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South Asia

Using Open Data to drive innovation, collaboration and change in India

Vikas Kanungo's picture
Open Data has the potential to be a game-changing tool in poverty reduction and economic growth. The World Bank has been actively encouraging governments to become more transparent, more accountable to their citizens, less susceptible to corruption and better at delivering services.  

We often consult various partners – including governments, organizations and other implementers – on Open Data and its critical role in economic development and growth. The World Bank’s team of information and communication technology (ICT) and open data experts help explore the potential for forecasting national and global trends, while also unlocking opportunities for innovation and improved performance. These consultations serve as a crucial starting point in planning, implementation and correction of many government, private sector and civil society initiatives.

Since 2012, the Bank has organized a series of trainings on open data tools and online resources for users in government, economic research institutes, media, civil society, academia and the private sector. More than 3,000 stakeholders have been trained already in 10+ major cities of India. There is need to take this agenda forward especially in the low-income states where exposure to the Bank's resources is lower.

Boosting South Asian Trade – Carpe Diem!

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
sar-trade-manufacturing
Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.

South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region. 

What Will the Trade Facilitation Agreement Mean for the Aid for Trade Agenda? New e-Book Provides Answers

Jaime de Melo's picture

The world’s 45 Least Developed Countries that are not oil producers (non-oil LDCs) are exporting less and less in the global market place. Between 1985 and 2012, the world market share of non-oil LDCs’ exports of goods and services fell from 1.2 percent to 0.8 percent—all while their share in world population rose from 7.5 percent to 9.9 percent.

The 2005 Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative was designed to arrest this decline. Yet, LDCs’ trade costs continue to fall less rapidly than those of their competitors.

Clearly, it’s time to re-evaluate the AFT initiative.

A new e-book does just that, and, contrary to what some may think, concludes that the initiative has been beneficial. But due to a collective failure to clearly articulate its results, the achievements of the AFT initiative are now at risk as development budgets come under increasing pressure.

Combating Foot and Mouth Disease in Bangladesh

Shiro Nakata's picture
Professor Anwar Hossain and his research team at Dept. of Microbiology, University of Dhaka
Livestock production provides valuable income and savings for farmers in Bangladesh – many of whom are small scale dairy farmers in rural areas.  Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) is one of the most threatening diseases to animal health. Unfortunately, South Asia is known as a FMD endemic area, and FMD outbreaks have been recurrent. The disease is extremely infectious and significantly reduces the production of milk and meat as well as the value of cattle – very important assets that protect families from economic shocks. According to the Department of Livestock, Bangladesh loses as much as US$125 million annually due to FMD.
 
Vaccination is one of the effective strategies to prevent FMD infection. Due to a high rate of mutation in FMD virus, there is an urgent need for the development of safe and effective vaccines for FMD.
 
“Bangladesh spends a lot of money to import FMD vaccines – but these are produced for foreign strains of FMD viruses, and they are ineffective against the virus strains circulating in Bangladesh. We need to have vaccine development capacity of our own,” says Prof. Anwar Hossain, Department of Microbiology of University of Dhaka and Manager of the sub-project titled, Foot and Mouth Disease in Bangladesh: Genome Analysis and Vaccine Development Project.
Scientific Instruments Purchased under HEQEP

Prof. Anwar’s sub-project was awarded a competitive research grant of BDT 23.7 million (about US 304,000) from the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). His project is conducting studies to determine variation in FMD virus of Bangladesh origin and developing appropriate methods of prevention against FMD viruses. Using the fund, Prof. Anwar and his team upgraded their laboratory with essential modern scientific equipment such as real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine to read DNA sequences and bio-safety cabinet together with a lot of indispensable laboratory consumables.
 
Since its inception in 2011, the sub-project has made significant achievements on their research work. These include completion of epidemiological study of serotype and lineage of FMD viruses, isolation and genome-wide analysis of FMD virus in Bangladesh, and publishing papers in international academic journals.

