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Information and Communication Technologies

Beyond Proof of Concept: do we have the right structure to take disruptive technologies to production?

Michael M. Lokshin's picture
Figure 1: Azure Cognitive Services Algorithm compliments authors’
youthful appearances

“Every company is a technology company”. This idea, popularized by Gartner, can be seen unfolding in every sector of the economy as firms and governments adopt increasingly sophisticated technologies to achieve their goals. The development sector is no exception, and like others, we’re learning a lot about what it takes to apply new technologies to our work at scale.

Last week we published a blog about our experience in using Machine Learning (ML) to reduce the cost of survey data collection. This exercise highlighted some challenges that teams working on innovative projects might face in bringing their innovative ideas to useful implementations. In this post, we argue that:

  1. Disruptive technologies can make things look easy. The cost of experimentation, especially in the software domain, is often low. But quickly developed prototypes belie the complexity of creating robust systems that work at scale. There’s a lot more investment needed to get a prototype into production that you’d think.

  2. Organizations should monitor and invest in many proofs of concept because they can relatively inexpensively learn about their potential, quickly kill the ones that aren’t going anywhere, and identify the narrower pool of promising approaches to continue monitoring and investing resources in.

  3. But organizations should also recognize that the skills needed to make a proof of concept are very different to the skills needed to scale an idea to production. Without a structure or environment to support promising initiatives, even the best projects will die. And without an appetite for long-term investment, applications of disruptive technologies in international development will not reach any meaningful level of scale or usefulness.

More women need to shape Pakistan’s digital future

Uzma Quresh's picture
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP
Annie Gul from Codematics tells the audience of what is required to have more women digital entrepreneurs in KP

“I have always enjoyed studying computer and human physiology since childhood, that’s why I jumped at the opportunity of developing a scientific application with KPITB’s support. This app has even helped my younger brother understand different body organs and their functions in a fun way. The KPITB’s ‘early age programming’ program has supported many girls from public schools, who would otherwise have never received this chance of realizing their dream of developing apps.”

Such compelling words came from Hafsa, a 13-year-old female student of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) public school as she addressed about one thousand young men and women at this year’s Digital Youth Summit (DYS) in Peshawar.

Girls like Hafsa are becoming the face of DYS, an annual event that brings the spotlight on young talent and their digital innovations.

I heard similar passionate accounts during my two-day interaction with KP youth as they shared candidly how they had transformed challenges into opportunities through hard work and perseverance.

DYS has brought together the next generation of digital entrepreneurs since 2014 to educate and inspire youth in a conflict-affected region where 50 percent of people are age 30 or under.

Such forums also provide a space for youth to voice their aspirations and claim for greater and more meaningful socio-economic inclusion.   

And while Hafsa’s impassionate story of progress resonated with everyone in the room, it stood as a stark reminder that Pakistan still has a long way to go to achieve an equal digital future for both men and women.

Indeed, statistics about women’s employment in KP and FATA are alarming as only 14% of women in KP and 8.6% of women in FATA work for pay.

Fittingly, DYS discussed different gender issues and offered solutions to boost female digital entrepreneurship.

The 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals: an all-new visual guide to data and development

World Bank Data Team's picture
Download PDF (30Mb) / View Online

“The World Bank is one of the world’s largest producers of development data and research. But our responsibility does not stop with making these global public goods available; we need to make them understandable to a general audience.

When both the public and policy makers share an evidence-based view of the world, real advances in social and economic development, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), become possible.” - Shanta Devarajan

We’re pleased to release the 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals. With over 180 maps and charts, the new publication shows the progress societies are making towards the 17 SDGs.

It’s filled with annotated data visualizations, which can be reproducibly built from source code and data. You can view the SDG Atlas online, download the PDF publication (30Mb), and access the data and source code behind the figures.

This Atlas would not be possible without the efforts of statisticians and data scientists working in national and international agencies around the world. It is produced in collaboration with the professionals across the World Bank’s data and research groups, and our sectoral global practices.
 

Trends and analysis for the 17 SDGs

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

Infrastructure sharing in energy and digital development: takeaways from cross-sectoral cooperation

Natalija Gelvanovska-Garcia's picture


Photo: gui jun peng/Shutterstock.com

In many parts of the world, the sharing economy is ever-present for individuals, allowing them to use personal assets—for example, houses and cars—to their fullest potential. If you plan to be away for a period of time, why not rent your space for a few extra bucks?
 
