The concept of a global information society is one of the most discussed and misunderstood “Big Ideas” of our time. While we’ve made gigantic strides toward connecting the world through information and communication technologies (ICTs), we have not attained that goal.
Over the last decade, ICTs have contributed to globalization, shaped economies, transformed society and changed our history. Companies that didn’t exist in 2003 – including Facebook and Twitter – are now essential components of media strategies and contribute to job creation. Broadband drives economic development across the world, and there are more than seven billion mobile cellular subscriptions.
Despite this meteoric change, we’re not quite there yet. While billions of people are already connected to these systems and opportunities, we need much more collaboration to bring about an information society for everyone.
The United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in recognition of the contributions this group of countries has made to the world, and to raise awareness of the development challenges they confront – including those related to climate change and the need to create high-quality jobs for their citizens.
The Third International Conference on SIDS in September in Apia, Samoa will be the highlight event. The World Bank Group is helping shape the debate on both climate and jobs with a delegation led by Rachel Kyte, the Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, and with senior-level participation in the conference’s Private Sector Forum.
Is the global jobs agenda relevant to small islands states?
Tackling the challenges related to the jobs agenda in large and middle-income countries could be seen as the most significant issue for the Bank Group’s new Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, of which I’m a member. Yet the Minister of Finance of Seychelles recently challenged my thinking on this.
The sentiment among SIDS leaders was that one-size-fits-all solutions will not do when it comes to jobs and growth. Yes, they do want to continue to address the tough fiscal challenges they face, but they want to tackle them while creating job opportunities for their citizens.
Decades of reforms have not helped SIDS grow at a rate similar to the rest of the world: On average, their pace of job creation is about half the global rate. The lack of opportunities felt by many generations resulted in a heavy “brain drain” that exceeds the level seen in other developing countries.
It is becoming very clear that business as usual in SIDS will not do. Creative solutions need to be found now.
Nick Manning’s two recent blogs (here and here) raise an important issue. On the one hand, people interested in development have big ambitions. We want not just more, but dramatically more people to be educated, healthy and prosperous, to name only three good things. If we are lucky enough to have some influence over governments and development agencies, we might be tempted to work from the top down to get what we want, turning those ambitions into public policies and programs, and rolling them out by the yard like so much cheap office carpet.
But on the other hand, the same human values that make us want those things make many of us sympathize with the bottom-up tradition that takes individual humans or small communities as its starting point. We know how a state planning juggernaut led to the terrible famines in the Soviet Union in the 30s and China in the late 50s. We know the horrors that followed Year Zero in Cambodia. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and James Scott’s Seeing Like A State are touchstone texts. Likewise, some of us have an instinctive preference for ‘searchers’ over ‘planners’, ‘positive deviance’ and ‘problem-driven iterative adaptation’.
Nations cannot be competitive, innovate and generate tomorrow’s jobs without technology and digitally literate citizens. Similarly, organizations like the World Bank cannot achieve their objectives without fully utilizing the power and potential of technology. Here at the World Bank, we’re striving to reduce the extreme poverty rate to no more than three percent and boost income growth of the world's poorest 40 percent by 2030. These goals cannot be achieved without fully embracing the transformative powers of technology and innovation.
Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population (approximately 174.5 million) and the continent’s biggest economy (more than $500 billion in annual GDP). It is also the center for a wide range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities, from policy to practice – many of which are supported by the World Bank.
Since the establishment of the Ministry of Communication Technology in 2011, the Nigerian government has made notable progress in advancing its ICT agenda. The government has catalyzed significant efforts in the area of policy and regulation, with an ICT Policy developed in 2012, a National Broadband Development Plan developed in 2013 and an e-Government Strategy now in the works.
Stretching for more than 1,800 kilometers across Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania, the Senegal River is the third longest river in Africa. In a region such as the Sahel, which is plagued by drought, poverty, and underdevelopment, access to a water resource such as the Senegal River is critical to local populations who rely on it for energy production, land irrigation, and potable water.
Smartphone apps are bringing massive changes to the taxi industry in ways that urban transport has not seen in a long while. From the US to China and
Latin America (Bogota, Mexico), taxi alternative services have attained an impressive level of penetration in a short amount of time, often with great
controversy. Indeed, many cities across the world are struggling with what to make of these services and how to regulate them.
While we have not been significantly involved with such services thus far, a recently appointed mobility secretary in a big Latin American city has
asked us for support on developing an approach to the shared taxi industry, as part of a "Smart Mobility" strategy for the city. In that context, we
wanted to start a conversation on optimal strategies for cities to be able to welcome and foster such innovations, while still capitalizing on the
opportunity to create value for its citizens.
When I told friends and colleagues that my new job would be based in Cairo, almost everyone mentioned the awful congestion in the city, and how I would be wasting a tremendous amount of time being stuck in traffic. And how right they were: When it comes to traffic, Cairo is one of the most congested cities in the world. Of course, the city’s residents already know congestion is one of the city’s biggest problems. What they probably don’t know is exactly how much it’s costing them.
Civil society organizations in Yemen are among the most vibrant and dynamic in the Middle East and North Africa region. International experience has shown that they have a vital role to play in meeting the complex development challenges facing the country. One of the first steps is building a working partnership with the government. This selection of civil society voices outlines their approach to building that partnerships and meeting the challenges ahead.
President of the organization Fardos to empower women, Sameera Nasr Abdullah, addresses the value of having a space in which to build channels of communication with the government.
Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are becoming more of a priority for policymakers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Seen as the driving force of many MENA economies, they help stimulate economic growth and encourage innovation and competition. They also play a huge role in creating more jobs in countries where these are urgently needed.