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Can Technology be transformational? Opening up Development through Technology

Soren Gigler's picture

Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and Crowdsourcing—2011 has certainly been the year in which the use of social media and technology has captured the world’s attention.
From Tahrir Square in Egypt to the Anna Hazare movement in India, citizens have demonstrated that they want voice and accountability. Innovations in social media, mobile phones and inter-active mapping are powerful tools to mobilize citizens and to provide people with a voice—thus broadening the political debate.

However, key questions remain unanswered: What role can these innovative tools play to encourage governments, donors and foundations to become more transparent, open and accountable? Can the use of social media and cell phones empower people and marginalized communities, and close the feedback loop, allowing citizens to directly report back on project results and participate in decision-making processes about the use of public funds? These are a few issues that emerge when analyzing the potential transformative power of technology on development.

Heckman and the case for soft skills

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

In analyzing returns to schooling and in evaluating educational policies, ‘soft skills’ – personality traits like conscientiousness, openness and diligence -- often get under-valued or neglected. This is in part because so much value is placed on standardized test scores in education systems. It’s also because soft skills that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains are considered too hard to quantify.

From open data to public data

Prasanna Lal Das's picture

Is open data just a glorified form of publishing or can its benefits go beyond transparency and reusability? How do you take open data beyond the realms of traditional publishers and data sources and spur people affected by the data to participate and contribute new ideas/data about development (and in effect become open data/development partners)?

The question has been central to World Bank Finances where we recognize the power of transparency but also believe that open data products must reach beyond their traditional audience and stimulate non-traditional uses of open data. Putting this sentiment into action has however been a challenge, and it may be too early for us to claim that we have definitive answers.

Apps For Climate Competition Kicks Off

Tim Herzog's picture

New content aims to bring app developers and programmers together with the World Bank's open climate data.

On December 2nd, 2011 the World Bank Group announced the launch of a new “Apps for Climate” competition, to discover extraordinary ways to use open climate data. The competition encourages scientists, software developers, development practitioners and others to create applications that use open data to help solve the development problems that climate change poses. It aims to promote innovative use of open climate data – for example, through apps that help understand and manage weather-related disasters, to agriculture, food and water supplies, rising sea levels and other climate related development challenges.

Michael Spence and the Next Convergence

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Nobel-winning economist Michael Spence spoke at the World Bank yesterday about how economic convergence between developing and developed countries has been a 100 year-old process, the first half of which is now over, with the global economy now facing significant strains, stresses and challenges. Find out from my interview with him why he thinks globalization and growing interdependence has outrun our governance institutions and learn about what he sees as the most important challenges ahead. The full lecture is also well worth a view.

More on coping with information overload with an iPad

Adam Wagstaff's picture

In July I wrote a post on this blog about coping with information overload using an iPad. Rather to my surprise, a few people actually read it. Four months on I thought I'd share with you some new apps and new uses of old apps. It turns out that four months is a long time in the iPad world right now.

World Bank apps, and apps for World Bankers

Three sets of iPad apps allow you to track what the World Bank is up to. InfoFinder gives you a nice way to search among 120,000 or so documents in the Bank's documents and reports database. DataFinder gets you into the Bank's data vaults and allows you to produce some very pretty charts. There are specialized versions of DataFinder on Africa, Climate Change, and Education.  Finally, WB Finances shows you what the Bank is doing in its operational work. You can search for projects via a Google map or via a country listing. This beautifully designed app tells you what each project is about, how much is being lent, and how much has been disbursed. These apps reflect not just the Bank's new openness but also its tech savviness.

Viewpoint on a rising dragon

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

As a counterpoint to grim forecasts coming out of Europe, I am hopeful that we can anticipate an Asian century where China will grow dynamically for another 20 years. Yet there are caveats to this optimistic scenario: Success in China will require a process of continual transformation and the wherewithal to tackle what I describe as a triple imbalance at the national level. I expound on this and other points in a BBC viewpoint piece published on November 23.

Is the West Being Taken Over by the Rest?

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture

Renowned British economic historian Niall Ferguson in his new and dazzling history of Western ideas, Civilization: The West and the Rest, argues as his central thesis that the West developed six killer “apps”—referring to the popular software applications for smartphones and tablets—that caused the West to dominate the global stage for the last 500 years. These key institutions and complexes of ideas, such as “competition,” “property rights,” “the Work Ethic,” were what led the West to preside (relatively unchallenged) over global politics, economics, and culture, despite the fact that the civilizations of the Orient were much more advanced than Western Europe in the 1400s, which was plagued by disease and war. Over time, however, the West has become, as Ferguson puts it, a “template” for the Rest (i.e. non-Western countries), which have been copying (or downloading) the apps and are now on the verge of overtaking the West in terms of economic strength and size, led  by China.

A Thanksgiving guide to the top World Bank blogposts of 2011

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Here’s some reading material for Thanksgiving in the event you get some time to yourself. The list below of the Bank’s most-read 100 blog posts in 2011 contains some real gems.

Before you start reading, you might be curious how the Bank’s 26 English-language blogs compare to one another in terms of the number of blog posts they have in the top-50, top-100, and top-200. In Table 1 below, I’ve been a bit strict: I haven’t counted announcements of reports, events, etc. as a post. Several blogs come out at the top – and bottom – irrespective of where you draw the cutoff; some, however, are more sensitive to the cutoff point.
I’d be curious how many of the top-100 you get through before you get hauled back to the living room for another game of charades.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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