Monday Water Cooler

European Union Approves Cyprus Bailout
With approval by the European Union of a $13 billion loan, Cyprus has been rescued from the financial precipice. In exchange for the loan, Cyprus has agreed to trim its over-sized banking sector, which likely will signal the end of the nation’s storied history as an off-shore tax haven.

While a potential departure from the EU would not have been optimal, most analysts believe the threat it posed to European and global economies was less than if Greece had defaulted.

“The programme will address the exceptional challenges that Cyprus is facing and restore the viability of the financial sector, with the view of restoring sustainable growth and sound public finances over the coming years,” read a Eurogroup statement.

Using Technology To Improve Humanitarian Aid
In November 2011, the United Nations launched the Global Pulse Initiative, which aims to use data to understand the impacts of a crisis in real time, thus allowing for policymakers to make adjustments. The initiative describes itself as a way to harness “innovation to protect the vulnerable.

Robert Kirkpatrick, a director of the initiative, reports that there is growing evidence that harnessing data can have an enormous impact on how development programs function.

“The volume of tweets mentioning food prices tends to rise and fall with inflation rates, and calling patterns through mobile phone networks shift in response to the prices of specific commodities. Such research has changed the debate from whether Big Data can have social impact to how. For the UN, this ability to glean real-time information could transform our work to protect development gains among the world’s most vulnerable populations,” he writes in the Harvard Business Review.

In Haiti, Mobile Phones Used To Chart Disaster Victims
Kirkpatrick’s belief in technology as an effective tool to empower developing populations is shared by others. For example, medical researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Columbia University examined how mobile phones could be used in Haiti to monitor the movements of victims in disaster areas.

“This is a huge problem, but by using data supplied by mobile phone operators, we now have a good chance of charting the movements of populations in disaster situations,” says Dr Linus Bengtsson, a program director at Karolinska.















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