If someone were to ask you to identify yourself, you would probably reach into your purse, or pocket, and pull out some form of identification. Without it, one loses some of the basic benefits of living in a society. You cannot open a bank account, purchase a home, or vote, and so on. Many countries, however, don’t have a functional identification system. In India, for example, millions of citizens are unable to benefit from social and financial services because they don’t have proper identification. Also, current welfare databases are plagued with fake names and duplications, entered by corrupt officials. Thus, the country has embarked on a massive identification project that will be one of the largest citizens’ databases of its kind.
How to make schools accountable for results is a hot issue in both rich and poor countries. The debate is often highly charged and ideological -- witness the discussions in Washington DC around the reforms promoted by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. It is thus refreshing when new and rigorous evidence is used to bring some light into the debate.
Building on over six years of hard work by World Bank teams working across several countries and regions, Barbara Bruns, Deon Filmer and Harry Patrinos have produced a major volume entitled Making Schools Work: New Evidence on Accountability Reforms.
Making Schools Work is part of the new Human Development Perspectives book series that will launch early next week. An initiative of the Human Development Network, the series will present key research in the field of human development. By linking evidence to policy, publications in this series will help developing countries and their partners get more mileage and impact out of their investments in human capital.
For 20 years, BP Agrawal led research and development at such companies as General Dynamics, ITT, GTE, and Hughes, helping take new technologies from lab to marketplace. US-based Agrawal and his diaspora peer had a number of discussions on how they can make an impact in home country (India), and concluded that it is not their financial contributions that would make a difference but rather new commercial models of public service provision. In 2006, he won Development Marketplace awards for River from the Sky, a system of community water provision in draught-stricken areas and in 2007 for, Clinics for Mass Care, a system of mobile, kiosk-based clinics.
Recognition of the poor as a major market opportunity has produced bottom-of-the-pyramid innovation, the hallmark of which is global search for home-grown solutions. Diaspora members are natural vehicles for both global search and diffusion in the local context. In reality, diffusion is all that matters. Thanks to Agrawal’ patience, perseverance and persistence, he was able to enter into partnership with a local government which significantly speeded up the diffusion.
The Karnataka Watershed Development project - also known as Sujala - has increased the availability of water in seven drought-prone districts of northern Karnataka. Treatments on the upper and lower reaches of watersheds have helped raise water tables, brought degraded lands under cultivation, enabled farmers to diversify into higher value crops and horticulture, and raised agricultural productivity. State of the art remote sensing has been used to monitor impacts. Incomes for both the landed and landless poor have increased.
Almost 400 million Indians—about a third of the subcontinent’s population—don’t have access to electricity. This power deficit, which includes about 100,000 un-electrified villages, places India’s per capita electricity consumption at just 639 kWh—among the world’s lowest rates.
The access gap is complicated by another problem: more than three-quarters of India’s electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas. With India’s rapidly-growing population— currently 1.1 billion—along with its strong economic growth in recent years, its carbon emissions were over 1.6 billion tons in 2007, among the world’s highest.
This is unsustainable, not only from a climate change standpoint, but also because India’s coal reserves are projected to run out in four decades. India already imports about 10% of its coal for electricity generation, and this is expected to reach 16% this year.
India’s national and state governments are taking action to correct this vicious circle of power deficits and mounting carbon emissions. The national government has set a target of increasing renewable energy generation by 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, up from current capacity of 15 GW, itself a threefold increase since 2005. Still, renewable sources account for just 3.5% of India’s energy generation at present, so the scale of the challenge is formidable. The cost of meeting it will be high unless the tremendous innovative capacity of India and market reforms can be coordinated to make India a clean energy leader.
7 weeks of outreach, 50 days of meeting, engaging, dialoguing with some of the brightest, most committed minds involved in creating social impact across India. And an overwhelming 264 proposals received from organizations seeking funding to scale their projects with support from the India Development Marketplace 2011. The response is extraordinary given the fact that this version of the India DM is focused on enabling Scale.
Therefore these are not start-up ideas – but instead are more mature models that are already demonstrating at least 2 years of operational existence, a movement towards financial sustainability, a reasonable clarity in their unit costs and a demonstrated and valuable social impact that can be replicated.
The business case for low-balance savings is tough, as the margin on float may not amount to much. In much of South Asia, the economics of savings for the poor has been buttressed by microcredit – the notion that the account anchors the customer relationship and the loan gives it profitability. But financial inclusion premised on credit is always going to leave some people behind: those who do not feel like credit is the right financial tool for them or who simply do not have the ability to commit to future payment streams.
A new vision is emerging around integrating the savings proposition into a broader payments network. Offering “connected savings” accounts rather than stand-alone accounts helps the economics of low-balance savings in three ways:
Traveling with the India DM 2011 team, meeting social enterprises that were trying to breakthrough the traditional mould of development, I was struck by the way technology was being leveraged. It came through as such a critical tool – an enabler that could single handedly shift the equation and bring possibility to the remote rural parts of India – shifting the balance of development and growth. Bringing in possibilities , empowerment and real access.
Here is an illustrative sample of ideas that highlight the kinds of technology applications that are evolving as a result of entrepreneurial activity powered with a social spirit.
For decades, the leading causes of mortality have differed between low income countries and high income countries. Those who have worked their careers in health and development probably never thought they would see the day when maternal/child health and communicable diseases would not be the leading health burden in many low income countries.
The new actor is non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are characterized by chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease), along with injury and mental health which are now responsible for half the health burden in South Asia. Thus, the challenge now is how best to juggle this “double burden”.
Currently, many compelling reasons are pushing countries toward starting to tackle NCDs. From both a social and political standpoint, South Asians are 6 years younger than those in the rest of the world at their first heart attack. This type of trend threatens a country’s ability to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend from a larger mature working force because healthy aging is necessary, which in turn, requires tackling NCDs.