Broadband Internet and social capital


Paper by Andrea Geraci, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Reggiani and FabioSabatini: “We study the impact of broadband penetration on social capital in the UK. Our empirical strategy exploits a technological feature of the telecommunication infrastructure that generated substantial variation in the quality of Internet access across households. The speed of a domestic connection rapidly decays with the distance of a user’s line from the network’s node serving the area. Merging information on the topology of the network with geocoded longitudinal data about individual social capital from 1997 to 2017, we show that access to fast Internet caused a significant decline in civic and political engagement. Overall, our results suggest that broadband penetration crowded out several dimensions of social capital….(More)”.

GovTech Case Studies: Solutions that Work


Worldbank: “A series of GovTech case study notes — GovTech Case Studies: Solutions that Work — provides a better understanding of GovTech focus areas by introducing concrete experiences of adopting GovTech solutions, lessons learned and what worked or did not work.

Take a sneak peek at the first set of case studies which explores GovTech solutions implemented in Brazil, Cambodia, Georgia, Lesotho, Myanmar, and Nigeria….

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Read Brazil GovTech Case Study…(More)”.

Web3 and the Trap of ‘For Good’


Article by By Scott Smith & Lina Srivastava : “There are three linked challenges baked into Web3 that any proponent of positive social impact must solve.

1. Decentralized tech doesn’t equal distributed power. Web3 has become synonymous with the decentralized web, and one of the selling points of Web3 technologies is decentralization or shared ownership of web infrastructure. But in reality, ownership is too often centralized by and for those with resources already, the wealthy (even if only coin-wealthy) and corporations.

As the example of NFT marketplace OpenSea demonstrates, risks are too easily distributed onto the users, even as the gains remain very much centralized for platform owners and a small minority of participants. Even Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin has issued warnings about power concentration in Web3 token-based economies, saying crypto “whales” can have too much power in these economies. Systems become inherently extractive unless ownership is shared and distributed by a majority, particularly by those who are traditionally most vulnerable to exploitation.

For this reason, equitable power structures must be proactively designed in Web3 systems.

2. A significant percentage of existing power holders are already building their Web3 business models on exploitation and extraction. At present, these business models mine energy and other resources to the detriment of our climate and environment and of energy-poor communities, in some cases actively resuscitating wasteful or harmful power projects. They do so without addressing these concerns in their core business model (or even by creating offsets, a less desirable alternative but still better than nothing).

These models are meant to avoid accountability to platform users or vulnerable communities in either economic or environmental terms. But they nevertheless ask for our trust?

3. Building community trust takes more than decentralization. Those who are building over distributed technologies often claim it as a solution to a trust deficit, that “trust” is inherent to the systems. Except that it isn’t…(More)”

Controversy Mapping: A Field Guide


Book by Tommaso Venturini, and Anders Kristian Munk: “As disputes concerning the environment, the economy, and pandemics occupy public debate, we need to learn to navigate matters of public concern when facts are in doubt and expertise is contested.

Controversy Mapping is the first book to introduce readers to the observation and representation of contested issues on digital media. Drawing on actor-network theory and digital methods, Venturini and Munk outline the conceptual underpinnings and the many tools and techniques of controversy mapping. They review its history in science and technology studies, discuss its methodological potential, and unfold its political implications. Through a range of cases and examples, they demonstrate how to chart actors and issues using digital fieldwork and computational techniques. A preface by Richard Rogers and an interview with Bruno Latour are also included.

A crucial field guide and hands-on companion for the digital age, Controversy Mapping is an indispensable resource for students and scholars of media and communication, as well as activists, journalists, citizens, and decision makers…(More)”.

How Tech Despair Can Set You Free


Essay by Samuel Matlack: “One way to look at the twentieth century is to say that nations may rise and fall but technical progress remains forever. Its sun rises on the evil and on the good, and its rain falls on the just and on the unjust. Its sun can be brighter than a thousand suns, scorching our enemies, but, with some time and ingenuity, it can also power air conditioners and 5G. One needs to look on the bright side, living by faith and not by sight.

The century’s inquiring minds wished to know whether this faith in progress is meaningfully different from blindness. Ranking high among those minds was the French historian, sociologist, and lay theologian Jacques Ellul, and his answer was simple: No.

