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Archive for July, 2009

Attitudes to Science and Technology: Global South vs. Global North

Here’s an interesting piece of research on attitudes to science and technology in different countries from the Relevance of Science Education project that surveyed 14-16 year olds in 25 countries.  Countries covered were (roughly) low-income African (e.g. Uganda); low/mid-income Asian (e.g. India); high-income European (e.g. England).

There are three main findings:

– There is a significant inverse relationship between level of development (human development index score) and the rated importance and benefits of science and technology to society; though the decline from global South to global North is relatively small.

– There is a significant inverse relationship between level of development and desire to work with technology.  The differences are quite large: African and Asian youth are on average positively inclined; European youth negatively so.

– The gender gap in attitudes to science and technology is greater in industrialised countries than in developing countries; very significantly so in relation to getting a technology-related job.

There’s a generic conclusion.  Given the importance of S&T to economic growth, the global North is in big trouble unless it can keep importing science and technology graduates from the global South.

There’s specific conclusion no.1.  If you’re working on ICTs, focusing on ICT4D is a good bet: you’ll find a more receptive and faster-growing audience for research in developing countries; a more receptive and faster-growing training audience; and those might (er, ignoring the odd structural factor!) be more gender-balanced audiences.

There’s specific conclusion no.2.  Developing country audiences may be more techno-centric and less receptive to information systems-type approaches to ICT4D, which place less emphasis on the technology and which tend to be less optimistic about technology.

And there’s a question.  Why?  Why should it be that the poorer your country, the more positive you feel about and the more you want to work with technology?

Because you’ve been less exposed to technology?  Because you can see that technology makes a real, positive difference to your country’s problems?  Because . . . [fill in your answer here]

(My thanks to Roger Boyle for pointing out this survey.)

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China Bans Gold Farming!! … Er … But In Fact It Hasn’t

The blogosphere has been awash with reports of the demise of gold farming (production and real-money sale of virtual currencies, items and accounts in online games), which is big business in China; worth US$1bn per year and perhaps more.  (Click here for the full analytical report on the history, size and trends in gold farming.)

A deep breath and a read of what was actually announced suggests otherwise.

This is a government restriction on the use of the quasi-Paypal-like currencies (mainly QQ coins) that are used extensively in China to pay for virtual game stuff.  As announced they can now only be used to pay for virtual stuff, and you can’t buy real things with them as game companies were allowing to happen, nor can you gamble.  This therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image.  And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency.  And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items.  And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars.  Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

Two other things to say.  The Chinese government appears to be this very odd mixture of fantastically effective (think Olympic Games) and fantastically ineffective (think rules on piracy and intellectual property) when it comes to implementation.

Second, this mirrors quite closely something that happened in Korea around 2006 based around a game called “Sea Story”.  A huge amount of gambling and then illicit political payoffs arose around use of the Sea Story currency.  Government then banned trade in virtual currencies.  I’m not aware of any reports about damage to gold farming that resulted and – as might be the case in China – the legislation in Korea may have been as much about political posturing and being seen to be doing something (i.e spin) rather than an implemented reality.

Both these points remind us that announcement is not implementation.  If this regulation does come to fruition, it will relate to finance and defence of the RNB yuan.  Yes, it may affect some types of games in China but, no, it as yet appears unlikely to have much of an impact on gold farming.

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