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

  • simmer 4.0.0
    The 4.0.0 release of simmer, the Discrete-Event Simulator for R, is on CRAN under a new license: we decided to switch to GPL __= 2. Most notably in this major release, the C++ core has been refactorised and exposed under inst/include. This is not a big deal for most users, but it enables extensions. As an example… […]
  • RStudio:addins part 4 – Unit testing coverage investigation and improvement, made easy
    Introduction A developer always pays his technical debts! And we have a debt to pay to the gods of coding best practices, as we did not present many unit tests for our functions yet. Today we will show how to efficiently investigate and improve unit test coverage for our R code, with focus on functions […]
  • MiKTeX Behind a Windows Firewall
    I’ve always had problems with MiKTeX on my work computer. I can install it just fine, or get IT to install it, but then the package manager doesn’t work because of our firewall. You can set up a local repository to get around this problem, and I will show you how. I’m just doing a […]
  • Regional population structures at a glance
    I am happy to announce that our paper is published today in The Lancet. Kashnitsky, I., & Schöley, J. (2018). Regional population structures at a glance. The Lancet, 392(10143), 209–210. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31194-2 At a...
  • R.devices – Into the Void
    R.devices 2.16.0 - Unified Handling of Graphics Devices - is on CRAN. With this release, you can now easily suppress unwanted graphics, e.g. graphics produced by one of those do-everything-in-one-call functions that we all bump into once in a while. To suppress graphics, the R.devices package provides graphics device nulldev(), and function suppressGraphics(), which both […]

RSS Simply Statistics

  • Teaching R to New Users - From tapply to the Tidyverse
    Abstract The intentional ambiguity of the R language, inherited from the S language, is one of its defining features. Is it an interactive system for data analysis or is it a sophisticated programming language for software developers? The ability of R to cater to users who do not see themselves as programmers, but then allow […]
  • What Should be Done When Data Have Creators?
    I was listening to the podcast The West Wing Weekly recently and Episode 4.17 (“Red Haven’s on Fire”) featured former staff writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. In introducing her, the podcast co-hosts mentioned that Hissrich was a writer for the Netflix series Daredevil, based on the Marvel Comics character. She is also the showrunner for a […]
  • Cultural Differences in Map Data Visualization
    Matthew Panzarino had an interesting article in TechCrunch on Apple’s process for rebuilding their Maps app. While most of the article describes the laborious process of data collection, one part jumped out at me, which was the team that Panzarino describes as the “Department of Details.” They are responsible for a number of odds and […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  • “A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic”
    I saw this article in the newspaper today, “2017 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record. And That Was Without El Niño,” subtitled, “The world in 2017 saw some of the highest average surface temperatures ever recorded, surprising scientists who had expected sharper retreat from recent record years,” and accompanied by the above graph, […]
  • Where that title came from
    I could not think of a good title for this post. My first try was “An institutional model for the persistence of false belief, but I don’t think it’s helpful to describe scientific paradigms as ‘true’ or ‘false.’ Also, boo on cheap laughs at the expense of academia,” and later attempts were even worse. At […]
  • Stan short course in NYC in 2.5 weeks
    To all who may be interested: Jonah Gabry, Stan developer and creator of ShinyStan, will be giving a short course downtown, from 6-8 Aug. Details here. Jonah has taught Stan courses before, and he knows what he’s doing. The post Stan short course in NYC in 2.5 weeks appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, […]