The use of big data to help understand the global economy continues to build momentum. Last week our sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, launched their own program in big data, with a slate of interesting speakers including Hal Varian (Google Chief Economist), Susan Athey (Professor at Stanford GSB and a former Microsoft Chief Economist) and DJ Patil (Chief Data Scientist of the United States).
The day's speakers grappled with the implications of big data for the Fund's bread-and-butter macroeconomic analysis--a topic of great interest to the World Bank Group too. Examples were presented in which big data is used to generate macroeconomic series that have traditionally been the preserve of national statistical offices (NSOs): for example, MIT's Billion Prices Project, which measures price inflation in a radically different way from traditional CPI statistics.
A few months ago, I had a chance to visit the Panama Canal, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. It is truly a mega-structure that is the largest infrastructure project of its time.
When I saw it, what struck me the most was - “How could this be possible”? One hundred years ago, Panama was a country that was just formed and capital markets were not very well-developed. And technology was obviously not as advanced as it is today.
Fast forward 100 years, in the world today, Asia has a huge demand for infrastructure. In Singapore, we know of Hyflux, which has one of the largest desalination plants in Singapore. Sembcorp Utilities has a power plant project in Bangladesh recently and PSA has a port in Guangxi China. These are just some examples of Singapore companies who have gone into infrastructure development. Yet, not enough projects have been implemented, especially in Asia.
In August 2015, I traveled with colleagues to An Giang Province in southern Vietnam to visit beneficiaries of an innovative project that is helping 200 Cham ethnic minority women learn embroidery. Selling their embroidery, they earn incomes for themselves. We were inspired by the positive change that the small amount of money invested in this project is bringing to the lives of these women and their families.
This project, with funding from the 2013 Vietnam Women’s Innovation Day, supported by the Vietnam Women’s Union, the World Bank, and other partners - private and public - has helped improved economic opportunities for Cham women. All through the old traditional art of embroidery.
“This training and job creation project has helped a group of women get a stable monthly income of more than two million Dong (about $100), without leaving their homes. This means they can still take care of their children and look after their homes,” Kim Chi, a local female entrepreneur and leader of the project, told us. “Women participating in the project not only learn embroidery skills, which preserve Cham traditions, but also provide opportunities to share experiences in raising children and living a healthy life style, and support each other when needed.”
While we were all excited about the successes under the project, a bit more reflection reminded me that unless cultural norms which require Cham women to mainly work from home, are addressed, it will be hard for projects like this, no matter how well designed, to have a lasting impact in helping Cham women realize their full economic and social potential.
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.
A new study was recently carried out by the Water Global Practice’s Water and Sanitation Program on how to unlock the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to improve Water and Sanitation Services in Africa. The study suggests that promoting public participation and creating a system of transparency and accountability is critical to improve water and sanitation services to the poor  – as identified in earlier studies on the characteristics of well-performing public water utilities. The experiences and lessons learned from the study indicate the following six key ways on how to support the design and implementation of ICT tools to strengthen consumer voice and citizen engagement in the water and sanitation sector.
“Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it,” renowned Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said to an overflowing room at the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Washington, DC this summer. “Set up a social business.”
“The poor are like Bonsai trees,” the founder of Grameen Bank explained, “When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch-deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on."
The United Nations (UN) has developed a set of action-oriented goals to achieve global sustainable development by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by an Open Working Group of 30 member states over a two-year process. They are designed to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.
To help meet the goals, UN member states can draw on Open Data from governments — that is, data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose. This kind of data is essential both to help achieve the SDGs and to measure progress in meeting them.
Achieving the SDGs
Open Data can help achieve the SDGs by providing critical information on natural resources, government operations, public services, and population demographics. These insights can inform national priorities and help determine the most effective paths for action on national issues. Open Data is a key resource for:
- Fostering economic growth and job creation. Open Data can help launch new businesses, optimizing existing companies’ operations, and improve the climate for foreign investment. It can also make the job market more efficient and serve as a resource in training for critical technological job skills.
- sustainable development goal
- sustainable development goals
- open data
- Open Data initiative
- Open Data Ecosystem
- Open Data for Business
- Open Data for Development
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Migration and Remittances
- Labor and Social Protection
- Global Economy
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Information and Communication Technologies