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Data responsibility: a new social good for the information age

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

As climate change intensifies, catastrophic, record-setting natural disasters look increasingly like the “new normal” – from Hurricane Matthew killing at least 1,300 people in September to Typhoon Lionrock, the previous month, causing flooding that left 138 dead and more than 100,000 homeless in North Korea.

What steps can we take to limit the destruction caused by natural disasters? One possible answer is using data to improve relief operations.

Let’s look at the aftermath of the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, some 22,000 injured, hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless and entire villages were flattened.

Yet for all the destruction, the toll could have been far worse.

Without in any way minimising the horrible disaster that hit Nepal that day, I want to make the case that data — and, in particular, a new type of social responsibility — helped Nepal avoid a worse calamity. It may offer lessons for other disasters around the world.

In the wake of the Nepal disaster, a wide variety of actors – from government, civil society and the private sector alike – rushed in to address the humanitarian crisis. One notable player was Ncell, Nepal’s largest mobile network operator. Shortly after the earthquake, Ncell decided to share its mobile data (in an aggregated, de-identified way) with the the non-profit Swedish organisation, Flowminder.
 

Gender-based violence and HIV infection: Overlapping epidemics in Brazil

Kristin Kay Gundersen's picture

One woman is victimized by violence every 15 seconds in Brazil, with a total of 23% of all Brazilian women experiencing violence in their lifetime. There are many notable consequences affecting victims of gender-based violence, yet many health consequences of violence have not been widely addressed in Brazil. This leads to the question: Are victims of gender-based violence at a higher risk for HIV infection in Brazil?
 
Brazil has 730,000 people living with HIV, the largest number in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil is also one of 15 countries that account for 75% of the number of people living with HIV worldwide. Although the HIV epidemic in Brazil is classified as stable at the national level, incidence is increasing in various geographic regions and among sub-groups of women.
 
Rates of violence against women (VAW) are particularly high in the Southeastern and Southern regions of Brazil. These regions also have the highest HIV prevalence, accounting for 56% and 20% of all the people living with HIV in Brazil, respectively. Violence and HIV in Brazil are clearly linked, with 98% of women living with HIV in Brazil reporting a lifetime history of violence and 79% reporting violence prior to an HIV diagnosis.
 
Despite these statistics, there is limited research in Brazil examining VAW in relation to HIV. Accordingly, a bi-national collaboration of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, University of Campinas, São Paulo and the University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre developed an innovative study to investigate these intersecting epidemics.
 
The focus of the study is in the regions of Brazil with the highest rates of VAW and highest prevalence of HIV: São Paulo in the Southeastern region and Porto Alegre in the Southern region.
 
The aims of the research were to describe the contextual factors of violence victimization among women in Brazil and to examine the association with HIV infection.
 
The study merged two population-based studies with identical sampling methodologies conducted in the São Paulo and Porto Alegre, Brazil. Women ages 18-49 years were sampled from public health centers, including 2,000 women from São Paulo and 1,326 from Porto Alegre. These women were administered surveys that gathered extensive data on violence victimization and social-ecological factors on access to preventative health services.

Social enterprise and infrastructure morality

John Kjorstad's picture


Photo Credit: Kathleen Bence via Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve been looking for a good definition of social enterprise. The information overlords at Google and Wikipedia suggested this:

“A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.”

That’s a pretty broad and somewhat unsatisfying definition. I mean: “What organization in the 21st century wouldn’t put human and environmental development, social impact and profit high on their agenda?” – (He asks naïvely.)

Infrastructure professionals think a lot about social enterprise, but in a slightly different way. There is of course the unrelated term “social infrastructure,” which broadly covers public services such as healthcare, education, leisure and other government services. But really what we think about when it comes to social enterprise is “infrastructure morality.”

How geospatial technology can help cities plan for a sustainable future

Xueman Wang's picture
In this video, representatives from the World Bank, GEF, and City of Johannesburg discuss the impact of geospatial tools on urban planning.

Many urban residents these days will find it hard to imagine a life without mobile apps that help us locate a restaurant, hail a cab, or find a subway station—usually in a matter of seconds. If geospatial technology and data already make our everyday lives this easier, imagine what they can do for our cities: for example, geospatial data on land-use change and built-up land expansion can provide for more responsive urban planning, while information on traffic conditions, road networks, and solid waste sites can help optimize management and enhance the quality of urban living.

The “urban geo-data gap”
 
However, information and data that provide the latest big picture on urban land and services often fail to keep up with rapid population growth and land expansion. This is especially the case for cities in developing countries—home to the fastest growing urban and vulnerable populations.

Judith Tendler and learning from ‘good government’

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

On 24th July 2016, Judith Tendler, former Professor at the Department of Urban studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, passed away. She was 77. A Ph.D holder from Columbia University, Judith Tendler spent several years at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) before a long career as a Professor in MIT. A significant share of Prof. Tendler’s work focused on the Americas, but she also studied South Asia and parts of Africa over her long career.

Prof Tendler’s book: ‘Good Government in the Tropics’ (1997) is one of the most influential books in the field of international development — an essential reading for students of governance and public policy studies. In the book, Prof Tendler and her research associates studied four cases of successful government in Ceara, a relatively poor state in north-eastern Brazil. In each of the cases, the government at different levels played an effective role, facilitating and brokering relationships, and submitting itself to mechanisms which could be used to hold themselves accountable. Those were rare, but rich, examples of ‘good government’.

