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Information and Communication Technologies

Can urban innovation ecosystems be developed with little broadband infrastructure?

Victor Mulas's picture
We are witnesses to the surge of tech startup ecosystems in cities around the world, in both developed and developing countries.

In my previous blog post, I showed this trend and the studies that confirm it. Among the questions we are researching to map urban innovation ecosystems is whether there is a minimum set of requirements for these ecosystems to emerge — for example, in relation to infrastructure or the population's technical skills. What we are encountering is that, although you need a minimum level of infrastructure (e.g., at least some broadband connectivity and mobile phone networks), this level is much lower than many people expect. 

A city does not need to have 4G mobile broadband or widespread fiber-optic fixed broadband widespread. It is enough to have broadband connection in some key points (particularly hubs and collaboration spaces) and basic mobile phone coverage and use (such as 2G mobile phone service). A similar conclusion is applicable to the skill level of the population. The results of the study of New York tech ecosystem shows that almost half of the employment created by the ecosystem does not require a bachelor’s degree.

In this blog post, I present the case of Nairobi and the tech start-up ecosystems emerging in Africa. I'll also explore how these ecosystems can not only surge, but also compete internationally despite having limited broadband connectivity (both mobile and fixed). 
Map of Accelerators and Collaboration Spaces in Nairobi. Source: Manske, Julia. 2014. Innovations Out of Africa. The Emergence, Challenges and Potential of the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem.

Can Data Help Us Understand How Citizens Feel About Their States?

Victoria L. Lemieux's picture

ANSA-AW Arne Hoel

Last week, I had the honor of receiving one of the World Bank's FY15 Big Data Innovation Challenge awards for a proposal developed with a team of researchers from within and outside of the Bank. To give you a snapshot of the project, let me recount a familiar story which you may not have thought about for a while.  On December 17th, 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi took a can of gasoline and set himself on fire in front of the local governor's office.  Bouazizi’s actions resulted from having his fruit cart confiscated by local police and his frustration at not obtaining an audience with the local governor; his death sparked what we now know as the "Arab Spring." With no other means of voicing discontent and lack of trust, citizens can embrace extreme forms of protest against institutions and governments that quickly escalate. 

How did New York City create one of the world's largest and most vibrant urban tech innovation ecosystems?

Victor Mulas's picture
Photo credit: Roman Kruglov / Flickr
As part of our research of urban innovation ecosystems, our team has been working in New York City to identify successful policies to develop sustainable tech innovation ecosystems in cities. 

New York can seem a very far-away example to many cities  — after all, it is one on the largest cities of the world, has a high per-capita GDP and is very well-connected internationally, making it easier to attract talent. However, when New York began developing a tech startup ecosystem, it faced similar problems to any other city: there was not enough critical mass or community to form the ecosystem, talent was not adequate and, believe it or not, there was no financing (seed capital) for investment in tech entrepreneurs. The policies the city subsequently applied, which focused on creating bottom-up organic communities to sustain and grow the ecosystem, have succeeded. 

Today, New York hosts one of the largest and most vibrant tech startup ecosystems in the world. In this blog post, we summarize the case of New York and the lessons we have been finding, which is part of a paper I am working on. In our research for urban innovation ecosystems, we are doing a deeper analysis of the policies applied in different cities, and we will continue providing findings.

1-to-1 Educational Computing -- A report from Korea

Michael Trucano's picture
no, we are talking about  1-to-1 (educational computing), not (five) won to Juan (Mata)
no, we are talking about
'1-to-1' (educational computing),
not (five) 'won to Juan' (Mata)

Not too long ago I did some advisory work in a country considering the purchases of lots of educational tablets. Previously this country had funded lots of computer labs in schools, but they had experienced great difficulties in integrating these facilities into 'normal' teaching and learning activities. Buying devices as part of a '1-to-1 educational computing' initiative, it was felt, would get around many of the difficulties they had experienced with desktop computers in dedicated school computer labs. (I had my doubts about this.)

When observing a class, I noticed that all of the students had the same backpacks. "What's up with that?", I asked.

