Importance of a Complementary Educational Agenda for DR-CAFTA

LAYING THE GROUNDWORKIn September 2000, the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. That document served as the launching pad for the public declaration of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which include everything from goal one of halving extreme poverty to goal two of providing universal primary education; all to be accomplished before the year 2015. Progress towards the first seven goals are dependent upon the success of goal eight – which emphasizes the need for rich countries to commit to assisting with the development of “an open, rule-based trading and financial system, more generous aid to countries committed to poverty reduction, and relief for the debt problems of developing countries.”1At first glance, the recent actions of Central American countries and the United States to liberalize trade seem to support, at least partially, successful realization of MDG Eight. However, upon closer examination, the picture blurs and the outcome seems uncertain.Following only a year of negotiations, the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) or DR-CAFTA (as a result of its recent inclusion of the Dominican Republic), was signed by the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States in 2004. The agreement, committing each country to reduce its trade barriers with the other DR-CAFTA countries, was ratified by the United States Congress on July 28, 2005.2Rather than attempting to analyze all of the specific economic and social intricacies associated with liberalizing trade in Central America, this brief aims solely to cast light upon the overlap between countries’ efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goal Two/Education for All and their need to implement a complementary CAFTA agenda.Specifically, this document highlights the importance of educational priorities if economic development efforts are to be successful. The premise of the argument elaborated here is that without sufficient prioritized emphasis by Central American countries, multilateral organizations and targeted donor countries on a complementary agenda that directs resources towards education infrastructure, CAFTA will never succeed in assisting these countries in reaching an ever elusive state of “economic prosperity.” In fact, it may deter them from fully accomplishing the MDGs as well.CURRENT STATE OF EDUCATIONWith the need for collaboration between economic and educational efforts in mind, let us examine the current status of MDG Two implementation and broader educational reform in Central America:Over the past fifteen years, most Central American countries have implemented at least basic forms of educational reform. As a result, more children are entering school and spending more days and years enrolled than ever before. On an aggregate level, the larger Latin American and Caribbean region has made considerable progress toward the goal of universal primary education enrollment and according to the most recent UN Millennium Development Goals report, “Net enrollment rates at the primary level rose from 86 percent in 1990 to 93 percent in 2001. The region’s pace of progress in this indicator has been faster than the developing world average (which rose from 80 percent to 83 percent between 1990 and 2001). Net enrollment rates in 23 countries of the region (12 in Latin America and 11 in the Caribbean) surpass 90 percent.” 3 The reality is that, large scale disaster or other unforeseen event aside, all six countries are on target to reach the MDG enrollment targets.Unfortunately, progress towards the target of completing five years of primary education has been slower and few countries in the region can boast success in this arena. The lack of progress towards completion of this target is most directly related to inefficiencies in the education system and the socioeconomic conditions of poor children – both situations that result in high repetition and desertion rates and both situations that must be ameliorated if CAFTA is to succeed. Furthermore, while the number of children initially enrolling in school has increased, the poor quality of education throughout Central America is also certainly a factor in children’s failure to complete their primary education. Quality must therefore also be taken into account when considering educational infrastructure needs.While not necessarily relevant to MDG Two but quite possibly relevant from the CAFTA perspective of needing a skilled workforce, Central America’s educational woes most definitely extend beyond the primary school environment. In response to the recent Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, an Inter-American Development Bank representative wrote “It is difficult to avoid the impression that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are falling behind with regard to secondary education. Although this is not included in the MDGs, it is the single most important educational indicator separating upper and lower income groups in the region.” 4
When less than one third of a country’s urban workforce has completed the twelve years of schooling that your or I take for granted, how can they hope to compete in today’s technology-dense free trade environment?HISTORY LESSON -HAPPENING AGAIN?Upon an examination of the Mexico of today as compared to pre-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) times, a rise in the Mexican poverty rate over the last decade or so is apparent. Rather than being directly due to the implementation of NAFTA, it is more likely that this increase in the poverty rate is attributable to Mexico’s failure to simultaneously implement a complementary agenda; specifically, the inability of Mexico’s poorer southern States to improve their poorly trained workforce, infrastructural deficiencies and weak institutions in order to participate meaningfully in a liberalized trade environment. Rather than gain, the southern Mexican states lost even as the northern states benefited from the liberalized trade environment created by NAFTA.Dr. Daniel Lederman, co-author of the World Bank report entitled “NAFTA is Not Enough” (and issued ten years after NAFTA was originally enacted) explained in an National Public Radio (NPR) interview in 2003 that Mexico’s financial crisis in the 1990s was bound to deepen poverty there with or without NAFTA. Dr. Lederman said:Mexican income dropped in one year, 1995, by six percent. Wages across the board for all Mexican workers, on average, fell by 25 percent in less than a year…Still, NAFTA helped Mexico limit the damage, lifting per capita income at least 4 percentage points above where it would have been otherwise. The bottom line is, Mexico would be poorer without NAFTA today. Clearly trade alone won’t alleviate poverty. But if Mexico makes the right investments, especially in education, the next decade should be better. 5POTENTIAL FOR ECONOMIC SUCCESSAs was the case in Mexico, it is likely that the majority of households in Central American countries stand to ultimately gain from the price changes associated with removing trade barriers for sensitive agricultural commodities and other goods. However, in order for this to happen, as Dr. Lederman suggests above, each country must now make appropriate investments in development efforts (most especially in education) in order to guarantee an equitable distribution of the benefits of these efforts in the future.Simultaneously, it is of critical importance that each country provides for the needs of their most at-risk citizens. In order to guarantee that the children of these families are given the opportunity to be counted among those in school, countries must identify resources, both internally and externally, to provide incentives for families “to invest in the human capital of their children.” 6Examples of such incentives have been implemented through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and several other organizations in Costa Rica (Superemonos), the Dominican Republic (Tarjeta de Asistencia Escolar), Honduras (PRAF), and Nicaragua (Red de Protección Social). Most immediately, these incentives (often in the form of conditional cash transfers) serve to increase food consumption, school attendance and use of preventive health care among the extremely poor. In the long run they are intended to assist with poverty and malnutrition reduction and to improve schooling completion rates. As reported by the IDB, “results are proving that it is possible to increase a family’s accumulation of human capital (measured by increased educational attainment and reduced mortality and morbidity) and, as a result, also raise potential labor market returns for the beneficiaries, as well as overall productivity. The programs have had a substantial positive long-term impact on the education, nutrition and health of its beneficiaries, especially children.” 7In the World Bank’s expansive document analyzing CAFTA’s potential impact on Central America, entitled “DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America” the authors repeatedly reference technology and emphasize the importance of a complementary educational agenda that is tied to each country’s stage of development and innovation. For example, “for those countries farthest away from the technological frontier -such as Honduras and Nicaragua– the best technology policy is likely to be simply sound education policy… in the more advanced settings of Costa Rica and El Salvador, where adaptation and creation of new technologies is more important, issues of education quality and completion of secondary schooling are more important.” 8 In fact, without ever making specific reference to the MDGs, the authors recommend that the former countries focus on the goal of achieving universal primary education while the latter countries focus their energy on expanding and improving secondary level education. Failing to do so is choosing failure in the open market.Ultimately, rather than seeing CAFTA as a first class ticket to a better economic end – with no strings attached, countries must acknowledge the critical importance of first implementing MDG Two – target three. This target, which says “by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” 9 is a critically important step towards guaranteeing the emergence of a workforce that can respond to increased marketplace demand and evolving technologies. Without immediate investment in that future workforce via the education system, CAFTA will surely flounder and drag MDG Two along with it.Furthermore, as mentioned above, educational infrastructure must be put into place now that will not only guarantee a higher quality education but will also be made accessible and desirable to Central America’s most at-risk citizens. After all, based on Mexico’s experience, the likelihood of a positive outcome for both CAFTA and MPG Two is slim. Yet the possibility of economic success does exist if we agree to truly choose “Education For All.”CITATIONS1) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Eight, http://www.un.org2) At the time this brief was written (Dec 2005), the agreement still hadn’t been ratified by the Parliaments of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.3) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/mi/pdf/MDG%20Book.pdf4) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, Aug 05, http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=5910885) National Public Radio, All Things Considered, Interview with Daniel Lederman, Monday, December 8, 2003 http://web.lexis-nexis.com/6) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, ibid7) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, August 2005, p. 568) DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America, Chapter VII: Obtaining the Pay-off From DR-CAFTA, p199.9) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Two, http://www.un.org

Should I Use a VGA Splitter or DVI Splitter for Video Signal Input and Output?

Technology enhancements in video signal transmission has ensured analogue and digital signals are transmitted using different devices, for instance there are several types of video splitters on the market to select from for video duplication.

The decision must be canvassed thoroughly before buying a VGA or DVI video splitter. Therefore let’s outline what VGA and DVI are, as well as the timeline they were both released.

Video Graphics Adaptor (VGA) technology has been available since 1987 thanks to IBM for development of this analogue video display technology that went onto become a standard used when referring to analogue video display standards.

VGA hardware and the software enable the data processed to become graphical data that can be displayed on a display monitor. The actual resolution for VGA is set at 640 x 480 pixels in display resolution for width and height respectively. However VGA display resolution has been enhanced with higher video resolutions such as SVGA, XGA and UXGA et al. In addition, the majority of manufacturers and resellers still refer to a VGA splitter as ‘VGA Splitter’, even though VGA has higher analogue video resolutions available, such as mentioned early like SVGA, XGA and UXGA.

VGA can carry only analogue video signals thus if you require audio as well, a separate audio connection is required. There are numerous VGA splitters that have audio capabilities built-in to the VGA splitter, for instance several Smart View devices have models available with an audio stereo 3.5mm socket for each video connection.

Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is a newer technology that was released in 1999 by Digital Design Working Group. DVI superseded VGA, and as the name implies, DVI is uncompressed digital video data that is displayed on monitors and projector screens via DVI connectors. There are three main DVI connector types available on the market each with a specific pin arrangement interface, for example DVI-I, DVI-D and DVI-A. Moreover the three DVI connectors support certain video formats, for example:

• DVI-I is integrated video both analogue and digital signal support

• DVI-A is analogue video signal support

• DVI-D is digital video signal support

The key feature about DVI is its compatible with VGA. The two video interfaces work well with one another when an adaptor is utilised.

DVI has two methods available to stream the video signal between devices, which is known as Single link and Dual link. DVI single link maximum resolution is up to 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) @ 60 Hz, while DVI dual link can produce much higher resolution, but depends on several factors, such as cable copper bandwidth limitations, DVI source limitations, and DVI sync limitations. Additionally DVI supports hot plugging meaning it can be connected and disconnected without powering down the system. However VGA isn’t suitable for hot plugging hence requires the system be shut down first before connection of VGA cables.

In the early days of DVI it was envisaged that DVI would become the recognised standard for digital format. However, DVI was mainly used with computer display monitors and not so much with household TV scenarios.

DVI can stream digital video very well however it can’t transfer audio signals. To enable audio on a DVI splitter you’ll require digital audio capability built-in to the devices with separate audio connections. Furthermore, the release of High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) technology that can transmit uncompressed digital video and digital audio signals together has ensured HDMI quickly became the popular choice for digital video output to display panels.

The new computer desktops don’t have VGA connections available on most systems. Usually there are DVI or DisplayPort connections instead. The DisplayPort digital interface superseded DVI in 2006 however you still see DVI utilised. Occasionally Information Communication Technology (ICT) hardware staff may be required to mix-and-match connections with adapters, for instance, if a machine has a VGA socket but the display monitor has a DVI connector, an adapter can be utilised since DVI is backward compatible. Note: the signal will still be VGA quality that is transmitted unless a dedicated electrical VGA to DVI converter is used.

