Short article: The Digital Trade Agenda and Africa

The new edition of Bridges Africa, which is a well-regarded online publication focussing on international trade and Africa, is on e-commerce and digital trade.

Shamel Azmeh and I wrote an article for thise special issue entitled ‘The Digital Trade Agenda and Africa’

Digital technologies and data flows are increasingly the subject of provisions in trade negotiations. How do African states position themselves in these discussions in order to expand their digital economies and support digital industrialisation?

In this article, we discuss recent trends towards regulating broader aspects of digital technologies and data flows through international trade rules. Given the growing importance of digital technologies and data, these changes are likely to shape the future directions of digital economies, industrialisation and structural change in Africa. Yet, at present there has been little consideration of the specific challenges that African countries face.

Read the full article is available on the Bridges Africa site. The article has also been translated into French

Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers

I have a new blog post on the Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID) blog entitled “Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers: Implications of evidence-based policy”.

In it, I discuss a recent paper that looks at how to measure and better understand small-scale innovation amongst marginalised groups

Research on innovation in the global south has increasingly highlighted the importance of continuous, small-scale innovation for small producers and farmers – be that an adapted machine or an improvised farming technique. Stemming from such research, there have been calls for innovation policy to better consider such activity, to ensure that innovation does not just support large industries but also the development of marginal groups.

…In a recent paper, ODI economist Aarti Krishnan and myself developed a new approach to measuring small-scale innovation; we then use this approach to explore innovation in value chains in the Kenyan horticulture sector.

See the full article on the SIID blog

Digitalisation, small firms and value chains

This week UNCTAD released their flagship Information Economy Report 2017. With growing global digital connectivity and technologically-driven global markets, it is appropriate that it focuses on ‘Digitalization, Trade and Development’.

The report provides extensive outline of the latest thinking on issues including future automation technologies, online work and a consideration of what jobs and skills are important in this changing economy. See full report here

IER cover

Information economy report 2017

I was involved in contributing a background paper for this report on the digitalisation of small enterprises in developing countries and the impacts on trade which supports Chapter 3. I think it is one of the first analysis that attempts to provide a sectoral perspective on this topic, linking between digitalisation and small firms through analysis of ‘value chains’ in each sector. Continue reading

Digital trade and Brexit

This is a short article for the comment blog of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI). It explores the growth in focus on digital trade within trade deals and reflects on what this means for trade deals related to Brexit.

The balancing act of Brexit and digital trade

As the UK leaves the EU it risks a potential ‘digital cliff-edge’. How it navigates its way through global tensions around digital trade rules will orientate the shape of the economy for years to come

This article stems from a wider project exploring the political economy of digital trade, with a particular focus on developing and emerging nations

Big data and development in India

I recently wrote a short article on the blog of the Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID). It outline some of the pilot work I’m currently involved with on Big Data and Development

…We’re seeing a growth of interest in using more data in development, and notably large and complex “big data” to help solve development problems. Indeed, we can say that the infrastructures now being built to support big data are likely to become central to how we make development decisions in the future.

How will such data infrastructures shape our thinking about development over the next decade? What types of limitations and biases might they embed? How should they best be designed and implemented? It is these questions that we looked to explore in a recent project exploring big data use in India.

See the full article of the SIID blog

The TPP and the digital trade agenda

I’m happy to share new working paper titled ‘The TPP and the digital trade agenda: Digital industrial policy and Silicon Valley’s influence on new trade agreements‘, written by Shamel Azmeh and myself.

In the paper we explore the growing focus on data and digital information flows in new trade deals such as the TPP, and explore some of the motivations behind this trend.

For a more accessible outline, see the medium article we wrote

One of the most commented upon elements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the inclusion of new rules around digital information flows and digital data. In particular, we have seen civil society and technology commentators criticising some of the rules within the agreement — on source code, data localisation and intermediaries — that they suggest will be detrimental to a secure, open and competitive digital sector.

What has been less discussed is the reason why these rules are part of such an agreement. We suggest that many of the problems identified so far are purely collateral damage emerging from the main goal of digital clauses of the TPP — an aim by Silicon Valley to nip in the bud the expansion of ‘digital protectionism’ (or what we prefer to call ‘digital industrial policy’!).

Short paper: Geographies of Information Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Our previous conference paper ‘Geographies of Information Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ has now been published in The African Technopolitan, a bi-annual magazine published by the African Centre of Technology Studies (ACTS) on science, technology and development.

The January issue which includes quite a number of interesting articles on ICT in Africa can be downloaded here (PDF).

 

What can governments do to encourage inclusive innovation?

Whilst innovation is frequently associated with disruptive activities of entrepreneurs and firms, in the last few years we have seen a growing interest in how innovation can be ‘inclusive’, with a particular focus on innovations in developing countries.

We’re beginning to build a picture about ‘inclusive innovation: Research on farmers and informal workers shows that local innovation is essential for to livelihoods (see images). We’ve also seen the growth of ICT as a viable technology in remote parts of the world, with an expansion of ICT innovations in areas like mobile money and micro-insurance for the poor. More recently we’ve seen the launch of the new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) which place inclusive innovation as central to supporting the worlds biggest social problems.

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Examples of local innovation in Kenya: A locally-made fodder cutter (l); an improvised welding device (r).
Images taken from Making Do by Steve Daniels (cc-by-sa 3.0)

What we don’t know much about is the policy that supports this ‘inclusive innovation’. What can governments do to encourage the emergence and growth of inclusive innovation? In a new working paper published by myself and Richard Heeks we look to answer this question. The paper is inspired by earlier work we did on the mobile phone sector in Kenya, which revealed that policy was integral in successfully pushing expansion to low income groups. In this paper we analyse inclusive innovation in a wider set of sectors to build more general advice for policy makers.

Continue reading

Book review – Africa’s Information Revolution

As part of the Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG) held in Oxford in August 2015 I was part of an ‘Author meets Critics’ panel which discussed the new book ‘Africa’s Information Revolution’ by James Murphy & Padraig Carmody.

Below is the commentary that I made drawing on some of the conclusions from our research at the OII. As I was taking the role of the critic, this commentary dwells on critiques for the sake of provoking discussion. But, the book definitely worth a read for anyone interested in examining issues around ICT and development, as well as those who are interested in the larger scale impacts of ICTs in developing and emerging markets.

Continue reading

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Thinking about Market Information Systems…

Here’s a blog summary of a presentation that I made at ICT2015 on the Market Information Systems panel

Market information systems are growing in popularity as an intervention by governments, NGOs and private firms alike. New information provision for farmers, often price infromation over mobile, have been touted as a way of helping farmers improve the price they get for their produce, and reduce their dependency on middlemen.

In our research we explored the impacts of connectivity in the tea sector in Rwanda, and we spent much time mapping the actors, information flows and relations that gave us critical insight into the potentials and limitations of market information systems…..full post