Incredible Internet Inequality

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen & Fabián Soria*

According to the latest Bolivian Population Census (2012), only 9.6% of households have Internet access (either fixed or wireless). Considering that the Bolivian Constitution puts telecommunications (including Internet) on par with water, sanitation and electricity as a basic human right, this coverage is outrageously low.

The main reason for the low coverage is the high cost. Even after nationalizing the telecommunications sector (2008) and investing USD 300 million in our very own telecommunications satellite, Tupac Katari (2013), Internet services in Bolivia remain patchy, expensive and slow compared to other countries in the region. For most Bolivians, having Internet at home is simply unaffordable.

Figure 1 shows that, for an average person in Bolivia, one hour of work would buy less than 1 day of a lousy 1Mbps (Megabits per second) Internet connection, whereas the average person in “developed countries,” such as the Netherlands, South Korea, Denmark, and China could buy several years worth of such a service for just one hour of work.

Figure 1: Internet Purchasing Power (days of 1Mbps Internet service that can be bought for one hour of work), as well as average download speed and average cost per Mbps.

Source: Authors’ elaboration based on a survey among Facebook friends (and friends’ friends) during February 2015 Notes: The calculations are rough and based on a very limited number of observations in each country (often just one). Effective download speed was measured by all participants using The average hourly salary is estimated from the Gross National Income per person. Most friends are located in main cities, which may not be representative of the whole country. In some places, free cable TV is included in the price.

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Guest Roast: Good Governance and Development – Which causes which?

By Edvin Arnby Machata

The international development community has for almost two decades focused on improving governance as a strategic priority for aiding economic growth. This article points to the historical record and argues that 1) growth does not require good governance, 2) good governance and representative institutions are products of economic development – not the other way around, and that 3) the configuration of national institutions determine whether a political order will produce developmental outcomes or not.

‘Good governance’ has been a mainstay component in most donor-funded development programmes during the last two decades. What exactly constitutes good governance is empirically problematic, but while implementations vary, demands for good governance generally include provisions to minimize graft and increase respect for human rights.

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Graphics: The New Political Economy of Resources

Chatham House, a London based international affairs think tank and home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, has developed Resource Futures, an excellent and evidence-loaded infographic that illustrates the new political economy of global resources.
Visitors to the interactive site are invited to visually explore resource use around the world and are enlightened to the mapping of current trends. Starting with trends in consumption, data is graphed onto a world map and a navigation tool at the bottom of the screen allows one to switch seamlessly between statistics for different crops, fish and meat, timber, fossil fuels and metals: Read More »

Theory Bites: Development, Underdevelopment and Dependency

The contemporary common language of development divides the world between developed and underdeveloped countries. This common-sensical classification also guides us to think of the two groups as rich and poor. Or even further, that the developed world, despite its imperfections, is “fine” and its people are happy—they represent the way human society should generally be—while the underdeveloped, for whichever reason, has just fallen behind—its people suffer and are not an example of what we’d like to see for humanity. The assumption is that everyone would prefer to live in a city, drive their car to work, and enjoy air conditioning and washing machines, since humans can and should “achieve” much more than washing their clothes by hand or farming for their own survival.

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Book Roast: The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

“What’s the difference between a recession and a depression,” asks a member of the public. “A recession is when you lose your job; a depression is when I lose mine,” replies an economist.

This is just one of numerous little jokettes that colour the pages of The Cartoon Introduction to Economics—a brilliant must-have for any student or teacher of economics or, indeed, anyone else interested in getting to know or simply recapping on the basics of a field that is currently positioned at the center of local, national and global decision-making. Read More »

Guest Roast: From Crisis to Resilience: Rethinking Macroeconomic Vulnerability

By Anuradha Seth

The frequency of global financial and economic crises has increased over the past decade and a half, and they appear to have become a systemic feature of the international economy. The risk of economic growth and human development achievements being undermined by such volatile international developments is fostering an overall re-think about the inner nature of crises, the growing vulnerability of developing countries and their capacity to be resilient in the face of these shocks. Read More »

Metaphor Magic in Public Opinion

Metaphors and their associated cousins similes are incredibly useful tools. They can help break down complex concepts into easily digestible bites. Like a magic wand with a technicolor rainbow trail passing over an old grainy black and white movie, they can really paint a picture and bring to life concepts and ideas the way that straight talking may not. They are one of the reasons Obama is such a clear, engaging orator. His speeches have been analysed and he is found to be framing the economy as a person, a house and a journey, using various metaphors to simplify more esoteric economic concepts in the imaginaries of his audiences.

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Bolivia back in the international headlines

By Raphael Jeronimo Calderon

“Bolivia’s Evo Morales stands on the brink of a ruinous civil war in his attempts to refound the Andean nation as a socialist state” states British The Guardian (1). RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency, writes Bolivia descends into chaos – Dead and wounded as a result of turmoils” (2). “8 dead during riots in Bolivia” covers the Austrian PR-Inside (3) and Qatari Al-Jazeera, as well as Spanish El Pais quoted Alfredo Rada, describing the events as “massacre” (4). Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon felt the need to comment on the present situation in Bolivia, stating that he is “deeply concerned about the violent clashes and the resulting loss of life in Bolivia, as well as the attempts to disrupt the nation’s economic infrastructure”(5).

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Quo Vadis Torch?

By Flavio Machicado

If doubts whether the Chinese economy is in fact the new world power lingered like nicotine on a wedding gown the morning after, the upcoming Beijing Olympics will eliminate all delusions. The unipolar hegemony shortly held by the US withers away before our very eyes, and preeminence in the post-American world is being distributed amongst a host of nations. This redistribution notwithstanding, the wellbeing of the new big boys in Asia – India and China – hinges on growth in the greatest consumer society to ever engulf the planet, and both tremble before the possibility of a recession made in USA.

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Migration and the 80/20 rule

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) observed, in 1906, that twenty percent of the Italian people owned eighty percent of their country’s accumulated wealth. This 20/80 ratio has since been observed in a large variety of situations, and the general idea of the “Pareto Principle” or the “80/20 rule” is that roughly 80% of “outputs” or “consequences” is typically caused by 20% of the “inputs” or “causes”. For example: 20% of motorists cause 80% of all accidents; 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes; 20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of all beer; and 20% of clients account for 80% of sales.

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