World Bank to Bloggers: Drop Dead

UPDATE: Bill receives WDR2011 in Sunday 12:30pm email from World Bank. Should we complain now that he is getting special treatment? This morning we learned that the World Bank does not consider bloggers journalists. According to Bank policy, it won’t give press accreditation to bloggers, denying them access to the media briefing center where new reports are released under embargo before they are published for the public.

In this case, the report we won’t be allowed to see an advance copy of is this year’s World Development Report, on Conflict Security and Development. It’s due to be released to the public on Sunday night.

I was shocked, actually, since the World Bank is usually ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and communication. They have dozens of internal blogs which they encourage their staffers to post and comment on. Many of these these blogs don’t shy away from substantive debates about real development issues, including thoughtful self-criticism (a relevant example is this blog post by a World Bank staffer questioning whether anyone even reads the WDR any more, which makes us think they would WANT bloggers to write about it, but that’s another story).  Last year, the Bank opened up a new, user-friendly site with free access to 2,000 development indicators, and is hosting a competition to develop new apps that take advantage of this data.

We’ve given the WHO flak for shutting down debate saying that they “don’t participate in discussions on blogs” and shamed the UN for telling us they “didn’t have a communication policy for blogs.” But the World Bank? I expected so much better.

The White House has been accrediting bloggers since 2005, as do many US cities and states. Even the Millennium Challenge Corporation (a US aid agency) treats print and new media journalists equally.

I’m drafting an email to the Bank’s media department about this and encourage other bloggers to do the same. If we start now, we might just receive accreditation in time for the World Bank's 2015 "Mainstreaming New Media to Facilitate Progress of Democratizing New Technologies"  report.

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Twitter and Income Distribution

UPDATE 11:35am: don't think I obsess about Twitter numbers (see end of post)

I posted a link on Twitter to yesterday's great post by Laura: "Does Japan need your donation?". A little while later the traffic on Aid Watch exploded. Being still pretty clueless about social media, I didn't know why. Much later in the day, the reason became apparent -- it had made it into @TopTweets Favorites, which I had never heard of  but apparently has, oh, 1, or 2, or a million followers.

An aggregator like @TopTweets picks out what is already getting noticed and then makes it a LOT more noticed, makes it "famous for being famous."

Aid Watch was reasonably underwhelmed by the experience but did think -- there must be a development lesson here somewhere...

Indicators of human ability like IQ follow a bell curve - a normal distribution (as do other human attributes like height). But income distribution does NOT follow a bell curve. As a previous post noted, under the bell curve the top 1% of American men are more than 6 foot 4 inches tall. Under the distribution that income actually follows, the tallest 1 percent would be more than 46 feet tall! (14 meters).

One possible story is that income is partly driven by aggregators like @TopTweets. Twitter Fame itself is bankable, as Paris Hilton (3.6 million followers) could tell you. So is a lot of other fame.  The top authors, doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, movie-makers,musicians etc. keep getting recommended and re-recommended and get very noticed and very rich (assuming also that they can keep expanding their business with their fame).  Other of only slightly lesser talent never quite make the cutoff to explode into 46-foot-tall-land.

UPDATE 11:35am: don't think I obsess about Twitter numbers.... Wow, @TopTweets boosted me over 12,000 followers! Oh, #$%^&!, still 7,600 to go to catch up to @jeffdsachs.  And he probably doesn't even do his own Twitter account....

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Instead of the Iron Curtain, the Facebook Curtain

This map shows the pattern of Facebook friendship links across places around the world, with lots of white where there are very dense links across nearby places. The map was created by a Facebook intern, and I learned about it (where else?) on Facebook (HT Mari Kuraishi).

One interesting pattern is a kind of Facebook Curtain somewhat related to the old Iron Curtain. The whole area including the former Soviet Union and China, along with other adjacent autocracies like Burma and North Korea, is pretty much a Facebook void (see zoomed map below). This reflects some combination of language barriers, preference for other social networks in Russia and China, and some (rather unclear) role for Internet censorship by the authorities, which either prevents or lowers the payoff to participating in Facebook.

