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Two views on the Data Revolution

Tim Herzog's picture
More than 450 representatives from the government, academia, the private sector, and international organizations were in attendance.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Africa Open Data Conference in Dar es Salaam. Over 450 participants from 39 countries (including 24 African countries) attended the conference, whose sponsors included the Government of Tanzania, Code for Africa, the Open Data for Development Network, USAID, Twaweza, the World Bank and many other sponsors and partners. There is a summary of conference activity posted on Storify if you’re interested in checking it out.
The most significant takeaway for me was the combination of high-level engagement and participation of African governments alongside a community of talented and highly engaged local citizens. The opening keynote speech was delivered by the President of Tanzania himself, Dr Jakaya Kikwete, whose presence was announced by the presidential brass band. After his opening speech, the President spent nearly an hour meeting and talking with several of the local groups who were present in the exhibit area. Other African governments were well represented in the ensuing sessions.

Get smarter: A world of development data in your pocket!

Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep's picture
Many dinner conversations and friendly debates proceed in a data vacuum: “The problem is big… very big!” How big exactly? Most likely your friend has no idea. 

It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
Open data for sustainable development

Heading to #UNGA? Read how to make the #SDGs a success

Mariana Dahan's picture

As you are on your way to UN General Assembly for the official launch of the SDGs, read this: approximately 2.4 billion people in the world today lack official identification (ID), including children up to the age of 14 whose birth has never been registered and many women in poor rural areas of Africa and Asia.

Being able to prove one’s identity is more than a convenience; it is based on fundamental human rights and extending it to the disenfranchised is also instrumental in achieving many of the other SDGs. SDG 16.9 aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030,” and represents the first time that documenting identity has been officially stated as a global goal. The international community should join forces to achieve this goal, as attaining it will also be a key enabler of many other SDGs.

Can we shift waste to value through 3D printing in Tanzania?

Cecilia Paradi-Guilford's picture
A waste collection site in Dar es Salaam, 
Tanzania. Photo: Cecilia Paradi-Guilford
Plastic waste, in particular PET, which is typically found in soda bottles, is becoming abundant in African cities. In Dar es Salaam, one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa, BORDA found that about 400 tons of plastic waste per day remains uncollected or unrecycled.  Although about 98 percent of the solid waste generated per day can be recycled or composted, 90 percent is disposed in dumpsites.
At the same time, the recycling industry has started to grow because of new initiatives, community organizations and private companies. There are a few organizations that repurpose waste into arts and crafts, tools or apply it as a source of energy – such as WasteDar. However, the majority collect or purchase plastic waste from collectors, primarily with a view to export, rather than recycle or reuse locally.
Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanized world. Waste pickers can earn as little as US$1-2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement. They make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in deep poverty.

Through a new market for sorted waste materials, these communities may access higher income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner. This presents an opportunity to explore turning this waste into value more close to home.

Partnerships and opportunities for digital jobs

Saori Imaizumi's picture

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What are ‘digital jobs’? If you have access to a computer, Internet and online or mobile payment, can you get a job? The answer is yes, but having basic literacy and computer skills are essential. Knowledge of English is also a big plus.  
Earlier this year, the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation organized a “Digital Jobs Africa Forum” to discuss the potential of digital jobs in creating employment in Africa.
Digital Jobs Africa is a seven-year, US$100 million dollar initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation that seeks to impact the lives of one million people in six African countries (South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Egypt) by catalyzing ICT-enabled employment and skills training for high-potential African youth who would not otherwise have access to sustainable employment. Launched in 2013, the initiative works in close partnership with stakeholders from the private sector, government, civil society, and the development community.
In partnership with the Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, the World Bank has undertaken a number of activities to increase and enhance opportunities for digital job creation in Africa, including development of an information technology (IT) park in Ghana, capacity building for digitization of public records, and online work/microwork awareness building and training in Nigeria. Recently, the global online outsourcing study was also released to analyze the holistic picture of rapidly growing online outsourcing market (please visit for more information).
These successful collaborations have resulted in a renewed commitment to a strengthened partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank on the digital jobs agenda to develop skills for youth, as well as to create digital jobs across sectors including agriculture, e-commerce, education, and transport through co-financing catalytic and innovative activities.

​New discussion paper: How Open Data can drive sustainable development

Joel Gurin's picture
Open Data  data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose is becoming increasingly important in today’s development agenda driven by the Data Revolution, which has been recognized worldwide as the key engine for achieving the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

​Data is probably one of the most valuable and least-utilized assets of modern governments. In that context, Open Data is being widely recognized as a resource with high economic and social value and as an effective approach for smarter data management. 

