Jennifer Welden

Guest Blogger

Jennifer Welden is entering her third year at UC Berkeley and pursuing a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. She is interested in international development, particularly how large actors (public and private) can work with local actors to create sustainable, personalized solutions to inequality. As a past intern for a Berkeley City Councilmember, Jennifer has been exposed to policy formation as well as the inner workings of government. In the future she hopes to contribute to a variety of issues, whether through general research or actual policy formation.

Development in the Digital Age

The biggest impacts often come from the seemingly smallest technological advancements: food-ordering apps, instagram, Pokemon Go. They not only make something rapidly accessible, but they do so in a way that highlights its huge role in our lives (or makes it a huge role in our lives). The same can be seen all over the world, but with arguably higher stakes. You open up the paper pull up your news app and see stories of other apps that are helping prevent deforestation through geo-tag reporting, improving democracy by disseminating knowledge and creating transparency in elections, mapping violence, and bringing mobile bank to rural villages.

Clearly, technology can not only solve problems, but also it can empower people. One study found that by “bringing internet access to the 4.1 billion people in the world who do not have it would increase global economic output by $6.7 trillion…, raising 500 million people out of poverty.” Yet, even if the world can overcome the barrier of affordable internet access, how do we guarantee that the gains are felt equally, by everyone? Unsurprisingly, a “report said the benefits of rapid digital expansion had been skewed towards the better-off and the more highly skilled, who were better able to take advantage of the new technologies.”

The Security of Human Rights

Recently, President Obama announced the end of the arms embargo against Vietnam, “ensur[ing] that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and...underscoring the commitment of the United States to a fully normalized relationship with Vietnam.” While the Obama Administration has maintained that this is not being done as a response to China’s growing military, and hold over the disputed South China Sea, others see it as strategic decision to balance a rising China.

But some, like John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, have criticized the move as being “undeserved at this time.” With Obama too noting that “there are still areas of significant concern in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, [and] accountability with respect to government,” many argue that Vietnam’s current treatment of human rights does not merit closer ties with the U.S. For example, an activist was grabbed and held until after Obama had left the country.

The Politics of Representation

Last week, the Chinese government “banned all depictions of gay people on television, as part of a cultural crackdown on ‘vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content,’” one of many recent acts of censorship following the election of Xi Jinping in 2012.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many recent examples of cultural censorship by East Asian governments. In Indonesia, the government ordered “instant messaging providers…[to] remove gay emoji and stickers from their apps”; in Singapore, President Obama’s positive remarks about the LGBT community on Ellen were censored from public view.

Yet homosexuality is no longer illegal in China, nor in many of these other countries where this kind of discrimination and censorship is occurring. It is clear, then, that while the world may be trending toward legal equality, there is still much progress to be made culturally. So much of acceptance, particularly for children, comes not only from freedom, but also from representation. As one article notes: