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Public Sector and Governance

Emergency response in the Whatsapp era!

Deepak Malik's picture
Cyclone Hudhud.  Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 cyclone with wind speeds exceeding 220 km/hour bore down on to the city of Vishakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India. The city, with a population of over 1.8 million people and neighboring districts suffered massive devastation. The World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk Management team jointly undertook a post-disaster damage and needs assessment with a team from the Asian Development Bank and with the Government of Andhra Pradesh with the support of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

 
Whatsapp Messages
Whatsapp to help restore connectivity. 
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials.  The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
 
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp.  For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.

No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.

Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.

Citizen engagement quiz!

Alice Lloyd's picture


Government works best when citizens are directly engaged in policymaking & public service delivery.  This month we’ve been highlighting the importance of government responsiveness for fostering an active citizenry. 
 
Think you know about citizen engagement?  Take our quiz based on some of our most recent blogs and find out!  And let us know how you did by sharing your score on twitter @wbg_gov!
 
Want to know more? Enroll for free in World Bank course on Citizen Engagement which starts on February 1 to learn how you could help improve public services.
 

Effective city competitiveness: 10 lessons learned in the Philippines

Hans Shrader's picture



Maybe it's just easier to think that the keys to economic growth lie at the national level of governance – where monetary and fiscal policies, national law and development strategies are conceived and debated. Certainly national policy is important, but it is rarely where entrepreneurs have their first experience interacting with law and policy.

The city is where people’s ideas create business, where people work and where the bustle of the economy comes alive. The city is where an entrepreneur will first interact with systems that are ostensibly created to attract and support business investment and growth.

Cities can and do engage in reforms to help improve their economic competitiveness. Often this includes the identification of a business sector deemed competitive and some strategy on how to do it better. Improved competitiveness also can include investment in more efficient transportation systems, better access to utilities and services, improved tax policies, better zoning, infrastructure investment and investment in skilled labor. While working on these complex policy and investment opportunities is rational, it often takes time to do the analysis necessary to identify the best opportunities – and it takes much longer to actually see the rewards. 

Fortunately, there is a reform that cities can do almost immeduiately, and at low cost, to help support business development and improve the business environment: business entry simplification. 

The Philippine Experience & Lessons Learned

In decentralized economies like the Philippines, cities play an important role in business registration. In fact, almost of one-third of the country’s business registration steps fall under the responsibility of city-level leadership.

In working with Philippine cities to reform dated, cumbersome, and confusing business registration requirements, a World Bank Group team was able to help its clients reduce registration steps from an average of 41 to just three. Cities also saw an average spike in new business registration of around 20 percent in the first year after the implementation of reform.

Accelerating economic growth and job creation in Bangladesh

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Instructor and Students at the Bangladesh Korea Technical Training Center, Chittagong
Instructor and Students at the Bangladesh Korea Technical Training Center, Chittagong.
Credit: Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan

Bangladesh has a major opportunity to address one of its most pressing development challenges: creating 20 million new jobs over the next decade.  And the trade agenda will be a centerpiece of any strategy that seeks to address this challenge.
 
Join me for a Facebook Q/A chat on January 28 to discuss this and other findings from the recently released report Toward New Sources of Competitiveness in Bangladesh co-authored with Mariem Mezghenni Malouche.
 
Below are some 4 highlights from the report, which we will be discussing. I look forward to your questions and a vibrant discussion!
 

  1. Bangladesh will need to expand its linkages with neighboring countries such as China and India as well as other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.  Not only are these very large markets, they are also potential sources of greater foreign direct investment.  What are the critical steps that will allow this to happen?  How can the recently signed Motor Vehicles Agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal help?  What are the barriers to Bangladesh’s venturing into new markets?

  2. Bangladesh will need to gradually diversify its export base into new product areas while also strengthening its position as the second-largest garment producer in the world (after China).  Our report explores the critical challenges that could allow this to happen.  In your view, what challenges lie ahead if Bangladesh tries to diversify its exports?  Can you name some prospective industries (for diversification)? What will be the role of foreign direct investment in this diversification?  What kind of reforms are needed to attract more domestic as well as foreign direct investment?

  3.  

How am I doing? A new daily scorecard will soon let Boston’s mayor know

Alice Lloyd's picture
City of Boston skyline. Photo credit: Mattias Rosenkranz


2016.  A new year and a new emphasis on data-driven performance for local government.  Cities are accelerating at a fast pace to put data to use. Not just to understand what’s happening on the street level, also to improve service delivery systems.
 
Until recently, Boston’s Department of public works kept track of jobs on paper. And there was no efficient system to track what jobs were done and what needed to be done.
 
But that has changed.

With MetroLab, urban agglomerations from developed and developing countries tackle challenges together

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
MetroLab provides a platform for cities from all over the world to share knowledge about urban management and development. The initiative started about 3 years ago, based on two simple premises: in spite of income differences, urban agglomerations from developed and developing countries face many similar challenges and have a lot to learn from each other; second, since urban growth typically spreads beyond one single municipality, cities need to "think outside their boundaries" and address challenges at the metropolitan level.
 
Lead Urban Specialist Victor Vergara tells us all there is to know about the program and what's next for MetroLab.

Estonia’s digital dividends

Toomas Hendrik Ilves's picture

Digital technology dominates our everyday lives, and with each passing day, even more so. How can the global community benefit from the new digital era?
 
The World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 (WDR 2016) provides a useful framework and guidance for harnessing the potential of the internet for development. “To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on regulations, skills and institutions—by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by ensuring that institutions are accountable,” says the Report. This may sound familiar, but it is not. Let me explain. 

When the emperor reaches out to the citizen, that’s new

Julia Oliver's picture



If you want a passport in Pakistan, you wait in line – possibly for hours. You might get to the passport office at the crack of dawn to avoid the queue. The process might be unclear, and there might be people – “agents” – waiting outside the office, offering to help: “For a few hundred rupees, I can fast-track your application.”
 
The government of Pakistan is trying to fix these problems, including the requests for bribes, rude treatment, and inefficient processing. Their approach is simple and creative and made possible because there are an estimated 123 million mobile phone users in the South Asian nation – about 64 percent of the population, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
 
Beginning this fall, staff at each of the passport office’s 95 locations began collecting the cell phone numbers of all passport applicants. Shortly after each visit, the central headquarters sends the applicant a text message: “Did you face any problem or did someone ask you for money?”

What does “Good Governance” really mean in higher education?

Jessica Lee's picture
Photo: WorldSkills (under Creative Commons)


Visiting a technical institution (one that is focused on science and engineering) in India can be a mixed experience. I have been to campuses that have state-of-the-art lab equipment with dedicated staff, and I have also been to others that barely have enough textbooks in their libraries and lab equipment from the 1960s.

Regardless of the type of institution, one thing is certain – even if the buildings are brand new and WiFi abundant, without good governance practices technical institutions in India would be less able to provide good higher education services to students.

To provide some more practical advice on how to embody good governance in the higher education sector, I visited seven institutions in two different states (Maharashtra and Karnataka) to explore best practices, which are summarized below:  


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