Could You Afford Facebook Messenger in Cameroon? A Global Map of Mobile Broadband Prices

This post is by Frank Hangler and Gili Vidan, and is adapted from a post on Frank’s personal blog. For Open Data Hack Day in Oxford, we decided to play around with data from the International Broadband Pricing Study released last year by Google. We decided to look at mobile broadband prices around the world: in which countries can you obtain data on your mobile device for the least money, relative to your purchasing power in that country? The study collects information on consumer mobile plans sold by major carriers in each country, so we had to do some data aggregation […]

Fighting Diseases with Smart Phones

Can South Africans tackle heart disease with the help of an egg cup and a Android phone? In their talk at the Martin School on Feb 6, Dr Fred Hersch and Professor Gari Clifford answered with a qualified, but hopeful, “yes.” Dumb sensors, smart phones Hersch and Clifford’s work focuses on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines NCDs as diseases that are “not passed from person to person,” such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and diabetes. A paucity of doctors and under-resourced health systems mean that in low- and middle-income countries, […]

Imagining World War I… Under Bitcoin

2014 marks the centennial anniversary of World War I. The world was a different place a century ago, but in at least one respect, they are becoming similar– the gold standard of the early 20th century era is much like the new cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which is scarce by design and a good store of value. In the spirit of learning from the past, it is useful to consider what would have happened if the biggest monetary trend of 2014 had been in existence in 1914– would it have prevented inflation? Brought peace? Stopped the growing authoritarianism? Let’s begin with the […]

Data, Knowledge, and Knowing Through Data

We live in a world ruled by data in all realms, not just the scientific or mathematical but the political and the personal. This comes with both benefits and costs. The benefits are well known. The unprecedented access to evidence allows for more detailed analysis and more informed research, for instance. The costs, on the other hand, are typically tied to ethical problems raised by data collection regarding invasion of privacy, digital dossiers, and database misuse. The influx of data and our increasing willingness to turn to it, however, generates a more pernicious problem closely associated what makes our surplus […]

The Dance of Twitter-plomacy

UPDATE: One day after this post was published, Michael McFaul announced his resignation from the post. The New York Times wrote a frank article about him, where his  Twitter skills took front and center. It is good to see mainstream publications are recognizing government talent in digital skills!   Contemporary communication brings a need for diplomacy to even seemingly trivial channels. Case in point: a few days ago, the US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul posted the following tweet about the upcoming Olympics in Sochi: McFaul is in an interesting position on this. On the one hand, the Olympics are an inherently […]