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Arab World Domain Name Opportunity Huge Economic Help

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

With the so-called Arab Spring still unfolding across much of the Arabic-speaking world, it is easy to miss a rising new economic opportunity: The introduction of an Arabic domain name system for the Internet.

The explosion in mobile phones in the Arab world has dramatically increased the number of people who can now access the Internet. One Arabic financial website put the number of people who can now access the Internet in one way or another in the Arab world as 75 million (www.nuqudy.com). As highlighted in the 2003 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), Arabic-speaking countries have been at a knowledge disadvantage for some time: more than 270 million citizens have access to fewer books than other languages, slower growth economies, and greater illiteracy than the faster-growing emerging economies. At the time, the AHDR found there were just 18 computers per 1,000 people compared to a global average of 78. And just 1.6 percent of Arabs had Internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world (AHDR 2003).

Since the dawn of the Internet, Latin script has been used exclusively for top-level web domain names, the addresses that end .com, .org and so on. That has been a big obstacle for users of non-Latin script languages like Arabic. It is estimated just 10 percent of people in the Arab world speak English. Many of the resources on the Internet and its utility have been lost to these people. But by using Arabic domain names, there will be a consistency and no more guesswork.

A typical problem in Latin transliterations of Arabic is the conundrum as to either using El or Al as the prefix to a word. This problem is eliminated when Arabic is used.

The Arab world is also very mixed, including the resource-rich, cash-rich Gulf States – Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain – and states with high rates of poverty such as Egypt, Djibouti and Yemen.

The protests and uprisings this year in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere – with their Facebook pages and Twitter streams – have shown that a growing group of highly Internet-savvy young people is emerging in the Arab world. But for many without the education or the resources, access to knowledge still remains weak. But armed with Internet-capable mobile phones and Arabic language domain names, rapid change is now possible.

The number of books published in Arabic is notoriously relatively low, and print runs are small. Arabic language books make up just 1.1 percent of world production.

The AHDR reports have called this knowledge deficit a direct obstacle to human development in Arab countries.

But things are changing and the rise of Arabic domain names offers the potential for an explosion in Arabic language Internet content.

In May 2010 ICANN, the world’s Internet domain authority, decided to allow top-level domains in non-Latin script. For Arabic speakers, it started this program in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

As a sign of the importance of Arabic participation in future growth of the Internet, this year’s World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2011 was sponsored by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A catchy domain name has many advantages. For Arabic speakers, this means they can type in Arabic domain names for websites and even do it right to left, as they do in print.

In 2009, the first Arabic domain name was grabbed by Egypt. As the Internet naming authority, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (www.icann.org), started to allow the registering of non-Latin script names. The domain was for the Arabic word for Egypt or “.masr”.

As an early adopter, Egypt sees it as an important part of bringing more Arabic speakers online. George Victor, from the Egyptian National Telecom Regulatory Authority, told the BBC: “We believe that this is a great step that will open new horizons for many e-services in Egypt, and it will have its direct impact, enlarging the number of online users.”

Victor believes using Arabic builds trust.

“Having a domain name in your own language is a point of having a local identity,” he said.

“When talking about Arabic domain names, we are talking about having users which are not online now. People with languages disabilities – people who are having language as a barrier to connect online.”

From now on Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.

The advantages of registering an Arabic domain name are numerous. They include clear improvements to business and trade: an ability to protect a trademark, better communication with Arabic customers, better Arabic-language advertising opportunities, better memorability for Arabic domain names because they will be in the Arabic language, and greater access to Arabic customers.

But there are also significant improvements to how the Internet functions in the Arabic world. Search results on Arabic search engines will be more precise with Arabic domain names; catchy, memorable domain names will be a spur to the advertising and marketing industries; and a more Arab-friendly Internet will draw in more Arabic-speaking Internet users, helping them to enjoy the fruits of this great technological advance just as speakers of other languages have.

In March 2011, the Gulf state of Qatar enthusiastically started to offer Arabic domain names.

“The launch of Qatar’s Arabic top-level domain names is a major milestone as we work to build a more digitally inclusive society,” said Dr. Hessa Al Jaber, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, which will manage Qatar’s Internet domain names through the Qatar Domains Registry.

