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          Joshua Goldstein

          I'm a PhD candidate at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. I'm passionate about using technology to help governments in emerging economies become more effective and inclusive, particularly in the provision of health care, education and broadband internet. I get to work with great civic technology initiatives like Duma, Code for Kenya and Kepler. I'm ex-Google, ex-Berkman, and ex-UNICEF Innovations. I'm an avid trail runner and proud resident of Washington D.C.

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          From the blog

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          in a world of affinity networks, can proximity networks scale?

          Many of us already know Nextdoor, but I found this piece to have particularly useful insights into the evolution of their technical platform and business model:

          On a recent trip to Brazil I often thought about how the most popular socially-oriented tools (including Waze) were missing an opportunity to bring people together with others in their immediate community.
          My notes from the article:
          - Nextdoor hasn’t made any money, but they have $100 million in backing from John Doerr and others. They have minimal competition and are in a space that hasn’t been touched in the 16 years since Yahoo! Groups were cool.
          - Nextdoor City Program is a partnership effort with hundreds of US cities. There is strong interest from police departments, which like Nextdoor, tend to be functionally organized around neighborhoods.
          - To build the value of the platform they offer an “adjacent neighborhood” tool to broaden your network - in Manhattan to the next building over, or in less dense cities to the next neighborhood over.
          - Nextdoor’s gamble is that the internet can bring us closer to people with those whom we share a spot on the map. Its a return to “social networks” in the pre-Facebook, Putnam-esque sense.
          - Nextdoor is pretty boring. Their bet is not that their platform is fun, but that the information is so valuable that people can’t miss it - its a utility. Its a bet that far more people care about what happens at a community meeting than who actually attend a community meeting. 
          - Nextdoor’s Manifesto: https://nextdoor.com/manifesto/
          • Josh Goldstein

          suzyq0304:

          Baby elephant sanctuary in #Nairobi #Kenya

          my lady

          The Internet “Access Trap” in Developing Countries

          Three of five people in the world  still do not have access to the Internet.  From the perspective of standard economic models, this is puzzling. The supply of international connectivity has expanded dramatically since 2009, when several submarine fiber cables came online connecting even the poorest countries in Africa to the global Internet. Also, with only a few exceptions, nearly every developing country now has some form of competitive market for broadband services.

          Despite this, few of these countries are close to achieving the UN Broadband Commission’s goal of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5 percent of average monthly income. The Affordability Report, released last month by theAlliance for Affordable Internet Internet (A4AI), a consortium of private companies and public sector organizations dedicated to bringing Internet costs down through policy change, found that in at least 46 countries “the cost of entry-level broadband services exceeds 40 percent of monthly income for people living under $2/day, and in many countries exceeds 80 percent or even 100 percent of monthly income” (I co-authored the Affordability Report with Sonia Jorge).

                                        source: A4AI Affordability Report

          One of the most interesting findings in the report is that at the global level, the majority of people for whom broadband is unaffordable live not in the poorest countries, but in larger (lower) middle-income countries with high income inequality, such as China, India and Brazil. We found that many of these countries serve high-end broadband customers in urban areas quite well.  However, poorer communities in urban and rural areas remain underserved because of seemingly weak demand, giving network operators limited incentive to invest in these markets. These mechanisms reinforce one another, creating an “access trap” by further limiting demand and discouraging new market entrants.

          A4AI’s Policy & Regulatory Best Practices are the start of a consensus about how countries escape this access trap, but coordinating multiple efforts towards a beneficial public outcome remains a challenge. For example, policy makers can drive demand by making broadband relevant to people living in poor communities. Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to update the governance of critical public services, such as health, education and water, for the mobile broadband era.  Cloud-based solutions such as Form Hub can help teams more effectively deliver clean water and health services working across massive geographical areas. As public services drive people to adopt mobile broadband, the private sector will likely develop and offer services to meet the needs of new users, including poorer communities.

          Further, policy makers can take steps to lower the cost, and thus the  risk, of investing in under-served communities.  Google’s Project Link is providing an open access fiber-optic network around Kampala, Uganda, to help Internet service providers reach end users with faster speeds at lower prices.  Policy makers can play a similar role by  building the Internet into other basic infrastructure. For example, fiber ducts can be built into roads, easing negotiations with local authorities for advanced services such as fiber to the home. Many developing countries also have extensive under-utilized spectrum, which can lead to much faster, much cheaper mobile broadband in rural communities.

