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Online Free Knowledge Sharing

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

UNESCO’s Kronberg Declaration on the Future of Knowledge Acquisition and Sharing is blunt: the future of learning will increasingly be mediated by technology, and traditional educational processes will be revolutionized. Acquiring factual knowledge will decrease and instead people will need to find their way around complex systems and be able to judge, organize and creatively use relevant information.

According to Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Communications and Information, “Lack of access to knowledge increasingly accentuates marginalization and economic deprivation, and we need to join efforts to bridge these gaps”

More and more initiatives are stepping in to break down barriers in the exchange of information and knowledge, and break out from the gatekeepers. The advent of Web 2.0 and its user-contributed resources is making this happen.

Connexions sees itself as the partner to go with the free and low-cost laptops being distributed by the One Laptop Per Child Project to schoolchildren in the developing world. Connexions is a Web 2.0 website that allows teachers and educators to upload their learning materials by subject for sharing with anyone who wants them. All content is broken down into modules for easy access. The content can be mixed to build courses, and adapted to suit local conditions. It represents a cornucopia of knowledge, ranging from mathematics to engineering to music lessons.

The content’s adaptability is its charm – users can add additional media like video and photos and modify and add on-the-ground case studies to really bring the material to life for students. The ability to re-mix and re-contextualise into the local circumstances is critical to get take-up of these resources argues Connexions.

Open Educational Resources is a global teaching and learning sharing website. It is all about getting teachers to open up and share their knowledge with other teachers. It contains full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games and simulations, It is run by ISKME,an independent, non-profit educational think tank whose mission is to understand and improve how schools, colleges, and universities, and the organizations and agencies that support them, build their capacity to systematically collect and share information

Another excellent way to share information is the online publishing tool Lulu. While it is free to publish – whether a book, photo book, brochure, artwork, digital media, DVD and e-books – it does cost the person who wants to download or order a printed and bound copy. The creator of the content gets to choose how much should be charged and what is a fair price. The beauty of this website is the ability for anyone to publish and to bypass the limitations of traditional publishing.

Once you have created your content, and taken the decision to share it with the world, you can also make sure it is copyright protected so that nobody accept you makes money from it. It is aimed at authors, scientists, artists and educators, and lets them protect their work for free. The Creative Commons initiative allows repeat use for free of the content as long as the user attributes its source to its original author. Any content you publish online will be given a logo clearly stating what rights it has.

Published: August 2007

Resources

  • Professor Richard Baraniuk explains his concept in a video: click here to view
  • The Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists and educators to easily define what rights they will allow people to have who use their work. The website has all the tools (including logos) to get started licensing work: www.creativecommons.org
  • Kronberg Declaration: Kronberg Declaration.pdf

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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Business as a Tool to Do Good

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The United States’ fast-paced and highly inventive technology sector is re-shaping philanthropy and proving it is possible to do good and make money at the same time. The approach taken by these philanthropists is flavoured by their experiences in the cut-throat world of technology, where innovation is a necessity and where re-invention and risk are de rigeur. They share many of these qualities, counter intuitively, with millions of the world’s poor as they struggle day in and day out to survive and get ahead.

Differing from the Fairtrade movement – whose origins are in NGOs seeking guaranteed fair price for goods – so-called ‘venture philanthropists’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’ focus more on profit and growth. They draw their inspiration from the online networks that have rocked the business world in the past few years, and look to apply a model of constant innovation.

The past ten years have seen non-profits more and more adopt the language and methods of business. For ‘venture philanthropists’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’, business is the tool to do good. By breaking out of the narrow view of philanthropy as about giving away money, it becomes possible to see the connections between doing good and making good money, venture philanthropists argue. And as more people think this way, more tools are emerging to make it easier and easier to do.

The highly successful online auction house Ebay’s founders Jeff Skoll and Pierre Omidyar are part of a wave of new thinking from California’s high-tech Silicon Valley that is shaping the way huge sums of private capital get invested in social change.

‘Venture philanthropists’ focus on a small portfolio of grantees that make the most of the investment. By giving them large, long commitments, including money for infrastructure such as staff and computers, they don’t spend all their time fundraising. And unlike traditional philanthropists, they get in their offices and work with them like partners instead of waiting for annual reports, and they hold the grantees to quantifiable goals.

The success of Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus and his microcredit bank, Grameen, has spawned an even more ambitious venture. The Omidyar Network – led by billionaire Omidyar – calculated it would take between US $50 and US $60 billion to provide micro-lending services to the entire world’s poor. The Network is currently putting together the financing to launch this new micro-lending facility across the world. According to Omidyar, private capital is functionally limitless. Look at it that way, he said recently to the Los Angeles Times, and “$60 billion is nothing.”