“As more organizations and individuals begin adopting Arabic domain names, the Internet will literally be opened up to broad new audiences. The Arab world represents a region with enormous potential for growth both in terms of usage and the creation of new digital content, especially Arabic content.”

ICANN’s President and Chief Executive, Rod Beckstrom, sees this as a new phase for the Internet: “ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain system to better serve all of mankind.”

Published: July 2011

Resources

1) Watch the ICANN educational video “Get Ready for the Next Big Thing”, explaining how domain names work and what the changes mean. Website: http://www.icann.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Mobile Applications Market: Opportunities for South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As the number of mobile phone users around the world mushrooms, so does the mobile phone applications market. Revenue from downloads of applications, or apps, topped US $10 billion in 2009, according to market analyst firm Juniper (http://juniperresearch.com).

Applications have two distinct advantages for the poor in the South. Apps targeted at the poor can boost incomes and increase health and education. And they are an emerging way to make money.

Somebody who develops an application can expect to make up to 70 percent of the download cost. Apple (http://www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone) – owner of the iPhone application store – claims it has already given developers over US $1 billion in revenues.

It is a growing industry. The market-leading Apple App Store now boasts more than 225,000 applications for download and sale. It says they have been downloaded an impressive 5 billion times.

Android Market (http://www.android.com/market/#app=com.com2us.HG), run by the search engine Google, has more than 60,000 apps on offer. GetJar (www.getjar.com), an independent mobile phone application store from Sweden, says it has 72,000 apps available and has had 1 billion downloads.

Now that the apps economy has been running for a couple years, it is possible to divine what increases a developer’s success. Some believe the apps marketplace mimics the dynamics of the music business, rather than the traditional software business.

GetJar chief executive Ilja Laurs told the Economist that it takes as long to write an app as a song. Apps on average cost about the same as a music download: US $1.90. And just like the pop music charts, a few become big hits but most never make it. Apps are also a quick hit: even after becoming successful they can quickly fade back to obscurity again. In short, they are fad and trend driven and are very much about the moment and a current need.

That means they are wide open to newcomers from the South.

With mobile phones now the main channel for information in East Africa, for example, and mobile penetration exceeding 40 percent of the population there, vast markets have opened for apps. East Africa has more than 120 million citizens, with a large majority living in rural areas: many needing poverty-fighting apps to change their lives.

Various new applications show the creative thinking already coming out of the South. South Africa’s Afridoctor (www.afridoctor.com) is Africa’s first personal mobile health clinic. Users submit photos of ailments and receive advice from a panel of professionals, or use the mapping feature to find doctors, clinics and all health industry related services nearby. The emergency feature notifies next of kin of your distress and location. Features include symptom checkers, first-aid information, health calculators and quizzes. Afridoctor hopes to make health care affordable and accessible to Africans. It is made by 24.com (http://store.ovi.com/publisher/24.com), South Africa’s largest digital brands group.

In Mexico, the tragedy of migrants dying as they try to cross the border to the United States is being addressed by Mexican professor Ricardo Dominguez, with funding from charities. He has developed an app tool to help people who cross the US-Mexico border find drinking water in the desert, churches with shelter, and human right groups offering them help. Immigrants download the app – being called a “platform for Migrant Border” – onto their mobile phones.

“The purpose is to provide a platform to travel safely through the desert,” said Dominguez, who led the design team.

App action has heated up in India, where Spice Mobiles (http://www.spiceglobal.com/SpiceMobiles/SpiceMobiles.aspx) – a wing of the Spice Group – is launching an application store with 250 content providers. India’s Bharti Airtel launched its first home-grown mobile application store in February of this year – Airtel App Central (http://www.airtel.in/apps). It clocked up over 13 million downloads in four months.

India’s Reliance Communications (http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/home/index.html) also launched an application called Socially. It has been designed to enable users to follow the recent activity of friends, and also allows the user to update their status on different social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn through a single client.

Jon Gosier, from Appfrica Labs (http://appfrica.net/blog) – behind the highly successful crisis crowdsourcing Ushahidi application (http://www.ushahidi.com) – explained the thinking behind apps in Africa:

“Our goal is to show the world that Africa is capable of solving some of its own problems,” he told CP-Africa.com. “Too often Africans aren’t even considered as a resource when discussing how to improve their own quality of life.”

