Inequality of Access to Information: Can Information Sharing be universalized?

Access to information has long been established as one of the major problems faced by southern researchers. Enhancing information accessibility and use helps to better understand, analyze and research ongoing development challenges so that practical solutions can originate from those directly affected by them. This cause is supported by the Connect South Campaign that has pledged to promote sharing knowledge and fostering connections between researchers and decision-makers in the global south, supported by GDNet, GDN’s Knowledge services.

Building on the World Bank’s “Mobilizing Knowledge Networks for Development” conference, Alex Bielak, Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker (UNU-INWEH) and Louise Shaxon, Research Fellow (ODI), tackle the issue of access to information & the equality of access to information from the perspective of internet access. However Bielak argues the importance of communications infrastructure and how everyone should be connected through information sharing backbone networks that facilitates high-definition data transfer. He raises two interesting questions regarding the current global potential of information access, especially in the south; as to who can afford it, and the sufficiency and quality of this access to knowledge. He emphasizes on accessibility granting and whether it is in fact universal.

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Collaborated ‘Open Data’ and research uptake

(This is a cross post base on a blog post I wrote published at the erf blog , during ERF’s 19th annual conference)

Huge progress has been achieved to make data available and accessible to the public. This is considered a huge opportunity for researchers to make use of this data to analyze questions, provide evidence and come up with solutions to current issues of our time; argues Nemat Shafik, International Monetary Fund (IMF). ERF took the opportunity to launch one of its most important projects at the Annual Conference: its Open Access Micro Data project. This is an interesting segment to GDNet- GDN Knowledge service– since GDNet is planning to launch a beta version of its dataset as Linked Open Data (LOD) later this year.

In my previous post I noted the importance of partnership, collaboration and a joint multiple effort between big international, regional and local catalysts for development. With WBI pioneered the open data initiative, ERF about to launch their dataset, and IFPRI’s recently launched ArabSpatial initiative the question of cooperation cannot be more important. Individual efforts are all very well but the results would be multiplied through cooperation. Various institutions need to syndicate datasets and enhance good relationships with country statistic bureaus to make sure that the data is properly maintained, updated, reliable and robust.

It is indeed impossible to do state of the art research without access to data. However, the more open the datasets are the less information about research uptake there is to monitor. This is a balance worth thinking about and a challenge to knowledge intermediaries to think about new innovative ways to measure research impact and uptake.

Arab Spatial Development and Food Security Atlas

(This is a cross-post based on a blog post published Marcia MacNeil, Communications Specialist at IFPRI)

The main objective of Arab Spatial is to improve access to quality data and to support decision and policy making for a food-secure Arab world, covering the 22 member countries of the Arab League of Nations from Mauritania and Morocco in the West to Iraq and Oman in the East.

The Arab Spatial is an online information storehouse that aggregates food security and development information on more than 100 indicators from the regArab Spatial Atlasion’s governments as well as international institutions. The tool displays the data on maps that users can zoom in on the regional, national, sub-national, and even the pixel level.  Users can then build and print their own maps overlaid with information of their choosing. Data-sets available cover some of the following indices but not restricted to:

  • macroeconomics and governance
  • trade
  • agriculture, water, and energy
  • poverty, health, nutrition, and access to services
  • population and income

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is also making some of the data behind the maps available as Linked Open Data (LOD), which means that institutions can capture the information and create new knowledge products with it. The Arab Spatial Development and Food Security Atlas is a “start-up” initiative of IFPRI that is supported by the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Policies, Markets, and Institutions (PIM) Program of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR).

Watch Tutorial in English and Arabic to browse through Arab Spatial.

GDNet’s outreach to policy efforts and South to South learning presented at the “Food Secure Arab World Conference”

In her reflection on the discussions that took place at the Food Secure Arab World Conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), Doctor Sherine Ghoneim – Director GDN Cairo – brought up the following questions:

  • How can we maximize the impact of research?
  • How can we inform policy process in a timely fashion?
  • What will it take to make a difference?

Watch highlights from Sherine Ghoneim’s talk and learn more about the type of work GDNet is doing to support Southern researchers and help their research travel further to reach policymakers:

GDNet Participates in the Food Secure Arab World Conference

By Maya Madkour, GDNet

Development practitioners, researchers and policy-makers from the world over convened early February in Beirut, Lebanon to come up with a roadmap for creating a healthy, secure Arab World, free from hunger. Working together to translate research into policy, participants came from a variety of different backgrounds; and of course, GDNet was there.

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The Food Secure Arab World Conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), called for better policy implementation,  regional knowledge platforms pooling local knowledge, and collaborating with local and international partners on food, nutrition, and water security issues.

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GDNet-AERC Research Communications Workshop

Compared with other major world regions, Africa has had in recent history the worst economic performance, the highest poverty rate, and the worst reproductive health care. The poverty burden in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) today is staggering  and the region is recording a dismal performance relative to the rest of the world with respect to development indicators such as growth in per capita income and availability of basic human needs. The ongoing worldwide studies on pro-poor growth provide strong evidence that despite the progress recorded in terms of economic growth in several African countries during the 1990s, there has been no corresponding reduction in poverty.

With the support of the Hewlett Foundation, the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) embarked on a collaborative research project to examine the relationship between reproductive health, economic growth and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa.

GDNet-AERC Research Communications Policy Workshop

GDNet-AERC Research Communications Policy Workshop

As part of its capacity building initiative, on May 24-26 2011 GDNet and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), together with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), organised a workshop on Research Communication for AERC researchers.

Held in Nairobi, Kenya, the workshop was specifically tailored and designed to support AERC researchers involved in the Reproductive Health, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Collaborative Research Project to make an impact on policy decisions with their research results. The workshop gathered 16 participants from countries such as Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

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