Sunday, September 26, 2010
The only colony created by the United States was Liberia created to accept emigration of free black slaves. This colonisation attempt was against the will of the native people.
While the French colonies represented a more significant surface area occupied, it was the British colonies that hosted the largest populations.
Western strategy is aid-based development assistance, focusing on issues such as health, education, poverty reduction and, more recently, good governance
- Asia reduces the costs associated with logistical inefficiency and of transporting raw materials from their source to harbors for export
In her report, Fiona Dwinger also addresses the Western concerns (in particular from the USA about China's investments in Africa) of the Chinese non-interference policy. "The United Sates, for example, argues that by investing in or giving aid to (Western labelled) pariahs such as Zimbabwe or Sudan, the Chinese Government is directly influencing the ability of these despotic regimes to hold onto power... The United States’ argument is rather contradictory considering that by investing in China, American businesses are also supporting a state with a questionable human rights record."
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I attended the event in Chapel Hill where it was hosted by IntraHealth International, an NGO based in town.
Melinda Gates was the first speaker. She impressed me by the clarity and innovative thinking of her ideas. She made the point that if Coca-Cola was able to distribute their drinks anywhere in the world, we should be able to learn from that to address health problems.
The next speaker was Hans Rosling, a brilliant researcher from Sweden. He is using a great visualization technology that he developed that transforms development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. This software is open source and available here.
I probably misunderstood some "strange" ideas that he shared, so my next description has to be taken with caution, as he is much smarter than I'm. What I don't agree with is an idea that he presented and that I have seen presented by many others in the Western or "developed" world (see my view on the reality of "developed" in my posting of September 13, 2010).
So here is what I understood from some part of his presentation. He showed a chart where on the horizontal axis you could see the measure of the average number of children per family going from zero to eight. On the vertical axis you could see the children mortality going from zero to hundreds per thousand births. Then on the chart you would see circles representing the different countries where the size of the circle was proportional to the population size and its position was based on the child mortality and average family size in that country. He then showed that there were two major groupings on the chart. The African countries were mostly on the top right of the chart meaning that they had large (more than 4) number of children per family on average and that the infant mortality was high, in the hundreds per thousand birth. Then he showed that most of the other countries (the developed world) would be in the bottom left of the chart, meaning they would have less (less than 3) children per family and a much lower infant mortality.
So this would mean that less children per family would lead to lower mortality!!! I don't think that there is a direct link here. We know that in developed countries life expectancy goes up with the average income (GDP/capita). But so does the cost of children, and therefore naturally families tend to have less children. In the developing world, because of the domination of unskilled labor in the production function, the child represents an early economic value, while in developed countries he acquires value only at the end of a long and expensive training. In modern societies, the child never contributes more than he costs. Better, he is expensive and brings nothing. To allow him to integrate into a technical economy, parents need to provide him with a lengthy and costly training. And once this training is acquired, no sociological imperative compels him to surrender the fruits of his work. At the contrary in traditional societies in the developing world the social structure is characterized by the predominance of the extended family, which includes all members of the same lineage, compelled to a series of several obligations, under the rule of an undisputed chieftain. The requirements governing the operation of the clan provide parents with the personal enjoyment of the work of youngsters, which are in a way their pension scheme. This reason accounts more for a difference in procreative behavior between developed and developing countries.
Another idea shared by Hans Rosling is that the link of lower child mortality to lower average family size should justify the importance of family planning, the "most important way" to address the problem of child mortality. He also added that family planning would also solve many of the other MDGs. Since it would lower the mortality, children would actually survive to go to school addressing MDG #2 (achieve universal primary education). Having less children would reduce world population, saving the planet from exploitation of limited resources and solving MDG # 7 (ensure environment sustainability). And the audience applauded frenetically!!!
What I'm uncomfortable with here is that it is somewhat implying that a large African family is more dangerous for the environment sustainability than a small family in developed countries. This was shocking to me, even if he did not put it exactly that way. We know how developed countries are contributing to the world pollution compared to developing countries. It seems to me that the push for family planning by developed countries is more about their concern to have to share the limited resources of planet earth with the growing population of developing countries and to protect their existing way of life.
Finally what is the moral basis for developed countries to tell families in developing countries how many children they should have? The fallacy of these policies is very well described by Fernand Bezy in "Démographie et sous-développement : propos antimalthusiens" You can find this document in the Fernand Bezy Web Site (there is a link to it in this blog). You will find it in the bibliography section (document REF8) both in French and English version.