When selecting a DVI or VGA splitter ensure you check the specifications for the product, for example resolution supported, frequency rate, the display video type supported, connection types for interface input/output, power adaptor required, switching off/on functions, built-in amplifier booster and whether incorporated with audio socket or not.

The most common video splitter is the type ‘one input video source to two outputs video’ destination. However there are numerous configurations to select from for video input and output setups. Another type of splitter is called a ‘video matrix’ that can have two or more video inputs and two or more video outputs. This can be handy for multiple sources that can be switched on/off to achieve the desired video output display. Each video splitter will suit a particular scenario for video presentation so choose wisely. In addition, several brand video splitters can be cascaded, such as Smart View.

To maintain the integrity of the video signal high quality VGA cables with ferrite filters should be interconnected with the devices. If the installer decides to skimp on the cost of VGA cables for the installation signal degradation can lead to problems such as ghosting and pixelation.

There are DVI splitters and DVI boosters with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) incorporated into the devices. Authorised digital video content is only allowed to be transmitted and received between HDCP devices while VGA analogue signals aren’t restricted with this security protocol. Some users have reported interconnection issues when using HDCP enabled devices, such as handshaking connection problems and continuity in live video streaming.

If you have the newest high-definition display monitors you should consider HDMI splitters as well. VGA can be problematic when outputting video signals to large panel screens like Plasma TV, LED widescreen TV and OLED TVs. Especially video quality degradation issues and pixelation problems may occur when VGA is the source to high-definition products.

VGA splitters have generally been more popular with computer display monitors over the years than DVI. The cost for a VGA splitter is usually less than its equivalent DVI product. Furthermore with the popularity of the superior HDMI technology integrated into high-definition TVs and notebooks has ensured DVI splitters are less common. With most people selecting a HDMI splitter for their digital video and audio solutions over the less-features of DVI.

Finally, you should consider several pivotal factors for your decision, such as the quality of the video resolution broadcasted you require, and whether it’s digital, or analogue equipment utilised in your setup. Furthermore check the product specifications before purchase, and consider if you require audio as well for the video broadcast? Moreover if you implement a VGA splitter or DVI splitter choose one with a booster built-in to the device. The costs should be secondary to ensure you’re satisfied with your ultimate decision.

Summer Time Fitness Tips

It can become really hot and humid over the summer months depending on where you live. So how do you keep your fitness routine going during this hot and sticky time?

If your fitness routine was primarily performed outdoors see if you can change the time of day you exercise. Is it possible to fit it into your schedule before the sun is up, this way you can enjoy the cool freshness of the morning air. If not how about later into the evening, once the sun is setting?

If you cycle you can always set up an indoor cycle mount for those extremely hot conditions and quickly take your bike off and back outside when the humidity has passed.

Another option would be to take your routine inside or if not possible, how about doing something totally different during the summer months? Instead of walking or running, take up swimming. This is a great way to keep your fitness routine fresh and interesting. Maybe you can take in a few swimming lessons or join an aqua fit class. There is nothing as great as giving your body some new muscles to work.

If you love what you do and don’t want to change things then there are some easy things to do to avoid getting sunburnt or having to deal with sunstroke.

• Try to stay out of the sun if possible
• Use a protective sunscreen
• Drink extra water while exercising
• Allow your body to cool down slowly – no jumping into a cold shower while your body is overheated
• Exercise at a slower rate and intensity

Always make sure you are giving your body enough nutrition especially before and after you exercise. Feeding your body is going to give you the endurance to continue with your routine during warmer than normal periods.

Wear clothing that allows your body to breathe; you don’t want to be breaking a cold sweat out in the heat. The same goes for your shoes, make sure your feet won’t overheat and cause blisters to form.

It might be a wise idea to invest in a heart rate monitor so you can really see how your body is dealing with the heat and adjust your routine accordingly.

By taking precautions you can still keep your fitness routine going, you just need to be willing to make some adjustments when necessary.