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US Government asks all governments to respect World Press & Internet Freedom except for US Government

From wonkette (HT David Zetland), the State Department has announced with impeccable timing (what is that Wikileaks thing?) and deafness to irony:

The theme for next year’s commemoration {of World Press Freedom Day} will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

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The Rock Star theory of rising inequality and development successes

from Alan Krueger's study of "Rockonomics" Top 1% Rock Stars are getting more and more of Rock Income.

The explanation? Cheaper audio equipment means top stars can capture more of the market. Why listen to the second-rate stars when the first-rate produce an unlimited number of recordings for you to listen to them? (And then you want to go to their concerts too?)

Does this have something to do with the general rise in inequality in the US? In the world?

Are rock stars also a good analogy for other development successes? Stay tuned.

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Technology history don't lie

Yours truly has a crazy new article in the latest issue of Foreign Policy on why no-tech ancient civilizations still can't catch up, based on my published research with Diego Comin and Erick Gong. But all is not doom and gloom, you just have to learn the right lessons from technology history:

As China's history has shown, when governments stop killing innovation, good things happen. Technological change has also dramatically speeded up, and lower communication and transportation costs make it cheaper and easier to borrow advanced technologies from other countries -- allowing societies to leap forward....The explosive growth in cell phones in Africa, skipping the intermediate step of land lines, is a promising sign of what Africa's tech future could look like -- if it weren't for its plague of poor governments.

Former World Bank chief economist Stanley Fischer used to joke about a new grammatical tense he called the "World Bank imperative form": Country reports were long lists of things that "must be done" by the authorities, ranging from grandiose infrastructure projects to implementing detailed plans to meet health, nutrition, sanitation, and education needs.

But our research shows that development is not about what you dictate, but what you discover. Little penicillin did far more to improve the world's lot than big plans conceived around a conference table.

...If there's anything that "must be done" to spur future development, it's to create the conditions necessary to empower the ordinary individuals who will create new and unforeseen technologies out of old ones. There's a Thomas Edison born every minute. We just have to help them turn the lights on.

Read the whole article here.

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How to become a feudal lord with hundreds of servants for $99

Our image of a medieval king is of somebody with hundreds of servants waiting upon His Majesty. Today, for $99, you commoners can get a much larger and better group waiting upon you. You will even have dead servants working for you – (1) Sumerians from 3000 BC (2) Babylonians from 2000 BC, (3) Egyptians from 1850 BC (4) Indians from 500 BC, (5) 7th century BC Romans, (6) 18th century Austrian musicians, (7) a 19th century professor from Lake Como. Living servants of yours have learned valuable things from the dead servants and added their own service. Your living workers come from (8) New York, (9) Dallas, (10) California, (11) Japan, (12) Taiwan, (13) Singapore, (14) Democratic Republic of the Congo, and (15) China. This remarkable $99 service plan is contained in a small object called an iPhone.

It has contributions from all of the above, such as (1) the sexagesimal system (60 minutes to an hour and 60 seconds to a minute), (2) the calendar and the 24 hour day, (3) arithmetic, (4) decimal numerals, (5) the Latin alphabet, (6) Mozart and Haydn tunes, (7) Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery, (8) the retail store where I bought my iPhone, (9) AT&T headquarters, (10) Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook (11) the screen, (12) circuit boards, (13) the chips, (14) the mineral coltan used in cell phones, and (15) final assembly

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Was the poverty of Africa determined in 1000 BC?

The usual development conversation about determinants of per capita income revolves around modern choices of institutions or economic policies. But what if history is the main determinant of development today? A paper by Diego Comin, Erick Gong, and myself was just published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. We collected crude but informative data on the state of technology in various parts of the world in 1000 BC, 0 AD, and 1500 AD.

1500 AD technology is a particularly powerful predictor of per capita income today. 78 percent of the difference in income today between sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe is explained by technology differences that already existed in 1500 AD – even BEFORE the slave trade and colonialism.

Moreover, these technological differences had already appeared by 1000 BC. The state of technology in 1000 BC has a strong correlation with technology 2500 years later, in 1500 AD.

Why do technological differences persist for so long? The ability to invent new technologies is much greater when you have more advanced technology already. James Watt had acquired a lot of tech experience in the mining industry which he used to invent the steam engine. Other people with the ability to make steel could then slap his steam engine on a vehicle running along steel rails and give us railroads.

