I recently spoke at the World e-Parliament 2009 Conference held in Washington at the US House of Representatives. The conference attracted representatives from all Parliaments and was attended by more than 300 Members of Parliament, Clerks or Secretary -Generals of Parliaments, their deputies and other people working on e-Parliaments. With a global centre in Rome partially funded by the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, the group tries to coordinate and develop ICT systems for Parliaments. They strongly believe that ICT can be a tool for greater transparency and accountability of Parliaments and a larger platform for public consultation and interaction with citizens. They are looking at ways to harness new technologies for this purpose.
This is your space to share your views and experiences about using information and communication technologies, or ICT, for development. Let me start by telling you who we are and why we started this blog. The World Bank Group is the largest international donor in the field of ICT for development, and the Bank Group's engagement in ICT is managed by the Global ICT department. This is a joint department of the World Bank and IFC, so we work with governments and the private sector in developing countries to help them put in place ICT infrastructure and applications.
Perhaps taking a page from Hans Rosling's extremely popular presentation of development data at the 2006 TED Talks, the World Bank now has its own publicly accessible tool for data visualisation. This first version of the tool contains 49 indicators for 209 countries taken from the World Development Indicators.
The World Bank released a report this week on the current state of the educational system in India and concluded that while investments and performance have improved at the primary and higher education levels, there remains a rather considerable gap in access, distribution, and achievement at the secondary level.
As India continuously develops and entrenches itself as a major player in the global knowledge economy, the majority of growth have been in the skilled services and manufacturing sectors. This requires that the 12 million young people who join the labor force every year have the necessary skills to access these more lucrative jobs and compete successfully in the global economy, especially as the IT sector has become an essential driver of the economy.
“Evidence from around the world suggests secondary education is critical to breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty -— it enables youth to break out of the poverty trap.” Lead Education Specialist Sam Carlson said.
However, India's gross enrolment rate (GER) at the secondary level of 52% is lower than the GERs of countries like Sri Lanka (83%) and China (91%). However, I was quite surprised that the rate was also lower than countries with lesser GDP per capita such as Vietnam (72%) and Bangladesh (57%).
Last week saw an all-day event at the World Bank on Mobile Innovations for Social and Economic Transformation. The sessions covered the use of mobile phones in everything from governance to education.
In a previous post I discussed how the current global financial crisis seems to have forced policy makers in India to take another look at existing labor laws in the country. The Economic Survey (2008-09) of India released by the Ministry of Finance in early July this year clearly noted the imperative need to facilitate the growth of labor intensive industries, "especially by reviewing labor laws and labor market regulations."
Few would contest that the internet revolution has saved us a lot of time keeping in touch with others and conducting searches. For firms, time saved is labor saved and this is particularly attractive in countries that have stricter labor laws. What I’m suggesting here is that stricter labor laws may encourage firms to adopt modern labor-saving technologies such as the internet and computers. In theory this could magnify the adverse effect of stricter labor laws on employment and wages documented in the literature. So what does the data tell us?
Internet usage has been increasing at a rapid rate over the last decade or so. For example, according to World Development Indicators (WDI, World Bank), internet subscribers equaled 13% of the total population in low and middle income countries in 2007. This is up from a mere 1.5% in 2000, implying on average an increase of over 109% per annum in the proportion of internet subscribers.
On this blog we've seen several posts on the merits of new media in governance - I'm specifically referring to posts from my colleague Fumiko Nagano, from Silvio Waisboard, and from Kristina Klinkforth. All three authors are very careful, or outright dismissive, when it comes to the abilities of new information technology, specifically social networking sites, to aid the empowerment of citizens and to support democracy. Based on research, common sense (and my own addiction to Facebook) I want to challenge my colleagues by saying: On the web, it's all about efficacy and voice.
The Economist has an interesting prediction for east Africa: "In a couple of years even fairly poor east Africans may be getting knowledge, news and entertainment on robust versions of existing Apple iPhone and Palm Pre models." This prediction comes just after Kenya's president connected the first of three planned fiber-optic submarine cables.
Greater financial autonomy for Indian universities? I can almost hear an audible gasp. Nevertheless, that's what Santosh Mehrotra, a senior adviser of India's Planning Commission, has recommended in a recent article in International Higher Education:
A new World Bank working paper looks at the relationship between the financial sector and inequality. Don't care for redistributive social policies? Then financial sector reform is the way to go (or so say the authors):
One of the oft-cited causes of the financial crisis are the huge macroeconomic imbalances that developed between the United States and a number of emerging markets, particularly China. Neil Gregory, a senior adviser at the World Bank and author of New Industries from New Places, offers China and India some advice on coping with the crisis that should also help deal with these imbalances. From
How do you get a local community to imagine a whole new future for itself, put forth a series of concrete proposals to make it happen (from health services to the environment) and identify how social media can turn ideas into reality on a shoestring budget – all in 90 minutes? The answer is a Social by Social game, as David Wilcox explains in a terrific post, supported by a real life example and related support and facilitation materials.
Is it time to think of an equivalent game for the development sector?