Archive for the ‘ICT4D Humor’ Category

You Heard It Here First! — ?4D

September 17, 2015

The Jester had a terrific summer tagging along with his alter ego on a book tour, during which he was met with throngs of readers falling at his feet in adulation. (Editor’s note: The second half of the previous sentence is not true.) The tour provided the Jester with good fodder for at least a few posts.

But before he ventures into those meaty topics, the Jester wants to kick off a new ICT4D contest! Readers are invited to participate in the comments section below and on social media using the #?4D hashtag.

The game is simple: Be the first to coin a new 4D abbreviation!

Here are, of course, well-worn examples…

  • ICT4D — information and communication technologies for development (originator shrouded in mists of history)
  • M4D — mobiles for development (does anyone claim the First Mover Prize on this?)
  • HCI4D — human-computer interaction for development (or this?)

And some that have been mentioned, but haven’t yet taken off…

  • T4D — tablets for development (Yours Truly claims First Mover Prize, Nov. 16, 2011)
  • 3DP4D — 3D printing for development (First Mover Prize goes to Kalani Kirk Hausman, Mar. 13, 2013)
  • D4D — drones for development (First Mover Prize goes to Joanna Wiśniewska, July 21, 2014)
  • IOT4D — Internet of things for development (First Mover Prize goes to Jon Gosier, Mar. 25, 2015; Bonus Prize for coining yet another unwieldy abbreviation – IOT4I – impact)
  • W4D — wearables for development (First Mover Prize goes to TMS Ruge, Mar. 31, 2015; Bonus Prize for simultaneous swipe at ICT4D)

Surprised that these already existed? So was the Jester.

First Mover Prizes are awarded to those people who have the dubious honor of being the first to mention a new line of ?4D activity and using the abbreviation (not just the expanded phrase). (For those interested in methodological issues, the first movers above were determined by a scientifically validated process involving Google, keywords, and exhaustive visual inspection of the results; where an exhaustive visual inspection required more than ten seconds, a quick skim was substituted. Those with evidence of earlier mentions than those cited above are invited to note them in the comments section below. Please include appropriate links.)

The rules are as follows…

  • The 4D suffix must appear at the end of the abbreviation.
  • The “D” must stand for “development” in the context of global socio-economic development or something that smells like it.
  • The “4” must be written as a number.
  • The mention must be searchable via Google. Needless to say, anything that doesn’t appear on Google never happened. (Note that by commenting or tweeting, you will soon after satisfy this condition.)
  • It must have something to do with something broadly arguable as ICT.
  • Abbreviations used in other contexts, but which are new in an ICT or development context are allowable.
  • It does not matter whether the technology exists, works, has impact, or has any hope of having impact. After all, none of those things have ever stopped us.
  • Prize winners will have their prizes rescinded if a claimant with an earlier date of mention appears.
  • The contest will continue as long as the Jester deems appropriate.
  • Employees of the Jester, the contest’s participating sponsors, and members of the immediate family of any such persons are not eligible to participate and win.
  • No purchase necessary.

The Jester hopes that the contest will forestall attempts by various individuals and organizations to waste resources on a 4D effort they can claim to have initiated, as for example, this organization seems intent on doing with wearables. Perhaps by seeing the sheer silliness of a long list of baffling abbreviations, some will be discouraged from adding to the alphabet soup. Not that anything actually discourages ?4D efforts, but the Jester can always hope!

So, to kick things off, a contribution from the Jester:

  • BH4D — biohacking for development (for more about biohacking, see this crazy interview – let’s embed people with RFID tags so that they can we can detect human trafficking!)

And if you tweet your entries, don’t forget to use the #?4D hashtag!

Actual Headline: “Cows Send Texts to Announce They’re in Heat”

October 2, 2012

In the previous post, the Jester mentioned, purely hypothetically, “a wireless udder monitor that sends cattle owners an SMS when their cows are due for a milking.” Just weeks later, life imitates blog. The New York Times reports, in all seriousness, that Swiss researchers are working on a device that sends SMS text messages to farmers when their cows are in heat. Despite its serious reportage, the article mocks the Jester by leaving him with little room for comedic improvement. Nevertheless, some excerpts below from the article with Jesterly annotation.