In America, Ellul became best known for his book The Technological Society. The book’s signature term was “technique,” an idea he developed throughout his vast body of writing. Technique is the social structure on which modern life is built. It is the consciousness that has come to govern all human affairs, suppressing questions of ultimate human purposes and meaning. Our society no longer asks why we should do anything. All that matters anymore, Ellul argued, is how to do it — to which the canned answer is always: More efficiently! Much as a modern machine can be said to run on its own, so does the technological society. Human control of it is an illusion, which means we are on a path to self-destruction — not because the social machine will necessarily kill us (although it might), but because we are fast becoming soulless creatures…(More)”.

Global Cooperation on Digital Governance and the Geoeconomics of New Technologies in a Multi-polar World


A special collection of papers by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and King’s College London (KCL) resulting from: “… a virtual conference as part of KCL’s Project for Peaceful Competition. It brought together an intellectually and geographically diverse group of experts to discuss the geoeconomics of new digital technologies and the prospects for governance of the technologies in a multi-polar world. The papers prepared for discussion at the conference are collected in this series. An introduction summarizes (in heavily abbreviated form) the principal analytical conclusions emerging from the conference, together with the main policy recommendations put forward by participants….(More)”.

Technology is revolutionizing how intelligence is gathered and analyzed – and opening a window onto Russian military activity around Ukraine


Craig Nazareth at The Conversation: “…Through information captured by commercial companies and individuals, the realities of Russia’s military posturing are accessible to anyone via internet search or news feed. Commercial imaging companies are posting up-to-the-minute, geographically precise images of Russia’s military forces. Several news agencies are regularly monitoring and reporting on the situation. TikTok users are posting video of Russian military equipment on rail cars allegedly on their way to augment forces already in position around Ukraine. And internet sleuths are tracking this flow of information.

This democratization of intelligence collection in most cases is a boon for intelligence professionals. Government analysts are filling the need for intelligence assessments using information sourced from across the internet instead of primarily relying on classified systems or expensive sensors high in the sky or arrayed on the planet.

However, sifting through terabytes of publicly available data for relevant information is difficult. Knowing that much of the data could be intentionally manipulated to deceive complicates the task.

Enter the practice of open-source intelligence. The U.S. director of national intelligence defines Open-Source Intelligence, or OSINT, as the collection, evaluation and analysis of publicly available information. The information sources include news reports, social media posts, YouTube videos and satellite imagery from commercial satellite operators.

OSINT communities and government agencies have developed best practices for OSINT, and there are numerous free tools. Analysts can use the tools to develop network charts of, for example, criminal organizations by scouring publicly available financial records for criminal activity.

Private investigators are using OSINT methods to support law enforcement, corporate and government needs. Armchair sleuths have used OSINT to expose corruption and criminal activity to authorities. In short, the majority of intelligence needs can be met through OSINT…

Even with OSINT best practices and tools, OSINT contributes to the information overload intelligence analysts have to contend with. The intelligence analyst is typically in a reactive mode trying to make sense of a constant stream of ambiguous raw data and information.

Machine learning, a set of techniques that allows computers to identify patterns in large amounts of data, is proving invaluable for processing OSINT information, particularly photos and videos. Computers are much faster at sifting through large datasets, so adopting machine learning tools and techniques to optimize the OSINT process is a necessity.

Identifying patterns makes it possible for computers to evaluate information for deception and credibility and predict future trends. For example, machine learning can be used to help determine whether information was produced by a human or by a bot or other computer program and whether a piece of data is authentic or fraudulent…(More)”.

Bringing Open Source to the Global Lab Bench


Article by Julieta Arancio and Shannon Dosemagen: “In 2015, Richard Bowman, an optics scientist, began experimenting with 3D printing a microscope as a single piece in order to reduce the time and effort of reproducing the design. Soon after, he started the OpenFlexure project, an open-license 3D-printed microscope. The project quickly took over his research agenda and grew into a global community of hundreds of users and developers, including professional scientists, hobbyists, community scientists, clinical researchers, and teachers. Anyone with access to a 3D printer can download open-source files from the internet to create microscopes that can be used for doing soil science research, detecting diseases such as malaria, or teaching microbiology, among other things. Today, the project is supported by a core team at the Universities of Bath and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, as well as in Tanzania by the Ifakara Health Institute and Bongo Tech & Research Labs, an engineering company. 

