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Information and Communication Technologies

How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

Simeon Ehui's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025.

And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.

Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Technology can help spring workers from the informality trap

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Women stitch handicrafts at Everest Fashion Fair Craft in Lalitpur, Nepal. © Peter Kapuscinski/World Bank
Women stitch handicrafts at Everest Fashion Fair Craft in Lalitpur, Nepal. © Peter Kapuscinski/World Bank

Technology and what it will do to change how we work is the driving obsession of the moment. The truth is that nobody knows for sure what will happen – the only certainty is uncertainty. How then should we plan for the jobs that don’t yet exist?
 
Our starting point is to deal with what we know – and the biggest challenge that the future of work faces – and has faced for decades – is the vast numbers of people who live day to day on casual labor, not knowing from one week to the next if they will have a job and unable to plan ahead, let alone months rather than years, for their children’s prosperity. We call this the informal economy – and as with so much pseudo-technical language which erects barriers, the phrase fails to convey the abject state of purgatory to which it condemns millions of workers and their families around the world.

Automation and innovation: Forces shaping the future of work

Simeon Djankov's picture

IT’S robots that mostly come to mind when you ask people about the future of work. Robots taking our jobs, to be specific. And it’s a reaction that’s two centuries old, in a replay of Lancashire weavers attacking looms and stocking frames at the start of the first Industrial Revolution. A secondary reaction, among a much smaller group, is the creation of new jobs in the coming fourth Industrial Revolution.

Professor Ed Glaeser at Harvard neatly summarizes this dichotomy in one figure:


 

How data can benefit Nepal

Ravi Kumar's picture
School children in Nepal. Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Thirty years ago, almost everyone in Nepal — except for a few professionals and business people — would have been classified as poor by any international standard.

In 2010, by contrast, 15 percent of Nepalis were considered poor.

Without a doubt, Nepal has made progress.

Socio-Emotional Skills Wanted! – New Big Data Evidence from India

Saori Imaizumi's picture


We all hear about the importance of “socio-emotional skills” when looking for a job. Employers are said to be looking for individuals who are hardworking, meet deadlines, are reliable, creative, collaborative … the list goes on depending on the occupation. In recent years, it seems, these skills have become equally important as technical skills. But do employers really care about these soft skills when hiring? If so, what type of personality do they favor?

Five ways Nigeria can realize mobile technology's potential for the unbanked

Leora Klapper's picture

Although it’s Africa's largest economy, Nigeria is missing out on the region’s most exciting financial innovation: mobile money.
 
Twenty-one percent of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa have a mobile money account, nearly double the share from 2014, according to the latest Global Findex report.
 
By contrast, Nigeria lags behind: just 6% of adults have a mobile money account, a number virtually unchanged from 2014.

Data analytics for transport planning: five lessons from the field

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
Photo: Justin De La Ornellas/Flickr
When we think about what transport will look like in the future, one of the key things we know is that it will be filled and underpinned by data.

We constantly hear about the unlimited opportunities coming from the use of data. However, a looming question is yet to be answered: How do we sustainably go from data to planning? The goal of governments should not be to amass the largest amount of data, but rather “to turn data into information, and information into insight.” Those insights will help drive better planning and policy making.

Last year, as part of the Word Bank’s longstanding engagement on urban transport in Argentina, we started working with the Ministry of Transport’s Planning Department to tap the potential of data analytics for transport planning. The goal was to create a set of tools that could be deployed to collect and use data for improved transport planning.

In that context, we lead the development of a tool that derives origin-destination matrices from public transport smartcards, giving us new insight into the mobility patterns of Buenos Aires residents. The project also supported the creation of a smartphone application that collects high-resolution mobility data and can be used for citizen engagement through dynamic mobility surveys. This has helped to update the transport model in Buenos Aires city metropolitan area (AMBA).

Here are some of the lessons we learnt from that experience.

Technology works for getting poor people’s problems fixed – we just have to get it right

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Sarah Farhat/World Bank

One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.

And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.

How data can benefit Nepal

Ravi Kumar's picture

Thirty years ago, almost everyone in Nepal —except for a few professionals and business people—would have been classified as poor by any reasonable international standard.

In 2010, by contrast, 15 percent of Nepalis were considered poor.

Without a doubt, Nepal has made progress.

Now the 761 newly formed—local, provincial, and federal—governments in Nepal aim to provide all Nepalis access to essential public services, eliminate poverty, reduce gender and ethnic inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability

The hope is that Nepal will reach middle-income status by 2030.

But tracking and monitoring progress against the goals articulated in Nepal’s development vision as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) impose significant demands on the country.

Unfortunately, the absence of disaggregated data by geography, sex, age, social groups and sub-national level, and more poses an enormous challenge for all levels of governments to properly plan and budget.

As such, Nepal needs to urgently invest in its data and statistics capacity.

Data is the currency for decision making and helps us understand what works and what doesn’t.

For instance, let’s consider a province in Nepal that is keen to improve learning for its public schools’ students.

Without data on students, their gender, age, academic performance, or the number of schools and teachers, the provincial government cannot elaborate an informed plan for its students.

But were policymakers able to access timely and sufficient data, they could decide whether more teachers or more schools are needed. Without data, decisions are just like shooting in the dark and hoping for the best.   

Need better maps? Take it to the crowd!

Charles Fox's picture
A detailed map of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Open Street Map
Amateur mappers the world over have long known that they can support global development, from the comfort of their homes, through one simple tool: OpenStreetMap (OSM). What has been less clear is how we can build this effort into the fabric of World Bank operations.

OSM has revolutionized geography. It is the ‘Wikipedia’ of mapping: anyone can edit the map by tracing features such as roads and buildings against free, high-quality satellite imagery. In contrast to other map services, the platform is entirely open:  anyone can download a layer of the roads and buildings that make up the map. It is built for the people, by the people, in all regions of the world. It epitomizes the best features of open digital collaboration: leading-edge technology made freely available to all, regardless of location. Because everyone can contribute, OSM maps are often much more complete than commercial alternatives—especially in areas that are hard to survey, such as informal settlements].

The World Bank makes frequent use of OSM for research purposes, and occasionally supports one-off initiatives to complete OSM maps in specific areas, e.g. after natural disasters (Nepal and Haiti are recent examples). But we have put less effort into nurturing the community of altruistic mapping volunteers who make OSM so special, and play a critical role in keeping the map updated over time.

A recent series of initiatives, however, is bucking that trend.
 

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