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 […]

Mobile Apps for Behavior Change

Graphs attribution: Molly Norris, Conference Photo Behavior change is one of the most difficult things to achieve whether you’re trying to alter consumer purchases or harmful lifestyles. I was able to share my thinking on how mobile apps contribute to the war being waged in becoming our better selves at Editorial Intelligence’s Mobile World Conference in association with Vodafone, The Huffington Post and Channel 4. I see two main models that inform how app developers hope to change behaviour: the rational and social learner. Apps that involve logging new data about oneself expose the previously unseen. Apps to track fitness […]

Network Effects–We Missed the Inframarginals

When discussing the internet, the economic concept that seems to have made the largest dispersion into popular discourse is the concept of ‘network effects’. “Facebook  is unconquerable because of positive network externalities.” “Product X must reach the tipping point so that network effects can take over,” etc. This sub-field is often treated as if it is more-or-less mature (and it may well be), but there is a serious theoretical ambiguity within the economic literature about exactly what a network effect is based upon. The original incarnation of the term deals with a good whose value increases as the number of […]

Is Linkbait the new Classifieds?

The news has always been subsidized; it has never been a money maker. Print newspapers were mechanisms that bundled content and the lucrative parts – automotive, home and garden, classifieds – subsidized the difficult to monetize but incredibly socially valuable national and international news sections. According to a 2010 presentation by Hal Varian, classified ads once accounted for about 32% of total newspaper revenue. Craigslist, monster.com, and other online venues have removed this revenue source for newspapers – even in their online manifestations. Total classified ad revenue declined over 70% between 2000 and 2010 industry-wide, from a robust $19.6 billion […]

The Heartbreaking Irony of Open Peering

I just stumbled into a heartbreakingly ironic example of the Internet sucking. Larry Lessig, who is of course the man, updated his seminal Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999) in 2006 by, in part, putting it up on a collaborative wiki and allowing people to participate. This was great because, like licensing all of his work under Creative Commons licenses and making them all available as free pdf downloads, it was another example of him putting his money where his mouth is. As someone who purports to believe in the power and value of an open and participatory internet, […]