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November 2012

Hurricane Sandy and the Transport Specialist: post factum impressions

Virginia Tanase's picture

Almost two weeks ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States, the importance of sustainable transport--which is the field I work in--really came home to me.  I was in New York for a UN Working Group meeting on transport’s contribution to sustainable development—one of the priorities for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second term.

Accountability is Based on Relationships, but Data Helps Too

Fletcher Tembo's picture

"Imagine this: A health care worker or parent in a village, with a laptop or mobile device, can access development knowledge in real time through geocoding and geomapping. She can see which schools have feeding programs and which go without, and what is happening to local health... She can upload her own data, throw light on the likely effect of new interventions and mobilise the community to demand better or more targeted health programs." Robert Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank

I found this quote while attending a World Bank facilitated discussion on open data and development at the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan, a few weeks ago. There, and elsewhere, increased interest in the potential of open data is spreading from high level ‘open’ initiatives, such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to tools for enabling local accountability and service provision. These projects aim to introduce greater availability of the most needed ingredient for citizen engagement with their governments: access to public information.

The common assumption in all these initiatives is that ordinary citizen, armed with copious information, can mobilise others and generate resolve to demand better public services. Implicit behind this assumed ‘demand’ is that information will be put to work in an ‘us versus them’ process of holding government to account (us being the mobilised, informed community, and ‘them’ being the holders or monopolisers of public information, often governments).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

UN
Over two billion people now connected to Internet but digital divide remains wide

“While citing the rapid development and growth of the Internet, a top United Nations official today urged greater efforts to bridge the ongoing digital divide and ensure that everyone around the world can harness its benefits.

There were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide at the end of 2011, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, said in his address to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which opened in Baku, Azerbaijan. In addition, mobile broadband reached more than 1 billion subscriptions, while the use of fixed broadband was estimated at 590 million subscriptions.

“While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide,” he told participants, noting that only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011.”  READ MORE

Should we care equally about poor people wherever they may live?

Martin Ravallion's picture

Not so long ago, those countries designated as “low-income countries” (LICs) in the World Bank’s World Development Indicators accounted for the bulk of the world’s poor, such as by the $1.25 a day standard. Today many very poor people live instead in what are called “middle-income countries” (MICs).  The change seems dramatic. Almost all (94%) of those below $1.25 a day in 1990 lived in LICs. By 2008 the proportion was down to 26%, with the rest in MICs. Andy Sumner attracted much attention to this aspect of how the global profile of poverty has changed in his paper “Where do the Poor Live?.” Amanda Glassman, Denizhan Duran and Sumner dub this emergence of large poverty counts in MICs as the “new bottom billion.”

There has been much discussion about the implications of this change for overseas development assistance (ODA) and development policy more broadly. In particular, there have been calls for concentrating ODA on the LICs, assuming that the MICs can now look after their own poor.

But we need to look more closely at this “LIC-MIC” distinction, to understand why we have seen this change in the global poverty profile, and what relevance it might have for development policy.

What skills are employers looking for in Vietnam’s workforce?

Christian Bodewig's picture

Cũng có ở Tiếng việt

Last month, we asked you for your views about whether Vietnam’s workforce is ready for the future, "from rice to robots". Developing a skilled workforce for an industrialized economy by 2020 is one of the stated top priorities of Vietnam, now that it has joined the ranks of middle-income countries. Not surprisingly, education reform was on the minds of members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party during a recent meeting.  However, education is also hotly debated by Vietnam’s citizens as seen and heard in an online discussion on human resource development, organized by the World Bank and VietNamNet, a local online newspaper, and by readers of our blog.

Preparing Cities for Climate Change – Initial Lessons from Sandy

Ming Zhang's picture

NYC subway station damaged by seawater flooding during Hurricane SandyNew York City has been a global leader in proactively planning and preparing for climate change under Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s civic leaders. PlanNYC sets out clear goals and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% and to increase the resilience of our communities, natural systems, and infrastructure to climate risks. It already started the process of adapting to climate change, including elevating infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plant, and expanding “green infrastructure” like marshes along the coast to buffer and limit flooding impacts.

But the events triggered by the unprecedented hurricane Sandy haven shown that what has been done is still not sufficient. What can we learn from the disaster? There will be a lot of valuable lessons coming out in the months ahead, as emergency responses are still ongoing and reconstruction are yet to start. Here are three early lessons:

eBay reduces trade costs where it is most needed

Marcelo Olarreaga's picture

eBay, an online marketplace, reduces the effect of distance on international trade by 65%, mainly through a reduction in information frictions that creates trust between market participants. As online markets help overcome market and government failures, the reduction in trade costs is larger where it is most needed: in remote countries with weak institutions that export information-intensive goods.

In the 1990s, many commentators believed that with advances in transportation and communication technologies, geographic distance between countries would soon no longer encumber international transactions. Frances Cairncross (1997) famously predicted the “death of distance”. But despite some anecdotal evidence in support of this prediction, a large number of academic papers has established that distance has been thriving, rather than dying.


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