India’s Digital Transformation
Over the last decade, India has tackled barriers like undocumented citizen identities and minimal access to formal banking and new technologies with a series of innovative programs and digital services. This article will explore India’s digital transformation.

Digital Identification and Financial Inclusion

Efforts to digitize India first took off in 2009 with the launch of a digital identity system called Aadhaar. Aadhaar aimed to provide every citizen with a digital identity. Aadhaar obtained IDs through a biometric-authenticated 12 digit number that created them according to applicant’s iris and fingerprint scans. Aadhaar has provided over 600 million voluntary applicants with UID’s (unique identifications) since its launch. The success of Aadhaar gave even the most rural populations the ability to identify themselves and avoid the hassle of ineffective systems.

Although the majority of citizens obtained digital IDs, a portion of the population still lacked access to digital banking services. Limited access excluded citizens from participating in formal banking that could improve their lives. With the demand for digital banking services increasing, India embarked on its next phase of digital innovation.

In 2014, with added backing from the Modi government, India created the Jan Dhan financial inclusion program. Jhan Dhan sought to get as many Aadhaar identity holders to participate in digital banking as possible. Within the first day of the program’s launch, Aadhaar identifications set up 10 million paperless bank accounts. The program also promised account holders accident insurance for up to 100,000 rupees (or $1,500) and an overdraft capacity of 5,000 rupees ($80).

Empowered with digital identification and banking, citizens could digitally access government services with more ease. The increase in mobile banking also created new layers for India’s digital transformation.

Demonetization and BHIM

By 2017, Aadhaar identification had become a required function for formal banking, SIM connections and income tax returns. With the majority of the population using digital services, the need for India to demonetize became more apparent. India’s total demonetization seemed daunting, but it appears to have worked well for the country. India’s decision to demonetize was so abrupt, the demand for services like Aadhaar and Jan Dhan, among others, increased rapidly. With the replacement of its old currency and the demand for digital services rising so quickly, India’s digital transformation took its next steps.

To help with the transition of demonetization, India’s Prime Minister launched BHIM (Baharat Interface For Money) in 2016. The app serves as a digital payment platform in tandem with the country’s UPI interface. BHIM also works with a 2G network, meaning that people even the most rural parts of India can access this service. This network allows UPI account holders to send and receive instant payments from non-UPI holders, which cushioned the shock of demonetization for more of the population.

The app also offers a wealth of diverse services for users and businesses. Currently, it allows users to shop/pay for services online, transfer money to family and friends, receive customer payments with no additional cost and check transaction history and account balance at any time.

Three years after its launch, BHIM collaborated with over 100 banks nationwide and in early 2018 people downloaded the app 21.65 million times for Android phones and over a million for Apple. Data that RBI and the National Corporation of India collected also demonstrated that out of 145 million UPI transactions that year, BHIM carried out 9.1 million of them.

Although India requires more work, it has dedicated itself to improvements through innovative technology and creative solutions over the last decade. As it continues its efforts, the country’s citizens should have increased access to banking services.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Level
The word poverty is common in discussions of politics, global issues, health and education around the world. Although many organizations are working to put an end to poverty, the general public often has many questions surrounding this prevalent topic. What does it mean to be in poverty and what is the poverty level?

The most recent poverty level set in 2015 stated that an adult making less than $1.90 a day is in poverty. People could questions surrounding the poverty level from a variety of perspectives. Politicians often use it around the globe to allot aid and develop economic policy, but mathematicians can also use it to compare the rates of poverty among countries and solution-oriented NGOs can use it to understand the root causes of poverty. In today’s era, one hefty debate revolves around the impacts of globalization on poverty-ridden countries. This is just one context in which the poverty level is a useful tool in decision making and analysis.

Who Determines the Poverty Level?

The World Bank sets the international poverty line and it fluctuates over time based on how the cost of living changes around the world. To calculate a shared poverty level internationally, the World Bank takes the poverty threshold from each country and converts it into a common currency. It does this using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which creates equilibrium among currencies so that the same basket of goods in two different countries will receive the same pricing in each country. PPP is an economic theory that allows the World Bank to put each country’s income and consumption data in globally-comparable terms to ensure that the same quantity of goods and services receive equitable pricing across countries.

Why is it Important to Measure Poverty Levels?