The primary purpose of Open Data initiatives worldwide is to help governments, businesses and civil society organizations utilize the already available digital data more effectively to drive sustainable development. Many Open Data initiatives involve taking data that is already publicly available and putting it into more usable formats, making it a powerful resource for private sector development, jobs creation, economic growth, and more effective governance and citizen engagement. 

In recent years, several studies — including those led by the World Bank have shown a growing number of Open Data applications around the world, from water management social enterprises in India to agro-businesses in Ghana. The Open Data Impact Map, developed as part of the OD4D (Open Data for Development) network, has more than 1,000 examples of such use cases from over 75 countries, and the list is growing.

Open Data for Business Tool: learning from initial pilots

Laura Manley's picture
Citizens in Nigeria participate in a
readiness assessment exercise to identify
high-priority datasets
Around the world, governments, entrepreneurs and established businesses are seeing the economic growth potential of using Open Data – data from government and other sources that can be downloaded, used and reused without charge.
As a public resource, Open Data can help launch new private-sector ventures and help existing businesses create new products and services and optimize their operations. Government data – a leading source of Open Data – can help support companies in healthcare, agriculture, energy, education, and many other industries.  

​In addition, government agencies can be most helpful to the private sector if they understand the unique needs of the businesses that currently or could potentially use their data.
The World Bank has used the Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) in more than 20 countries to provide an overall evaluation of a country’s Open Data ecosystem. With that information and insight, government agencies can identify strengths and opportunities for making their Open Data more useful and effective. The ODRA covers essential components of any national Open Data program, including:

What Open Data can do for Africa’s growing population

Luda Bujoreanu's picture

Back in June I rushed to take a front seat at one of the World Bank conference rooms to hear Dr. Hans Rosling speak. We had met years ago in Moldova, and just like last time, his talk was sharp, funny and full of “aha” moments. 

He unveiled what the future holds: the global population will almost double by 2100, with Africa — a continent where I have worked for the last five years — leading in explosive population growth between 2015 and 2050.

Today, African governments struggle to deliver basic services to their people  including and particularly to the very poor and marginalized  across sectors, most notably health, sanitation, and education. Food security is likewise a crucial issue for the region, as are so many others: environmental sustainability, disaster risk management, economic development and others.  

​Quenching the Thirst for Innovation: Are subsidies just a drop in the sea?

Mariana Dahan's picture
As the world is rapidly moving towards recasting development financing to meet the pressing needs of the post-2015 development agenda, the question of subsidies’ efficiency comes to light (again).

Should subsidies still be supported by countries, with donor funding, to help maintaining and streamlining service delivery in critical sectors, such as agriculture, energy and telecommunications? Debates have been ongoing for more than a decade.
But a recently published research work points out that well-targeted subsidies in the early stages of mobile technologies diffusion can play a determinant role in their massive adoption, helping to overcome initial confidence barriers, leveraging economies of scale, and, in the longer-term, triggering macroeconomic positive feedback mechanisms.

Evidence shows that information and communications technologies (ICT)  especially mobile telecommunications services  can lead to sustained economic growth and human development. Mobile telecommunications, without any doubt, have triggered many positive changes and impact in the developing world. They are by far the leading area of growth in the ICT sector. Because of this central role, mobile technologies are increasingly used as a transformational tool to foster economic growth, accelerate knowledge transfer, develop local capacities, raise productivity, and alleviate poverty in a variety of sectors.

​Are we heading towards a jobless future?

Randeep Sudan's picture
From the wheel to the steam engine, from the car to ‘New Horizons’ — an inter-planetary space probe capable of transmitting high-resolution images of Pluto and its moons — from the abacus to exascale super-computers, we have come a long way in our tryst with technology. Innovations are driving rapid changes in technology today and we are living in a world of perpetual technological change.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1965, Gordon Moore — co-founder of Intel Corporation — hypothesized that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every 18 to 24 months. This came to be known as Moore’s Law, the ramifications of which are hard to ignore in almost any aspect of our everyday lives. Information has become more accessible to people at lower costs. Today’s work force is globalized and there are few domains that are still untouched by technology.
Yet the very ubiquitous and rapidly evolving nature of information and communication technologies (ICTs) gives rise to fears of displacing more workers and potentially widening the economic gap between the rich and poor. Technological evolution and artificial intelligence are fast redefining the conventional structure of our society.