Information Flows on Mobiles

The idea to use mobile phones (here and here) to help economic development in the most remote corners of the world is fascinating and definitely smart. For one thing, mobile phones have already reached the Bottom Billion. In 2007 there were 45 subscribers per 100 inhabitants in the developing countries. That means that we can now expect to have one mobile in every family. Everywhere. As well in communities where services like water, electricity, hospitals, schools or transportation are still far away.

What poor people mostly need are functioning institutions. And market is one of these. If market is not working, farmers will pay higher prices for what they buy and got less money for what they sell.  Moreover they could buy or sell at the wrong time and possibly in the wrong place. In the words of the government of Rwanda,

the success of these farmers has been greatly affected by lack of access to pricing information. Many times, farmers speculate what crops to grow and what prices to charge at harvest. Some farmers depend on middlemen to dictate the prices and in most cases the latter exploit the former. For any farmer to earn a decent living from agriculture, easy access to information on market prices is of paramount importance.

Making information flows on mobile phones could

empower farmers to enable them make more informed market pricing decisions and ultimately more successful farming.

The idea of mobile banking goes in the same direction: making a  service so critical for development accessible to almost everyone. That will not end poverty, but  will probably make the task easier.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Understanding Capitalism

Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen argues, in an article published on The New York Review of Books, that the way out from the crisis passes through a better understanding of the ideas that contributed to build the actual economic system. Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Cecil Pigou, should be read, not just quoted. And I quote

Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice. If we were to look for a new approach to the organization of economic activity that included a pragmatic choice of a variety of public services and well-considered regulations, we would be following rather than departing from the agenda of reform that Smith outlined as he both defended and criticized capitalism.

We must understand how institutions work and make them work better. But not just aiming at economic growth.

There is a critical need for paying special attention to the underdogs of society in planning a response to the current crisis, and in going beyond measures to produce general economic expansion.

A crisis not only presents an immediate challenge that has to be faced. It also provides an opportunity to address long-term problems when people are willing to reconsider established conventions. This is why the present crisis also makes it important to face the neglected long-term issues like conservation of the environment and national health care, as well as the need for public transport (…).

Sunday, 22 March 2009

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RSS r-bloggers.com

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    I recently came across this short fun post on R-bloggers that demonstrated how to use the image.ContourDetector package (available on CRAN) to extract contours from an image. The image of the contours looked really cool so I thought I would … Continue reading →
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  • Do, Share, Teach, and Learn Data Science with RStudio Cloud
    RStudio is proud to announce the general availability of RStudio Cloud, its cloud-based platform for doing, teaching, and learning data science using only a browser. This general release incorporates feedback from thousands of users, based on more than 3.5 million hours of compute time. What is RStudio Cloud? RStudio Cloud is ...
  • Cheesecake Diagrams: Pie Charts with a Different Flavour
    Part of my job at a regional water utility involves visualising operational data. We manage water and sewerage services for a large number of small and medium-sized towns in regional Victoria (Australia). Traditionally, performance reports consist of extensive tables filled with numbers with a line for each city. To make ...
  • Books and code
    This comes as the results of two external forces that have prompted me to do some work on the website — specifically the section on books. The first one is the newest version of hugo-academic (which is the engine underlying the whole of my website, together with the R package blogdown). ...

RSS Simply Statistics

  • Asymptotics of Reproducibility
    Every once in a while, I see a tweet or post that asks whether one should use tool X or software Y in order to “make their data analysis reproducible”. I think this is a reasonable question because, in part, there are so many good tools out there! This is undeniably a good thing and […]
  • Amplifying people I trust on COVID-19
    Like a lot of people, I’ve been glued to various media channels trying to learn about the latest with what is going on with COVID-19. I have also been frustrated - like a lot of people - with misinformation and the deluge of preprints and peer reviewed material. Some of this information is critically important […]
  • Is Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizing Environmental Health?
    NOTE: This post was written by Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University; Nicole Kleinstreuer, National Institutes of Health; Patrick McMullen, ScitoVation; Gary Miller, Columbia University; Bhramar Mukherjee, University of Michigan; Roger D. Peng, Johns Hopkins University; Melissa Perry, The George Washington University; Reza Rasoulpour, Corteva Agriscience, and Elizabeth Boyle, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  • Somethings do not seem to spread easily – the role of simulation in statistical practice and perhaps theory.
    Unlike Covid19, somethings don’t seem to spread easily and the role of simulation in statistical practice (and perhaps theory) may well be one of those. In a recent comment, Andrew provided a link to an interview about the new book Regression and Other Stories by Aki Vehtari, Andrew Gelman, and Jennifer Hill. An interview that covered […]
  • Kafka comes to the visa office
    Paul Alper points us to this news article by Catherine Rampell about “a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas”: If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field. For example, if “Apt. Number” […]
  • Jobzzzzzz!
    It’s a busy day for Bayesians. John Haman writes: The Institute for Defense Analyses – Operational Evaluation Division (OED) is looking for a Bayesian statistician to join its Test Science team.  Test Science is a group of statisticians, data scientists, and psychologists that provides expertise on experimentation to the DoD. In particular, we are looking […]