This report summarizes recent trends in large-scale tropical forest clearing identified by FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action). FORMA produces indicators that track monthly changes in the number of 1-sq.-km. tropical forest parcels that have experienced clearing with high probability. This report and the accompanying spreadsheet databases provide monthly estimates for 27 countries, 280 primary administrative units, and 2,907 secondary administrative units.
Overselling Broadband: A Critique of the Recommendation of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development is an ITU (UN International Telecommunications Union) and UNESCO–backed body set up to advocate for greater broadband access worldwide. The commission’s Declaration of Broadband Inclusion for All and other reports call for governments to support ubiquitous fixed broadband access as a vital tool for economic growth and to reach the Millennium Development Goals. Examining the evidence, however, shows that the benefits of broadband are being oversold. Several points stand out: (i) the evidence for a large positive economic impact of broadband is limited; (ii) the impact of broadband rollout on achieving the MDGs would be marginal;(iii) there is little evidence ubiquitous broadband is needed for ‘national competitiveness’ or to benefit from opportunities like business process outsourcing; (iv) the costs of fixed universal broadband rollout dwarf available resources in developing countries; (and so) (v) the case for government subsidy of fixed broadband rollout is very weak. There are, however, some worthwhile policy reforms that could speed broadband rollout without demanding significant government expenditure.
The Commitment to Development Index ranks 22 of the world’s richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5.5 billion people living in poorer nations. Moving beyond standard comparisons of foreign aid volumes, the CDI quantifies a range of rich-country policies that affect poor people in developing countries.
Dial "A" for Agriculture: A Review of Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries - Working Paper 269
Agriculture can serve as an important engine for economic growth in developing countries, yet yields in these countries have lagged far behind those in developed countries for decades. One potential mechanism for increasing yields is the use of improved agricultural technologies, such as fertilizers, seeds and cropping techniques. Public-sector programs have attempted to overcome information-related barriers to technological adoption by providing agricultural extension services. While such programs have been widely criticized for their limited scale, sustainability and impact,the rapid spread of mobile phone coverage in developing countries provides a unique opportunity to facilitate technological adoption via information and communication technology (ICT)-based extension programs.
This article outlines the potential mechanisms through which ICT could facilitate agricultural adoption and the provision of extension services in developing countries. It then reviews existing programs using ICT for agriculture, categorized by the mechanism (voice,text, internet and mobile money transfers) and the type of services provided. Finally, we identify potential constraints to such programs in terms of design and implementation, and conclude with some recommendations for implementing field-based research on the impact of these programs on farmers’ knowledge, technological adoption and welfare.
This paper reports on the first randomized evaluation of a cash transfer program delivered via mobile phone. The trial households in targeted villages monthly cash transfers and finds that the mobile phone–based program saves costs and has greater benefits for recipients.
Johnny West describes how an oil-dividend program could be structured by, for example, taking advantage of Iraq’s existing rationing system, ubiquitous mobile phone networks, and new biometric ID cards.
Charles Kenny investigates the complex role development agencies have in promoting technology overseas.
Cash at Your Fingertips: Biometric Technology for Transfers in Developing and Resource-Rich Countries - Working Paper 253
This paper surveys the arguments for and against cash-transfer programs in resource-rich states, discusses some of the new biometric identification technologies, and reaches preliminary conclusions about their potentially very large benefits for developing countries.
The Best Things in Life are (Nearly) Free: Technology, Knowledge and Global Health - Working Paper 252
In this paper, background to Kenny’s book Getting Better, the authors investigate the cross-country determinants of health improvements and describe the implications for development policy.
In his latest essay, Charles Kenny seeks to revive Solow's model of exogenous growth; growth driven by the global diffusion of new technologies and ideas. He suggests that when it comes to quality of life improvements, institutions may be less important than exogenous factors, like new vaccines, oral re-hydration therapies, or improvements in hygiene and education practices.