A useful article on the differences between the platforms on US foreign aid. Especially interesting for my field is the debate on where to park Obama’s signature Global Health Initiative. This year a decision was made to maintain its diplomacy focus by parking it in the State Department (versus transferring it to USAID, the USG’s development agency). The discussion is an interesting one because it explores the nature of US foreign aid, which is managed by multiple USG agencies.
I’m remembering the floods in 2009 when the cause was hush-hush (it wasn’t the rains)… The dam in Kampot begins operations today. From the comment stream, on Chinese-style development:
seems everything China does is bad and should be criticised by the west.lol it is same in my home country(Cameroon), however most of us Africans know this is just geopolitics and the fact that china threatens the west hegemony and power. Anyway I op the U.S will see reason and accommodate the rise of China, since there is nothing much they can do about this( as the bible says: Kingdom rise, kingdom fall) no matter what u do, u cant change this fact. the earlier the U, S understand this the better. I like and respect the U.S its one of my best countries(values culture and musics etc), but in less than 15years China have built and improve my home country unlike the west(mostly France:former coloniser”) hasn’t done in centuries, and for that I have a profound respect and love for the Chinese. since they treat Africans with dignity and equally, not like the whites who think they are superior. enough said, just hope we don’t witness a second cold war.
This weekend’s “debt deal” in Congress, which raised the debt ceiling and agreed to some cuts in the future, contains a change in how the international affairs budget is calculated within the federal budget. In Section 102 of the bill, Function 150 budgets are reclassified as “security.” This means foreign assistance and development programs — USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and lots of State Department programs — are now in the same budget category as the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Safety Administration.
It might seem like a minor thing, but this actually provides a sneaky way for the Congress to cut money from “national security” without actually touching sacred DOD programs. By cutting assistance agencies like USAID — a GOP goal for the last 18 months — Congress can cut from development assistance programs and say it is reducing national security spending. This change in language is damaging in that it furthers the militarization of civilian aid programs.
Respected defense analysts like Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams have argued forcefully that USAID is a part of the national security budget. And they are right to a degree: The argument that the U.S. has a compelling national security interest in developing poor countries, in responding to disasters and in alleviating famine is a perfectly reasonable one. Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of the biggest recipients of USAID money because the Obama administration believes USAID’s programs serve a vital function in America’s relationship to both countries.
But just because USAID can serve a national security function, it doesn’t automatically mean the international affairs budget should be militarized, or even considered part of the security budget. USAID, but also the MCC and other Function 150 programs (consisting of 12 departments, 25 agencies and nearly 60 government offices) perform lots of functions that have no direct bearing on national security. There is intrinsic value in effective programs like the Millennium Challenge Account Philippines that advance American national interests but do not play a security function. But, now they are all fall under a rubric of “security.”
The context of this review is at the end of this post. Other useful reviews I’ve found, some which echo a few points below, are here (reviewed against LiquidPlanner, 2010), here (reviewed against BaseCamp, 2007), here (comments from 2009), and here (2007).
My main complaint is the inconsistency problem in user experience: between users, within each user’s experience in using the same function, and then our team’s experience conflicts directly with what Wrike says its platform can do. What could this be from? The caching? The firewalls? We already all use the same version of Chrome.
Basic functionalities I expect from a project management platform:
1. Buffering between dependencies is unreliable – sometimes the buffer periods stick, but most of the time they don’t – and you don’t know it until you open those tasks again and see that your timeline has completely shifted. Wrike’s response as of Nov 2010: Wrike dependencies don’t support creating a time-delay between tasks.
2. Viewing your tasks in the timeline –
- There’s no differentiation between types of tasks (eg meeting, action, appointment) or group levels (eg Output level vs subfolders like Province or Facility) in timeline – The headings have no color coding or font effects etc, making viewing it a bit of an eyeache.
- The timeline view does not allow user-determined ordering of tasks and folders. I put the folder for Output 1 at the top for a reason, followed by the folders for Output 2, 3, etc. But Wrike’s timeline limits how these folders stack to the chronology of tasks within these folders.