July 18, 2014: This Week in #SouthAsiaDev

Mary Ongwen's picture
We've rounded up 22 tweets, posts, links, and +1's on South Asia-related development news, innovation and social good that caught our eye this week. Countries included: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal

Education as if Economics Mattered

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Children outside school. Bangladesh Education in developing countries is facing problems at all levels:

At the primary level, despite gains in enrollment, the quality is appallingly low.  In Tanzania and India, some 20-30 percent of students in 6th grade could not read at the 2nd grade level. Not surprising since in these countries, teachers in public primary schools are absent 25 percent of the time.  When present, they are in-class teaching only 20 percent of the time.

At the secondary level, the performance of students from the Middle East and North Africa  in international tests such as TIMS is significantly below the developing country average.

At the tertiary level, universities are chronically underfunded and not training students for jobs that the market is demanding - reminiscent of the Woody Allen line, "The food in this restaurant is terrible and the portions are too small."

Jogi for President? Lessons for Policy Makers from German Football

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Football, the beautiful game, galvanizes people from young to old and North to South in a way that no other sport or entertainment can match. Last Sunday’s final was the most watched event in human history with an estimated 1 billion viewers (many of which, in South and East Asia, tuned in well into the night). What we experienced over the past four weeks has been described by some as the closest thing to a world religion: everybody watches it and worships it; everyone has an opinion and many believe that winning the World Cup is one of the greatest achievements a country can aspire to. No wonder that even the Popes seem to care. John-Paul II once pointedly said that “amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”

São Paulo and Mumbai: Improving Mass Transit in Two BRIC Megacities

Jorge Rebelo's picture
Mumbai and São Paulo are two mega metropolitan regions (MMR and SPMR) in the BRICs with about 20 million inhabitants each. They are the economic engines of their respective countries and act as a magnet for rural, low-income populations seeking employment opportunities, growing at a rate that puts tremendous pressure on their transport infrastructure and other public utilities.

As population and income rise, car and motorcycle ownership quickly increased in both megacities while mass transit is not developing fast enough, with serious consequences on traffic congestion, accidents and pollution. São Paulo has 150km+ traffic queues daily and losses of productivity, wasted fuel, health impacts and accidents estimated at around 2% of Brazil’s GDP in 2013, with three fatal deaths daily in motorcycle accidents alone. Mumbai, in addition to all-day road traffic jams, have an astounding six deaths daily from riders hanging and falling from packed trains which circulate with open doors to avoid reducing carrying capacity. The city comes to a standstill when the rail right-of-way is flooded by heavy monsoon rains. 

Access to jobs and basic services in both mega-cities is extremely difficult – particularly for the poor, who often live far from major employment centers. The two cities need to act quickly and take drastic measures to improve mobility and access... But this is easier said than done: expanding the transport infrastructure in these megacities requires careful planning, massive investment,  and may also involve relocating large numbers of people and businesses.

Looking for new ways to serve Muslim microfinance clients

Mayada El-Zoghbi's picture
“To alleviate poverty in Pakistan, we have to focus on the farmers,” says Farida Tariq, founder and chief executive officer of Wasil Foundation, a microfinance institution. “But many farmers will not opt for interest-based lending because of religious reasons.”
 
To address this gap, Wasil started offering a Sharia-compliant microfinance package aimed specifically at smallholder farmers.
 
Wasil Foundation: Islamic Financing to Farmers

Wasil is an example of how microfinance and Islamic finance can be successfully combined.
 
An estimated 650 million Muslims live on less than $2 a day. Examples like Wasil show that Islamic microfinance can play a key role in bringing the poor into the financial mainstream in a way that doesn’t force them to choose between their religious practices and their wallets.

But despite an impressive increase in the number of financial service providers that offer Sharia-compliant microfinance products in Muslim countries, Islamic microfinance is still limited to a few countries. The range of offerings is narrow as well – most are largely focused on the cost-plus-markup product known as murabaha, which is geared toward asset purchases. 


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