Developed nations, such as the U.K., debate the costs of living and raises in income. In low-income countries, analyzing poverty levels is important for targeting development initiatives and evaluating economic progress over time. For instance, The Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan work to identify needs in rural communities and improve the delivery of basic goods and services in these areas. These programs use poverty levels to evaluate their work and support development initiatives in the area.

Who Lives in Poverty?

The U.N. estimates more than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world, struggling to fulfill the basic necessities of life. About 70 percent of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, these issues affect developed countries as well. Estimates determine that there are 30 million children growing up near or below the poverty line in the world’s richest countries.

What are the Causes of Poverty?

The causes of poverty are diverse and far-reaching, but they often include unemployment, social exclusion, conflict, natural disasters, disease and other phenomena that prevent them from accessing the resources they need to be productive and make a living.

With an estimated four million people living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Although the country has access to many natural resources, political unrest has plagued it in recent years. The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered through continual corruption of political officials that has stifled development so that it remains nearly impossible to easily access or extract any of the country’s natural resources. Therefore, it remains difficult to make a living, or even have access to the basic necessities of food and water.

Despite the dismal numbers, some organizations are making huge strides in overcoming global poverty. Organizations like Oxfam International have made it their objective to reduce worldwide poverty. Working in over 90 countries and directly reaching millions of people each year, Oxfam primarily tackles issues of inequality and discrimination. It also provides direct aid in times of crisis and educates the world’s poor in an effort to impact the root causes of poverty at the political level.

Groups like Oxfam often utilize the international poverty level to assess and direct their efforts. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to such a widespread problem. In order to solve the issue, though, everyone must first understand its causes. By implementing the poverty level system, the world should be on the right track to eradicate extreme poverty.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

developing country

Many citizens in the United States would categorize the continent of Africa as being predominantly developing. But what actually makes a developing country? Without understanding the classification system of the various worlds, along with the specifications that would classify a country as developing, it is difficult to have an informed perspective on the subject.

The Term “Third World” Originates From the Cold War

Today, the term “developing” is more appropriate to refer to the economically developing nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, instead of “Third World.” The Cold War represented a division between two industrialized powerhouses, the United States and the Soviet Union. These two distinct countries were opposing sides of a proxy war in which many countries chose not to participate. Conceptually, the “Third World” was created to describe the countries that had no stake in the Cold War. However, today, there are more descriptive factors that define what a “Third World” country is other than its neutrality during the Cold War.

The “Third World” is a Victim of Colonialism

Colonialism is the most common factor used to describe whether a country is part of the so-called “Third World” or not. While neutral during the Cold War, these countries did not take sides in part due to the effects of colonization. This was the case for a large portion of Africa but not only. By this standard, The Caribbean islands and many nations within East Asia and Latin America fall into the “Third World” category. The hierarchy of the previously called “First World” (U.S. and Western nations), “Second World” (U.S.S.R. and Eastern bloc nations) and “Third World” was created by the United States to rank nations. There was an implicit bias in this categorization, mainly due to the fact that the so-called “First World” countries represented supporters of capitalism. A racial component also appears obvious upon examining the nations categorized as “Third World” versus “First World.” The racial element of the classification system also ties into cultural views of colonized countries, which were all non-white.

Recent “World” Classifications Revamped

According to the economist and international relations specialist Parag Khanna, the “First World” represents the nations with the highest performing economies, such as the United States, the European Union and China. The “Second World” comprises developing countries that have moderately successful economies, some of which are Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Finally, the “Third World” nations are the least economically successful, a few of which are Rwanda, Honduras and Cambodia.

How to Approach These Classifications Moving Forward?

As detailed above, using the Cold War “world” classification system no longer applies to the 21st century. In terms of economic classification, a severe restructuring of the classification system is necessary. Some characteristics defining a developing country are access to healthcare, education, clean drinking water and career paths, cost of living versus inflation, infrastructure and prevalence of democracy. This brief but nuanced classification system would no longer classify countries based on race or preferred economic systems. Rather, it would focus on the detailed aspects of a country that make it “livable.” The vilification of less fortunate citizens in nations across the world would be eliminated, while also being able to predict whether a country is backsliding in each of the signifying categories above.

– Zach Margolis
Photo: Pixabay

How Improving Governance Helps Growth in Developing Countries
It’s all too true that in most developing or vulnerable countries, local or national governments are tyrannical and corrupt. These governments have a propensity to abuse power, favor the rich and ignore the oppressed. However, by improving governance in the developing world, there is hope that unethical practices will be removed and replaced with unprejudiced laws that will fairly benefit everyone.

