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Friday Roundup: Terrorism and Education in Pakistan, Leading Thinker Kaushik Basu, Cost of the Syrian War, Cuba and the Thaw

LTD Editors's picture
The Taliban’s barbaric attack on an Army Public school in Peshawar resulted in a 141 dead, all but nine of whom were children.  In honor of Pakistan’s students and teachers, we revisit an Education Sector Review conducted by the World Bank in October, since it’s schooling and thought that will ultimately prevail over ignorance and brutality.

How many schools are connected to the Internet?

Michael Trucano's picture
ALPAL-2? EASSy? SAm-1? WACS?
ALPAL-2? EASSy? SAm-1? WACS?

As we near the halfway point of the second decade of the 21st century, it is difficult not to marvel at all of the new technologies that have insinuated their way into daily lives of increasing numbers of people around the world. An upcoming publication from the World Bank, the World Development Report for 2016, will explore the Internet's "impact on economic growth, on social and economic opportunity, and on the efficiency of public service delivery". The EduTech blog regularly features and comments on specific projects and research about how the Internet (as well as related technologies, technology platforms and technology-enabled approaches) is being utilized to benefit education in developing countries around the world (as well as some instances where it is having no benefit at all).

As insightful as lessons from efforts like those related to using mobile phones to promote literacy in Papua New Guinea or providing all students with their own laptops in Uruguay might be, however, it is worthwhile to take a step (or two, or twenty) back in an attempt to see the outlines of the big(ger) picture. While it is true that groups around the world continue to implement innovative solutions to simulate Internet connectivity in places where it still doesn't exist in schools (through the caching of content on local servers or portable drives, for example), this is almost always a stop-gap measure until something better comes along, namely: reliable, robust, fast, inexpensive connections to the Internet.

On-the-ground, practical experiences with introducing and using new digital technologies in education systems around the world over the past two decades have led many to conclude that a 'second digital divide' has emerged, separating those with the skills and competencies to benefit from the use of these new technologies from those who are not benefitting, or not benefitting to the same extent. There can be little doubt that such a second divide exists, and that this divide, which is focused on the impact of technology use, may well be more difficult to bridge than the original 'digital divide', which related primarily to access to technology. While in the end we are rightly concerned with outcomes, and impacts, inputs still matter. With this in mind, and with full acknowledgement that connectivity is not an end in itself, but rather a means to a larger end, it might be worth asking:

How many schools around the world are connected to the Internet?

Until recently we had little hard (or even soft) data to help us answer what would appear, on its face, to be a rather simple question. Things are improving in this regard, however. As it stands today, your best source of insight in this regard is probably a document with the delightfully bureaucratic title, Final WSIS Targets Review: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward, that you may have missed when it appeared last June. In case it may be of interest (a former boss of mine used to say: We pay you to read this stuff so that we don't have to!), I thought I'd take a quick look at it here.

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What Messages do Tunisian Youth have for the next President?

Christine Petré's picture

This Sunday, Tunisians will go vote for the third time this year. The first vote, the Parliamentary election on October 26, saw the secular-leaning political party Nidaa Tounes gain the majority of votes in the country’s fist free and fair election since the new constitution. As no candidate received more than the required 50% of all votes, a runoff between the two leading candidates is scheduled for Sunday.

Ensuring universal access: Lessons from the field in China

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Ensuring that urban roads are designed to be accessible to all users — particularly to users with mobility challenges — has long been a cornerstone of the World Bank’s urban transport strategy. But even if making urban roads more accessible involves relatively simple interventions such as building functioning sidewalks with tactile markings and curbside ramps, consistent implementation has not been easy.

Although the incremental costs associated with such upgrades are fairly negligible, attention to detail is paramount. That is not always easy, and the attached picture (at right) taken during an implementation support mission some years ago illustrates this challenge quite well — this ramp is not aligned with sidewalk and too narrow for a wheelchairs to actually use.  
 
Within that context, a project that took us to a series of medium-sized cities in North East China turned into one of the most memorable experiences of our careers. The Liaoning Medium Cities Infrastructure Project focused on rehabilitating and improving urban roads in five medium-sized cities of the industrial province of Liaoning. While on paper all the final designs complied with official accessibility requirements, the finished product often looked like the attached picture, with just enough askew to render the infrastructure unusable to many users. As the Bank team, we were struggling to get our counterparts within the city government to appreciate the issue. When we pointed out and followed up on particular issues, they would often see us as being nitpicky and somewhat out-of-touch with the gritty realities of construction in local conditions. 

A Call to Youth to Contribute Ideas on Financing the Post-2015 Agenda

Farida Wael Aboulmagd's picture
Ideas 4 Action Competition

​The World Bank Group and the Wharton School of Business are co-sponsoring “Ideas for Action,” a competition to mobilize youth across the development community to invent, foster, and inspire innovative solutions to financing development post-2015.

Nearly half the world’s population is under 25 – 2.9 billion people. Today’s youth will be responsible for delivering the post-2015 development agenda, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire at the end of 2015. The new goals will be more ambitious, covering a broad range of interconnected issues, from sustainable economic growth to social issues to global public goods. To realize this vision, an equally ambitious plan for financing and implementation is needed.

Teams are self-selected and made up of three to five members, ages ranging from 18 to 35 years old. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2015. Finalists will be announced on April 5, 2015, and the winners on March 30, 2015. Winners will be given an opportunity to influence the post-2015 financing discussions and its implementation.

Only Ebenezer Scrooge Could Applaud Such Stark Inequality; The Dickensian Divide of Intensifying Wealth and Poverty

Christopher Colford's picture


Source: Branko Milanovic

If you thought the wealth gap was vast between the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the oppressed Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol,” then lend a Christmastime thought for the desperate Dickensian divide that’s now afflicting the global economy.