  • “The results are combined, using algorithms, and if the cow is in heat an SMS is sent to the farmer.” (Whoa, algorithms! This quote from a computer scientist is sure to seduce non-technical technology lovers.)
  • “Our recognition rate is about 90 percent.” (Pretty good, unless you’re a cow in the 10%. For example…)
  • Occasionally, the device would send a false signal that a cow was in heat, he said. Other times, it failed to detect when one of the cows was in an amorous mood. (The Jester wonders how this works with artificial insemination.)
  • The device, known as a heat detector, raises concerns among animal rights advocates, not so much because of its intrusiveness in the private parts of the cow — its use involves inserting a thermometer with a tiny transmitter and antenna in the cow’s genitals — but because of what it says about the stressful lives of Swiss cows. (The article also mentions some interesting tidbits about the animal-rights awareness of the Swiss, by the way.)
  • It also prompts skepticism among dairy farmers, who are startled by its cost, which is expected to be at least $1,400 per unit. (No doubt, someone will start working on a low-cost version for the developing world any moment now.)
  • “It happens fairly frequently that you miss the right moment.” (Common problem in international development.)
  • “With greater productivity there is a drop in reproductive activity.” (Heretofore unknown problem in international development!)
  • “The first attempts were not trouble free,” he said. “The problem was with the sensors. They were not sturdy enough.” (Ruggedness! Cow context differs from human context.)
  • “Cost is important” … “It’s a cost-benefit question.” (Calling all ICT4D-ers! Opportunity for BOP innovation to impact the Global North!)

Kony 2012, Part 122 – Beyond Death

April 6, 2012

April 5, 2022

Yesterday, Invisible Children, the non-profit that became an overnight YouTube sensation a decade ago for its Kony 2012 campaign released another video about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Titled Kony 2012: Part 122 – Beyond Death, the video has, as of this morning, registered 7 hits on YouTube. [Editors note: 8, after refreshing]. While the video series has lost much of its viewership over the decade since it began, it continues its reign as the longest-running VVMCGC, or “Viral Video Marketing Campaign for a Good Cause.”

The campaign has continued its tireless efforts, even though Joseph Kony was killed in 2014. His death was widely reported in 2014, and the details have been recently revealed by then-President Rick Santorum’s e-memoir, God’s 70 Million Write-In Votes. Santorum had authorized a secret mission by U.S. Special Forces to execute Kony, under pressure from celebrity lobbyists and in an ironic continuation of the dubious policies of his predecessor.

Kony, it turned out, had quietly relocated to a small compound in Rwanda, together with his dwindling LRA. When the Special Forces struck, the LRA consisted of 15 child soldiers, among which were several six-year olds freshly abducted by Kony. All were killed in the mission, and Americans cheered at yet another successful series of executions on foreign soil conducted without the slow bureaucracy of a jury trial.

Meanwhile, Invisible Children must now contend with stiff VVMCGC competition among other organizations. The non-profit can be credited with the spawning of a new industry: 2014 marked the rise of the CYO – Chief YouTube Officer. CYOs were initially criticized for commanding seven-figure salaries and spending as much as 98% of the budgets of their organizations, but supporters justify them on the basis of the funding they bring in. Greg Mortenson, founder of CAI, noted, “Heck, they’re worth every penny – thanks to our CYO, we’ve managed to buy more copies of Three Cups of Tea to give away than ever before. And, it’s all legit, too!”

Voices on Woofer, the Hypernet service that allows people to blast 10-character messages directly into the brains of 7 billion people, seem not to mind. Soap opera heart-throb Justin Bieber woofed “#Kony2012!” Senator Oprah Winfrey barked “#Part122!” And, four-year-old star of the reality TV show Sex for Kids,Rihanna Jolie arfed, “#Beyond!”

Invisible Children continues its efforts to counteract the message of their first video in 2012: In a press release on their Woofsite, they say, “We want to clarify that our intent was not to spark the U.S. occupation of D.R.C. We were really just going for awareness, which is the first step towards meaningful action. We think we’ve finally gotten it right in Part 122, and we hope that meaningful action will follow during our April 20, 2022 event when we ask everyone in the world to run through the streets in their underwear, carrying signs that say that Kony should be brought to justice. Posthumously, if necessary.”

A few old-school commentators have met the video with a debate about the factual accuracy and societal value of the Kony 2012 series. Does Part 122 answer the questions of its predecessors? (Most seem to agree: not quite yet.) Is Kony really dead? (He was last seen by several people in Memphis, Tennessee.) Is slacktivism really of any value? (A new group calling itself “White Saviors” has worn the criticism into a badge of pride: “Whiteness is a state of mind, not of skin color. We welcome anyone who subscribes to an unlimited data service to join us in woofing about violent conflict and extreme poverty.”) Is decision-making by marketing really the best way to allocate public resources? (One handsome blogger’s analysis from a decade ago seems relevant even today.)

The rest of the world, however, has moved on. The honor of the most popular VVMCGC in 2022, with over 6 billion hits on YouTube, goes to the One Chip Per Child Foundation, which has released a heartwarming video of a child simultaneously self-medicating and self-educating itself thanks to an embedded neural chip that takes over its nervous and endocrine systems. Congress has since passed a bill formally affirming the importance of neural chips for international development.