Past technology alters probabilities of future success, but does not completely determine it. The most famous counter-example: China was historically technologically advanced and did NOT have the industrial revolution.

A large role for history is still likely to sit uncomfortably with modern development practitioners, because you can’t change your history. But we have to face the world as it is, not as we would like it to be: deal with it. Perhaps when you acknowledge the importance of your own history, you are then more likely to transcend it.

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The Androids are coming, is aid ready?

This post is the second in a series by Dennis Whittle. Dennis is the CEO of GlobalGiving, an international marketplace for philanthropy. In my last post, I argued that the "operating system" used by the current international aid agencies is stuck using IBM punch cards while the rest of the world has moved on to cell phones, laptops, and iPhones.

In the old system, you had to type programs into a stack of hundreds of punch cards, walk them down to the computer center, hand them to an operator, and wait in line for them to be processed. The lower you were in seniority, the longer you had to wait.

Contrast that with today, when hundreds of millions of people have their own computers, and several billion people have access to cell phones. iPhone and Android platforms now provide a way for hundreds of thousands of individuals to create and distribute new software. That software may or may not succeed in the marketplace, but it can be downloaded and used, and the most popular new apps get flagged to other users.

What would an analogous distributed operating system look like for the aid business?  The design of any such operating system has to address five questions:

  1. Who decides which problems aid should address?
  2. Who comes up with the solutions?
  3. Who gives the funding?
  4. Who competes to implement the solutions?
  5. Who gives feedback on how well the solutions work?

The existing system is closed. It assumes these questions will be answered by experts within one of the "mainframe" organizations like the World Bank, the UNDP, USAID, or one of the big NGOs.

Unlike 60 years ago, the expertise, resources and technology now exist to make a new decentralized and distributed aid system possible. Many more people—and not just experts—have relevant developing country experience (for example, the Peace Corps alone has over 250,000 alumni). Regular Americans give over $25 billion each year to charitable causes abroad—about the same amount as the US official aid budget. And PCs, internet, cell phones and related technologies now make it possible to connect all of these people and resources directly to the people who need help.

Marketplaces that directly connect funders to projects include GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose, MissionFish, GiveIndia, HelpArgentina, Conexion Columbia, Betterplace (Germany), GreaterGood South Africa, Net4Kids (Netherlands).  Markets need quality information, and groups such as Guidestar, New Philanthropy Capital, GiveWell, Great NonProfits, Philanthropedia, Keystone Accountability, Charity Navigator, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance have begun to operate mechanisms that collect and make available data from a wide variety of sources. Technology startups such as Frontline SMS and Ushahidi are making it possible for beneficiaries to have direct input into what they need ex-ante (schools? health clinics? microcredit?) and how well projects are being implemented once underway.  Other initiatives (for example, Jumo) are in the planning stages.

Not all of these new initiatives will succeed.  But within a few years, it will be possible for any person or group in the world to help answer any of the five questions above that form the core of the aid operating system.  If the existing agencies that run closed systems don't adapt to this new set of conditions, they will become as irrelevant as old IBM mainframes.


Related post: Is aid stuck using IBM punch cards?

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Is aid stuck using IBM punch cards?

This post was written by Dennis Whittle. Dennis is the CEO of GlobalGiving, an international marketplace for philanthropy.

When I went to college in the late 1970s we used punch cards like the one pictured here to put information into the (mainframe) computer. Over the next thirty years, competition in computer technology led to rapid innovation. Over those same thirty years, the aid industry followed a decidedly different pattern of development.

In the early 1980s, the DOS operating system was a huge leap forward since it allowed people to use PCs on their own desktops. Ten years later, Microsoft released the Windows operating systems, which provided a graphical interface - another big advance.

All along, Apple had been selling its own graphical interface while struggling to avoid bankruptcy. But once Apple released its beautiful Mac OSX operating system, it rapidly gained market share, forcing Microsoft to develop (after several failures) a powerful new release of its Windows system. At the same time, Apple released the iPhone, a real game changer, especially when combined with Apple's App Store, which provided a distribution platform for hundreds of thousands of small, independent developers to release software applications. As a result of its competitive success, Apple's market value overtook Microsoft’s in May 2010. Some people think Apple’s new iPad could revolutionize the industry again.

