(Article from Computerworld)
The United Nations, Google and Cisco Systems have launched a Web site that will track the progress toward decreasing global poverty by 2015.
The online project, called MDG Monitor (Millennium Development Goals) was launched by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to focus attention on the need for people, companies and governments around the world to work together to fight poverty.
In September 2000, a group of world leaders adopted eight goals called the Millennium Development Goals that called for countries to reduce poverty and hunger, and to tackle such issues as disease, gender inequality, illiteracy, lack of access to clean water and threats to the environment.
The MDG Monitor Web site tracks progress toward these goals in a number of categories in nearly every country in the world. It also provides the most current data from multiple sources in areas such as public health and education.
A visitor to the site, for example, can use Google Earth to find places where work is being done to reach the goals. “MDG Monitor enables more than 300 million Google Earth users to better understand the MDGs and what it will take to achieve them,” according to the statement.
“Achieving the goals is a truly global task, requiring governments, international organizations, private companies and civil society to work together,” said Ki-moon in a statement. He cited the support of Google and Cisco in developing the MDG Monitor as an example of the kind of “innovative partnerships we need.”
Information is available for download on the MDG Monitor Web site and will soon appear as a global awareness layer in Google Earth.
Cisco provided financial and technical support for the Web site.
“Cisco believes that the power of technology, along with human ingenuity in deploying it, can effectively address global socio-economic issues and lead to sustainable change,” said Cisco Senior Vice President Carlos Dominguez, in the statement.
Whilst browsing Blogs this evening, I found this interesting story about Citizen Journalists in Kolkata, India – I was immediately fascinated as, despite the lack of refinement and grammatical perfection, the stories being shared online by inexperienced local Indian writers give such vivid insights into the lives of real people living in real poverty. Even though we can’t directly connect each story to a particular outcome, I firmly believe that awareness of the impact of poverty in real human lives is a major prerequisite to affect change, and it’s great to see people from within their own community contributing to this goal.
I’ll have to keep reading about the specific methods being employed to develop this team of Citizen Journalists, but I’m already fascinated! It’s great to see the Internet being used in such creative new ways to share life-changing stories.
Last night I read just the first ten or so pages of a book called “Planet of Slums” by Mike Davis. Fascinating and thought-provoking stuff. I’ll have to go back to Borders (my regular haunt) and keep reading it (or even buy it!).
Davis points out that right about now, for the first time in human history, we’ve reached the 50/50 point where 50% of the global population lives in an urban environment. This growth of urbanisation is amazing, with some cities experiencing as much as 4000% growth in the past 50 years, and mega-cities of 10, 15 or even 20 million people becoming more and more common.
But a curious aspect of this is that the growth of urbanisation is radically greater in developing countries (particularly Asia, Africa and South America) than in western countries. And the formation of these urban areas does not follow the previously expected patterns with a single nucleus and high density living at the centre of a city, but rather many, many communities are expanding and merging together to create massive urban corridors even as long as 600km.
The most worrying part of all, however, is that urban growth does not equate to economic growth. Instead, these developing countries are experiencing rapid growth in poverty, and the explosive growth of the slums that inspired the title of the book. Along the west coast of Africa, Lagos (the former capital of Nigeria), which had a population of about 290,000 in 1950, now has a population of about 8 million and is referred to as a ‘conurbation‘ due to it’s sprawling nature which amalgamates many cities/towns/suburbs/communities into one huge mass of humanity spread over 1000 sq.km. Yet in spite of all this growth (or perhaps because of it?) The Economist, in their December 2006 Liveability Survey, identified Lagos as only 64.7% liveable (where 0% is perfect and 100% is intolerable) and ranked it 130 out of 132 of all the cities surveyed.
Anyway, that’s enough for now – just some food for thought. Once I’ve had a chance to read more of Davis’ arguments, I’ll share my analysis with you. Apparently Davis argues that these issues are further exacerbated, and manipulated, to the advantage of the rich, by organisations such as the IMF intentionally setting policy (e.g. ‘Structural Adjustment Programs’) which further entrench the poverty and transfer wealth and resources from the poor to the rich. Whether he’s right or wrong, it undoubtedbly calls our attention to a very real crisis faced by humanity.