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Don't Be Evil (World Bank & Google Edition)

This post first appeared on Owen Abroad, along with a list of suggested further readings. Please post any comments on the original version.

I am a generally a fan of both the World Bank and of Google, but we should all be worried about their recent deal.

The intention is good: it is to promote crowd-sourcing of maps, to improve planning in disasters and to improve the planning, management and monitoring of public services. This is an important goal, which is now being made possible by new technologies and the spread of the internet. The deal is sufficiently important for World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey to write about it in the opinion pages of the New York Times:

Brian Atwood (OECD-DAC Chair) Reflects on Busan Progress

Brian Atwood, the chair of the Development Assistance Committee at the OECD (and administrator of USAID from 1992 to 1998), was one of the key figures at last week’s Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. He had to help find a balance between broadening the alliance to include new and emerging donors with pushing for further and faster reforms among the main existing donors and multilateral institutions. He has shared with us his reflections on the progress made in Busan, and I encourage you to read them below. He argues that the agreement reached there has set a new direction in the effort to rationalize the global architecture for development.

How the Open Government Partnership May Have Contributed to Busan

This is a joint post with Stephanie Majerowicz

“The defining division these days is increasingly: open or closed? Are we open to the changing world? Or do we see its menace, but not its possibilities?”

—Tony Blair, A Global Alliance for Global Values, September 2006

It is easy to be cynical about international summits and their carefully drafted communiqués. But they sometimes matter more than people expect. (If they didn’t, why would government officials put so much time and effort into negotiating the text?) Even if the text is often a bland compromise, these meetings can help to move an issue forward, by locking in a new consensus which forms the platform for further progress.

No, British Medical Journal, the Emigration of African Doctors Did Not Cost Africa $2 Billion

Last week the respected British Medical Journal published a back-of-the-envelope calculation by Mills et al. suggesting that the emigration of physicians from Africa cost the continent billions of dollars and saved billions for the countries of destination. I share and appreciate the authors’ concern for strengthening health care systems in Africa. But the numbers they calculate are deeply flawed, and their unfortunate arithmetic should be ignored by policymakers.

Will Donors Hide behind China?

This post was originally featured on Owen Barder’s Owen Abroad: Thoughts on Development and Beyond blog.

Will the largest aid donors hide behind China to excuse their inability to make substantial improvements in foreign aid? How can Busan balance the desire to be more universal with the pressing need for real changes in the way aid is given?

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