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Europe and Central Asia

Now that there's a Baltic Data Highway, when will we have one for the Balkans?

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
Photo credit: Data Logistics Center
In January, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania finished the five-year construction of the Baltic Highway – a broadband backbone network that takes advantage of fiber-optic assets from three Baltic energy and utility entities. The Highway is a seamless fiber backbone of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) across the Baltic region, connecting Northern Europe’s new mega-data centers in Tallinn to Western Europe's data hub in Frankfurt, Germany, with the possibility of extending connections to Russia and Belarus.

The construction and operation of the Baltic Highway is a great example of regional cooperation and infrastructure sharing — and there are many lessons we can learn from it.
 
The Baltic Highway was created by Data Logistics Center (part of Lietuvos Energija, a state-owned holding company of Lithuanian energy suppliers), Latvenergo (a state-owned electric utility company in Latvia) and Televõrk (a subsidiary of private energy firm Eesti Energia in Estonia). Unlike previous data highways, this network was built by laying optical fiber over high-voltage electricity lines and gas pipelines that belong to energy companies, as opposed to using different segments of telecommunications networks that have been “stitched together.” Today, Baltic Highway clients have the opportunity to utilize one seamless regional infrastructure system from a single point.

What would it take to implement a similar project in the Balkans?

The benefits of e-Visas, and how to overcome implementation challenges

Radu Cucos's picture
The Electronic Visa (e-Visa) has emerged as one of the most innovative services implemented in the area of freedom of movement and people-to-people contacts.

E-Visa allows the management of the visa application process to take place entirely in a virtual environment. Everything is done with the help of the Internet: the visa application and supporting documents are submitted online, the payment is made online and the decision on the application is communicated online. Some of the best examples of e-Visa services I have encountered are implemented by the authorities of Australia, Turkey, New Zealand and Georgia.
 
Serving as Chief Information Officer at the Moldovan Foreign Service, I had the opportunity to lead the development of the Moldova e-Visa Service in partnership with the World Bank’s eTransformation project.

The Moldovan e-Visa service was launched on August 1, 2014. So far, we can make the following observations and conclusions about the benefits of e-Visa:

Developing a 360 degree view of poverty in Armenia

Nistha Sinha's picture

How can we better understand and reach Armenia’s poor? This is a question that my colleagues and I, along with Armenia’s National Statistical Service (NSS) are asking, as we ponder the experiences of several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have moved past simply looking at incomes, and instead used a multidimensional approach to poverty measurement.

How long is too long? When justice delayed is justice denied

Georgia Harley's picture
As the saying goes, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Yet, across the world, court users complain that the courts take too long. For your regular court user facing endless talk from lawyers, reams of paper, and mounting legal bills, a court case can feel like it goes on…FOR….EV….ER.
 
But how long is too long? The question has arisen on each of my last four missions in as many months – from Kenya to Croatia to Serbia and back.
 
And it’s not a rhetorical question. Answers can assist client countries in analyzing their efficiency and devising reforms that improve both timeliness and user satisfaction. It also enables potential court users to better estimate how long it might take to resolve their dispute – allowing them to then adjust their expectations accordingly.
 
After all, better enabling people and businesses to resolve their disputes contributes to poverty reduction and shared prosperity.
 

5 reasons why water is key to sustainable development

Tariq Khokhar's picture

March 22nd is World Water Day. We’ve already covered 7 things you may not know about water so here a 5 more facts showing the links between water and health, energy, the climate, agriculture and urbanization. But first:

This is every river and waterway in the contiguous United States

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Image via Wired

Nelson Minar produced this incredible map using data from the USGS National Hydrography Dataset. It includes some waterways that are dry most of the year but still have defined creek beds, and like veins running through the human body it shows how fundamental water is to the country’s ecosystem.

