In “The Library of Babel,” Borges talks about the infinite nature of information and knowledge, because of its endless combinations.
East Asia and Pacific
What will reading be like for children around the world in the digital age?
Ben Bederson thinks this is a question we should be asking children themselves.
Bederson, a professor at the University of Maryland (USA) and the co-founder (with Allison Druin) of the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL), was the keynote presenter at an event in Hangzhou, China earlier this week sponsored by UNESCO, the World Bank, the Korean Education & Research Information Service and a number of other partners. The ICDL (not to be confused with the International Computer Driving Licence, which shares the same acronym) is dedicated to building a collection of "outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children". The ICDL, which is part of the World Bank-funded READ project in Mongolia, currently features children's books in over 50 languages and receives over 100,000 visitors a month to its web site.
At the heart of Bederson's wide-ranging talk (and indeed at the heart of the ICDL itself) is a belief in the value and importance of child-centered design. Notably (and rather famously, in some quarters) the ICDL utilizes children as design partners in the development of the digital library, and how it is used. Adopting this approach sometimes yields approaches that, at least for many in the audience in Hangzhou, were rather surprising.
Just as Asian economies started to recover from the global recession, policymakers and markets have started to worry about unwarranted asset price increases.
I recently returned from a visit to seven countries throughout Asia. Although I had visited some of them before, this was my first visit representing MIGA. During my trip, I recognized the value and potential of MIGA’s focus on south/south investment to investors in this region. Of course providing guarantees to support inward investment to Asia is very important to MIGA, especially guarantees for complex infrastructure projects. MIGA can add a lot of value to these types of projects – particularly when it comes to helping manage the environmental and social aspects of projects.
However, even through this global economic crisis, many private sector companies in Asian middle income countries have become “investors” in other parts of the world. Investments from Asia reach many of the poorest and post-conflict countries. At the same time, risk-mitigation instruments such as political risk insurance are not well known. We see a role for MIGA in sharing experience and working with Asian export credit agencies and Eximbanks to bring Asian investors the risk mitigation tools they need to help continue expanding their investments.
The future is unpredictable and yet, from time to time, we must take stock of what we accomplished and where we are heading. Over the past decade, better policies and rising integration with the global economy have pushed growth in South Asia upwards. By 2007, the peak year just before the global financial crisis, the region’s GDP growth had reached nearly 9 percent a year (just slightly behind East Asia’s). This growth acceleration extended to all the countries of the region.
The global financial crisis took South Asia’s growth down by about 3 percentage points (from 8.6% in 2007 to 5.6% in 2009). This was the smallest growth decline among all regions of the world and the prospective recovery is already underway. The World Bank expects GDP growth to recover to nearly 7 percent per annum on average in 2010-2011.
Dipak Dasgupta, a Lead Economist at the World Bank, points to four key factors that have cushioned South Asia’s growth decline during the crisis and are helping in the strong recovery.
(1) Remittances held up much stronger in South Asia than in other regions. In Nepal, the reliance on remittances is the highest, and without these flows, growth in consumption would have collapsed.
(2) The resilience of some key export-oriented sectors also helped. Garments in Bangladesh and IT software exports from India, for instance, have held up relatively well.
The winds of change are blowing in Malaysia, as the government is taking on an ambitious agenda of structural reform. The objective is to climb up the income ladder and join the league of high-income economies. This is a difficult challenge – one which not many countries have successfully met in the post-war period.
Against this backdrop, the World Bank’s launch of a new report on the Malaysian economy (full disclosure: I lead the team who authors the report) is timely. The Malaysia Economic Monitor, which will be published twice a year, aims to provide context to the challenges facing Malaysia and serves as a platform for discussion and the sharing of knowledge.
If you haven’t already taken the time to do some development-related Googling after last week’s announcement that World Bank statistics are now available through the ubiquitous search engine’s public data tool, I’d suggest exploring the exciting new feature. Now, anyone can easily access 17 World Development Indicators by searching for them in Google. Give it a try by searching for the GDP of China or CO2 emissions of Indonesia or exports of Thailand – or another country and any of these indicators.
When you click on the search result, an interactive chart page shows you how the data have changed over time and allows you to compare to other countries (or the world). (You can also embed the chart, like the one below.) For example, take a look at how the GDP growth rate of China compares to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in the last 50 years.
To further explore the data, check out another nifty tool, also launched last week by the World Bank. DataFinder lets you research more about these development indicators and see how they look on an interactive map. Read more about DataFinder here.