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Category Archives: Technology

The Androids are coming, is aid ready?

This post is the second in a series by Dennis Whittle. Dennis is the CEO of GlobalGiving, an international marketplace for philanthropy.

In my last post, I argued that the “operating system” used by the current international aid agencies is stuck using IBM punch cards while the rest of the world has moved on to cell phones, laptops, and iPhones.

In the old system, you had to type programs into a stack of hundreds…

Also posted in Big ideas | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Is aid stuck using IBM punch cards?

This post was written by Dennis Whittle. Dennis is the CEO of GlobalGiving, an international marketplace for philanthropy.

When I went to college in the late 1970s we used punch cards like the one pictured here to put information into the (mainframe) computer. Over the next thirty years, competition in computer technology led to rapid innovation. Over those same thirty years, the aid industry followed a decidedly different pattern of development.

In the early 1980s,…

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How the development of technology averts Shakespearean tragedies

  1. Juliet texts Romeo: Going 2 play dead, LOL!
  2. Huff Post unearths email incriminating Iago after 24/7 coverage of Desdemona-cheating-on-Othello rumors
  3. Hamlet gets treatment for depression, starts blog “Rotten in the State of Denmark”
  4. Brutus orchestrates Twitter campaign to overthrow Julius Caesar
  5. MacBeth double-checks Facebook page of Three Witches, comments: “no way I’m basing career decisions on somebody that twisted”


This map of how popular different tourist places are was generated by an Estonian programmer using the number of photo uploads to a popular site. Yellow is the most touristy, followed by red, blue is not very touristy, but grey is nowheresville.

I am a little suspicious about the methodology after I saw Toledo, Ohio show up pretty yellow. However, otherwise the map seems plausible. Coasts and mountains show up about as much…

Also posted in Maps | Tagged | 16 Comments

Scratch and win for authentic malaria drugs

Here’s a problem most people in rich countries don’t often have to deal with: wondering whether the drugs you’ve just picked up from your local pharmacy will kill you, save your life, or give you just enough active ingredients to create a new drug-resistant strain of an otherwise curable disease.

Counterfeiting does happen in rich countries, but more prevalently with “lifestyle drugs” like Viagra or allergy meds. Poor countries often have thriving counterfeit markets…

Also posted in Global health | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Mysteries of technological miracles

UPDATE 11 43 am May 7: on something else on which I had been procrastinating forever: my iPad just made me a dentist appointment.

I just did a tech upgrade and my productivity has quintupled. And I don’t know why. Even the word “upgrade” is in doubt. Typing is more awkward. I make typos. I can’t plug in my camera. Some graphics that worked with my oldntechnology no longer work. The screen is smaller. Yet…


Time for toilet deregulation?


Right now, India has more cell phones than toilets. That’s the headline buzzing over the wires today, thanks to the latest phones-to-toilets ratio released by the United Nations. It’s certainly a dramatic factoid. But it’s not just true of India’s 1.2 billion-strong population — this lopsided statistic is true around the globe, as well.

This is from the Global Poverty blog. The most obvious explanation:


Also posted in Big ideas, Entrepreneurship | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

This device WILL change the world

No, no, no, not THAT one!

I meant the one below:

It’s going to be a long while before very many poor people have iPads, but there is already one TV for every 4 people in the world.  I remember being in a remote village in Ghana with 30 people crowded around a TV set, so 1 in 4 implies a VERY big reach for TV already. In the words of…

Also posted in Academic research, Global health | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Jeff Sachs, welcome to Twitter!

As of 11 am today (2/26), Jeff Sachs has started posting on Twitter as @jeffdsachs. Here is some of the early traffic in which yours truly has a tiny stake (I have omitted who did the T for privacy):

(anon): Just noticed that @bill_easterly is following @jeffdsachs but not vice versa / Hilarious

@bill_easterly: This hurts :>) RT  Just noticed that @bill_easterly is following @jeffdsachs but not vice…

Also posted in Aid debates | Tagged , | 8 Comments

The iPad and women’s rights

Within seconds of the unveiling of the iPad by Steve Jobs, Twitter lit up with women complaining and/or joking that the name immediately made them think of a certain feminine hygiene product. #iTampon was the #1 trending topic on Twitter yesterday and remains so this morning.

Could this be one of those unintentionally revealing moments that women’s rights in the US has not come as far as we thought? That women did not have enough voice…

Also posted in In the news | Tagged , | 29 Comments