He has the following advice for would-be app developers: “Think global. Too many entrepreneurs here (Africa) think of themselves as competing with peers within their school or country. That’s not true. You’re competing in the global market now. If your website or web app doesn’t look as flashy or polished as the stuff from 37 Signals (www.37signals.com) or Carsonified (www.carsonified.com), you’ve still got work to do.

“You don’t get a pass on the web because you’re African. You get the challenge of working harder.”

NEW: Apps4Africa Competition: Apps 4 Africa is a regional competition with the goal of promoting local technology entrepreneurs as they build tools to serve the needs of NGOs and the local community. This unprecedented partnership meshes civil society with developers and designers to create technical solutions to local challenges. The competition will ask civil society and citizens throughout the region to submit local community challenges on issues like transparency and better governance, health, education and more where technology can be a part of the solution. The burgeoning ranks of innovative techies in the region will then use this list of community challenges as the basis of their work, thus creating “an app for that.” Website:www.apps4africa.org

Published: August 2010

Deadline: August 31, 2010

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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India 2.0: Can the Country Make the Move to the Next Level?

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

With the global economic crisis threatening to cause turmoil in the emerging markets of the global South, it is becoming clear that what worked for the past two decades may not work for the next two.

For India, the legacy issues of poverty still need to be addressed, and the country’s impressive information technology (IT) industry – which has driven so much of India’s growth – will face stiff competition from other countries in the global South. Some argue that if the IT industry hopes to keep growing and contributing to India’s wealth, things will need to change.

Unlike China, where heavy investment in infrastructure and a strong link between government and the private sector has driven the impressive manufacturing boom in the country, in India the government has de-regulated and taken a back seat, leaving the private sector and entrepreneurs to drive the change and do the innovation.

Many believe various areas need urgent attention if India is to continue to enjoy good growth rates in the coming years. Areas in need of attention include infrastructure, healthcare and education (thesmartceo.in), in particular the knowledge to work in the information technology industry of the 21st century.

One of the founders of Indian outsourcing success Infosys (infosys.com), executive co-chairman Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, “So many people’s lives have been changed by IT in India.

“People from the middle class and lower middle class have become global employees and have the opportunity to work with some of the best companies in the world. But the challenge for India is that this industry can only create so many jobs. IT is not going to solve the unemployment problem in India.”

But the coming next wave of change in information technology is an opportunity to be seized to reduce unemployment if enough people are educated to handle it.

According to Gopalakrishnan: “I strongly believe, and it’s backed up by data, that there is a shortage of computer professionals everywhere in the world, including India. The application of computers is growing dramatically and will continue to grow dramatically over the next 20 to 30 years. We have to train and create the workforce necessary to grow this industry.”

Various media stories have called this next phase India 2.0. If India 1.0 was the highly successful information technology outsourcing industry developed in the late 1980s, through the 1990s and 2000s, then India 2.0 is the next wave of IT innovation being driven by Big Data, automation, robotics, smart technologies and the so-called “Internet of things.”

Big Data is defined as the large amounts of digital data continually generated by the global population. The speed and frequency with which data is produced and collected – by an increasing number of sources – is responsible for today’s data deluge (UN Global Pulse). It is estimated that available digital data will increase by 40 per cent every year. Just think of all those mobile phones people have, constantly gathering data.

Processing this data and finding innovative ways to use it will create many of the new IT jobs of the future.

“We are living in a world which is boundary-less when it comes to information, and where there is nowhere to hide,” continues Gopalakrishnan, “If you have a cellphone, somebody can find out exactly where you are. Through social networks you’re sharing everything about yourself. You are leaving trails every single moment of your life. Theoretically, in the future you’ll only have to walk through the door at Infosys and we’ll know who you are and everything about you.”

Unlike in the late 1980s, when India was the pioneer in IT outsourcing for large multinational companies and governments, competition is fierce across the global South. The mobile-phone revolution and the spread of the Internet have exponentially increased the number of well-educated people in the global South who could potentially work in IT. China, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are just some of the countries heavily involved in this area.

If India fails to meet the India 2.0 challenge, it risks seeing its successful companies and entrepreneurs leaving to work their magic elsewhere in Asia and the new frontiers of Africa, just as many of its best and brightest of the recent past became pioneers and innovators in California’s Silicon Valley.

