Information and Communication Technologies
Let's leave aside, for the moment, the fundamental question of whether or not a country should be investing its scarce resources in, for example, a new program to roll out laptops or tablets to all of its students or teachers. Let's say, for better or for worse, that this decision has already been made (and hopefully that it was a good decision!).
And: Let's leave for another discussion a topic regularly explored on the World Bank's EduTech blog: What might it mean for these devices to be used 'effectively'? Instead, what if we ask:
Past posts on the World Bank's EduTech blog have attempted to document and analyze many of these 'little details'. Here's one that we haven't explored before:
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, of course. As with so many things in life, context is king. Tolstoy famously wrote that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In my experience, the exact opposite is often true when it comes to education systems attempting to introduce new technologies into schools for the first time: All (eventually) unhappy education systems are (too often) alike; every happy education system is happy in its own way.
Here's a quick example of one education system that quickly became 'unhappy' with the initial results of its high profile effort to provide laptops to teachers. I'll call this country 'Laptopia', the generic name I use in training exercises when referring to real-life examples where little would be named by identifying the country specifically. (For what it's worth: When I shared the story below with two colleagues, both of them were sure they knew to which country I was referring. Both named different countries, and both were wrong.)
It must be great to have access to so much information and data about so many things.
Yes, that's certainly a perk of the job, I responded, although it can be overwhelming at times.
What's more interesting, and exciting, at least to me (and, truth be told, overwhelming as well), is the access to so many fascinating questions.
(For what it's worth: Most of the information and data with which we are traditionally associated are actually 'open' these days, freely accessible to anyone with a web browser as a result of our access to information policy).
Here's a (lightly anonymized, slightly disguised) sample of questions that arrived in my in-box just today:
- For the first time in a few decades, our country is about to build lots of new schools: Should we be designing them any differently in order to accommodate the use of new technologies?
- What are some compelling examples of how 'edtech' has been 'scaled up' to promote greater equity and inclusiveness that are relevant to our country?
- We want to put all our textbooks online -- how should we do this?
- We need to hire an expert in governance issues in education systems who can help us better understand the opportunities and challenges that new technologies will pose for us in the future: Can you suggest some related terms of reference, and a shortlist of candidates who speak our language and are familiar with operating contexts in our country and region?
- What specs should we include in our big new tender for tablets?
(By the time I've completed this blog post, I expect a few more will have been sent to me as well.)
Whether these should be the types of things we get questions about -- that's another matter. There are no bad questions ... but of course some questions are better than others. Before we attempt to respond to a specific information request, we first pause and consider if we are being asked the 'right question'.
In steering people to the 'right question', or at least to a better question (or, as we like to phrase it when we respond, 'That's a great question! And here's another question that you may also wish to consider ...'), we have concluded that it usually helps to be able to address the one that they have already posed.
To help with this, we are trying to better organize what we know, based on our own work and more generally, to better address the things that we -- and the 100+ governments with which we actively work around the world -- don't know.
As part of this process, we have developed a master list of master list of 50+ key topics related to the use of new technologies in education of potential operational relevance to the World Bank in its strategic advice, lending activities and research going forward. It is not meant to be comprehensive in its consideration of topics related to the use of technology in education, and does not represent a 'framework for how to think about edtech'. Instead, it seeks to document and organize related requests for information and advice into distinct categories. It is not based on what the World Bank has done and supported in the past, but rather on questions we receive related to what governments are looking to do in the future. Reasonable people can and will no doubt disagree about whether we are being asked the 'right' questions or not. (We have strong opinions on this ourselves!)
The level of partnership online among these groups has been unprecedented as the world collectively tries to address global challenges.
The same kind of cooperation that is driving impact on the ground is also driving awareness and advocacy more broadly as the world rises to these challenges. Below are just a few examples of how collaboration online has strengthened and amplified the global effort to end poverty in 2018 across three key themes.
At a press conference in Kigali, I took a question: is the country’s Vision 2050 is achievable?
We had just launched a new study, The Future Drivers of Growth Report, that was jointly produced by the World Bank and the Government of Rwanda. The question was well-asked, since the study explores Rwanda’s goal to become an Upper-Middle Income country by 2035, and a High-Income Country by 2050.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data can offer untapped opportunities for Thailand. Particularly, it has enormous potential to contribute to Thailand 4.0, a new value-based economic model driven by innovation, technology and creativity that is expected to unlock the country from several economic challenges resulting from past economic development models (agriculture – Thailand 1.0, light industry – Thailand 2.0, and heavy industry – Thailand 3.0), the “middle income trap” and “inequality trap”. One core aspect of Thailand 4.0 puts emphasis on developing new S-curve industries, which includes investing in digital, robotics, and the regional medical hub.
An estimated one billion people around the world – half of which are in Africa – lack official identification to prove who they are. And many millions more have forms of identification that cannot be reliably verified or authenticated. More than 450 million of these are children who have not had their birth registered. Women and the poor in low-income countries are less likely to have official identification.
It’s a cold spring day in Baku, and several students from Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (ASOIU) are huddled around a laptop trying to project an image onto their classroom wall.
Once the image is projected, one of the students “writes” on the surface of the classroom wall – as he would on the computer screen – using customized software called CamTouch, which allows the user to turn any surface into an interactive “smartboard”. The student also selects an icon and virtually opens a document with the help of a special stylus.
Along with other leaders from the World Bank Group, I am traveling back from a trip to Silicon Valley where we explored the links between technology and government, or GovTech, and their impact on developing countries and curbing corruption.
The authentic travel experience should be a boon for Africa, but its missing the mark.
Since 2016, tourism market trends have shifted away from “get-a-way” travel to traveling for ‘authentic’ experiences. This transformation is driven by the world’s largest consumer group—millennials—and amplified by digital platforms and social media but is also echoed across other segments.
African countries, with their abundant wealth of natural and cultural assets, are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this shift, just as the rise of digital platforms are reducing market access barriers for such products. However, in our new World Bank Group report, we found that
- Standards: Africa’s market share lags other regions, and many products are not of sufficient standard.
- Exclusion and the digital divide: Marginalized groups, often best placed to deliver the product, are at risk of further exclusion.
- Community Impact: Bringing tourism into communities also brings other risks which need to be managed.