- The details box for each task doesn’t list its full folder path (eg in “Included in” box on details view)
3. Being able to view or export a list of tasks the user has sorted – This to me seems a critical function – You filter, search, sort all tasks by X person in X facility in X province within a specified date range. You want to see all tasks meeting these criteria across all Output folders. You get a list. But this list cannot be displayed online on the timeline nor can it be exported on CSV so I can view it on excel. Wrike’s response as of Dec 2010: Export function does not take search criteria into account.
4. Batch-edits such as selecting many tasks at once and deleting or moving them to another folder is not possible.
5. Recurring tasks – Changes to the original task does not cascade to the recurrences created from it! eg if you edit / delete a task, its recurrences do not reflect the edit – you must edit / delete all 12 or 300 individually. See #4 above – you cannot batch edit! So be careful using this “handy” function!
6. When editing tasks that are placed in two or more folders, the user is not prompted to replicate the adjustment in the other folders as well eg when the edited task’s timeline is adjusted it does not automatically update in the other folders, even though this is the same task in both folders. [Read more…] about Review: Wrike (web-based project management tool)
H/T Paul Kedrosky!
On the shopping list for my next civilisation run is the latest bestseller “The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World” of Niall Ferguson, a Scottish intellectual gifted with breaking down history, finance and politics into simple understandable language. Here he talks about China and Africa in an interview:
Q Is China’s rise to power a bad thing?
A It is not a bad thing that the most populous country in the world is emerging from grinding poverty and hundreds of thousands of people who were in subsistence agriculture now have better paying jobs. That can’t be a bad thing. The problem is that in the realm of politics, China’s [position] is not necessarily benign. They [do not] remotely share our ambitions to improve the quality of governance in Africa. They couldn’t care less. And they have a very different political model, which is neither democratic nor based on law in our sense, and if you want to know what Chinese power is about, ask any Tibetan.
Q How does Africa fit into all this?
A In the eyes of the Chinese, it is a place with a lot of commodities and very poor infrastructure, and the Chinese have figured out they can access the commodities if they provide the infrastructure. So, they have a pretty instrumental view of Africa. Given the West has a sentimental view of Africa, which is they want to [help with] water, give it aid, help Africans by giving them free malaria meds. And China, of course, thinks that’s absurd. They want to come in and buy stuff, give them highways in return. And right now that model is working better.
Q Working better for China or Africa?
A Working better for Africa. Just look at the growth rate. Africa is enjoying … rapid growth, and it is mostly on the back of sales of commodities and the improvement of infrastructure. By comparison, we’ve had 50 years of development aid and achieved less. So [it is] not pretty in the sense that what China does is bolster regimes in Sudan. They aren’t really concerned about people being authoritarian. They are authoritarian, why should they worry about governance in Africa? It is not their vision of what matters, and if they can deliver economic growth and raise African living standards, you can’t really blame the Africans for saying: ‘OK, these people ask less of us [than] the aid agencies of the West and governments in the West.’
A good discussion in the Columbia Journalism Review on science versus advocacy, on the heels of The Lancet’s piece on declining Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) worldwide (using new, more rigorous modeling on countries with estimates available):
On Wednesday, The New York Times gave its lead front-page slot to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, where, “For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980 … The study cited a number of reasons for the improvement: lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and the increasing availability of “skilled attendants” — people with some medical training — to help women give birth.”
…most articles took a pass on [The Lancet editor] Horton’s comments about pressure from advocacy groups. One exception was the Associated Press, which mentioned it right in the lede (although, curiously, a headline on an early version of the story that read “Politics of aid seen in clash over maternal deaths” was later changed to “Lancet: Sharp drop in maternal deaths worldwide”).
Unfortunately, the AP had nothing to add on the extent to which advocates are actually concerned about the political (read: financial support) ramifications of the statistics presented in The Lancet. What the article, by Maria Cheng, does mention is that “A separate report by a group headed by the United Nations reached a very different conclusion on maternal mortality, saying the figure remains steady at about 500,000 deaths a year.”
…Ultimately, Horton concluded, “given the dramatic difference” between the results of the Lancet study and those reported by the U.N. in 2008 (pdf), which found that little progress had been made toward reducing maternal mortality, “a process needs to be put in place urgently to discuss these figures, their implications, and the actions, global and in country, that should follow.”