From 14 – 24 January, I visited Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia. It is a region that has some of the greatest challenges when it comes to creating jobs. Finding solutions to the jobs crisis in the MENA region is key to solving many of the other issues that are holding back the region’s development.
Middle East and North Africa
This blog was originally published on Future Development.
There are now some 9 million Syrian refugees and it is estimated that 5,000 additional refugees are created every day. Over 5 million Syrians reside in neighboring countries, principally Jordan (800,000), Lebanon (1.8 million) and Turkey (1.8 million). Europe and the West have been largely closed to these refugees with desperate boat journeys the stuff of daily news items. The crisis is not abating, and with 2 million refugees in Iraq the problem is expanding. What is clear is that many of these refugees are unlikely to be going home soon, if ever.
The first step in any transit planning process involves understanding the current supply and demand of transit services. In most of the countries where we work, understanding the supply of services is a messy, costly and lengthy process, since most cities have little knowledge of bus routes, services and operational schemes.
Having a digital map (GIS) and General Transit Feed Specifications (GTFS) details of a network allows a transit agency to do better service planning and monitoring, as well as provide information to its users. A traditional GIS software approach often requires a team of consultants and months of work. Last month, however, we were presented with the challenge to use innovative tools do the same work in less than two weeks.
This was our first visit to Cairo, Egypt, and there we were tasked with the goal of mapping the city’s entire bus network (approximately 450 formal bus routes) in order to conduct an accessibility analysis with our new Accessibility Tool. At first hand this task seemed daunting, and a few days after arriving we were not certain that we could accomplish it in two weeks.
Before our trip, we had agreed on a somewhat flexible work plan, laying out an array of potential open-access, free tools that we could use depending on the scenarios we would encounter, mostly dependent on the availability of data.
Iraq has been a nexus of fragility for the last three decades, and has experienced multiple types of conflict: internal insurgency, international war, sectarian strife, terrorism, internal fragmentation, and the spillover effects of conflict from other countries. As another crisis unfolds, does the recent past, marked by relative stability, hold any lessons for the future?
When we launched Future Development almost a year and a half ago I didn’t anticipate it would take over my life the way it did and right now I feel as if a dear friend was leaving for a different country…. That friend is the Future Development Blog which is changing its host organization from the World Bank Group to Brookings Institution.
It was a difficult decision but as with everything in life change is hard but often for the best; so this is the moment I say goodbye. Since September 16th 2013, the Future Development platform has been the first thing I check and the last every day of the year without exception; and now someone else will be taking over this task.
When we started this project, our firm belief was that countries can only achieve shared prosperity if they develop their policies through evidenced-based conversation with their citizens, so our main purpose with the creation of this blog was to empower all engaged citizens to hold their governments to account more successfully so that they take decisions in poor people’s interest and not their own.
In her latest article, Amatalim Al Soswa, head of the Yemeni institution tasked with distributing development aid, finds inspiration in the recent performance of the national football team.
As the price of oil falls, the discussion is heating up on what the impact will be for countries in the Arab World – especially online through the popular Arabic hashtag النفط_دون_50_دولار # translating to “oil below US$50 . The World Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Shanta Devarajan, weighs in on the conversation.
Cairo based writer and researcher, Holly Dagres offers her perspective on one of Egypt’s most serious but largely overlooked development challenges.
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.
- oil prices
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Russian Federation
- United States
- Venezuela, Republica Bolivariana de
Since 2009, the World Bank's EduTech blog has attempted to "explore issues related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries".
While the 30+ posts in 2014 spanned a wide range of topics, a few themes emerged again and again. The emerging relevance and use of mobile phones (in various ways and to various ends) in the education sector continued to be a regular area of discussion, as were efforts to collect (more, better) data to help us understand what is actually happening around the world related to technology use in education, with a specific interest in circumstances and contexts found in middle and low income 'developing' countries.
While technology use is typically considered a characteristic of more 'advanced' countries and education systems, the EduTech blog deliberately sought in 2014 to complicate this belief and bias a bit by looking at efforts specifically meant to be relevant (and which were in some cases indigenous) to some of the 'least advanced' places in the world.
Before getting on to this year's 'top ten' list, a few reminders (which might be familiar to some of you who have read the earlier annual EduTech blog round-ups: I've copied some of this verbatim):
- Posts on the EduTech blog are not meant to be exhaustive in their consideration of a given topic, but rather to point to interesting developments and pose some related questions that might be of interest.
- These blog posts should not be mistaken for peer-reviewed research or World Bank policy papers (although some of the content may later find its way into such publications). The views expressed on the EduTech blog are those of the author(s) alone, and not those of the World Bank. (In other words: Blame the guy who wrote them, and not his bosses or institution, for anything you find inaccurate or disagreeable here.)
- The blog itself is animated by a belief that, by 'thinking aloud in public', we can try (in an admittedly very modest but hopefully useful way) to open up conversations about various themes to wider audiences, sharing emerging thinking and discussions on topics that often have been, and regrettably often remain, discussed largely 'behind closed doors' within small circles of people and institutions.
OK, now on to the ...