India’s IT sector contributed 1.2 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998; by 2012, this was 7.5 per cent (Telegraph). The IT industry employs 2.5 million people in India, and a further 6.5 million people indirectly. IT makes up 20 per cent of India’s exports and, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (nasscom.in), the industry has revenue of US $100 billion.

India is now the IT and outsourcing hub for more than 120 of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States.

Out of India’s 3.5 million graduates every year, 500,000 are in engineering – a large pool of educated potential IT workers. India produces the world’s third largest group of engineers and scientists, and the second largest group of doctors.

IT has become a route that catapults bright Indian youth into 21st-century businesses and science parks and to the corporations of the world.

One visible example of the prosperity brought by IT services in India is the booming technology sector based in the city of Bangalore (also called Bengaluru) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore).

Reflective of the contradictions of India, Bangalore has 10 per cent of its workforce now working in IT, but also 20 per cent of its population living in urban slums.

The nearby Electronics City (elcia.in) is considered “India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies.”

To date, aspects of India 2.0 are already taking shape.

One company is called Crayon Data (crayondata.com). It uses Big Data and analytics to help companies better understand their customers and increase sales and deliver more personal choices.
Edubridge (http://acumen.org/investment/edubridge/) is helping to bridge the gap for rural youth with varied education backgrounds and long-term jobs. Edubridge trains youth for the real needs of employers to increase the chances they will get a job. This includes jobs in the IT business process outsourcing sector and banking and financial services.

Infosys is working on innovations for the so-called “Internet of things,” in which smart technologies connect everyday items to the grid and allow for intelligent management of resources and energy use. Infosys is developing sophisticated software using something called semantic analytics – which analyses web content (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_analytics) – to sort through social media and the Internet to track customer responses to products.

Elsewhere, former Infosys Chief Executive Nanden Nilekani is involved in a Big Data innovation to address the problem of social and economic exclusion of India’s poor. Called Aadhaar (http://uidai.gov.in/), the government-run scheme is gathering biometric data on every Indian to build the world’s largest biometric database. After being enrolled and having fingerprints and iris scans taken, each individual is given a 12-digit identification number. So far 340 million people have been registered with the scheme, and it is hoped 600 million will be registered by the end of 2014.

The idea is to use a combination of access to mobile phones and these unique ID numbers to widen access to all sorts of products and services to poor Indians, including bank accounts for the millions who do not have one. Many people, lacking any identity or official acknowledgment they exist, were prevented from engaging with the formal economy and formal institutions. Being able to save money is a crucial first step for getting out of poverty and it is hoped information technology will play an important role in achieving this.

Published: March 2014

Resources

1) India 2.0 by Mick Brown. Website: http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/india2.0/part-one#top

2) Electronic City Bangalore: Regional information portal for Electronic City, an industrial technology hub located in Bangalore South, India. This portal is becoming the most favourite haunt of ECitizens living and/or working in Electronic City. Website: http://www.electronic-city.in/

3) Electronics City Industries Association: Welcome to the Electronics City, India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies. Located in Bangalore, the Electronics City was conceived way back in the mid-1970?s as an Industrial Estate exclusively for Electronics Industries. Today the industrial estate boasts is an oasis of large, medium and small industries spanning software services, hardware; high end telecommunications; manufacture of indigenous components; electronic musical instruments, just  to name a few. Website: elcia.in

4) Godrej E-City: Situated in Electronic city and connected through NICE road and the elevated expressway, Godrej E-City brings your workplace and other major conveniences within your immediate reach. Your travel times become shorter and hassle-free. You have more time for your family and yourself. It’s time to move closer to happiness. Website: https://www.godrejproperties.com/godrejecity/overview

5) Infosys: Infosys is a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions. As a proven partner focused on building tomorrow’s enterprise, Infosys enables clients in more than 30 countries to outperform the competition and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Website: http://www.infosys.com/pages/index.aspx

