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The World Region

If development data is so important, why is it chronically underfinanced?

Michael M. Lokshin's picture

Few will argue against the idea that data is essential for the design of effective policies. Every international development organization emphasizes the importance of data for development. Nevertheless, raising funds for data-related activities remains a major challenge for development practitioners, particularly for research on techniques for data collection and the development of methodologies to produce quality data.

If we focus on the many challenges of raising funds for microdata collected through surveys, three reasons stand out in particular: the spectrum of difficulties associated with data quality; the problem of quantifying the value of data; and the (un-fun) reality that data is an intermediate input.

Data quality

First things first – survey data quality is hard to define and even harder to measure. Every survey collects new information; it’s often prohibitively expensive to validate this information and so it’s rarely done. The quality of survey data is most often evaluated based on how closely the survey protocol was followed.

The concept of Total Survey Error sets out a universe of factors which condition the likelihood of survey errors (Weisbeg 2005). These conditioning factors include, among many other things: how well the interviewers are trained; whether the questionnaire was tested and piloted and to what degree; whether the interviewers’ individual profiles could affect the respondent answers, etc. Measuring some of these indicators precisely is effectively impossible—most of the indicators are subjective by nature. It may be even harder to separate the individual effects of these components in the total survey error.

Imagine you are approached with a proposal to conduct a cognitive analysis of your questionnaire. - How often were you bothered by the pain in the stomach over the last year? A cognitive psychologist will tell you that this is a badly formulated question: the definition of stomach varies drastically among the respondents; last year could be interpreted as last calendar year, 12 months back from now, or from January 1st until now; one respondent said: it hurt like hell, but it did not bother me, I am a Marine... (from a seminar by Gordon Willis)

An optimist’s view on climate-smart infrastructure

Vasuki Shastry's picture


Photo: RoyBuri | Pixabay

In developed countries, we tend to take infrastructure services for granted. It’s easy to forget, when living in London, Washington, or Singapore, how much lies behind the simple act of switching on the lights. But as a young person growing up in India in the 1960s, I knew what it was like to live with rampant electricity shortages and terrible roads. It was easy to complain about it, and we did. It seemed, then, that the solution was simple: government should simply cough up the money, get to work, and build the infrastructure.
 
But there was a lot more we didn’t think about. Behind good infrastructure systems lie much more than concrete, pipes and wires. There are other building blocks as well, such as sound policy, good regulations, viable institutions, and fruitful interactions between the public and private sectors.

Trade growth: A surprising surge but precarious prospects

Cristina Constantinescu's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 

Trade unexpectedly rebounded in 2017, after a period of slow growth and despite recent uncertainty about trade policy.  Growth in the volume of trade in goods and services jumped to 4.3 percent in 2017—the fastest rate in 6 years (Figure 1). The recovery was widespread, with the largest contributions to growth coming from East Asia and the Euro area.  Data just released for the first quarter of 2018 suggests that the faster growth persists:  merchandise trade volumes grew by 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018 relative to the first quarter of 2017. What explains these developments?

Five things you can do to end plastic pollution

Anjali Acharya's picture
Plastic straws are among the top items of marine plastics found around the world, and they’re generally not recyclable. © Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock
Plastic straws are among the top items of marine plastics found around the world, and they’re generally not recyclable. © Kanittha Boon/Shutterstock

The news headlines are grim. A male pilot whale dies on a Thai beach having swallowed 80 plastics bags; images of turtles stuck in six-pack plastic rings; a sad photo of a tiny seahorse clinging to a plastic ear-bud goes viral. Plastic products wash up daily on beaches worldwide –from Indonesia to coastal west Africa, and waterways in cities are increasingly clogged with plastic waste.

But the world is taking note and countries, the private sector, and communities are starting to act. From bans and taxes on various single-use plastics, to investments in waste collection, and policies on reduced plastics packaging, to beach clean-ups. We are trying to break the addiction to plastics, and contribute to healthier lives and a healthier planet.

This year, World Environment Day focuses on “Beating Plastic Pollution”. ­­The World Bank is contributing to this effort, using our suite of lending instruments and policy dialogue with key countries and cities to help identify and finance solutions to address the marine plastics issue. For example, the World Bank is a long term strategic investor in the improvement of municipal solid waste management systems that, if not correctly managed, are a major contributor to the ocean plastics problem. Since 2000, the World Bank has invested over $4.5 billion to help improve more than 300 solid waste management programs to reduce pollution leakage, including plastics, into our environment. The Bank is also studying the flow of plastics into the ocean through a series of plastics pollution hotspot analyses to prioritize investments and look for quick wins.
 
But it is going to take more than building better solid waste management systems. Everyone needs to be on board to solve this problem and individual actions count.
 
Here are five things YOU can do—starting TODAY ­—to end plastic pollution­­:

Spatially awhere: Bridging the gap between leading and lagging regions

Sameh Wahba's picture


As the world urbanizes rapidly, international experience has shown that economic activities concentrate in a relatively small number of places – it is estimated that only 1.5% of the world’s land is home to about half of global production.