Billing itself as a nonprofit venture capital firm, the Acumen Fund uses the principles of design to solve the problems of the poor. Just as the Procter & Gambles (PG) and Motorolas (MOT) of the corporate world conduct extensive ethnographic research on consumers, Acumen finances companies that create systems from the bottom up. “Start with the individuals,” said founder Jacqueline Novogratz. “Build systems from their perspective. Really pay attention, and then see if they can scale.”

Under Novogratz’s leadership, the New York-based fund manages $20 million in investments in companies that fall within three portfolios: health, water, and housing. It’s not a lot of money compared with any of the traditional venture funds in Silicon Valley. But Acumen’s goal is not to launch initial public offerings. Rather, Novogratz and her team are building prototypes for new business models that measure returns in social benefits as well as monetary rewards.

“We are betting on entrepreneurs, we look for a strong management team,” said Brian Trelstad, Chief Investment Officer of the Acumen Fund. “We currently have US $20 million in investments in six countries. We hope to take that to US $100 million in the next five years. We are beginning to see a really rich pipeline developing in our investment countries and more high quality investment opportunities coming our way. We are looking for people who are passionate about their approach and who continue to build their business from the perspective of the people in need.”

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of the successful search engine Google, started their philanthropic wing, Google.org, following Ebay’s example. They endowed Google.org with stock now worth about US $1 billion. Then they followed Omidyar’s example and set themselves up as a for-profit network.

“In the old American business model, the relationships between a firm and its investors, bank, suppliers and customers tended to be very arm’s length,” says Annalee Saxenian, dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Information. “You would make a deal and report back after some specified period of time. The new business model is much more engaged. Everyone learns from one another, and there is a continuous flow of information. The firms are more specialized, but they see each other as collaborators.”

The approach, just like in the pell mell pace of the computer industry, is relentless. Just as computer software and hardware manufacturers follow a constant improvement and innovation cycle, so can social entrepreneurs.

Published: March 2007

Resources

  • The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Said Business School, hosts the Skoll World Forum every year to promote entrepreneurial solutions to social problems.
  • Ashoka: Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. It identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs with innovative and practical ideas at the launch stage. They then receive a living stipend for three years to focus on their ideas.
  • Social Ventures Partners: While only focused on the Seattle, USA area, SVP offers a model that can be applied throughout the global South. The vision of the founders was to build a philanthropic organization using a venture capital model, where partners actively nurture their financial investments with guidance and resources.
  • Generation Investment Management: Started in 2004 with former US vice president Al Gore, they only focus on investments that are long-term, sustainable and that they really believe in.
  • Omidyar Network: Started by Ebay’s founders, it funds for-profits and non-profits who promote equal access to information, tools and opportunities, and encourage shared interests and a sense of ownership among participants.
  • Skoll Foundation: The mission of the Foundation is to seek out social entrepreneurs who are already implementing successful programs on a small scale, and then through three-year awards, support the continuation, replication or extension of the program. Issues funded are: tolerance and human rights, health, environmental sustainability, economic and social equity, institutional responsibility, and personal security.
  • SV2: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund: A partnership of successful technology entrepreneurs, it pools funds to support social entrepreneurs by giving money and giving time – venture philanthropy.
  • Google.org: It uses the talent, technology and financial resources of the successful search engine to tackle global poverty.
  • Acumen Fund: A non-profit venture fund that invests in market-based solutions to global poverty. The Fund supports entrepreneurial approaches to developing affordable goods and services for the 4 billion people in the world who live on less than $4 a day.
  • TechnoServe: Helps budding entrepreneurs turn good business ideas into thriving enterprises. With funding from the Google Foundation, they are launching a Business Plan Competition and an Entrepreneurship Development Program in Ghana.

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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Southern Innovator As A Knowledge And Learning Tool | November 2017

Why even bother printing (on paper) Southern Innovator as a magazine? “What about the trees and we live in the digital age!”, some might say.

There is evidence and science supporting the need to always publish Southern Innovator in print as well as online. First, a study of the World Bank’s online publications came to a shocking conclusion: A survey in 2014 found a third of World Bank publications are never downloaded, 40 per cent were downloaded just 100 times, and only 13 per cent were downloaded more than 250 times in their lifetime (The Washington Post). As The Washington Post pointed out, these are publicly funded publications with the intention of contributing to policy debates and providing solutions to the world’s problems. So, if nobody is reading them, or just a handful are, that actually does matter if you care about positive change in the world.

Secondly, a Norwegian study in 2014 from the Stavanger University (part of Europe-wide research into the impact of digitisation on the reading experience), found “… that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” according to lead researcher Anne Mangen (The Guardian).

An earlier study the researchers did also found “students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally” and that “Studies with students, for instance, have shown that they often prefer to read on paper”, continued Mangen in The Guardian.   

