The Economist: Energy Technology, “Lighting the Way”

Solar lighting is an emerging technology with the potential to transform incomes, education, and health in developing countries.  And, as global population outgrows electrification, solar lighting proves to be an economically sustainable alternative to kerosene lighting.  One approach to solar lighting in Ghana “involves a centralized, village-level system with a large solar panel that charges a car battery” and in turn is used “to charge smaller batteries in the lanterns, which are built using local materials.”

To read more on innovations in solar lighting in developing countries follow the link.

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Studying Local Markets to Improve Emergency Response

Guest post by John Schellhase, Program Assistant at the NYU Development Research Institute (DRI).

Dr. Christopher Barrett, Dr. Daniel Maxwell, and their team have developed the Market Information and Food Insecurity Response Analysis.  MIFIRA analyzes the capacities of local markets to sustain large purchases of food in times of crisis.  This work helps aid agencies choose between shipping food from overseas, providing cash transfers, or buying food locally to distribute to people in crisis.

Unfortunately, aid agencies and NGOs often neglect to systematically think about the consequences of their interventions, thus failing the Hippocratic imperative to “Do no harm.”  If enough food supplies are available in local markets, aid agencies should seek to make purchases in the region where they are distributing aid.  But if supplies are limited, large purchases by aid agencies during a crisis can drive up prices, leading to inflation and putting basic commodities out of reach for average citizens.  In other words, attempting to solve one crisis has the potential to create a new one.

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Technology’s Role in African Human Development

Guest post by John Schellhase, Program Assistant at the NYU Development Research Institute (DRI).

A counterpoint to more hopeful dispatches from Africa, the African Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes a continent facing a number of challenges.  Focused entirely on the issue of “food security,” the report concludes that 218 million Africans are malnourished.

Released at the end of May, at about the same time the G-8 unveiled the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the 190-page document is another signal that food security will be a central theme of official development policy in the coming years.  The authors argue that addressing hunger and malnutrition is a prerequisite to improvements in education, health, and household income.

The report has much to say about technology.  Continue reading

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Food Security, Investment, and the G-8

State Department Photo

Guest post by John Schellhase, Program Assistant at the NYU Development Research Institute (DRI).

At the end of May, President Obama and other leaders of the G-8 announced the creation of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  A number of African heads of state and high-level officials attended the announcement in Washington D.C., including CTED partner Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.

In anticipation of the summit, 48 companies committed to invest over $3 billion in the agricultural sector across Africa.  The investments will start in Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia, expanding soon to Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and other nations.

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Education Incentives and Effective Research Methods: A talk by Yaw Nyarko

Professor Yaw Nyarko, Director of the Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED), gave a talk last week at Evidence-Based Education: Policy-Making and Reform in Africa, an education conference in Ghana. The conference, hosted by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in collaboration with the Ghana Educational Service (GES), focused on issues of education policy and reform. Professor Nyarko spoke on a panel entitled “Teacher Characteristics, School Governance, Accountability And Incentives.” His remarks are based on his personal experiences growing up in Ghana and his philosophy of teaching. His one quibble with the conference is its implication that rigorous research is randomized control trials and vice versa. He cautions that research, even RCTs, can be good or bad, rigorous or non-rigorous. He received the most animated responses from his remarks that under the guise of rigorous research many of the papers several years ago on rates of return to education were presumed rigorous without enough attention to the larger economic theory. Many of the conclusions of that literature led to a de-emphasis on tertiary education, which today is lamented by many in Africa and which today we know was probably wrong. Many of the Ghanaians in the audience seemed to relate to this point passionately.  Continue reading

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Market Information Systems – Public or Private Provision?

Recently, we came heard about a new service in Ghana, CocoaLink, which is a partnership between the World Cocoa Foundation, Ghana Cocoa Board and the Hershey Foundation (USA). From marketing to health advice, Cocoa Link provides cocoa farmers with information on all facets of life. The really interesting thing to note about CocoaLink is the manner in which it is reaching the farmer – via mobile phones. The mobile phone holds the promise of a major transformation many sectors in poor nations because so many of the poor have access to these phones and service is now widely available.  But is it right to have donors finance this service?  How sustainable is a service which depends upon donor support? Currently, CTED is working with our partner Esoko, a private company, which also runs a Market Information System (MIS) that provides price information to farmers.  Although private, many of the customers of Esoko’s service are NGOs which purchase the price alerts on behalf of farmers and farmer groups.

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CTED Research Seminar April 5th – “Alleviating Road Traffic Congestion in the Developing World through Information Technology”

Road traffic jams continue to be a major problem in most cities around the world and especially in developing regions – resulting in massive delays, increased fuel wastage and monetary losses. Due to the poorly planned road networks, a common outcome in many developing regions is the presence of small critical areas which are common hot-spots for congestion; poor traffic management around these hotspots potentially results in elongated traffic jams. Center for Technology and Economic Development Co- Principal Investigator and NYU Courant Professor Lakshmi Subramanian will deliver a talk regarding this pervasive issue and how he and other CTED researchers are developing methods of analyzing and alleviating traffic congestion in developing cities via CCTV camera feeds.

Join us April 5, 2012 at 6 pm in Sama Tower 1305 for this exciting talk!

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