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Today: Ask questions to health expert about H1N1 virus

James I Davison's picture

Officials at the World Health Organization have said that a second wave of the Influenza A/H1N1 virus could get worse, and large numbers of people in all countries, including the East Asia and Pacific region, remain susceptible to the pandemic. The World Bank is working with the United Nations and WHO to help strengthen developing countries’ health systems and increase pandemic readiness.

Starting in about 15 minutes, World Bank health expert Keith Hansen will be answering questions about H1N1 and health systems in developing countries in an online discussion. Hansen will be online today at 10:30 a.m. (Washington DC time). Submit your questions now.

Regional Finance Roundup: Is East Asia leading the world out of the crisis?

James Seward's picture

Given that Asia is now widely seen as leading the world out of the crisis, it is fitting that the role of Asia was more prominently recognized in the global economic system in the recent G20 meeting held in Pittsburgh.  Since we last looked in July, the outlook for the emerging markets of East Asia has continued to brighten.  The latest regional forecasts come from the Asian Development Bank in its Asian Development Outlook (pdf) published last week.  It points to “the rapid turnaround in [Asia’s] largest, less export-dependent economies” and predicts that “the regional economy is now poised to achieve a V-shaped rebound.”  These are very positive words indeed!  As the graph below shows, the ADB has in fact upgraded its growth forecasts for a number of economies for 2009.

Although the signs are pointing upwards, performance is still mixed in a number of key areas.

'Facebook for farmers' brings microloans to people in rural China

James I Davison's picture

The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.

Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.

Remittances to East Asian countries now expected to fall 6 to 8.8 percent in 2009

James I Davison's picture

A few weeks ago, the World Bank’s migration and remittances team released its latest forecast of global remittance flows, indicating that even fewer migrants from developing East Asian and Pacific countries may be sending home money this year than they predicted in an earlier report. Remittances flowing to countries in the region are now forecast to fall by 5.7-8.8 percent in 2009, according to the report (pdf). Revised 2008 data show China, the Philippines and Vietnam are in the top 10 recipients of remittances among developing countries.

Interestingly, despite indicating falling remittance flows to the East Asia and Pacific region, the outlook states that South and East Asian countries have been relatively strong. There is, of course, a risk of a further slowing down. For example, remittance money flowing to the Philippines appears to still be growing this year. But such positive flows went from 14 percent year-on-year growth in 2007-08 to just 3 percent growth so far in 2009, according to the report.

The report’s authors write that there may be key risks that further threatening global remittance flows to developing countries – including a longer-than-projected financial crisis threatening jobs and income for immigrants in developed countries. However, they write, recovery may come by next year: “We expect that remittance flows to developing countries could decline by 7-10 percent in 2009, with a possible recovery in 2010 and 2011.”

What’s the significance of remittances? One notable example came from blogger Eric Le Borgne last April. Eric pointed out that remittances are a key factor to the economic health of the Philippines, as well as the country’s resilience so far during the global financial crisis.

Showing vs. Telling: map shows half the world represented by 5 percent GDP

James I Davison's picture

It always seems to be the case that by simply writing or saying something, you can hardly get the same point across as by presenting it in a visual way. For example, it’s one thing to say, “three billion people (a little less than half the world’s population) comprise the bottom 5 percent of global GDP contributors.” But as the Strange Maps blog points out, it’s a little more eye-opening to show a map with those countries completely missing.

I’m not sure this map accomplishes much more than to illustrate a single interesting point – unlike the SHOW World animated maps we wrote about earlier this year or the popular WorldMapper Collection, both of which put several data sets in a visual format.

The map does, however, highlight the interesting fact that most of the countries represented are either in Southeast Asia or Africa. Check it out here.

Internet usage in China jumps to 338 million people, latest data show

James I Davison's picture

Internet usage in China continues to grow, and the latest figures released by the Chinese government’s Web research organization show that the total number of online users, at 338 million, surpasses the population of the United States. The impressive statistics – which reflect a 13.4 percent jump from 2008 – had a number of blogs and news sites buzzing late last week. The full report is available in Chinese here (pdf), and WSJ’s China Journal blog has a nice roundup of the findings in English here.

The growth in China – and the rest of East Asia and the world for that matter – is nothing new. Last year, we shared 2008 comScore statistics showing Asia’s internet audience growing faster than all other regions worldwide. And according to more recent information from comScore, the Asia-Pacific region has the highest global share of internet users, at 41 percent (although it’s important to note that the penetration rate of the region is only around 17 percent of the population – well below most other regions – according to this web stats site).

We’ve seen that increased connectivity through mobile phones and the internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance, as well as other activities like mobile banking. And as more people, particularly in developing countries, get connected, this growth trend clearly seems to be a positive one.

Image credit: TimYang.net at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Philippines offers insight into future of mobile banking and the poor

James I Davison's picture

It’s now evident that people in developing countries have access to the internet and mobile phones like never before, which (as I recently wrote about) may lead to increased economic growth, job creation and good governance. A huge piece of this broad puzzle is mobile banking, and utilizing mobile phones to bring financial services to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to banks ("unbanked").

A new study, released last month by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and GSMA, estimates that there are more than one billion people worldwide who are unbanked, yet have access to mobile phones. And by 2012, that number is expected to grow to 1.7 billion people.

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