Another issue is Internet shutdowns, outages and censorship. All of these have been on the increase, especially in Africa (africanews.com). To put it simply, you cannot electronically shutdown a piece of paper. 

Design to show and teach.
Innovations Summary.
Innovations Summary.
A fast-changing world.
Knowledge Summary.
Knowledge Summary.
Being a Southern Innovator: An Urban Guide.
Turning Waste into Wealth: A Southern Innovator’s Guide.
Managing the workflow: Getting things done.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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

© David South Consulting 2017

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UN Ukraine Web Development Experience | 2000

In November/December 2000 I worked in Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine for the United Nations mission on the strategic re-launch of the mission website as a portal, whilst also advising the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Gardner on communications strategy. It was an extraordinary experience on many levels. It was a time when the Internet was fast evolving and required quick thinking and an ability to innovate; it was also a key moment in Ukraine’s history. 

The dangers at the time for communicating on the Internet were starkly clear: on September 16, the Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze was murdered. In 2013 Aleksei Pukach, former head of the surveillance department in the Ministry of Interior, was convicted of the murder. 

But despite those dangers and clear threats from the government of the time, there was a flourishing and inventive Internet and digital economy. The magazine Internet UA (whose editor I enjoyed meeting) gave a great overview of the scene in Ukraine and its creativity. Just as now, the creation of Internet stars who can exploit the medium (in this case sexy videos: a very large online market today) was driving viewers and subscribers. But there was also a vibrant online news media, blogging, commerce and gaming presence as well.

Internet UA magazine: Sex sells and the sex industry has always had pioneers seeking new ways to get eyeballs for their content. The Internet from its early days has been driven by the search for nude pictures and sex videos. In this cover feature, “Internet + TV: Double Impact”. That content mix has become the foundation of websites such as Pornhub etc.

According to ain.ua, the Ukrainian digital economy today is ” … ‘local’ only just figuratively speaking. Ukrainian startups are initially focused on international markets. Product companies are included into international industry ratings. Outsourcing works with clients from all over the world. Global players enter Ukrainian market, opening R&D offices, acquiring and investing into local companies. There are no boundaries.” 

A magazine feature on ‘Natasha’s’ Internet content offering.

It is easy to take digital freedoms for granted now but there was great resistance at the time and, unlike today, many governments were openly hostile to digital technology, online communications and e-commerce.

50 websites to bookmark in 2000.

The UN itself was evolving and embracing the communications and design revolution being driven by digital change. This was the first “dot.com” boom, which had begun in 1997. I had played a key role in pioneering online content for Mongolia (1997-1999) and could bring this experience to Ukraine. In particular, I launched an award-winning web portal for the UN Mongolia mission in 1997 (www.un-mongolia.mn) and also the country’s first web magazine, Ger

The UN Ukraine brief involved creating content that was accessible to users with low bandwidth, dial-up connections (few had mobile phones in 2000). I had been building new media experience throughout the 1990s, tracking the cable and satellite TV and mobile/Internet revolutions for the Financial Times as a journalist, as well as launching websites for various media clients. 

The Terms of Reference for the UN/UNDP Ukraine assignment.
The assignment business card.
The UN/UNDP Ukraine website before launch as a portal.
The first iteration of the new UN Ukraine portal.

Key content created and launched on the UN Ukraine portal included critical information on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ukraine, UN Ukraine’s first online magazine to explore perceptions of volunteering and NGOs in the post-communist period, and content preparing for the visit of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by showing how Ukraine was engaging with global development priorities, for example the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

The first UN Ukraine online magazine.
Bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

One highlight of this assignment was working with the “UN Chornobyl Programme” to develop its web content. This included visiting Pripyat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat),an abandoned city because of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. I have visited many abandoned and “secret” cities and towns in the course of working with the United Nations but this particular visit had the added dimension of an environmental and human health disaster hanging over it (and as a former healthcare worker at Canada’s top cancer hospital and research institute, I couldn’t forget the impact of high radiation levels on the body).  

UN Chornobyl Programme website in development, 2000.
UN agencies in Ukraine.
UNDP in Ukraine.

The power of the Internet and the digital economy to engage people, especially the young, despite living in a country with significant political repression of free speech and even physical intimidation and murder, stuck with me. This work also contributed to laying the foundations for Ukraine’s growing freedoms and greater engagement with Europe. 

As this chart shows, increasing connectivity had a profound impact on living standards in Ukraine and Mongolia post-2000. The extreme turbulence Mongolia experienced in the 1990s – after the collapse of support mechanisms from the Soviet Union – calmed down as Mongolia integrated with the global economy, especially a booming China.

Read about my work in Mongolia in the late 1990s:

High Impact Communications In A Major Crisis: UNDP Mongolia 1997-1999 | 18 February 2016

CASE STUDY 4: UN + UNDP Mongolia | 1997 – 1999

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

© David South Consulting 2022