Problems Surrounding Corrupt Government

Numerous problems surrounding nefarious practices in underdeveloped countries stem from a lack of morality, discriminatory systems and misuse of power. The World Bank reports that in vulnerable countries, a disparate sharing of authority is a common problem that causes countries to stay in a state of impoverishment rather than move toward more progressive procedures that would allow for quicker growth and sustainability.

Unfortunately, it’s easier for the already-powerful leaders to resist change rather than consider the development of new policies for improving governance to benefit the whole society, regardless of economic class.

Additionally, there are many other factors that contribute to shady practices in the governments of developing countries. One of these practices is patrimonialism, which is defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a “political organization in which authority is based primarily on the personal power exercised by a ruler, either directly or indirectly.” This means that too much power can easily be granted to one person or group of persons (oligarchy), rather than having different governmental branches to limit what can and cannot be done.

What Steps Can be Taken Towards Improving Governance?

In a patrimonialistic society, the land or state is “owned” by a leader, granting that person the freedom to do as he, she, or they please. This power structure contributes to the cycle of poverty — wealthy land is distributed to the other wealthy people, allowing those choice few to access the best schools, homes and healthcare; on the other hand, the slums are given to the lower class, eliminating chances to thrive in a fair economy. Ultimately, this system halts economic growth for all the citizens.

The OECD Observer gives two good examples of a patrimonialistic society; the first being Morocco, where admittance to bureaucracy protects access to economic benefits, and the next being in the Philippines, where political sovereignty can be bought and sold.

Citizen-Based Elections

A great way to combat corruption, poverty and improve economic growth is by initializing citizen-based elections. According to USAID, more than half of the world’s populace live under only partly free governments, which limits their civil liberties, causing the inability to freely engage in politics. In democratic elections, the people are granted a voice in choosing who they wish to run their government.

USAID easily lays out the course for democratic elections. The steps include freedom of speech, association and assembly; elections as an essential tool to bolster political openings and cooperation; assembling advocates and describing different political platforms to the public and encouraging political debate.

Education

Another step toward improving governance is creating equal educational opportunities for all people. A large problem in the political sphere of third-world countries is the lack of education that causes many citizens who live in poverty to not fully understand politics; in turn they lack the skills to actively participate in events such as elections or assemblies.

Not only will education improve political understandings, but it will create jobs and give students the skills needed to be seen as valuable by future employers, improving economic growth and sustainability. With higher education comes higher knowledge and realization, skills that permit citizens to see and understand what areas in their countries need change.

Public Policy and Building Democracy

One of the best ways to promote better government is through improving public policy and actively working on building a democracy. In the developing world, the people and citizens are often ignored, and their opinions are thought to be arbitrary and unimportant to those high on the political spectrum.

However, in a democratic society, the people get to vote in elections for issues such as industrial projects and new laws. To help aid in understanding public policy and democracy, The World Bank created the Governance Global Practice, which aims to initiate trust between the government and the people.

Despite all of the concerns facing governments in third-world countries, these nation-states are not hopeless. Many countries work towards improving governance and government practices. In fact, organizations such as The World Bank, USAID and the United Nations provide hope for those searching for a better quality of life, and thereby foster countries to work towards a brighter future.  

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr

definition of a third world country

What is the definition of a third world country? In many countries, when people hear the phrase “third world country”, visions of impoverished countries struggling to meet basic human needs are the first to pop up. This might be true in today’s society, but the original definition of a third world country referred to the nations that lacked an alliance with either the U.S. or the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In recent years, the term has come to define countries that have high poverty rates, economic instability and lack basic human necessities like access to water, shelter or food for its citizens. These countries are often underdeveloped, and in addition to widespread poverty, they also have high mortality rates.

Definition of a Third World Country Underlying Meaning

In terms of the “worlds” system, they are ranked from first world to third world. The first world refers to the countries that are more developed and industrialized societies; in other words, capitalist societies that aligned with the U.S. and NATO during the Cold War. This includes North America, Japan, Western Europe and Australia.  

Second world countries refer to the countries that lean more toward a socialist society, and generally were allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These countries include Russia, Poland, China and some Turk states.  

