December 17, 2008
I’m working on a short article about this topic and was crunching some World Bank Development Index numbers today.
The payoff for you, dear reader, is the following factoid of the day:
From 2000-2008, approximately $97 out of every $100 earned internationally from licenses or royalties was paid to a high income OECD country. In contrast, Latin American and Caribbean countries combined to earn $0.005 (yes, one half of one cent) out of that same $100.
Got that? $97 vs. $0.0o5!
The moral of the story: cheap laptops and broadband are only the tip of the iceberg.
Eat your heart out ICT4D community.
November 10, 2008
Kudos to The Guardian‘s Rafael Behr, he’s written a really thought-provoking story on class tensions and political preferences in British cities.
The story details how politicians and marketers are using data-mining techniques to target particular voter/consumer groups through a large data-base called Mosaic:
Mosaic sorts people into 11 categories, sub-divided into 61 types. Each is defined according to shopping preferences, age range, family structure and values. I am curious to see where I fit in, so Professor [Richard] Webber punches in my postcode. ‘E30: New Urban Colonist – Younger, high-achieving professionals, enjoying a cosmopolitan lifestyle in a gentrified urban environment.’
Professor Webber winces. He didn’t come up with the names, he explains, and would have preferred not to use a metaphor of colonisation. I can see why. It makes me sound like a yuppie conquistador, setting sail for the inner city and decimating the indigenous population with my imported gastro-pub virus. The actual categorisation is more prosaic, and precise. The computer guesses that I shop at Waitrose, where I buy organic vegetables. I am likely to be white and 25-34 years old. I probably read The Observer. New Urban Colonists make up 1.36 per cent of the population.
This is a quintessentially New Labour way of looking at social division: not as a story of competing classes, but as a patchwork of consumer segments. The Mosaic headings are reminiscent of those emblematic voters – ‘Worcester Woman’ and ‘Mondeo Man’ – who were explicitly wooed and won over by Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 election.
Since the Obama victory is all-but-guaranteed to spark a growth industry in electoral social-networking tools, I wonder how the new tools will transform the uneasy class alliances that underly British politics today.
March 18, 2008
It’s a bit of a long haul, but if you aren’t scared of a few tables and a little bit of economic jargon, Thomas Pogge’s excellent essay in the current issue of Dissent de-bunks the idea that economic Globalization has reduced inequality during the past thirty years. These arguments aren’t new. The statistics aren’t even original (he pulled most of them from old UN reports). Nevertheless, it makes for a thought-provoking read. It also reiterates a point that a professor I taught for in the fall tried to hammer home to our undergraduates: “poverty is as poverty is measured.”