How Jester Sachs Would Lead the World Bank

March 4, 2012

Inspired by an irresistibly fun-inviting move by Jeffrey Sachs last week, the Jester throws his own bell-embellished version of a hat into the ring for the top job at the World Bank.

How I Would Lead the World Bank

by Jester Sachs

My quest to help end poverty has taken me to so many countries that I’ve caused a noticeable contribution to global carbon emissions. I’ve visited really exotic places such as 7-star hotels, corporate boardrooms, business class on Emirates, and imposing Geneva buildings. Now I’m applying for the job at 18th and Pennsylvania, the presidency of the World Bank. I am doing this in the traditional way by sending my cover letter to The Washington Post.

Unlike previous World Bank presidents, but like approximately 6.999 billion other people on the planet, I don’t come from Wall Street or U.S. politics. I am a practitioner of economic development, an unrecognized genius, and did you know that I’ve also written a few books? My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, though I’m happy to take money from corporations, governments, and rich patrons. My solutions would save all of us — the poor, companies, governments and the rest of us — because I am really just that smart.

I don’t seek the bank presidency because of its financial muscle or in the vainglorious hopes of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The bank’s net disbursements were only about $16 billion in fiscal 2011, which by gosh is a paltry sum, when my calculations say $195 billion a year is necessary to end poverty.

The World Bank is potentially far more decisive than a bank. (Banks, after all, only make multi-billion dollar loans on a regular basis.) At its best, the bank serves as a powerhouse of ideas and a meeting ground for key actors (and musicians like Bono) who together can solve daunting problems of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation. The World Bank should create a truly international meeting of the minds (a point underscored by the fact that its highly esteemed lead economist is from China; so I guess, it is kind of already doing that).

I know what I’m talking about. I have been a trusted problem-solver for a lot of countries, many of whom didn’t even realize I was solving their problems – like Bolivia, for example, which would have descended into a Dark Ages without me, and Russia, which would have done a lot better had they really taken my advice. And then there’s China – they got far by doing exactly what I would have told them to do, if they had asked. My good fortune to see the world through my own perceptive eyes while working on some of the world’s most vexing problems, has allowed me to understand that various regions’ challenges need tailored solutions – an entirely new idea that I came up with. This is why I’ve started exactly 14 Millennium Village clusters – once the right solutions are figured out for those 14 sites, they can be applied, cookie-cutter fashion, to the remainder of the world’s 2-3 million villages, which are more or less exact replicas of those 14. There are reasons why what works well in the United States might not work in Nigeria, Ethiopia or India, which is why I recently wrote that America needs civic virtues, but those other countries don’t.

Yet the World Bank is adrift (for one thing, we’re talking about the institution that once hired people like that rascal William Easterly). It is spread too thin (like peanut butter). It has taken on too many fads (which the Millennium Villages aren’t). It is too disconnected from critical areas of science and knowledge (like my field, economics, which a science, really!). Without incisive leadership, the bank has often seemed like just a bank (amazing, given its name). And unfortunately, Washington has backed bankers and politicians who just don’t take me seriously. Come on guys, it’s time you let me join your reindeer games.

The World Bank presidency should not be a training ground in development – that would imply I might learn something on the job. Its leader should come to office with unshakeable convictions about what to do with flooded villages (like the one I once stepped foot in), drought-ridden farms (like the one I once stepped foot on), desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children (like the one I once spoke to through a translator), and teenage girls unable to pay high school tuition (translator, again). More than knowing these realities, and caring to end them, the bank president should believe single-mindedly in his own infallible theories of their causes and interconnected solutions. In any case, he should not be chosen from a pool of international candidates and through a sensible, transparent process like some have suggested.

Solutions to critical problems such as hunger, AIDS, malaria and extreme deprivation remain unaddressed because not everyone listens to me. Those who do listen include scientists who allow me to take credit for their powerful ideas; powerful bankers with ample finance who give me a little cash to play at microfinance; business leaders with powerful technologies who set up shop in the Millennium Villages; civil society with powerful community roots who fawn over me; and powerful politicians in whose constituencies I have built the Millennium Villages. Did I mention, these folks are powerful? But I also have many powerless friends who are poor, black, gay, female, disabled, and religiously persecuted – all at once, of course – we often hang out over a beer.

Finding the graceful way forward, becoming a part of my grand plan to create global change should be the bank’s greatest aspiration. I’ll stand on my record of having already gone a long way to save the world: to have written about how I would go about it; to have flown in agricultural experts to help farmers in 14 villages; to have flown in public health experts to redesign community healthcare in 14 villages; to make mobile technologies (which are absolutely not a fad) the new edge of development practice; to have accepted donor funds allocated to telecenters (which were absolutely not a fad); to have staved off all those crazy folks asking us to rigorously evaluate our approach; and to have written a book that doubles down to offer a solution not only to poverty but also to climate change.

