Syndicate content

May 2018

African leaders committed to building a digital economy

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture
Mbarak Mbigo helps his colleagues who are software developers at Andela, in Nairobi, Kenya. © Dominic Chavez/IFC


We only have to look at the way we communicate, shop, travel, work and entertain ourselves to understand how technology has drastically changed every aspect of life and business in the last 10 years.

Technology-driven changes are radically transforming the world and enabling developing countries to leapfrog decades of “traditional” industrial development. But disruptive technology also increases the stakes for countries, which cannot afford to be left behind.

Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated its capacity to harness technology when it embraced the mobile telecom revolution in the 2000s. Now again, there is huge potential for digital impact in Africa. But to achieve that, the five foundations of a digital economy need to be in place - digital infrastructure, literacy and skills, financial services, platforms, and digital entrepreneurship and innovation.

Five reasons why Sri Lanka needs to attract foreign direct investments

Tatiana Nenova's picture
Sri Lanka’s government has recognized the need to foster private-sector and beef up exports to attain the overarching objective of becoming an upper-middle-income economy.
Sri Lanka’s government has recognized the need to foster private-sector and beef up exports to attain the overarching objective of becoming an upper-middle-income economy.

To facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Sri Lanka is launching this week an innovative online one-stop shop to help investors obtain all official approvals. To mark the occasion, this blog series explores different aspects of FDI in Sri Lanka. Part 2 will explore how the country can attract more FDI. Part 3 will relate how the World Bank is helping to create an enabling environment for FDI in Sri Lanka.

You may have heard that Sri Lanka is intent on drumming up more foreign direct investments up to $5 billion by 2020. At the same time, the government aims to improve the lives of Sri Lanka’s citizens by generating one million new and better jobs.
 
This isn’t a pipe dream. Thanks to its many advantages like a rich natural resource base, its strategic geographic position, highly literate workforce and fascinating culture, the island nation is ripe for investment in sectors such as tourism, logistics, information technology-enabled services, and high-value-added food processing and apparel.
 
What is foreign direct investment and why does Sri Lanka need it?
 
Very simply, foreign direct investment (or FDI) is an investment made by a company or an individual in a foreign country. Such investments can take the form of establishing a business in Sri Lanka, building a new facility, reinvesting profits earned from Sri Lanka operations or intra-company loans to subsidiaries in Sri Lanka.
 
The hope is that these investment inflows will bring good jobs and higher wages for Sri Lankan workers, increase productivity, and make the economy more competitive.  
 
Sri Lanka’s government has recognized the need to foster private-sector and beef up exports to attain the overarching objective of becoming an upper-middle-income economy.
 
Attracting more FDI can help achieve that goal and fulfill the promise of better jobs.
 
Here are five reasons why:

Beyond Proof of Concept: do we have the right structure to take disruptive technologies to production?

Michael M. Lokshin's picture
Figure 1: Azure Cognitive Services Algorithm compliments authors’
youthful appearances

“Every company is a technology company”. This idea, popularized by Gartner, can be seen unfolding in every sector of the economy as firms and governments adopt increasingly sophisticated technologies to achieve their goals. The development sector is no exception, and like others, we’re learning a lot about what it takes to apply new technologies to our work at scale.

Last week we published a blog about our experience in using Machine Learning (ML) to reduce the cost of survey data collection. This exercise highlighted some challenges that teams working on innovative projects might face in bringing their innovative ideas to useful implementations. In this post, we argue that:

  1. Disruptive technologies can make things look easy. The cost of experimentation, especially in the software domain, is often low. But quickly developed prototypes belie the complexity of creating robust systems that work at scale. There’s a lot more investment needed to get a prototype into production that you’d think.

  2. Organizations should monitor and invest in many proofs of concept because they can relatively inexpensively learn about their potential, quickly kill the ones that aren’t going anywhere, and identify the narrower pool of promising approaches to continue monitoring and investing resources in.

  3. But organizations should also recognize that the skills needed to make a proof of concept are very different to the skills needed to scale an idea to production. Without a structure or environment to support promising initiatives, even the best projects will die. And without an appetite for long-term investment, applications of disruptive technologies in international development will not reach any meaningful level of scale or usefulness.

Exploiting the full potential of new technologies for data collection, monitoring, and conflict prevention

Catherine Defontaine's picture



Collecting perception data in hard-to-reach areas and fragile contexts can be extremely challenging, but is necessary to better understand who is excluded, who feels excluded, and to measure horizontal inequalities. Doing so requires the use of innovative methodologies. In particular, technology is a valuable tool with which to access remote and conflict-affected areas where exclusion is likely to be the worst.