6) Tech Hub Bangalore: partnering with the UK India Business Council to establish TechHub in Bangalore.TechHub is a community and workspace for technology entrepreneurs with 1000’s of members, building the most exciting startups in Europe. We have physical community spaces in London, Manchester, Bucharest, Swansea and Riga and have members from over 50 countries.The Bangalore site will be part of a wider scheme in partnership with other British firms such as Rolls Royce, ADS, Bangalore Cambridge Innovation Network, BAe and PA Consulting with the aim of forging stronger links between the UK and India. Website: http://www.techhub.com/blog/techhub-expands-to-bangalore/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Awards 1998-2003 | February 2020

UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn) 

I launched this portal in 1997, in the middle of a major economic crisis in Mongolia. This award-winning (winner in 1998 of the People’s Choice WebSite 500 award and the CyberTeddy Top 500 Website award) and pioneering United Nations Mongolia development web portal was singled out by UN headquarters as an example of what a country office website should be like.

At this time, Mongolia was still recovering from the chaotic and turbulent transition from Communism to free markets and democracy begun at the start of the 1990s, called by some “one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever” (Mongolia’s Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994). There was a thirst for information: access to the Internet was still limited and access to mobile phones was just the preserve of the rich. As a legacy of the past, information, especially that about the outside world and the country’s true economic and social conditions, was restricted. During the years of Communism, even simple travel from one place to the next was strictly regulated.

While today we can take it for granted that the Internet, and mobile and smart phones, deliver the world’s information in seconds, this just was not the case in the late 1990s in Mongolia.

“Cyber-Teddy’s Top 500 Web Site” was an online award from the late 1990s.
The UN/UNDP Mongolia development web portal addressed the urgent need to communicate what was happening in the country during a major crisis, and to transparently show what the UN was doing to address the crisis. It made critical data on the country’s development easy to find, and informed the wider world about the country and its people and culture. While the Internet had only just arrived in Mongolia, from the start the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office was experimenting with this powerful new technology to reach a global audience. This included Mongolia’s first web magazine, Ger (launched in 1998). After the http://www.un-mongolia.mn website launched in 1997, a media campaign began to inform readers of its presence. This ad appeared regularly in magazines, newsletters and newspapers.
“A UN System site. A very nice, complete, professional site. Lots of information, easily accessible and well laid out. The information is comprehensive and up-to-date. This is a model of what a UNDP CO web site should be.”

I was head of communications for the United Nations mission in Mongolia from 1997 to 1999. The mission had to primarily tackle three major crises: the country’s turbulent transition from Communism to free markets and democracy, the social and economic crash this caused, and the Asian Financial Crisis (Pomfret 2000) (Quah 2003)*.

Richard Pomfret said in 1994 “In 1991 Mongolia suffered one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever (Mongolia’s Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994).”

From Curbing Corruption in Asia: A Comparative Study of Six Countries by Jon S. T. Quah: “The combined effect of these three shocks was devastating as ‘Mongolia suffered the most serious peacetime economic collapse any nation has faced during this century’. Indeed, Mongolia’s economic collapse ‘was possibly the greatest of all the (peaceful) formerly’” Communist countries. 

“The years 1998 and 1999 have been volatile ones for Mongolia, with revolving door governments, the assassination of a minister, emerging corruption, a banking scandal, in-fighting within the ruling Democratic Coalition, frequent paralysis within the Parliament, and disputes over the Constitution. Economically, the period was unstable and rife with controversies.” Mongolia in 1998 and 1999: Past, Present, and Future at the New Millennium by Sheldon R. Severinghaus, Asian Survey, Vol. 40, No. 1, A Survey of Asia in 1999 (Jan. – Feb., 2000), pp. 130-139 (Publisher: University of California)

Writing in 2018, author John West  found, in a chapter titled Mongolia’s Corruption Curse (Transparency International and the World Bank had found corruption worsened in Mongolia after 2001), “In many ways, Mongolia has everything going for it. After being a satellite state of the former Soviet Union for much of the twentieth century, Mongolia regained its independence with the end of the Cold War. A relatively peaceful political revolution in the early 1990s ushered in a multi-party democracy and open society which have remained in place. … And it is blessed with vast reserves of copper, gold, coal, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin and tungsten deposits. True, Mongolia experienced great upheavals as the breakup of the Soviet Union saw its trade decline by 80%. But Mongolia was also perfectly placed to benefit from the commodity super cycle driven by China, which is now the destination for the vast majority of its exports.