"Oh, it is very interesting," came the reply. "Those backpacks are purchased by the state for use by low income students. You can see from the fact that all of these backpacks are in the room that the children here are from very low socio-economic levels in society."

I then asked how many of the students had a phone in their backpack. All of them but one (who said he forgot his at home, someone else told me later it had been stolen) said that they did, and most students pulled them out to show me.

After asking a few follow-up questions about what they did with them (Facebook! and texting! were the two most common answers) and once class had resumed, I turned to my counterparts in government and observed that I also "found this all very interesting. You are going to buy lots of small computing devices for these students to use by spending public funds, in part because they are not using the devices that you purchased for them before. Despite the fact they are all poor enough to qualify to receive free government backpacks, all of their families have somehow found the money to buy them mobile phones, which they obviously all use quite heavily. Have you thought about taking advantage of this personal computing infrastructure that is already installed in the pockets and pocketbooks (or backpacks) of the students, and orienting some your investments for different purposes, like upgrading connectivity and/or spending more funds on content and/or training?"

This phenomenon, known as 'bring your own device' (BYOD) or 'bring your own technology (BYOT) in educational technology circles, was just one of many topics discussed and debated at the most recent Global Symposium on ICT Use in Education, which took place in the provincial Korean city of Gyeongju.

Questions to ask (and not to ask) when your president tells you to buy 100k (or a million) tablets for students

Michael Trucano's picture
a different type of tablet, for a different type of education
a different type of tablet,
for a different type of education
I once did some advisory work for a country's finance ministry in advance of a national presidential election where the two leading candidates were both promising to buy lots of laptops for students if elected. The Minister of Finance wanted to be prepared to respond to what he considered to be a likely related request for lots (!) of money, whichever way the election turned out.

This was a bit strange for me, as I more typically help out ministries of education (or ministries of ICT) as they prepare projects for which they would be requesting funding (from the finance ministry and/or parliament). Instead of serving as a resource for the folks who prepare such funding proposals, my role in this case was instead to prep the folks who would get this funding request so that they would be better able to analyze and vet the request, whenever it inevitably arrived. (Within the World Bank, this is one of the roles I serve -- I had just never done this for a ministry of finance directly.)

While my governmental counterpart in this case was perhaps a bit out of the ordinary, this general scenario is one I see repeated in place after place. The devices themselves may change over time (first PCs, then laptops, now increasingly tablets, and soon [insert name of whatever comes next]), but this impulse to buy lots of shiny new devices and distribute them to schools (or directly to students or teachers or families) shows no sign of abating soon.
Let's say that you're a senior advisor in the ministry of education and you get word that your country's president is about to announce a big new project to 'buy every student her own tablet computing device so that she can develop the 21st century skills necessary to compete for jobs in the global economy'. Perhaps the leader of your country just returned from visiting a European country and was impressed to see all of the devices in the school that she visited. Maybe she was won over by the compelling marketing pitch of a particular vendor. Perhaps she has heard that the leader of the opposition is planning on calling for this sort of initiative and she wants to preemptively make it her own. Or maybe she just got her first iPad and was really impressed and has decided that everyone should have one of these things! (For what it's worth, these are all real life examples ... although I have deliberately mixed up the gender pronouns in at least one case.)

No matter the genesis of this newfound interest, you sense that, whatever you were working on last week/month/year will have to be put on hold, because your life is about to become



What should you do? What do you need to know? Has anyone else tried such a thing, and if so, what have they learned? Whom do you need to contact for information/advice, and what sorts of questions should you ask them -- and ask yourself?

Media (R)evolutions: The Cloud and the Connectivity Revolution

Roxanne Bauer's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

For many people, "the cloud" is a nebulous term, but it simply refers to software and services that operate on the Internet instead of directly on a computer. Dropbox, Netflix, Flickr, Google Drive, and Microsoft Office 365 (a/k/a Outlook) are all cloud services-- they do not need to be installed on a computer.

According to a report by Gartner, one third of digital data will be in the cloud by 2016. Cloud computing is an attractive option for many entrepreneurs, businesses, and governments in developing countries that seek to service large populations but which require an alternative to heavy ICT infrastructure. Moreover, as mobile apps and PC software are increasingly tied to the cloud, its adoption is likely to increase.  

