Saturday is a work day in Juba, but it’s also a day (the only day) when we have reliable internet because we’re not at the Ministries.  Taking advantage of this improved access, I wanted to post some of the articles that I managed to read during the week and thought that other people might find interesting.

  • It’s TED talk season.  In this November 2009 TED talk, Peter Eigen, the former head of the World Bank for East Africa and founder of Transparency International, talks about how the global economy contributes to corruption and poor governance in emerging markets.  I liked: that every company I have worked for requires all employees to take training on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits payments by US companies to foreign officials.  Eigen talks about the lack of laws preventing bribery of Foreign Officials in Germany, France and the UK and it’s nice to remember that the US has had a law on its books since 1977.  I wished: that his discussion of civil society also addressed tools to expose foreign companies that use bribes to achieve their business objectives.
  • The New York Times At War blog describes the surreal experience of visiting a USAID compound from the 1960s in the Helmand Valley that had since been occupied by the Taliban and is now a police station for the Afghan police.  I liked: the ballsy reporting.  I wished: that it didn’t make me think of the reserved parking space for the SPLA at our camp in Juba.
  •  AidWatch summarizes a counter-intuitive paper by William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko about the benefits of educated Africans living outside of their home country.  I liked: that it added nuance to the debate over the challenges of building capacity in emerging markets by showing that there is benefit to training and education even if someone doesn’t stick around.  If this applies to migration out of a country, it certainly applies to someone switching jobs within a country. I wished: that it had also mentioned the costs of migration by the educated workforce (such as too few health workers).  While the economic benefits of someone living overseas may outweigh the costs of training, there are other ramifications that aren’t captured by looking solely at inflows and outflows.
  •  Friends at Roving Bandit (the best Economics blog in Southern Sudan) argue that more aid should be direct cash transfers and less spent on expensive US-based consultants (like me).  I liked: that it presents an interesting alternative to the traditional aid model (which doesn’t always work).  I wished: that it had mentioned that 51% of the GoSS budget is already spent on salaries and 59% of 2009 USAID funding for Sudan was spent on food.

This week’s cool product:  Google Goggles.  You take a picture of painting, a monument, a strange-looking meal, a bottle of wine, or anything else and Google looks it up and tells you more about the object (the name of the artist, the history of the monument, the ingredients, the Wine Spectator score, whatever).  It’s search by picture as opposed to by text.

This week’s bonus cool product: A machine that can print organs.