The merits and risks of reshaping internal power balances along subnational governance levels

Simona Ross's picture



Since the end of World War II, we have experienced a shift in conflict dynamics, from inter-state to intra-state conflicts. In 2016 alone, the world witnessed 47 intra-state conflicts. Today, wars are fought within state borders between a multiplicity of actors over the distribution of political power and national wealth both at and between the center and subnational governance levels. Marginalized groups are vying for greater autonomy at the local level, while those in control of the state—be they majorities or dominant minority groups—seek to consolidate political power at the center. Such intra-state conflicts with subnational dimensions are among the most protracted and violent conflicts.

More women need to shape Pakistan’s digital future

Uzma Quresh's picture
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP

“I have always enjoyed studying computer and human physiology since childhood, that’s why I jumped at the opportunity of developing a scientific application with KPITB’s support. This app has even helped my younger brother understand different body organs and their functions in a fun way. The KPITB’s ‘early age programming’ program has supported many girls from public schools, who would otherwise have never received this chance of realizing their dream of developing apps.”

Such compelling words came from Hafsa, a 13-year-old female student of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) public school as she addressed about one thousand young men and women at this year’s Digital Youth Summit (DYS) in Peshawar.

Girls like Hafsa are becoming the face of DYS, an annual event that brings the spotlight on young talent and their digital innovations.

I heard similar passionate accounts during my two-day interaction with KP youth as they shared candidly how they had transformed challenges into opportunities through hard work and perseverance.

DYS has brought together the next generation of digital entrepreneurs since 2014 to educate and inspire youth in a conflict-affected region where 50 percent of people are age 30 or under.

Such forums also provide a space for youth to voice their aspirations and claim for greater and more meaningful socio-economic inclusion.   

And while Hafsa’s impassionate story of progress resonated with everyone in the room, it stood as a stark reminder that Pakistan still has a long way to go to achieve an equal digital future for both men and women.

Indeed, statistics about women’s employment in KP and FATA are alarming as only 14% of women in KP and 8.6% of women in FATA work for pay.

Fittingly, DYS discussed different gender issues and offered solutions to boost female digital entrepreneurship.

The transition to low-carbon buses in Mexico: It’s not (only) about the money

Alejandro Hoyos Guerrero's picture
Credit: Taís Policanti/WRI
Transitioning from diesel buses to cleaner technologies can significantly contribute to tackling air pollution in cities and reducing the carbon footprint of urban transport. As alternatives to diesel are getting more and more viable, many governments and development partners are encouraging bus operators to make the switch, mostly by offering financial incentives such as example 1 or example 2.

However, after promoting cleaner buses in Mexico for five years, we have seen firsthand that financial incentives alone are not enough. Specifically, there are three main obstacles that impede the expansion of cleaner bus fleets, and should be addressed appropriately.

New technologies and risk aversion

In general, private bus operators tend to be very risk averse when it comes to experimenting with new vehicle technologies. This is not exactly surprising: according to our own calculations from different projects in Latin America, variables related to vehicle performance—like fuel and maintenance—make up over 2/3 of costs over the life cycle of a conventional diesel bus. In that context, operators who are not familiar with the performance of new vehicle technologies can understandably perceive the transition to a cleaner fleet as a huge financial gamble.

A seat at the table: WBG EDs and CSO discuss investing in human capital.

Anna Molero's picture


At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF Board of Governors, civil society get to engage directly with the World Bank’s Executive Directors (EDs). This year, I was honored to co-chair the CSO-ED Roundtable with Mr. Herve de Villeroche, Co-Dean of the World Bank Board and Executive Director for France.
 
I came to the Spring Meetings in my role as Chief Government Officer for Teach For All, a global network of 48 independent civil society organizations developing collective leadership to ensure all children can fulfill their potential. As moderator, I represented my CSO peers and noted during my opening remarks the “crucial partnership and dialogue needed between CSOs and the communities they represent at the highest level of leadership in our shared ecosystem.”

How Donkey 'School Buses' Benefit Early Grade Children in The Gambia

Alison Marie Grimsland's picture

Rising at 7:00 am to take children to school may seem like a regular activity for many. But what about bringing ALL your community’s youngest children to school, on a donkey cart no less?
 
Every morning, children from the Sinchou Demben village in central Gambia meet Malang Demto. Stick in hand and a smile on his face, he leads them to the closest elementary school, located approximately three kilometers away. Mr. Demto is a farmer who for a little over a year has also overseen the village’s ‘school bus,’ the donkey-pulled cart he drives to Sare Babou.

Pages