The competition between Microsoft and Apple was based on what the customer wanted and liked. Both companies experimented with many products, some of which failed and some of which succeeded. They got rid (mostly) of the failed products and continually and incrementally enhanced the successful ones. Every once in a while (as with the graphical interface and the iPhone), they made giant leaps.

Contrast this with the aid industry, which, ironically, is managed in a centrally planned way even as it promotes market-based solutions to developing countries. The big aid agencies get very little feedback from their ultimate beneficiaries - the people they are trying to help. There has even been a recent trend around "partnerships and collaboration," whereby agencies agree to divide up their business and not compete.  For example, the World Bank might agree to concentrate on telecoms in a set of countries, while the ADB handles health.  This further insulates them from competition. The result has been little innovation over the past decades.

The operating system example is a good metaphor in itself. What operating system is the aid industry using right now? Unfortunately, over the past sixty years, it hasn’t progressed much beyond punch cards.  While there have been improvements to the various processes, the aid business is still based largely on a "mainframe" model, with a small number of mainframes such as the World Bank, ADB, UN, and bilaterals such as USAID, MCC, DfiD, and AusAID dominating the market.  What will it take to move toward a distributed "desktop" model of aid, and to stimulate the parallel creation of the DOS, Windows, Mac OSX, and even iPhone operating systems?

What would a competitive distributed operating system for aid look like? Put your ideas in the comments, and I’ll write a follow-up post.

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How the development of technology averts Shakespearean tragedies

  1. Juliet texts Romeo: Going 2 play dead, LOL!
  2. Huff Post unearths email incriminating Iago after 24/7 coverage of Desdemona-cheating-on-Othello rumors
  3. Hamlet gets treatment for depression, starts blog "Rotten in the State of Denmark"
  4. Brutus orchestrates Twitter campaign to overthrow Julius Caesar
  5. MacBeth double-checks Facebook page of Three Witches, comments: "no way I'm basing career decisions on somebody that twisted"
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This map of how popular different tourist places are was generated by an Estonian programmer using the number of photo uploads to a popular site. Yellow is the most touristy, followed by red, blue is not very touristy, but grey is nowheresville.

I am a little suspicious about the methodology after I saw Toledo, Ohio show up pretty yellow. However, otherwise the map seems plausible. Coasts and mountains show up about as much as you would expect, the BosWash and LosAngeSanEattle regions are hot, and nothing beats European Ye Olde Towne Squares. In the developing world, tourist spots are as expected, including the unjust and sad omission of Africa.

The next image shows a blow up of Africa.  The no-go regions are mostly the obvious ones (better book that vacation to Chad before it's spoiled!), as are the Safaris and Coasts in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Lesser known tourist success stories in Namibia and Ethiopia also show up.

I'm a little more mystified by a blow-up of West Africa. I know vaguely about the tourist success in Gambia and to a lesser extent, along the coast of Ghana. The hot spots in Bissau, Conakry, Freetown, Monrovia, Niamey, Bamako, Abidjan, Ouagadougou, and Abuja are a little more surprising -- perhaps camera trigger-happy aid workers?

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Scratch and win for authentic malaria drugs

Here’s a problem most people in rich countries don’t often have to deal with: wondering whether the drugs you’ve just picked up from your local pharmacy will kill you, save your life, or give you just enough active ingredients to create a new drug-resistant strain of an otherwise curable disease. Counterfeiting does happen in rich countries, but more prevalently with “lifestyle drugs” like Viagra or allergy meds. Poor countries often have thriving counterfeit markets for drugs needed to combat more life-threatening diseases like malaria—for example in a recent study in Madagascar, Senegal and Uganda, between 26 and 44 percent of antimalarial drugs failed quality tests.

What if consumers could scratch off a panel on a drug package, send a text message containing that package’s unique 10-digit code, and get back a message that the drugs were authentic and safe to use, or fake? This is the idea behind mPedigree, a start-up led by Ghanaian social entrepreneur Bright Simons. According to a recent Bloomberg article mPedigree is planning a trial of their system using 125,000 packets of antimalarials in Ghana and Nigeria later this year. A rival service called Sproxil, started by another of mPedigree’s founders, Ashifi Gogo, is being deployed in Nigeria.