See you later aligator.....
Monday, September 13, 2010
The notion of "under-developed" countries is mainly based on a Western concept of development. Under-development is considered as an objective status based on a series of criteria, the main one being the "Per Capita Income". Examples of other criteria are the alphabetization rate, life expectancy, infant death rate, distribution of population between agriculture, industrial and services sectors.
This approach based on under-development indicators is rejecting any value judgment in favor of facts observation only . These indicators are used for a "precise" measurement of the intensity of under-development. Like a thermometer that is used for the body temperature measuring fever to determine if the person is sick or not, but fever is not the sickness, it could be due to cold, malaria, tuberculosis,...with very different possible outcome.
The most used indicator because it is summarizing all other indicators is the per capita income, the ratio between the gross domestic product (GDP) and the total population, which represents the mean value of the output produced per person.
Indicated in US dollar, here are some GDP per capita from 2009 provided by the World Bank: Monaco = US$ 209,667; USA = US$ 46,436; Germany = US$40,873; Japan = US$ 39,729; Brazil = US$ 8,114; Angola = US$ 3,734; China = US$ 3,687; India = US$ 1,122; Kenya = US$ 759; Congo (RDC) = US$ 163 (that is 1,280 times less than Monaco).
Today, there is another category of countries between the developed and under-developed countries: we call these the emerging countries like Russia, China, India, Brazil and others. While these countries may have high GDP per capita, they still present indicators of under-development, especially on the social and poverty aspects.
In the Western concept, under-development is perceived as a lag towards technical development, increase of production and standard of living. Under-development is thought of as a development gap that needs to catch up. This vision assumes that the developed country model is ideal, that developing countries need to modernize like Europe or the US by adopting their technology, their management models and at the same by relinquishing their traditional religions, their "archaic" social structures etc, all of which prevent them from closing the gap. The expectation is that overtime the developing countries will close the gap and become "developed".
So lets look at this more closely. In the ratio between the gross domestic product (GDP) and the total population, the numerator and the denominator do not represent the same number of individuals. The national revenue is created only by those who are working while the denominator also include the children, the old retired people, the jobless. This ratio between active and inactive people is very different between developed and developing countries. And this average is hiding very different situations. Someone once told me that statistics is the science that concludes that a man who has his head in an oven and hist feet in a refrigerator, feels good on average. To understand, 10 could be the average between 9 and 11, but also between 1 and 19. In the first case, the average is close to the reality because it is not too far away from the numbers it represents. Unfortunately, in developing countries the situation looks more like the the second case. While some Brazilians live like Americans, half the population lives in poverty.
In the case of developing countries, some elements are not included in the national revenue. An example are personal services like housework. This would not be a problem if the ratios where the same in developed and under-developed countries. But in the Western society, many women are employed generating revue and in addition personal services are commercialized: hair dresser, dry cleaning, restaurants, entertainment, etc. Therefore the national revenue of developing countries is systematically under evaluated.
In the case of developed countries some revenue are not subtracted from the national revenue. Development has its costs (liabilities) which should be subtracted from revenue (assets) as is required in accounting. In the so called "developed" countries, enormous amounts are disbursed to repair the damage from development: car accidents, too rich and unbalanced food (excess of sugar, fat, alcohol, tobacco) generating teeth caries, cancers, cardio-vascular problems, diabetes. Technology like television showing violence impacting criminality, scholar results, social relations and finally the huge cost on the environment.
Using the revenue per capita to measure development implies that happiness is linked to wealth and accumulation of material goods pushed by large corporations for their own interest, persuading customers about their needs with massive advertising.
Using these indicators to define development, industrial countries appear superior to developing countries civilizations. But in many respects they look less advanced. How not to appreciate the under-developed countries values like their social values against the neurosis generating Western hyper-individualism. I will describe some of these values in a future posting.
For developing countries, the Western development model is more like a cons-model. In a future posting I will present the developing countries' view of development.
PS: Many concept described here are inspired by Fernand Bezy and have been published in his "Analyse Economique des Pays en Developpement" course in 1990.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
So in conclusion, I don't think that software piracy will impact the growth of ICT in Africa. It is the responsibility of the ISVs themselves to address the problem, not through threatening the users pirating their software, but rather by offering them software adapted to their needs both in terms of functions and price.
Finally the new SaaS delivery model should protect ISVs from piracy and guarantee their revenue.