The biggest economic-policy issue of 2014 has certainly been the outpouring of alarm about the chronically intensifying divide between wealth and poverty – an uproar that has had a transformational effect on the worldwide debate on economic policy. As a seminar at the Center for Global Development recently discussed, the precise statistics on inequality (and the perception of inequality) are subtle, with many nuances of measurement (whether data should be derived, for example, from tax-return filings or from household surveys). Yet this year’s irrefutable interpretation among economists and business leaders has been driven by a landmark of economic scholarship: the bombshell book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty. "Capital" has forced economists, policymakers and scholars to reconsider the inexorable trends that are driving the modern-day economy toward an ever-more-intense concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands.

No wonder Piketty’s “Capital” was acclaimed as the Financial Times/McKinsey “Business Book of the Year.” Piketty’s analysis has fundamentally changed the parameters of the public-policy debate, and many of its ideas challenge conventional economic theory.

To explore the implications of the alarming trends in income and wealth inequality, there’s no analyst more insightful  than Branko Milanovic, the former World Bank economist who is now a scholar at the LIS Center (working on the authoritative Luxembourg Income Study) at the City University of New York. Milanovic has justly won acclaim for his work, “The Haves and the Have-Nots,” which pioneered the territory now being explored by Piketty.

Confirming the trends that Piketty identified in “Capital” – and taking those insights one significant step further, to measure the wealth gaps both within countries and between countries – Milanovic recently led a compelling CGD seminar on “Winners and Losers of Globalization: Political Implications of Inequality.”

The seminar’s sobering conclusion: If you think the wealth-and-incomes gap is painful now, just wait a decade or two. If allowed to go unattended, the widening economic divide will soon become a dangerous social chasm. That data-driven projection is leading many analysts to dread that inequality (whether between countries or within the same country) threatens to pose a stark challenge to social stability, and even to the survival of democracy.

The breakthtaking “a-ha!” moment of Milanovic’s CGD presentation was the chart (see the illustration, above) – hailed by seminar chairman Michael Clemens and discussant Laurence Chandy as “the Chart of the Century” – that plotted-out the pattern of how globalization has exerted relentless downward pressure on the incomes of the global upper-middle class, which roughly corresponds to the Western lower-middle class.

Globalization has helped promote the prosperity of skilled workers in developing nations, Milanovic explained, with the dramatic surge of China's economy being the greatest driver of global "convergence." Yet globalization has had an undeniable downward effect on the wealth and incomes of low- and medium-skilled workers in developed, industrialized nations. That certainly helps explain the angry mood among voters in Western Europe and North America, whose overall incomes and wealth have been stagnating for perhaps 40 years.

At the same time – reinforcing the significance of Piketty’s iconic formula that r>g (that the returns on capital are destined to be greater than overall economic growth) – a vast proportion of the world’s wealth has been concentrated in just the very top echelons of society. Milanovic’s meticulous data (see the illustration, below) confirm the extreme concentration of global absolute gains in income, from 1988 to 2008, in the top 5 percent of the world's income distribution. Rigorous empirical evidence from multiple sources indeed confirms that most of the global gains in wealth have accrued to the already-vastly-wealthy top One Percent. The data on increasing socioeconomic stratification are, by now, so well-established that only the predictable claque of free-market absolutists and dogmatic deniers cling (with increasing desperation) to the notion that the inequality gap is merely a myth.


Source: Branko Milanovic

Reinforcing Milanovic’s analysis, yet another well-documented study – this time, by the OECD – asserted this month that economic inequality is intensifying within the world's developed nations. That within-country trend accompanies the yawning inequality gap between developed and developing economies. The OECD thus joined the chorus that includes the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the U.S. Federal Reserve System in sounding the alarm about the way that income and wealth disparities are becoming socially explosive. Even on Wall Street, many pragmatists are warning with increasing urgency that “too much inequality can undermine growth.”

A $100 Billion Idea – Tapping Migrants for Financing Development

Dilip Ratha's picture

In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

2015 is shaping up to be the year of Financing for Development. Besides official aid and private capital flows – the former expected to run flat, and the latter to remain volatile/cyclical, a few under-exploited financing options are directly connected to international migration.

As much as $100 billion, actually more, could be raised annually via:

The Telecom Sector Leads Private Participation in Infrastructure

David Lawrence's picture

Recent data from the World Bank’s PPP Group and PPIAF show that the telecommunications sector led private participation in infrastructure in emerging markets in 2013. At $57.3 billion, the telecoms sector barely edged out energy, with both representing 38 percent of total PPI. Although total PPI sank by 24.1 percent in 2013 compared with 2012 levels, the telecom sector fell by only 7 percent, demonstrating its relative resilience.




Unsurprisingly, more than half of PPI telecom investment is in the mobile access segment. The top five projects in the telecom sector in every region are in mobile. The next-largest segment is multi-service providers, with 44 percent of all investments.  


Weekly links December 19: Savings, basic incomes, skill gaps & M&Ms, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • On the FAI blog Tim Ogden discusses what we mean by savings when we talk about it as an outcome.
  • A snapshot of the job market this year from 538 – what the next generation of economists is working on? Development is pretty popular, corporate finance and international economics not so much.
  • Testing basic incomes: the Guardian reports on an experiment in India, where Unicef funded an unconditional basic income scheme. A “modified randomized control trial” (whatever that is) assigned everyone in 8 treatment villages to receive a monthly income for 18 months, with 12 control villages: “the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work. Conventional labour statistics would have picked that up inadequately. There was a big increase in secondary economic activities, as well as a shift from casual wage labour to own-account farming and small-scale business” Haven’t come across an academic paper with the results or more details.

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