Such a phenomenon exists in infrastructure economics, where the level of asset utilization matters for end-cost. As more consumers use the same infrastructure more frequently, the unit cost for all consumers goes down. Recent projects combining expertise from the World Bank’s digital development and energy teams demonstrate this.

Technology holds great promise for transport, but…

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo: Automobile Italia/Flickr
Not a day goes by without a new story on how technology is redefining what is possible for transport. A futuristic world of self-driving, automated cars seems closer than ever.  While the ongoing wave of innovation certainly opens up a range of exciting new possibilities, I see three enduring challenges that we need to address if we want to make sure technology can indeed help the transport sector move in the right direction:      

The focus is still on car-centric development

The race towards incredibly sophisticated and fully automated cars is well underway: companies like Google, Uber, Delphi Automotive, Bosche, Tesla, Nissan Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have already begun testing self-driving cars in real conditions.  Even those who express concern about the safety and reliability of autonomous vehicles still agree that this innovative technology is the way of the future.

But where is the true disruption? Whether you’re looking at driverless cars, electric vehicles, or car-sharing, all these breakthroughs tend to reinforce a car-centric ecosystem that came out of the industrial revolution over a hundred years ago.

Paving the Way for a Thriving Digital Economy in Indonesia

Petra Wiyakti Bodrogini's picture



Across the digital economy in Indonesia, both IT giants and smaller companies have the same complain: digital talents are hard to find. Obert Hoseanto, an Engagement Manager from Microsoft Indonesia, said the company recently contracted only five people for an internship program, out of a pool of hundreds of applicants.

But those applying for jobs are also struggling, with many realizing the difficulties of meeting the needs of their employers. Natali Ardianto is learning the ropes at tiket.com, a thriving start-up, “by doing”, he said. “Only 30% of the curriculum of my education was useful for the company I joined,” he explained.

A recent workshop held by the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs and supported by the World Bank strived to develop a better understanding of this skills gap, by bringing in insights from the private sector, education experts, and global practitioners.

Leveraging technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank


Billions of people are connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge -- foreshadowing stunning possibilities.  This potential is multiplied by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data processing, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, blockchain, etc.
 
This so called 4th industrial revolution can help accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Science, Technology and Innovation, together with Financing for Development, were identified by the UN as one of the two main “means of implementation” to achieve the SDGs by 2030 as it cuts across all SDGs as highlighted by International Telecommunication Union’s Fast Forward Progress Report – Leveraging Tech to Achieve the SDGs.

Understanding Risk Forum 2018: How data and technology can save (hundreds of) billions of dollars from natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
[[avp asset="/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/jun-20/understanding_risk_forum_hd.flv"]]/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/jun-20/understanding_risk_forum_hd.flv[[/avp]]
Natural disasters made 2017 a very expensive year.
 
At $330 billion, last year’s global losses from disasters set a record. These economic losses were primarily a result of meteorological events, such as floods and hurricanes, which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. An increasing number of people are also exposed to tectonic risks, such as earthquakes and landslides, due to rapid urbanization.
 
But growing disaster losses aren’t inevitable. Policy changes, education, and good disaster risk management practices have been proven to reduce losses – and the foundation of all of them is accurate, reliable information about disaster risks.
 
Risk data informs resilience investments. It drives decision-making. And it’s the focus of the open, global community of disaster risk management experts and practitioners called Understanding Risk (UR), which is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
 
This year, the community will convene at the Understanding Risk Forum 2018 May 14–18 in Mexico City. The Forum will highlight best practices, facilitate nontraditional partnerships, and showcase the latest technical knowledge in disaster risk identification.



It’s a critical time for a discussion of disaster risk information. A new GFDRR report, Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future, concludes that if past disasters were to repeat in the same places today, the losses would be far greater. Aftershocks, which will be discussed at UR2018, explores what we can learn from historic disasters to anticipate similar future events and build resilience ahead of time.
 
The good news is that the past few years have seen a surge of new ways to get more accurate, more detailed information more quickly, more easily, and in more difficult contexts. We can now use social media to gather increasingly valuable information in the immediate aftermath of an event. Drones are increasingly capturing high-quality images, and machine learning for image recognition is already helping us produce more and better risk data all the time.
 
These emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be one of the major themes of this year’s UR Forum. To find out more about the UR Forum, and how you can get involved, watch the video blog and visit understandrisk.org.
 
And don’t forget to keep up with all the great ideas coming out of #UR2018 by following along on Twitter: @UnderstandRisk, @GFDRR, and @WBG_Cities.


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