Categorizing the collaboration and community promotion spaces that make urban innovation ecosystems tick

Victor Mulas's picture
A variety of collaboration spaces are spreading across urban innovation ecosystems. This makes sense intuitively, because collaboration spaces create and — in some cases — manage and sustain the communities that make the ecosystem exist and grow. 
Collaboration space in Barcelona, Spain.
​Photo: Victor Mulas

I believe that collaboration spaces are, in fact, one of the key elements to create and grow urban innovation ecosystems in cities. Our current research in mapping urban innovation is starting to provide results that seem to validate this hypothesis. We are seeing that collaboration spaces that create and manage communities are critical nodes of city urban innovation ecosystems. 

We will share more results about this analysis in future blogs but given the relevance of these spaces, I summarized what I believe are the most relevant categories of collaboration spaces. This list, which I prepared for a paper I am working on, is not prescriptive and it is not closed by any means. To the contrary, it just presents a starting point and I welcome comments to expand and refine these categories.

How Open Data can fight poverty and boost prosperity in Kyrgyzstan

Roza Vasileva's picture
All around the world, governments are recognizing the value and potential of Open Data. This is clear from the G8’s adoption of an Open Data Charter in June 2013 (with the G20 likely to follow suit), the growing number of countries adopting Open Data initiatives, and the 64 countries that have committed to Open Government Partnership action plans (most of which focus on Open Data). Kyrgyzstan has taken the first steps down this path.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Photo: flickr/pjgardner

The Kyrgyz Government has been implementing the Open Government Policy and has already undertaken several measures, such as creating official web portals for state bodies including Open Budget, Electronic Procurement, Foreign Aid and many others. Through these websites, citizens can find information about public services and activities offered by government ministries and other state agencies.
In 2013, based on a comprehensive analysis of Kyrgyz public information resources and in consideration of plans for leveraging ICT for good governance and sustainable development, the government designed an e-Government program and corresponding Action Plan for 2014-2017 with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This program was approved by the Kyrgyz government on November 10, 2014.
In addition, this year the UNDP provided support to set up an online network for the Prime Minister’s online community liaison offices. This network has 63 connection points nationwide and supplements the Kyrgyz government’s official website by strengthening relations between the government and civil society by informing citizens about ongoing reforms, as well as and challenges that have been resolved for the country’s communities and citizens. This is one of the existing examples of Kyrgyz government utilizing its openness for greater citizen engagement.

Makers and education, part one: how are disruptive technologies affecting the way we educate?

Saori Imaizumi's picture
Girls learning how to design and make a toy with a laser cutter, which increases
interest in STEM career options. Photo: Saori Imaizumi/World Bank Group

Affordable, accessible technologies can democratize opportunities for EVERYONE to become innovators and inventors. Countries can take advantage of this opportunity to create new jobs, new industry and skilled workers to achieve further economic growth and increase competitiveness. Also, preparing citizens with problem solving skills and entrepreneurial mindsets helps solve various social problems in the country in an innovative manner.
In a 2013 report entitled “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” the McKinsey Global Institute identified 12 potentially economically disruptive technologies, including mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and advanced materials.
Team-based learning through
technologies. Photo: Saori
​Imaizumi/World Bank Group

​I touched upon how these disruptive technologies and low-cost technologies affect the pedagogy of skills development and education, as well as their implications for international development in my previous blogs (New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills and What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?) and a feature story (Communities of "Makers" Tackle Local Problems).
Elaborating on these posts, I will explore the topic on “how can kids, youth and adults prepare in response to rapid technological changes” from the pedagogy and institutional model perspectives. My analysis is derived from the lively discussion that I recently attended on “Exploring 3D Printing for Development,” organized by IREX and my work at the World Bank.

Who is Responsible for Building Trust in Institutions?

Sandra Moscoso's picture


I joined Facebook in 2007. For years, I would boast that I got all my news from Facebook and the Daily Show, an American satirical television program, which delivers fake news reports. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but perhaps it was inevitable. I certainly didn't feel connected to news sources, or government press services, so Facebook and fake news somehow felt more authentic and trustworthy than the traditional means of accessing information.