Despite their mixed record last year, Future Development's bloggers once again offer their predictions for 2015. Eight themes emerge.
1. Global growth and trade. The US economy will strengthen far above predictions. Together with lower oil prices and a better business climate in emerging markets, this will create substantial positive spill-overs, including to the smaller export-oriented Asian economies, boosting the growth of their manufactured exports well above recent trends. The US will look to open new free trade agreements in Asia—India may try to join—and seek opportunities to do the same in Africa. Meanwhile, Germany will face increasing resistance to the free-trade agreement with America (TTIP), just as Angela Merkel celebrates her 10th year in office.
Last month saw the release of the latest annual Survey of ICT use in Brazilian Schools. Now in its fourth year, this initiative from Brazil's Center of Studies on Information and Communication Technologies (or CETIC, to use its acronym in Portuguese) is emerging as a model for how many other countries are considering conducting -- and funding -- regular data collection activities related to the increasing availability and use of various educational technologies within their education systems. The survey results, as well as a number of accompanying essays, are presented in one volume [pdf] in both Portuguese and English.
In addition to offering a current ‘snapshot' of what's happening in schools, now that four years of data have been collected related to a number of common themes, the survey finds that some trends are becoming apparent. One trend which will come as no surprise to those who know Brazil is that there are some significant variations in many data by region. (Whereas municipal Rio de Janiero is in many regards a leader in educational technology use in South America, for example, the practical reality of ICT use in schools in northern and northeastern Brazil is much different.)
Some high level findings from this most recent survey:
Schools in urban areas have an average of 19 computers, serving an average of just over 650 students. Most of these are in administrative offices and dedicated computer labs. While classroom and mobile access are growing quickly, with 30% of teachers reporting that classrooms are now the main venue for computer use in their school, labs remain the main point of access to computing facilities overall. (For what it's worth, almost half of Brazilian households report having a computer.)
95% percent of schools with computers are connected to the Internet (no word if any computer-less schools are connected!), although the speed of these connections leaves more than a little to be desired: Only 39% of schools meet the minimum target of 2 Mbps for schools in Brazil.
Almost half of public school teachers with their own laptops brought them to school, and most professional development related to technology use for teachers is a result of their own efforts (and thus not the result of government training programs).
For the first time, teachers were surveyed on the reasons behind their use of digital teaching and learning resources, and it appears that most of this use is self-motivated (i.e. a result of personal choice by teachers, and not something mandated, or necessarily even encouraged, by official education authorities). As the report states, "The ICT Education survey presents a scenario of relative autonomy for teachers in terms of educational content, given that the proportion of teachers that combine isolated contents such as images and texts is higher, surpassing access to video lectures and readymade presentations. The data indicate the importance of teacher initiative in the use of digital content in their teaching practices, as well as a concern for the demands of and benefits to students and colleagues. The reduced mention of institutionalized incentive – whether from the school administration or government authorities – indicates an important field for the development of public policies in the area."
As public policies in this area continue to evolve across Brazil, the actions of a number of private foundations in supporting innovative uses of educational technologies are helping to suggest possible ways forward. A notable group in this regard is the Sao Paulo-based Fundação Lemann. Denis Mizne, who heads the Lemann Foundation (to use its English language name, which is how I'll refer to it here), stopped by the World Bank back in September and shared emerging lessons from initiatives supported by his foundation and partners to translate and implement the Khan Academy for use in Brazilian schools.
Support for the Khan Academy is one of a number of projects from the Lemann Foundation that are exploring innovative answers to the question, "How can we make sure we are making the best use of the short time available for instruction within schools in Brazil?"
I have transcribed my notes from the Mizne talk below, together with some short explanatory background as might be relevant, in case they might be of interest to a wider audience than just those who attended the related presentation in person at the World Bank.
As we get ready to kick off the new year, let’s recount the voices and stories about how we can enhance the way we interact with our planet. From Ethiopia to Indonesia, we’ve seen our efforts improve lives and help incomes grow as countries and communities strive for greener landscapes, healthier oceans and cleaner air.