Slovakian non-standard contract reform has marked effect on jobs

Peter Golias's picture
The 2013 reforms of non-standard employment contracts in Slovakia transferred the full payroll-tax burden to workers and their employers regardless of their income. This caused a rapid decrease in their net income and forced some of them into the informal sector, although overall unemployment numbers did not change. To rectify these problems, in 2014 the Ministry of Finance presented a new proposal known as a health insurance allowance. This frees minimum wage employment contracts from paying health insurance contributions. The ministerial proposal came into effect from 2015. The goal is to increase motivation to work for low wages and thus to help to decrease unemployment. Early indications suggest that it will increase the net income of more than 500,000 people and cost €146 million in 2015, although its overall impact on unemployment is so far unclear.
 

The energy future, as seen from Denmark

Nicholas Keyes's picture
Photo by Blue Square Thing via FlickrDriving across the Danish countryside, they cannot be missed: towering white wind turbines as far as the eye can see, their slow-turning blades providing a 21st century counterpoint against the flat landscape of fields and farmhouses.
 
Denmark has committed to renewable energy further and faster than any country in Europe.  The Scandinavian nation generates a third of its annual electricity demand from wind, and solar capacity is growing as well. For countries that want to green their energy mix, there is no better place to get a glimpse of the future than Denmark. 
 
Its pioneering spirit has brought great benefits, and international acclaim, but like all first movers, Denmark is also learning as it goes. 
 
To tap into this learning, ESMAP—the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program—organized a study tour to Energinet.dk, Denmark’s transmission system operator, as part of its work to help client countries integrate variable renewable energy into their electricity grids. Joining the study tour were 26 participants—representatives from regulators, system operators and utilities from 13 countries, including South Africa, Chile, China, Pakistan, Zambia, and Morocco.

Public Financial Management reforms - signals or real change?

Renaud Seligmann's picture


Two decades ago, when I interned at the French Embassy’s economic mission in Moscow, I was asked to look into bankruptcy laws and their implementation. The Embassy wanted to advise French companies on how to get business done in the new Russia—we are talking mid-1990s—when there were no reliable guidebooks on how to navigate the transition to a market economy.

So I was asked to read recently approved, Western-inspired bankruptcy laws, given a phone book and asked to find two dozen companies around Moscow. I was to meet with their CEOs and find out how insolvency and bankruptcy procedures actually worked in practice.

I came away with one key finding: the rules on the books were not a very useful guide to how bankruptcy worked in practice. In fact, the distortions brought about by hyperinflation, bartering and the transition from Soviet to Western accounting meant the liquidity and solvency ratios that underpinned the institution of bankruptcy had essentially become meaningless.

Creating a pioneering Open Data ecosystem in Russia

Alexander Ryabushko's picture
Two years have passed since the World Bank’s information and communications technologies (ICT) team conducted the world’s first Open Data Readiness Assessment in Russia’s Ulyanovsk region.  Shortly after this assessment was completed and an action plan produced, Ulyanovsk launched its Open Data portal, which was widely acknowledged both by Russia’s federal government and a range of international experts.  Following this successful pilot, the World Bank has conducted Open Data Readiness Assessments in Rwanda, Tanzania, Antigua and Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Peru and Ethiopia.

We are proud to have worked together on an Open Data Initiative whose experiences and lessons learned have informed ongoing work in so many other countries. Highlights of our project in Ulyanovsk include two main results:

First, the creation of an entire Open Data ecosystem, anchored by an Open Data portal: http://opendata.ulgov.ru. There are currently 263 data sets (available in CSV, XML, JSON, HTML, XLSX and XSD formats) for viewing and downloading. All data complies with Russian laws and international standards.

The project demonstrates a high level of engagement: citizens, journalists, experts and investors looked through the data files more than 313,944 times and downloaded them more than 64,156 times. The Open Data Portal has helped a variety of clients and stakeholders make more informative decisions in a shorter amount of time, therefore saving financial and other resources. Four mobile apps and a GIS portal, based on Open Data, together form the finished project.

The three transitions of the Western Balkans

Ivailo Izvorski's picture
The small, open economies of the Western Balkans* are at various stages of progress on three transitions: the transition to market economy, the transition to EU membership, and the transition to high-income status. The first transition started in the 1990s and its ultimate completion will help advance the second. Progress on the second transition, the EU integration, will unleash the EU convergence machine that has seen all but two countries in Europe achieve and sustain high income status.

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