My role has been to help bring together vastly diverse communities of knowledge, power, and influence to tell them what works in practice and then to bend to the will of my donors.

I am ready to lead the bank into a new era of problem-solving (after all, it’s the bank that should solve developing country problems, not developing countries themselves). I will work with industry, governments and civil society to bring broadband (another critical non-fad) to clinics, schools and health workers, creating a revolution of knowledge, disease control, quality education and small businesses (because dang it, everything else that we’ve been trying has been too expensive). I will work with agronomists, veterinary scientists, engineers and anyone else who is willing to join my cult to build prosperity in impoverished and violence-ridden dry lands. Yes, now I’m going to end violent conflicts, too.

I will work with engineers and financiers to harness the solar power of the deserts (because I learned on my many travels that the one thing they have in the desert is sun) in the service of hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who lack electricity (though how to connect the desert sun to those living hundreds of miles away is another issue). I will work with urban planners, architects and community organizations to help ensure that the developing world’s mega-cities are places to live and thrive like in that cool movie Slumdog Millionnaire.

This and much more is within our grasp, just like I insisted in The End of Poverty. Properly led (that is, if and only if led by Yours Truly), the World Bank can build bridges among science, business, civil society and finance, and also hopefully across the gaping canyon between my underappreciated intellect and my stunted emotional quotient. Let’s, and by that I mean let me, get started.

ICT4D Mad Lib!

October 27, 2010

The Jester’s biggest fan, Nicholas Negroponte, was on the Colbert Report a couple of days ago. (Incidentally, the Jester’s alter ego will be sparring with Negroponte in Cambridge, MA on Dec. 2, at an Ideas Matter event put on by the Boston Review and MIT. The Jester has already reserved on-stage seating for himself.) The combination of Negroponte’s broken-record rhetoric and Colbert’s heckling inspired… 

The ICT4D Mad Lib! What better way to encapsulate the mindless fill-in-the-blank style of technological determinists? For best effect, have someone else prompt you for each blank, have them record your responses, and read out the completed work only after all blanks are accounted for.



Two Cows

March 28, 2010

Ripping off the concept of the “two cows” explanation of economic -isms (see, for example, Wikipedia’s entry of the phenemonen), here is the Jester’s corresponding list for ICT4D…

Computer Science: You have two cows. You connect them to the Internet via wireless networking.

Information Science: You have two cows. You make fun of the computer scientists.

Communication: You have two cows. When will they get mobile phones?

Development Theory: You have two cows. They should be elephants! No, rhinos!

Business: You have two cows. You sell them affordable grass and seek social enterprise venture capital.

Economics: You have two cows. You run a regression and build a model that explains why all mammals have an udder and 4 teats.

Psychology: You have two cows. You build a model that explains undergrads.

Behavioral Economics: You have two cows. You make them play Dictator.

Sociology: You have two cows. There is something between them that cannot be explained by either cow alone.

Anthropology: You have two cows. How can you know that, unless you’ve lived with them for two years?

Political Science: You have two cows. They are evil.

Political Economy: You have two cows. The first one is 1.2 times as evil as the second.

Critical Theory: You have two cows. You are evil.

Agriculture: You have two cows. You feed them Substance X. They produce twice as much milk for a week, and then they die. They produced twice as much milk!

Education: You have two cows. You teach them multiplication without crushing their self-esteem or using numbers.

Public Health: You have two cows. You vaccinate them.

Geography: You have two cows. Gosh, doesn’t anyone care where they’re from?

Design (Old School): You have two cows. Just as long as they look good.

Design (Recent): You have two cows. You do a needs assessment. You discover they need healthcare, education, and jobs. You build a prototype. You do a presentation. Next project!

Human-Computer Interaction: You have two cows. You design them a gadget. They seem to like it. Yay!

Environment: You have two cows. Methane. Cleared forest. Not good.

Media Studies: You have two cows. Fun!

Jeffrey Sachs: You have two cows. With only 6.6 billion more, you could give one to everybody.

William Easterly: You have two cows. Too bad.

Dambisa Moyo: You have two cows. Really, too bad.

Amartya Sen: You have two cows. You educate them and set them free.

Hernan de Soto: You have two cows. Are they registered?

Muhammad Yunus: You have two cows. They don’t need training; they just need credit.

C. K. Prahalad: You have two cows. You sell them cheap grass, become a consultant, and claim you did some good.

Nicholas Negroponte: You have two cows. OLP… C?