These cases highlighting the achievements of ‘good governments’ challenged the dominant pessimistic thinking about governance in the so-called ‘third world’. Prof Tendler argued that much of the advice from international development agencies to developing countries was based on an analysis of poor performance of the public sector and governments. This resulted in a tendency to ‘import’ good practices from the successful developed countries, as well as a resistance to looking deeply into poor countries to identify variations in performance. In many ways Prof Tendler consistently challenged the pre-suppositions that development agencies and policy advisors nurtured and which, as a result, shaped the advice they dispensed into narrow straitjackets often unfit for the context in which they were to be applied.

PBS Documentary follows students around the world for 12 years as they fight to get basic education

Nina Chaudry's picture
 2003 – 2016


The idea for this 12-year documentary project, Time for School, came after Pamela Hogan (our producer) read an op-ed in which economist Amartya Sen argued that investing in education was key to promoting a country’s economic and social growth.

Why ending violence is a development imperative

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Each year, about half a million people are killed by intentional homicide. That means one life is lost to violence per minute worldwide.

Latin America and Caribbean is among the hardest hit by chronic violence. Today, the region still sees an average rate of 24 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants—more than twice the World Health Organization (WHO)’s threshold for endemic violence.

If violence is an epidemic, youth are—by far—the largest risk group. In Latin America, the homicide rate for males aged 15-24 reaches 92 per 100,000, almost four times the regional average. Young people aged 25-29 years, predominately males, are also the main perpetrators of crime and violence, according to an upcoming World Bank report. 

Endemic violence also translates into less productivity, poorer health outcomes and high security costs. The cumulative cost of violence is staggering—up to 10% of GDP in some countries—with negative long-term consequences on human, social, economic, and sustainable development.

Ending violence is not only a must for law and justice, but also a development imperative.

The good news is that violence can be prevented. For example, cities like Medellin in Colombia and Diadema in Brazil have dramatically reduced homicide rate over the last few decades, thanks to tailored solutions backed by robust data analysis and a “whole-of-society” approach.  

In this video, we will discuss why violence is an important development issue, how countries and cities can effectively fight violence and crime, and what the World Bank and its partners are doing to ensure security and opportunity for all—especially youth and the urban poor. 

Related:
 

Brazilian family farms go high tech

Diego Arias's picture
Cleyton, Osni and Zenaide Meyer
The Meyer family from Anitapolis, Santa Catarina, southern Brazil

A rude awakening by geese screaming at my door was not the way I envisioned starting my day. With temperatures near freezing, the 6.00 AM milking session seemed a daunting first task in my 12-hour internship as a family farmer in Santa Catarina, Brazil. 

“Bike & Ride” to a cleaner environment and better health in Rio

Daniel Pulido's picture
Poor “Cariocas” living in the periphery of the Rio Metropolitan Region spend a very long time commuting. People from the city’s outskirts travel, on average, almost 90 minutes a day to and from work. Despite important improvements in the quality of mass transit in the metro region, Rio still has more to do to maximize the accessibility benefits of its recent major investments in rail and bus-based transit systems. Infrastructure still needs to be designed and upgraded to facilitate transfers between different motorized and non-motorized transport modes. And services (municipal and intermunicipal buses) need to be better coordinated and integrated with mass transit modes.

Bicycles can play an important role in solving the first and “last mile” problem (in fact, they offer a solution for the first and last three miles!) and in promoting sustainable transportation. The integrated bicycle-mass transport solution makes public transport much more attractive for users living within a radius of 5 kilometers from a mass transit station. At this distance, it would take a commuter 15 minutes to ride a bike to a station compared to an hour of walking. Not only does bike and rail integration improve quality of life by promoting health and reducing travel times and emissions, it can also result in benefits for transport operators in the form of increased ridership.

For this reason, in addition to financing new energy-efficient trains for the suburban rail system, our Project in Rio is supporting a bike-rail integration program, including financing for the development of the program’s business model and for the acquisition of a small number of bicycles to pilot the venture.
 

Guess how many private infrastructure projects reached closure in 2015 in the poorest countries?

Laurence Carter's picture
 

Just fourteen projects in energy, transport and water/sanitation.  In only eight countries. Totaling $2.7 billion.
 
There are 56 IDA countries (excluding three “inactive” and a few rich enough to count as “IDA blend”) defined as having per capita income under $1,215.  This 2.7 billion in IDA countries compares to total private infrastructure investment commitments of $111.6 billion in all emerging markets in 2015 per the recently released Private Participation in Infrastructure database.
 
In recent years, the number of projects and investment amounts of private infrastructure in IDA countries hasn’t increased.  If people living in the poorest countries are to get better access to energy, transport and water services, and if we believe that the innovation, management capacity and financing of the private sector working together with governments is essential to help make that happen … well, then we need a step change.
 
We know to make a difference requires dedication and a long term vision.  One part of that ambitious change is the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF).  The GIF is a global open platform to help partners prepare and structure complex infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) in emerging markets, and to bring in private sector and institutional investor capital.  The GIF platform integrates the efforts of multilateral development banks (who as Technical Partners choose which projects to submit for GIF funding), private sector investors and financiers, and governments to bring infrastructure projects and programs to market.  No single institution can achieve these goals alone.  The GIF’s Advisory Partners, which include insurers, fund managers, and commercial lenders, and which together have $13 trillion in assets under management, provide feedback to governments on the bankability of projects.

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