Third world countries are all the other countries that did not pick a side. This includes most of Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, this definition includes countries that are economically stable, which does not fit the currently accepted definition of a third world country.

As a society, the term “third world country” refers to countries with high mortality rates, especially infant mortality rates. They also have an unstable and inconsistent economy. These are countries that contain massive amounts of poverty and in some cases have fewer natural resources than other nations throughout the world. These countries often have to rely on more industrialized countries to aid them and help stabilize their economy.

These countries usually lack economic stability because of the lack of a functioning class system. Usually, the country will have an upper class and a lower class. Without a middle class to fill the gap, there is almost no way for a person to escape poverty because there is no next step for them on the economic ladder. This also allows the wealthy to control all the money in the country. This is detrimental to the economy of the country, and both increases and helps to sustain the poverty running rampant throughout the country while allowing the upper class to keep their wealth to themselves.

These countries often accrue a copious amount of debt from foreign countries because of the constant aid they need from other countries to keep their economy afloat and provide some financial stability to the citizens of the country.

The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today. Today’s meaning refers to countries that are in financial trouble and need help from other countries to keep their economy sustainable, at least for a short time.

– Simone Williams

Photo: Wikipedia

 

strongest democraciesFreedom House’s annual nonpartisan report on the state of global democracy, Freedom in the World, had grim findings in its newly released 2018 version. According to the report, 2017 marked the “twelfth consecutive year of decline in global freedom” in which civil liberties and political rights eroded in multiple democracies, both young and old.

That said, the focus in this post will be highlighting the world’s top 10 strongest democracies, moving from last to first, based on various economic and social factors:

  1. Uruguay
    Uruguay is known for its strong record on legal equality and social tolerance of minority groups. It has a strong economy, an informed populace and a national identity based on democratic freedoms rather than ethnicity. It is also highly regarded for its notable lack of government corruption, an issue that has long plagued other democratic nations in South America.
  1. Ireland
    Despite instances of corruption, Ireland has upheld its strong and stable democracy throughout the political turmoil of the past few years. Balanced and fair elections have maintained the country’s tradition of equal protections under the law, though Ireland could stand to dedicate more to foreign aid, giving just 0.33 percent of its Gross National Income (GNI) in 2016.
  1. Switzerland
    Notable as one of the only countries in the world to operate as a confederation, Switzerland follows a tradition of decentralizing power and allowing citizens to weigh in on government decisions through referendums, making the nation closer to a direct democracy than a representative one.  Switzerland has a long history of civil rights and political liberties, having been a democratic nation since 1848.
  1. Denmark
    A parliamentary representative democracy with open and fair elections, Denmark remained one of the world’s strongest democracies in 2017. Despite pressures following the 2015 migrant crisis, Denmark has maintained its core democratic structures. It has strong checks on power and corruption, a robust set of civil liberties for its citizens, and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
  1. Australia
    Australia is widely recognized as a strong democratic system, with free and fair elections and a system of obligatory voting. The country encourages the sharing of powers, with a bicameral parliament designed to mitigate extreme divides between opposing views.
  1. New Zealand
    A nation that contains immense and stunning scenery, New Zealand is perhaps best known for its appearances in the popular Lord of the Rings movies and its thriving tourist industry. But the nation also possesses a thriving democracy. With regular elections and a system of checks on governmental abuse of power, New Zealand remains a destination for those who wish to combine epic scenery with the modern attributes of a prospering democracy. Its only shortcomings relate to combatting global poverty, as the country contributed just 0.25 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016 despite strong economic growth.
  1. Finland
    Competition between multiple parties with diverse views, along with deep respect for the law and a resulting lack of corruption, made Finland one of the best democracies in 2017. It boasts a free press and independent judiciary that respects the political rights of citizens. It is above average in terms of foreign aid contributions, contributing 0.44 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016, but could still improve in this regard.
  1. Canada
    A country recognized by its broad social welfare system and vast landscapes, Canada remains an admirable democratic society. A strong electoral system combined with governmental respect for diverse opinions among citizens has led to a solid and functioning country. Canada could do better in foreign aid, however, contributing only 0.26 percent of its GNI to helping less fortunate nations in 2016.
  1. Sweden
    A parliamentary monarchy with a robust and independent judiciary, Sweden remains one of the best multiparty political systems and one of the strongest democracies, incorporating the viewpoints of most members of society and benefitting from a respected judicial branch that largely upholds civil liberties. Sweden also contributes the most toward fighting global poverty among members of the United Nations, with 1.09 percent of its GNI going to foreign aid in 2016.
  1. Norway
    Despite the political and social turmoil that defined 2017, Norway preserved its status as one of the strongest democracies in the world. Norway sports strong protections for freedom of speech among its populace and has a civil society and independent media that is encouraged to critique the government and promote responsible behavior by public officials. Key to Norway’s success is its modest population, which makes it easier to represent all viewpoints in government and mitigate the societal divisions that plague larger countries. Norway also has done more than most democracies to address the issue of global poverty, contributing 1.1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index found in its July 2017 report that democracy was in retreat across the globe, including in the United States, which is considered one of the world’s oldest and strongest democracies. It is important to examine the strongest democracies in the modern world in order to study how they have maintained strong systems of civil and political liberties, as well as what they are doing to improve other nations’ economic well-beings, a key foundation for democratic stability.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

