, the best you can do is assume that people live everywhere in the district – buildings, fields, and forests alike,” said Facebook engineer James Gill. “But once you know the building locations, you can skip the fields and forests and only allocate the population to the buildings. This gives you very detailed 30 meter by 30 meter population maps.”

That’s several times more accurate than any extant population map of this size. The analysis is done by a machine learning agent trained on OpenStreetMap data from all over the world, where people have labeled and outlined buildings and other features.

First the huge amount of Africa’s surface that obviously has no structure had to be removed from consideration, reducing the amount of space the team had to evaluate by a factor of a thousand or more. Then, using a region-specific algorithm (because things look a lot different in coastal Morocco than they do in central Chad), the model identifies patches that contain a building….(More)”.