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
A year ago, we polled Future Development bloggers for predictions on the coming year (2014). Looking back, we find that many unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) events had major economic impact.
We missed the developments in Ukraine and Russia, the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the collapse in oil prices and their attendant effects on economic growth. At the same time, we picked the winner of the soccer World Cup, and got many of the technology trends right. Perhaps economists are better at predicting non-economic events.
Here’s the scorecard on the seven predictions made:
By Nicolette Bartlett, Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and CISL
Developing effective carbon pricing mechanisms can and will play a key part in tackling climate change, facilitating the much needed investment cost-effectively and at scale. Specifically, “cap and trade” policies or emissions trading schemes (ETS) have been widely adopted in recent years because of their potential to foster greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
One Brazilian business group that CLG has been partnering with is taking a novel approach. Empresas Pelo Clima (EPC) implemented an ETS Simulation using live corporate data to engage Brazilian companies in discussions around what a robust cap and trade market might entail and how it could be designed and implemented. The ETS Simulation is delivered in partnership between the Rio de Janeiro Green Stock Exchange (BVRio – Bolsa Verde do Rio de Janeiro) and EPC through the Center for Sustainability Studies of the Business Management School at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV-EASP).
How can we get much more private sector funds to infrastructure financing? The infrastructure gap is enormous and growing; governments are just not be able to go it alone. Innovation here is key.
The World Bank, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the State of São Paulo just completed an innovative deal that blends the power of state funds, World Bank lending, and private-sector banking participation for a successful (and replicable!) result. Read this blog to learn more.
Infrastructure bottlenecks have created seemingly perpetual traffic jams in and around São Paulo. Photo credit: Marcelo Camargo/ABr.
There’s a lot of time for innovative thought when you’re stuck in traffic in São Paulo.
Perhaps that’s why, in the words for Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank Country Director for Brazil, “São Paulo has continuously innovated to overcome its infrastructure bottlenecks, often becoming a model to other states in Brazil.”
Forty-one million people use the state’s transportation networks. While the network is one of the most developed and modern in Brazil, it is still insufficient for the state’s needs.
The State of São Paulo has sought to address the situation for some time, and the World Bank has played an important role through lending and technical assistance. An important component of this work is the São Paulo State Sustainable Transport Project that aims to rehabilitate roads in several key corridors and to reconstruct two bridges.
Yet, with a total cost estimated at $729 million, this project has faced a major financing hurdle. In September 2013, the World Bank approved a $300-million loan toward the initiative. But with growing demand for loans from Brazil’s poorest states, the bank was unable to commit additional funds. The State of São Paulo itself committed $129 million. That left a shortfall of $300 million.
How was the state going to mobilize these funds at a cost that would be acceptable to taxpayers?
A partnership with MIGA was a natural answer. In addition to political risk insurance, MIGA provides credit-enhancement products that protect commercial lenders against non-payment by a sovereign, sub-sovereign or state-owned enterprise.
In an unprecedented move, the State of São Paulo bid out the project to commercial banks with a requirement that their loans be backed by MIGA’s credit-enhancement instrument.
The result: MIGA issued guarantees to Banco Santander on a $300-million loan. With MIGA’s credit enhancement, the cost of the commercial loan was lower, and the length of the loan was longer, than São Paulo could have achieved on its own. The additional financing will be used to increase the scope of the project’s activities.
Latin America has a long, fractured, and ultimately failed history of public media. So-called “public media” typically functioned as government-controlled institutions for spurious goals - propaganda and clientelism - rather than quality content in the service of multiple public interests.
Your name is Sarah. You live in New York, or perhaps Nairobi, where you divide your time between caring for your young family and building a small business. Your life is more comfortable than your mother’s, and your children’s prospects are brighter than you might have hoped. Until your husband’s simmering resentment of your growing business turns violent, and he beats you badly.