          We still have much to learn about which policies are most effective at which stages of a country’s Internet infrastructure development.  However, we know the stakes couldn’t be higher. McKinsey recently found that the Internet could contribute $300 billion to Africa’s economy by 2025.  The A4AI Affordability Report makes it clear that many countries still have a long way to go to realize these social and economic gains, but that governments can make decisions now to ensure a broadband-enabled future comes much more quickly.

          originally posted on Freedom to Tinker. 

          virtue & fortuna

          "What is actually required to make progress with novel problems a society encounters is political entrepreneurship, imagination, patience here, impatience there, and other varieties of virtue and fortuna."  

          - Albert Hirschman

          Frontiers of Science

          How Management Strategies Shape Development Outcomes - In Nigeria, giving bureaucrats more autonomy leads to better development outcomes. The authors design a neat survey tool. I’m thinking about adapting it to understand how real-time data shapes how governments manage service delivery.

          IBM/UNICEF Machine Learning Algorithm for Citizen Reporting in Uganda - U-Report, a tool that allows Ugandan youth to communicate with their government, gets over 170,000 texts per month. A new algorithm from IBM Research helps make sure the right texts get to the right location.

          Civic Engagement in a Digital Era - useful lit review on what behavior economics, social psychology, sociology and communications have to say about how tech changes the way we engage. U-Report (see above) is a great example of a new type of system that doesn’t fit comfortably into our traditional definitions of civic engagement.

          Can Aid Be Agile?

          Over on the World Bank blog, Chris Vein and I explore what it means for a development institution like the World Bank to adopt an agile model. The goal of the post is to build on Owen Barder’s call for the aid industry to recognize that complexity is the fundamental challenge of global development, and that big institutions can’t make an impact without recognizing that “you cannot design solutions to complex problems: they can only be solved by adaptation and iteration.”

          Admittedly, making a labyrinthine institution like the Bank agile is a tall order, but we think there are some concrete changes that will make a big difference, particularly in the provision of public services. These changes include the integration of user-centered design into project preparation, investing in open and reusable software platforms.

          Finding the Right Job in Kenya Just Got Easier

          Duma, a company that helps employers and workers in the informal sector find one another using their mobile phones, is one of my favorite startups. I’ve been advising the founders since they arrived in Kenya in early 2012 (I’m also an investor), so I was delighted to hear that they won a major grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to design a scalable screening solution and optimize matches between informal sector job seekers. This means they are going to get even better at matching the right worker with the right job.

          In the last week alone, Duma has placed workers in customer case, finance, logistics, security, sales reps, data entry, administration, hairdresser, barber, beautician, receptionist, supervisors, sales promos. Its been clear to me since the start that the service Duma provides is needed not only in Kenya, but across Africa 

          The company has also made big strides recently in developing a sustainable business model. Employers pay what they want when they successfully hire through Duma, and employees pay 10% of their first monthly pay check.  So far, the model has been successful. Employers are often willing to pay more than if there were a flat fee, and as one happy worker said recently, ”I’m OK with [paying 10%]. It’s always good to invest in a worthy course of helping others.” 

          Congrats to Arielle, Christine and the whole Duma team!

          my SXSW Eco panel in Austin!

          Here is the blurb:

          As each of us knows from our daily lives, the most effective services are ones that fit within our constraints, make complicated tasks easier, and help us reach mission-critical goals in our jobs and personal lives. How can governments and their international development partners design services that alleviate poverty while meeting our own high standards as users? Drawing on lessons from a three day design challenge with Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Stanford’s d.school, this talk suggests that design thinking can unpack the underlying assumptions that often go unchallenged and unverified during the service preparation process, and can ultimately help ensure that the services that matter most to citizens - health, education, clean water, and agriculture support - actually reach their destination.

          (Source: jkgoldst)

          • Josh Goldstein
          • blogs 

          Madeline Albright tries on Tim O’Reilly’s Google Glass. Fascinating week talking technology and politics in MTV.

          (Source: jkgoldst)

          a design thinking dispatch from Jamaica

          Spending time with the d.school and Slashroots in Jamaica was one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had in a while. I write about it in my new post on Stanford Social Innovation Review:

          A significant portion of the World Bank’s portfolio is dedicated to helping client country governments more effectively deliver basic public services to citizens in challenging environments. In a recent post, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim noted a need for a science of service delivery, because “we still lack a framework for systematically understanding what does work in a given time or place, and holding officials accountable to that standard.” As each of us knows from our daily lives, the most effective services are ones that fit within our constraints, make complicated tasks easier, and help us reach mission-critical goals in our jobs and personal lives. How can governments and their development partners design services that alleviate poverty while meeting our own high standards as users?

          (Source: jkgoldst)