OpenFlexure is one of many open science hardware projects that are championed by the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH), a transnational network of open science hardware advocates. Although there are differences in practice, open hardware projects operate on similar principles to open-source software, and they span disciplines ranging from nanotechnology to environmental monitoring. GOSH defines the field as “any piece of hardware used for scientific investigations that can be obtained, assembled, used, studied, modified, shared, and sold by anyone. It includes standard lab equipment as well as auxiliary materials, such as sensors, biological reagents, analog and digital electronic components.” Compared to an off-the-shelf microscope, which may cost thousands of dollars, an OpenFlexure microscope may cost a few hundred. By being significantly cheaper and easier to maintain, open hardware enables more people in more places to do science….(More)”.

Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us


Book by Congressman Ro Khanna: “… offers a revolutionary roadmap to facing America’s digital divide, offering greater economic prosperity to all. In Khanna’s vision, “just as people can move to technology, technology can move to people. People need not be compelled to move from one place to another to reap the benefits offered by technological progress” (from the foreword by Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics).

In the digital age, unequal access to technology and the revenue it creates is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States. There is an economic gulf between those who have struck gold in the tech industry and those left behind by the digital revolution; a geographic divide between those in the coastal tech industry and those in the heartland whose jobs have been automated; and existing inequalities in technological access—students without computers, rural workers with spotty WiFi, and plenty of workers without the luxury to work from home.

Dignity in the Digital Age tackles these challenges head-on and imagines how the digital economy can create opportunities for people all across the country without uprooting them. Congressman Ro Khanna of Silicon Valley offers a vision for democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Representative Khanna argues that we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.

Born into an immigrant family, Khanna understands how economic opportunity can change the course of a person’s life. Anchored by an approach Khanna refers to as “progressive capitalism,” he shows how democratizing access to tech can strengthen every sector of economy and culture. By expanding technological jobs nationwide through public and private partnerships, we can close the wealth gap in America and begin to repair the fractured, distrusting relationships that have plagued our country for far too long.

Moving deftly between storytelling, policy, and some of the country’s greatest thinkers in political philosophy and economics, Khanna presents a bold vision we can’t afford to ignore. Dignity in a Digital Age is a roadmap to how we can seek dignity for every American in an era in which technology shapes every aspect of our lives…(More)”.

A paradigm shift in lending to smallholder farmers: the potential of geomapping technology


new report by Small Foundation and Palladium: “… looks at the viability of geomapping as a tool to close the smallholder farmers’ financing gap and improve their livelihoods.

Geomapping is the process of collecting location information, typically with a GPS system and using it to assemble a map. For a technology provider like SyeComp, geomapping means sending field personnel out to map boundaries using a rugged, handheld GPS and then generating detailed maps. The report examines how companies like SyeComp use geomapping data to assess smallholder farmers’ risk and offers recommendations for scaling its use, with the ultimate goal of increasing smallholder farmers’ access to finance and creating pathways out of poverty.

The newly published research also indicates that geomapping technology providers within the agriculture sector are most differentiated by their specific customer segment, offering services directly to smallholder farmers or indirectly through financial institutions (FIs) or agribusinesses.

However, no matter their business model, most offer value to many stakeholders in a given value chain, either through geomapping information for FIs, market pricing information for farmers, or yield estimations for cooperatives. “Because geomapping providers are able to generate value for multiple stakeholders, their use offers a real opportunity to transform the financing landscape for smallholder farmers,” explains Eduardo Tugendhat, Palladium Director of Thought Leadership.

The report highlights how geomapping technology providers add value to the operations of financial institutions, agribusinesses, and cooperatives, and most importantly to the farmers themselves. For FIs, geomapping provides a critical, yet missing piece of the puzzle in a credit assessment—farm size and location. This information allows FIs to better understand potential yield, which they can use to modify a loan value and repayment terms. When providers overlay location information with climate risk maps, even more opportunities open for climate financing.

For agribusinesses such as product buyers, food processors and input suppliers, geomapping offers the added benefits of understanding where a farmer is located to make product collection more efficient, reduce the pestilence risk of certain farms to avoid product loss, and ensure product traceability.

Most importantly, geomapping providers deliver benefits to smallholder farmers by giving them access to locally tailored weather information, market and pricing data, and crop advice that assists farmers in achieving higher yields and getting their crops to the right buyers….(More)”.