Such economic concentration is a built-in feature of human settlement development and a key driver of growth. However, while some countries have succeeded in spreading economic benefits to most of their citizens, many other countries have not.

Especially outside the economic centers that concentrate production, there are “lagging areas” with persistent disparities in living standards and a lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.

Today, over two billion people live in such lagging areas. Over one billion people live in underserved slums with many disparities from the rest of the city in terms of access to infrastructure and services, tenure security, and vulnerability to disaster risk. A further one billion people live in underdeveloped areas with few job opportunities and public services.

How can countries address the division between the leading and lagging regions?

As discussed at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we at the World Bank Group are taking an integrated territorial approach through a “spatially awhere” lens to tackle the land, social, and economic challenges altogether.

[Download: World Bank publications on urban development]

Beyond Proof of Concept: do we have the right structure to take disruptive technologies to production?

Michael M. Lokshin's picture
Figure 1: Azure Cognitive Services Algorithm compliments authors’
youthful appearances

“Every company is a technology company”. This idea, popularized by Gartner, can be seen unfolding in every sector of the economy as firms and governments adopt increasingly sophisticated technologies to achieve their goals. The development sector is no exception, and like others, we’re learning a lot about what it takes to apply new technologies to our work at scale.

Last week we published a blog about our experience in using Machine Learning (ML) to reduce the cost of survey data collection. This exercise highlighted some challenges that teams working on innovative projects might face in bringing their innovative ideas to useful implementations. In this post, we argue that:

  1. Disruptive technologies can make things look easy. The cost of experimentation, especially in the software domain, is often low. But quickly developed prototypes belie the complexity of creating robust systems that work at scale. There’s a lot more investment needed to get a prototype into production that you’d think.

  2. Organizations should monitor and invest in many proofs of concept because they can relatively inexpensively learn about their potential, quickly kill the ones that aren’t going anywhere, and identify the narrower pool of promising approaches to continue monitoring and investing resources in.

  3. But organizations should also recognize that the skills needed to make a proof of concept are very different to the skills needed to scale an idea to production. Without a structure or environment to support promising initiatives, even the best projects will die. And without an appetite for long-term investment, applications of disruptive technologies in international development will not reach any meaningful level of scale or usefulness.

Last things first — knowing the problem at hand is key for blended finance

Morten Lykke Lauridsen's picture



Solutions to problems

are easy to find:
the problem’s a great
contribution.
 
So wrote the Danish poet, inventor, and mathematician Piet Hein. Development finance wasn’t on his mind when he wrote those words. Neither was private sector development. Yet the observation is unmistakably true for the field: To formulate solutions, we must first understand the nature of the problems we are trying to solve.
 
There is no silver bullet for the complex challenges of development. But blended finance — which involves combining public concessional funds with private capital — is an important part of the solution. It helps crowd in private investment to create markets in difficult places. In an era of limited government resources and donor funds, this is key to achieving sustainable development.

The 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals: an all-new visual guide to data and development

World Bank Data Team's picture
Download PDF (30Mb) / View Online

“The World Bank is one of the world’s largest producers of development data and research. But our responsibility does not stop with making these global public goods available; we need to make them understandable to a general audience.

When both the public and policy makers share an evidence-based view of the world, real advances in social and economic development, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), become possible.” - Shanta Devarajan

We’re pleased to release the 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals. With over 180 maps and charts, the new publication shows the progress societies are making towards the 17 SDGs.

It’s filled with annotated data visualizations, which can be reproducibly built from source code and data. You can view the SDG Atlas online, download the PDF publication (30Mb), and access the data and source code behind the figures.

This Atlas would not be possible without the efforts of statisticians and data scientists working in national and international agencies around the world. It is produced in collaboration with the professionals across the World Bank’s data and research groups, and our sectoral global practices.
 

Trends and analysis for the 17 SDGs

Moving the juggernaut of institutional investment in EMDEs infrastructure

Jinsuk Park's picture


Photo: cegoh | Pixabay 

In my line of work, we have a Holy Grail that many brilliant people have spoken, written, and toiled to achieve: attracting international institutional investors to infrastructure projects in emerging countries.

Yet, according to the recent World Bank Group report, Contribution of Institutional Investors to Private Investment in Infrastructure, 2011–H1 2017, the current level of institutional investor participation in infrastructure investment in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) is only 0.7 percent of total private participation.

This Bank Group report estimates that emerging countries need to invest $836 billion per year, or 6.1 percent of current service level of existing assets. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that more than $100 trillion is held by institutional investors—with around 60 percent of assets held by pension and insurance funds from advanced economies—making the amount mobilized for EMDE infrastructure look even more paltry.

But the siren song still rings clear—these international, long-term, liability-embedded funds could be a game changer for filling the financing gap in EMDEs infrastructure and the World Bank Group’s Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) agenda. 

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 


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