The idea’s brilliance lies in its reliance on two existing, affordable, and familiar technologies: the cell phone and the scratch card. Access to cell phones in Ghana and Africa as a whole has increased rapidly over the last decade, and scratch cards are a common way for people to top up their pre-paid cell phones.

The potential benefits are clear. From the perspective of the consumer, mPedigree is a quick, easy and cheap way to discover whether just-purchased drugs are real or fake. For drug makers, the new service will allow them to capture a greater share of the market as they drive out fakes and low-quality competitors.

On the other hand, this raises the question of who will be protected and who will be excluded if the services become widespread. If the idea spreads to drugs for which there are locally-made versions or legitimate generics available, will larger drug makers who use mPedigree be able to drive smaller firms who can’t afford it out of business? Or will mPedigree strive to include all the legitimate drug makers in the market?

mPedigree’s scratch and win panels are no permanent substitute for what’s missing in those markets where counterfeit antimalarials flourish—namely a well-functioning drug regulatory system, good consumer education about the danger of fakes, and a plentiful supply of effective antimalarials that are affordable and available to all who need them. But as a stopgap measure, they might be a winner.

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Mysteries of technological miracles

UPDATE 11 43 am May 7: on something else on which I had been procrastinating forever: my iPad just made me a dentist appointment. I just did a tech upgrade and my productivity has quintupled. And I don't know why. Even the word "upgrade" is in doubt. Typing is more awkward. I make typos. I can't plug in my camera. Some graphics that worked with my oldntechnology no longer work. The screen is smaller. Yet I stick to my claim that my productivity is much higher.

Some of you have guessed that I am typing this post on my new iPad. Why is it such a hit when many similar devices failed? I don't know. Why did I just do a travel reservation and answer several overdue emails on which I had been procrastinating? I don't know. The proof of the productivity pudding is only in the eating, even if it can't be articulated.

Is this why consumer choice is a much better guide than expert advice to technologies that actually work? Is this why many promising technologies fail in the field in development, because nobody wants to use them? I think so. Is this why other unexpected technologies succeed because users like them? I just know I love my iPad. Sorry about the typos.

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Time for toilet deregulation?


Right now, India has more cell phones than toilets. That's the headline buzzing over the wires today, thanks to the latest phones-to-toilets ratio released by the United Nations. It's certainly a dramatic factoid. But it's not just true of India's 1.2 billion-strong population — this lopsided statistic is true around the globe, as well.

This is from the Global Poverty blog. The most obvious explanation:

And though the mobile sector has seen massive private investment — thanks in many countries to telecommunications deregulation — few corporations are clamoring to provide better sanitation for the poor.

(This picture is from an earlier Aid Watch blog reporting a happy encounter with the private sector toilet service industry in Ghana.)

UPDATE 10:34AM: I had underestimated the amount of interest and effort devoted to poor people's toilets in the story above. Somehow I had missed one of the hottest stories in the burgeoning lavatory sector (covered in the NYT, HT IdealistNYC): the Peepoo :

A Swedish entrepreneur is trying to market and sell a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world.

Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces.

The bag, called the Peepoo, is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, an architect and professor in Stockholm.

“Not only is it sanitary,” said Mr. Wilhelmson, who has patented the bag, “they can reuse this to grow crops.”

The Peepoo is even endorsed by the WTO.  No, not THAT one, I mean of course the World Toilet Organization.

Please continue to forward me links for this rapidly exploding story.

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This device WILL change the world

No, no, no, not THAT one!

I meant the one below:

It's going to be a long while before very many poor people have iPads, but there is already one TV for every 4 people in the world.  I remember being in a remote village in Ghana with 30 people crowded around a TV set, so 1 in 4 implies a VERY big reach for TV already. In the words of one my favorite development economists,  Charles Kenny in Foreign Policy:

In our collective enthusiasm for whiz-bang new social-networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, the implications of this next television age -- from lower birthrates among poor women to decreased corruption to higher school enrollment rates -- have largely gone overlooked despite their much more sweeping impact. And it's not earnest educational programming that's reshaping the world on all those TV sets. The programs that so many dismiss as junk -- from song-and-dance shows to Desperate Housewives -- are being eagerly consumed by poor people everywhere who are just now getting access to television for the first time. That's a powerful force for spreading glitz and drama -- but also social change.