what makes a country developedWhat makes a country developed? The commonalities between developed countries include an improved quality of life and greater access to basic necessities. Conversely, underdeveloped nations around the world also share common characteristics. Citizens suffer from preventable diseases, extreme poverty and lack of access to healthcare and clean water. Understanding the characteristics of underdeveloped countries can allow for a more strategic aid process to contribute to their development.

The former Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said that a developed country is “one that allows all its citizens to enjoy a free and healthy life in a safe environment.” While this may be an oversimplified statement, it highlights key issues that must be addressed in order for a country to develop. Here are some characteristics of underdeveloped countries.

Low life expectancy 

While the life expectancy of developed countries is typically in the 70s and 80s, underdeveloped countries often have life expectancies in the low 50s. This is common in African nations and is due to high birthrates and low contraception use, poor access to health care and potable water, lack of education and disease. All of this can easily be prevented.

Many measures can raise life expectancy while decreasing overpopulation and deaths resulting from preventable diseases. This includes using technology to help medical clinics in rural areas, increasing the number of wells, utilizing solar sanitation systems, revamping national education standards and having a sharper focus on vaccines.

Poor education and literacy 

Similarly to life expectancy, literacy rates and educational systems are telltale signs of a developed country. While countries like Norway consistently maintain a 100 percent literacy rate, underdeveloped countries, such as Niger, maintain an estimated 19 percent. While primary school is mandatory for most of the world’s children, many drop out in underdeveloped countries. The lack of secondary and vocational education for children prevents them from entering the workforce later in life. This can be combated by revamping curriculum and teacher training and by enforcing internationally recognized standards.

Poverty rates 

The economy factors greatly into what makes a country developed. Lack of income prevents people from access to basic human rights such as clean water, food and preventable measures against disease. While only 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, over 60 percent in the Congo and neighboring countries do. With additional aid, underdeveloped countries can increase credit access and improve agricultural and infrastructural systems, which would produce food and create jobs simultaneously.

High fertility rates 

Overpopulation is another characteristic of underdeveloped countries. Lack of education and birth control have contributed greatly to high fertility rates. In countries like Chad, for instance, only five percent utilize contraception. It has contributed to high birth rates, a population in which the majority are adolescents and have low life expectancies. Better education and access to birth control can balance the booming population in underdeveloped countries.

It is clear that the steps to helping underdeveloped countries are simple. Healthcare, education and credit access contribute to what makes a country developed. By addressing the aforementioned issues, underdeveloped countries can take steps to develop further and contribute to eliminating global poverty.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

Foreign AidThe September 11 terrorist attack resulted in the construction of development response, the act of aiding and developing an impoverished area. The goal of this strategy is to help combat terrorism. Impoverished areas produce a vulnerable environment ideal for extremist group recruitment. The presence of foreign aid in poverty-filled areas reduces the susceptibility of men and women reaching out to extremist groups for a sense of stability.

Social marginalization and poorly governed areas increase the appeal of an extremist group. Social marginalization, the feeling of being oppressed or excluded from society, creates a need for acceptance. The absence of security may lead to residents looking for an opportunity to escape oppression or economic despair. These conditions produce breeding grounds for the recruitment of terrorists. Extremist groups symbolize a promise of social status, respect, necessary services and a sense of belonging.