“However, despite much hype about the Mongolian “wolf economy”, this country of so much promise is being dragged down by massive corruption. …

“Mongolia’s corruption is greatly weakening its attractiveness as an investment destination, is fracturing society and weakening its fragile political institutions. Its culture of corruption has also fed its love-hate relationship with foreign investors, which has destabilized the economy.” Asian Century … on a Knife-edge: A 360 Degree Analysis of Asia’s Recent Economic Development by John West, Springer, 24 January 2018.  

In this role, I pioneered innovative use of the Internet and digital resources to communicate the UN’s work and Mongolia’s unfolding crises. The UN called this work a “role model” for the wider UN and country offices. A survey of United Nations country office websites in 2000 ranked the UN Mongolia website I launched in 1997 and oversaw for two years (1997-1999), third best in the world, saying: “A UN System site. A very nice, complete, professional site. Lots of information, easily accessible and well laid out. The information is comprehensive and up-to-date. This is a model of what a UNDP CO web site should be.” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/274319690/UNDP-Mongolia-United-Nations-2000-Survey-of-Country-Office-Websites)

As part of a strategic plan to raise awareness of Mongolia’s development challenges and to spur action on meeting them, a Communications Office was established for the UN mission in 1997. Acting as a strategic hub, the Communications Office and its dynamic and talented team, were able to leverage the existing budget to spur action on many fronts.

In 2001, the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize for “their work for a better organized and more peaceful world” and its communications innovations, with work such as that in Mongolia being cited as a contributing factor to the awarding of the Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize 2001 joint winners.

GOSH Child Health Portal (www.gosh.nhs.uk)

In 2001 I undertook a two-year contract to modernise the online resources for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust (GOSH)/Institute of Child Health (ICH). My strategy was inspired and informed by initiatives encountered while working as a health and medical journalist in 1990s Canada – a time where government austerity spurred a need to experiment and try new ways of doing things.

Having seen the impact first-hand of pilot experiments in Toronto aimed at widening access to information and resources for patients and their families, I applied this knowledge to the GOSH Child Health Portal Project (2001 to 2003). Drawing on the wider NHS Modernisation Plan, and a multi-year consultation process undertaken by the hospital, the Project was launched in three phases. 

How far the UK had fallen out of step with global developments with the Internet became clear from the start. The distance that had to be traveled in the span of two years was vast. Essentially, to go from being a web laggard to a web leader. 

Award-winning (http://www.scribd.com/doc/35249271/Childnet-Awards-2003-Brochure), the GOSH Child Health Portal was called by The Guardian newspaper one of the “three most admired websites in the UK public and voluntary sectors,” and a UK government assessment called the overall GOSH child health web portal a role model for the NHS. At the time, Prime Minister Tony Blair (whose wife, Cherie Blair, was an early supporter and champion of the project) had this to say: “Making sure that your child has helpful, easy-to-read information will make a significant difference to their time in hospital. I am sure that this website will prove very useful for children and their families.”

The project was delivered in three phases. At every stage, progress was communicated to the wider public and colleagues in various ways, via in-house media and through constant engagement with British news outlets. Screen grabs and other resources from the project can be found online here: 

Phase 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=g826gFjEXWsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=gosh+health+phase+1a&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj5u__dqIHLAhVJOxoKHZ3IDZcQ6AEIJTAA#v=onepage&q=gosh%20health%20phase%201a&f=false 

Phase 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=E2ZVlFbrCzsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=gosh+health+phase+2a&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEodr0qIHLAhWK2BoKHStJB7QQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=gosh%20health%20phase%202a&f=false

Phase 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KVE6QqDp1HsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=gosh+health+phase+3&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiXwe-FqYHLAhVBvxoKHXhOCooQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=gosh%20health%20phase%203&f=false

Project documents: https://books.google.ca/books?id=4aeDBgAAQBAJ&dq=gosh+child+health+portal+key+documents&source=gbs_navlinks_s

The Cable and Wireless Childnet Award called Children First “an outstanding example of how a hospital can create quality, authoritative information on issues relating to health in a fun, child-centered and accessible way.”

More here from The Guardian and CBS: Hospital unveils international website for children and Web Projects For Kids Get Their Due 

The Childnet Awards in 2003 were awarded by Trond Waage, the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children, at the Science Museum in London.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021