According to the World Bank Development Report on Digital Dividends (2016), the rapid spread of digital technologies around the world is boosting economic growth and expands opportunities in many instances; but the benefits of technological changes are not evenly distributed to workers globally. For high-skilled workers, technology in most cases complements their skills, increases their productivity, and often leads to higher wages. Whereas for middle and low-skilled workers, benefits depend on the degree to which technology either complements or substitutes workers in job functions.
Information and Communication Technologies
Financial technology, “fintech,” has been reshaping the financial services industry with the level and speed of innovation that’s simply fascinating.
A month ago, my colleagues and I attended the 5th Annual Lendit USA conference to check out about the latest innovations and thinking in this field and see how we can apply it to our work.
There is growing interest in trying to figure out this new industry and take advantage of the opportunity. Now billed as the largest Fintech industry meeting in the world, Lendit organizers started this event four years ago with about 200 participants. This year’s event attracted more than 5,000 people.
We work on various areas of financial inclusion and are interested in new ways that can help expand access to financial services to hard-to-reach populations and small businesses in developing countries.
We returned with a new appreciation for the magnitude of change that is coming, and how quickly it could occur – and already is in some instances. Some innovations will help developing countries leapfrog into this new tech era. This could have a significant – and potentially highly positive - impact on financial inclusion, and fundamentally change the nature of financial infrastructure.
However, these opportunities come with potential risks, such as those related to (un)fair lending practices related to unmonitored use and analysis of big data or increased systemic vulnerabilities due to threats to cybersecurity.
What an experience! It started bright and early on a Thursday morning as we boarded the car in the basement of the Word Bank office in Tbilisi and set off for a two-day visit to the Imereti region in the west of Georgia.
The first stop along our route was the Gelati Monastic Complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which is an impressive conservation and restoration project supported through the World Bank’s Second Regional Development Project (RDP), the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation and the State Municipal Development Fund of Georgia. Our contribution is to help build infrastructure around the monastic complex that will facilitate tourist access to this historical site, and by consequence help further develop the local economy.
April 7th is an Armenian national holiday celebrating motherhood and beauty. And it may not surprise you that, since it comes one short month after International Women’s Day, we tend to combine the two events into a 30-day celebration of opportunity.
We get a lot of oversees movies here in Armenia – conveniently located at geographic and cultural crossroads – so l discovered a charming film called Hidden Figures which has captured a lot of interest in this very scientifically-minded country. It is an inspiring story with a lesson that translates easily here – that if all Armenian students and workers are empowered with skills, opportunity, and family and community support, they too could reach for the stars!
Methods that use satellite data and machine learning present a good peek into how Big Data and new analytical methods will change how we measure poverty. I am not a poverty specialist, so I am wondering if these data and techniques can help in how we estimate job growth.
I was back in Baku recently, after a 9 year gap, and guess what I recognized first? Yes, those famous pounding winds – immortalized in the city’s ancient Persian name of Bādkube – or “city of winds”. But as I went about rediscovering this thriving city along the Caspian Sea, I soon realized that I would also be witness to “winds of change”.
Indeed, so much had changed here since my last visit. Most visibly, the urban skyline is now speckled with construction cranes, reflecting a city busy growing upward – its physical outline seeming to transform before my eyes. But infrastructure is just one aspect of Baku’s modern story. Beyond the hectic expansion of concrete and metal, I was also able to observe exciting changes in technology and innovation that are helping to transform an integral part of this city’s life – its judicial services!
In common with many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, Morocco and Tunisia have a huge untapped source of human talent.
Access to information and communication channels empowers women. In 13 countries, women access the internet at a higher rate than men. But this figure represents only one fifth of countries with data - in most the world, women are less likely to be internet users regardless of a country's region or income group.
And if you plot all the countries with available data, we see that in the majority of cases, internet use is lower among women than men.
In the blink of an eye, virtual reality can take you from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan to a first responder’s mission in Nepal, from practicing surgery in Nigeria to tracking storms from earth observation satellites across South America. Virtual reality adds a new dimension to the learning experience: presence, the feeling of actually being in another place.
Learning from this new generation technology is becoming available at your fingertips for a minimal cost. Although virtual reality is still in its infancy, its cutting-edge approach and storytelling is already impacting development education, where it can draw us closer to the many development challenges we face.
What Exactly is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality refers to technology that generates realistic images, sounds, and other sensory inputs that replicate an environment. A headset completely immerses the individual in the environment being generated. Immersion is a word you will hear quite a bit related to virtual reality: immersive learning, immersive simulations, or immersive applications. The most famous virtul reality tool now is probably Oculus Rift.
Israel has one of the most admired innovation systems in the world. With the highest Research & Development (R&D) spending and venture capital investment as a percentage of GDP, the country has positioned itself as a global leader in research and innovation, earning the title of “start-up nation.”
Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy and Industry and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Agency, was at the World Bank Group last week to share some of the “secret sauce” behind Israel’s success in the innovation and entrepreneurship space.
Hasson highlighted the key role played by public-private partnerships over the last 40 years. Those partnerships have resulted in the establishment of an innovation infrastructure — including educational and technical institutions, incubators and business accelerators —anchored within a dynamic national innovation ecosystem built around shared social goals.
Specifically, to reduce the risk for investors, the government has focused on funding technologies at various stages of innovation — from emerging entrepreneurs and start-ups to medium and large companies. Strengthened by that approach, the Israeli ecosystem is maturing: according to Hasson, mergers and acquisitions have increased and exit profits have almost tripled over the last three years, with more and more new projects being started by returning entrepreneurs.