Social change from soap operas? Kenny is referring to the research of U. Chicago Professor Emily Oster joint with Robert Jensen, which found in a rigorous study that the introduction of cable TV in rural India was associated with decreased acceptability of domestic violence, decreased preference for sons over daughters, and increased school enrollment for young children. Cable TV in India features mainly game shows and soap operas.

Similarly Eliana La Ferrara and co-authors found that soap operas reduced fertility in Brazil, a trend often associated with increased power for women.  The soap operas portrayed much smaller families than what actually exists in Brazil. The research suggested the soap operas were pretty important, because parents were naming their children after the  main characters on the telenovela in the year of birth.

More seriously, TV can spread health messages like hand-washing (which shot up in Ghana after a TV campaign).

Sorry, I have to go, it's time to watch Law & Order.

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Jeff Sachs, welcome to Twitter!

As of 11 am today (2/26), Jeff Sachs has started posting on Twitter as @jeffdsachs. Here is some of the early traffic in which yours truly has a tiny stake (I have omitted who did the T for privacy): (anon): Just noticed that @bill_easterly is following @jeffdsachs but not vice versa / Hilarious

@bill_easterly: This hurts :>) RT  Just noticed that @bill_easterly is following @jeffdsachs but not vice versa

@jeffdsachs: Hello friends, thank you for the warm welcome.

@jeffdsachs: RT @EndOfPoverty: mobile phones and internet in Africa means changes to life in fields, in clinics,...

@bill_easterly: I agree w u on mobile potential RT @jeffdsachs mobile phones in Africa means changes to life in fields, in clinics,...

(anon): Pigs just flew!! RT @bill_easterly: Agree w u on mobile potential RT @jeffdsachs mobiles in Africa means changes to,...

(anon): WHAT? My entire belief system just corroded to nothing RT @bill_easterly I agree w u on mobile potential RT @jeffdsachs

(anon): Hell just froze over! RT @bill_easterly:I agree w/ u on mobile potential RT @jeffdsachs mobile phones in Africa (cont)

(anon): Ahem, @jeffdsachs where are you? The whole developmentgeek twittersphere is waiting for you to reply to @bill_easterly

OK let's remain calm. It's only been one hour, and Professor Sachs may have a less compulsive/healthier relationship with his iPhone/Crackberry than some of the rest of us.

*&^$#@%*()^% I just burnt the cookies, gotta go.

UPDATE: 3/1/10 8:16am: another T from Jeff:

@jeffdsachs: @uncultured Thank you so much for the kind words. Your project is amazing and your videos, truly inspiring. Keep up the great work! {about 21 hours ago via TweetDeck}

in response to:

@uncultured: The one who inspired me to believe we can end extreme poverty (and to start my project) is now on Twitter - @JeffDSachs #FollowFriday

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The iPad and women's rights

Within seconds of the unveiling of the iPad by Steve Jobs, Twitter lit up with women complaining and/or joking that the name immediately made them think of a certain feminine hygiene product. #iTampon was the #1 trending topic on Twitter yesterday and remains so this morning. Could this be one of those unintentionally revealing moments that women's rights in the US has not come as far as we thought? That women did not have enough voice or power within a major US corporation for it to anticipate this  marketing blunder?  That this wouldn't have happened if the head of Apple were named Stephanie Jobs?

That maybe along with dumping all over those evil Third World men that keep women down, awareness that there is a wee shortfall in women's equality in the First World?

Another lesson from this episode is the democratizing power of Twitter. None of the major newspapers (defined as the 3 that I get every morning: NYT, WSJ, and FT) mentioned the controversy in print today. Maybe women don't have enough voice or power at newspapers either.  (The WSJ does have an online article on it, although it is mostly just describing what happened on Twitter.) But Twitter is a more democratic medium that allowed women (and their male friends) to voice bemusement, anger, and ridicule. One small step for women, maybe some day a giant leap for womankind.

UPDATE: Dennis Whittle points out that sanitary pads actually ARE a development issue.

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