Yemen and Somalia are prime examples of terrorist breeding grounds. In Yemen, about 35 percent of the population is undernourished and 55 percent lack food security due to soaring food prices. Merely 2 percent of Yemen’s gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. Unemployment has increased to 35 percent and the Sunni-Shia civil clash has heightened the terrorist capacity.

Somalia, similarly to Yemen, is lacking a central government. The war zone environment has provided a safety net for those hiding from the law, giving terrorists the ability to move freely. About 73 percent of the population lives on about $2 a day. The promise of profit from extremist groups feeds the embrace of terrorist membership. Recruiters use the incentives of food, profit and even a sign-up bonus to gain members.

These nations portray the hardships developing nations face when countering extremism. They are not equipped to stop the targeting of terrorist groups. Economic security and efforts to decrease marginalization would provide a preventive measure for global threats.

In the “Assisting International Partners to Counter Violent Extremism” report, the U.S. Department of State and USAID outline objectives for counterterrorism. These objectives include engaging in partnerships, encouraging policy and employing foreign assistance tools. The recognition that youths are more inclined to embrace extremism led to the production of institutions focusing on employing youths and preventing them from joining extremist groups.

The report details that foreign aid would be spent on building institutions and strengthening impoverished nations’ international partnership. The strategic vision behind foreign aid proves that aid is more than a loan to combat poverty. The objectives can be viewed as a tactic within the grand strategy of foreign aid.

Foreign aid provides a weapon to combat counterterrorism. This strategy provides a cheaper long-term tactic that targets one of the causes for breeding ground conditions. It serves as a preventive measure and a source of international security.

The potential foreign aid budget cuts could put American national security in jeopardy. Foreign aid serves as an investment to prevent vulnerable conditions for terrorist recruitment as well as managing the likelihood of a global threat. Developmental aid is not only a valuable tool to counter poverty, but is an effective counterterrorism strategy.

Shauna Triplett

Photo: Flickr

Education in Norway

Ranked twenty-first on the list of leading education systems in performance, graduation rates, and funding, Norway is among the many countries in Northern Europe that places education as a priority for all youth regardless of their financial or ethnic background. In 2016, Norway provided higher education to more than 200,000 students, more than tripling the student count from 2010. Education in Norway is highly valued, however, student drop-out rates are a continuing issue.

Education in Norway is implemented in three parts: primary school, lower secondary school and upper secondary school, the first two of which are mandatory to complete. Students must go to school between the ages of six and 16, but after graduation from lower secondary school, students are given the option to either pursue upper secondary school or discontinue education to enter the job market. Upper secondary school is a three-year program that incorporates either general or vocational studies.
 
As of 2015, the completion rate of the 64,000 students enrolled in upper secondary school starting in 2010 was 59 percent. Norwegian schools are tuition-free, and Norway continually supports equality in education. So the question is: why do students drop out of upper secondary education?

The answer to this question may have little to do with Norway’s philosophy on education. In fact, it could lie in the background of each student. One major factor influencing the decision to finish schooling is grade point average in lower secondary school. If a student is presented with poorer grades in early education, their likelihood of receiving good grades or seeing their higher education through is low. While 59 percent of the student population in 2015 graduated within the given time span of their schooling, 7 percent failed final exams and 15 percent dropped out before or during their final year.

Obtaining a quality lower secondary education in Norway is an essential factor to the success in upper secondary school. Since lower secondary school occurs during the development ages of 10 to 16, it is imperative for teachers to provide students with engaging and effective curriculum specifically tailored to that age group. The focus is on basic knowledge concepts, such as reading and math, then upper secondary school is a more advanced approach that offers career-specific courses, like business or nursing.

New ideas like the Transition Project focus on low-performing students in lower secondary school to increase their reading, writing and numeracy competencies. This project provides students with follow-up workshops, homework assistance and surveys for teachers to complete and keep track of their lower-scoring students.

Reforms like the Transition Project provide students and teachers alike with cohesive learning. Teachers are able to lecture with more clarity and students are able to grasp the curriculum with more ease. Those students needing more assistance have outlets to spend more time on specific concepts. As a result, students are less likely to fall behind in their classes and will gain a better overall understanding of the curriculum based on the increase in involvement and participation with their teachers.

With an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for students with education below upper secondary school and only 3.4 percent for students with upper secondary education, it is vital to emphasize the importance of finishing school. Norway has seen the underlying problem, and its efforts in decreasing dropout rates in upper secondary school are just beginning.

Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr