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Critical visions of development from the Global Development Institute: Uniting the strengths of IDPM and BWPI.

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Development Implications of Digital Economies Strategic Network

Development Implications of Digital Economies Strategic Network

The Development Implications of Digital Economies (DIODE) Strategic Network is a newly funded project which will be led by Professor Richard Heeks. The network received £129,000 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The below blog, which originally appeared on the DIODE website, provides an outline of the project and what it aims to achieve.

As digital technologies – the internet, web, mobile phones, social networks, 3D printers, etc – spread around the world, both work and business are changing via creation of digital economies.

There has already been impact in developing countries: thousands of digital startups, millions working in the ICT sector, millions more undertaking online work for platforms like Upwork. And the potential is even greater: hundreds of millions could access online work platforms, digital businesses like Uber and Airbnb are spreading rapidly, demand for digital enterprises is high, 3D-printing could level the manufacturing playing field, etc. But problems are also arising: most digital startups and digital careers fail; most citizens are unable to participate in digital economies; the benefits of digital work and trade seem to flow more to big corporations in the global North than to workers, enterprises or governments in the global South. read more…

GDI at the Development Studies Association Conference

GDI at the Development Studies Association Conference

Eleven academics from the Global Development Institute are helping to convene seven panels at the annual DSA conference in September. The 2017 Development Studies Association Conference will be held at the University of Bradford from the 6-8th September and will focus on Sustainability interrogated: societies, growth, and social justice and will feature.

Professor David Hulme, Executive Director of the Global Development Institute, will also deliver the President’s Valedictory lecture. read more…

Gendered Urbanisation and the Paradox of Prosperity: From Feminising to Feminist Cities

Gendered Urbanisation and the Paradox of Prosperity: From Feminising to Feminist Cities

By Sally Cawood, Global Development Institute

By 2030, it is predicted that nearly five billion (60%) of the world’s population will live in cities[1]. Whilst these spatial shifts are occurring globally, the pace and complexity of urbanisation in the Global South is fundamentally (re)shaping social, economic, political and environmental relationships. Towns and cities are increasingly portrayed as emancipatory spaces that bring ‘prosperity for all’, especially women and girls. Whilst this may be the case for some (due to greater mobility and freedom, earning opportunities and access to services), the reality for many – especially those living in slum settlements – is strikingly different.

On International Women’s Day (8th March 2017), Prof Sylvia Chant shared why a gendered lens is critically important to understand contemporary urban transformation. She outlined three key trends; 1) that women are increasingly the majority population in towns and cities in the Global South; 2) there is a discrepancy between what urbanisation means in principle, and what happens in practice and 3) slums represent spaces where women and girls face interlocking penalties. read more…

LISTEN: Exploring Big Data for Development: An Electricity Sector Case Study from India

LISTEN: Exploring Big Data for Development: An Electricity Sector Case Study from India

Ritam Sengupta, Richard Heeks, Sumandro Chattapadhyay and Christopher Foster recently published a new Working Paper entitled ‘Exploring Big Data for Development: An Electricity Sector Case Study from India’. You can read the paper, and other Development Informatics Working Papers on the GDI website. 

Prof Richard Heeks recently presented the working paper as part of a Centre for Development Informatics seminar. You can listen to the presenation in full below. There is also a version which includes the question and answer section available. 
read more…

Why are right wing Republicans standing up for international aid?

Why are right wing Republicans standing up for international aid?

By Professor David Hulme, Executive Director Global Development Institute

The Trump administration looks set to propose “fairly dramatic reductions” to America’s aid programme later this month.  This is unsurprising given the extreme nationalism of his “America First” approach, but why are Republican senators like Marco Rubio speaking out?

ODI’s Alex Thier has some interesting thoughts about why many US senators and congressmen will oppose cuts, arguing that ultimately they will make America weaker in the world. read more…

Transforming the role of women in Global Value Chains #IWD2017

Transforming the role of women in Global Value Chains #IWD2017

This International Women’s Day 2017 the campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange – a call for us to forge a better, gender inclusive working world.

The Global Development Institute’s Professor Stephanie Barrientos has been researching the sustainability of global value chains including cocoa, fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers and garments for over 15 years. Her research played a positive role in addressing global inequalities and supporting initiatives to empower women workers. Some of her recommendations were used as the basis for the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership which later evolved into today’s Cocoa Life scheme.

So why are we looking at Stephanie’s work on International Women’s Day 2017?

We are seeing increasingly large numbers of women drawn into employment in global value chains – compared to more traditional forms of production. It is estimated 70% of world trade now passes through value chains, many led by global retailers. Stephanie’s research highlights the challenges and benefits to women of working in global value chains:

  • Women constitute a significant share of the workforce in labour intensive production in global value chains, but are concentrated in precarious and flexible work with poor labour conditions
  • At lower value chain tiers many workers’s incomes are below a living wage. Women workers often experience verbal and sexual harassment from male supervisors.
  • Downward pressure on costs and increased requirements for flexibility placed on suppliers reinforces precarious working practices.

Quality standards required by buyers can raise demand for more skilled workers, which helps drive improvements in working conditions and rights

Research has shown paid work in global value chains increases women’s economic independence and voice. However, proactive strategies are needed to promote greater gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Recently Stephanie gave  presentations at SOAS University of London and University of Warwick on ‘Retail Shift: Transforming Work and Gender in Global Value Chains’. She advanced a gendered analysis of global (re)production networks (GrPNs), drawing on global value chain analysis, labour geographies and feminist political economy.

Drawing on case studies on women’s work in cocoa, fruit, flowers and garments, her research shows outcomes for women can be mixed. Those caught in ‘low road’ cheap labour value chains experience poor conditions and low wages. Those engaged in ‘high road’ value chains requiring greater skill and productivity are more likely to enjoy better conditions and rights.

Stephanie’s research provides insights into social upgrading and downgrading (better or worse conditions and rights), and how these play out for different workers. It examines to what extent engaging in global value chains reinforces gender inequalities or opens up channels for promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Social upgrading for women workers can occur under some circumstances, but it is far from automatic:

  • Civil society campaigns can help to leverage improvements in working conditions and gender equality. This occurred in the Kenyan flower industry over the past decade.
  • Company moves to increase quality and productivity, and rising concerns over the future resilience of their supply chains can help drive improvements. This is now occurring in cocoa-chocolate value chains following industry predictions of a million ton cocoa shortage by 2020.
  • Government regulation needs to be more proactive in ensuring better labour conditions and rights for all workers (permanent and casual). This must include ensuring workers earn a living wage and smallholder farmers a living income.

In conclusion Stephanie argues that changing retail procurement practices and changing patterns of consumption in developed and emerging economies are transforming gendered patterns of work. Downward pressure on costs, quality standards, civil society campaigns and increased requirements for skilled labour are resulting in complex gender dynamics.

Effective governance and proactive strategies by all actors (public, private and social), is critical to promoting greater gender equality in global retail value chains and supporting women’s economic empowerment.

Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.
The race for Sustainable Development by 2030: Some baby-steps towards leaving no one behind

The race for Sustainable Development by 2030: Some baby-steps towards leaving no one behind

By Fortunate Machingura, a Global Challenges Research Fund Postdoctoral Fellow at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester. Fortunate holds a PhD in Development Policy and Management from the University of Manchester

The aphorism that the populations furthest behind should be reached and no one should be left behind continues to consume the development world. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have galvanised thinking about how to leave no-one behind, based on optimism around the world’s ability to cooperate and govern for sustainability towards ending poverty, deprivation, and inequality for all. Questions of who these populations are, where they live and what kinds of inequalities they experience are critical.

Some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have taken the leave no-one behind mantra to heart; policymakers, NGOs, the private sector, donors and other decision-making stakeholders, are making frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment of populations and social groups that are “behind”. For example:

At the project and program level, improved methods and more rigorous approaches to evaluation of development outcomes have led to a massive effort to ensure that resources are mobilised and effort is deployed to the best effect for poorer quintiles of the population who need these resources the most. read more…

An Emerging Digital Development Paradigm?

An Emerging Digital Development Paradigm?

By Professor Richard Heeks

Taking a longer-term view, the relationship between digital ICTs and international development can be divided into three paradigms – “pre-digital”, “ICT4D”, and “digital development” – that rise and fall over time (see Figure below).

Changing Paradigms of ICTs and Development

The pre-digital paradigm dominated from the mid-1940s to mid-1990s, and conceptualised a separation between digital ICTs and development [1]. During this period, digital ICTs were increasingly available but they were initially ignored by the development mainstream.  When, later, digital technologies began to diffuse into developing countries, they were still isolated from the development mainstream. ICTs were used to support the internal processes of large public and private organisations, or to create elite IT sector jobs in a few countries. But they did not touch the lives of the great majority of those living in the global South.

The ICT4D paradigm has emerged since the mid-1990s, and conceptualised digital ICTs as a useful tool for development [2]. The paradigm arose because of the rough synchrony between general availability of the Internet – a tool in search of purposes, and the Millennium Development Goals – a purpose in search of tools. ICTs were initially idolised as the tool for delivery of development but later began to be integrated more into development plans and projects as a tool for delivery of development.

The isolationism of the pre-digital paradigm remains present: we still find policy content and policy structures that segregate ICTs. But integrationism is progressing, mainstreaming ICTs as a tool to achieve the various development goals. From the development side, we see this expressed in national policy portfolios, in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, in UN Development Assistance Frameworks. From the ICT side, we see this expressed in national ICT policies and World Summit on the Information Society action lines.

The ICT4D paradigm is currently dominant and will be for some years to come. Yet just at the moment when it is starting to be widely adopted within national and international development systems, a new form is hoving into view: a digital development paradigm which conceptualises ICT not as one tool among many that enables particular aspects of development, but as the platform that increasingly mediates development.

This is the subject of a Development Informatics working paper: “Examining “Digital Development”: The Shape of Things to Come?”, and will be the topic for future blog entries.

[1] Heeks, R. (2009) The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto: Where Next for ICTs and International Development?, Development Informatics Working Paper no.42, IDPM, University of Manchester, UK

[2] ibid.



Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.

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