Information and Communication Technologies
- ending poverty
- South Asia
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- Information and Communication Technologies
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After visiting a government office, residents in Punjab may be surprised to find a familiar voice on the phone – their Chief Minister. “You have recently registered property,” the voice of Shahbaz Sharif booms, “Did you face any difficulties? Did you have to pay a bribe?” (Hear the robo-call here!)
It is an uncomfortable question – but one that tackles a stubborn social issue in Pakistan. In a country of 180 million, a culture of bribery and pretty corruption plagues public service delivery.
When visiting a land services official, a staggering 75 percent of households reported paying a bribe, according to Transparency International. Over half of households said they bribed the public utilities or a police officer in the last year. Endemic corruption is not just a drag on economic activity and poverty reduction efforts – it erodes trust between citizens and the state.
I was standing behind the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar of Bihar, and I was amazed as he seemed to be. This young man from a village in Bihar had actually made a functioning hearing aid using electronic waste. He even designed his own Styrofoam cutter to quicken the production process. And the cost of the hearing aid is only 75 rupees ($1.20)! The cutter costs a few dollars only.
Nitish Kumar was making a tour of the Innovation Expo at the Bihar Innovation Forum (BIF). For me, Rishikesh was clearly the most amazing talent, but there were good innovations in many, many areas. Recycling groundwater for irrigation, thus slowing the depletion of scarce groundwater resources; using rice husks to generate electricity in the village; an Internet platform that allows small investors to contribute to grassroots loans; a platform to harness traditional culture to create jobs; I could go on.
The BIF is organized by Jeevika, Bihar’s flagship livelihoods program, which has empowered over a million women already and connected them to banks. I am proud to say that the World Bank is a long term supporter of both Jeevika and BIF.
Many people associate innovation in India with big cities like Bangalore and Chennai. Bihar decided seven years ago to see what innovation can come from its villages. This year they looked again, not only within Bihar but across India and found innovative rural solutions from 16 states. And it does not stop at a forum. The Chief Minister announced the same day that Jeevika will create an Innovation Center to support the grassroots innovators with handholding and technical assistance and to make sure that what works gets scaled up in many villages. This could transform the rural landscape!
In Bangladesh, youth with disability often have difficulty transitioning to work, as they lack the necessary skills to perform competitively in the job market and also face discrimination from employers on the basis of their disability. When the World Bank and Microsoft announced the regional grant competition “Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment”, we decided to submit a proposal to address this from the Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) in Bangladesh.
Our proposed project titled “Empowering Youth with Disabilities through Market Driven ICT Skills” sought ideas from youth on how to use innovative and creative methods to promote ICT skills amongst youth with disabilities to help them secure gainful employment.
There are thunderstorms. There is a strike. And there is the hackathon to end gender-based violence in Kathmandu, Nepal—all happening on the same day.
On a rainy Sunday, some participants woke up at 5 a.m. to walk more than 8 miles to get to Trade Tower Business Center, Thapathali—the site of the hackathon.
It’s inspiring and energizing.
"Phones today are more powerful than computers I used as a kid, apps become increasingly awe-inspiring and problems are solved everyday using technology."
Technology excites me so much I get goosebumps just thinking about how cool it is, and how much cooler it will be with every passing year.
When we started the first daily deals company in Sri Lanka, we took the risk of starting a large scale online business in Sri Lanka and it wasn't without its problems. Many questions came up; isn't the internet penetration too low? Isn't credit card penetration too low? Wouldn't people be afraid of buying things online?
Join Thrishantha and other experts on the World Bank Sri Lanka Facebook page on April 2nd at at 4PM Colombo Time for a live chat on innovation!
One day, I was driving in a remote town in Sri Lanka, when I saw this encouraging scene. A few school kids were playing cricket on a rainy day, and they had made a wicket out of three umbrellas. It might look simple, but a very powerful message about innovation is hidden right there. An innovator in my view is somebody who practices to ask two simple questions: 1) is there a better way to do this, or simply, is there a way to do this? 2) why did it happen that way? The second question is driven by the curiosity to learn the rules of nature, while the first question is driven by a very healthy attitude to get things done by exploiting the rules of nature. The kids who used the three umbrellas for a wicket simply asked if they could find something in their environment to serve the purpose of a wicket. Quite subconsciously, these kids, by embedding in nature, by walking barefooted on mud, grass, and sand, have mirrored natural laws of nature in their brains, that provided them with the basis to change the utility of an umbrella to a stump of a wicket. Therefore, in my view, best innovators are those who are active outside the classroom as well as in the classroom and laboratories.
Join an online discussion with Ismail on Tuesday, April 2nd at 8-11AM on the World Bank's South Asia Facebook page to ask questions and learn more about his experiences.
The Dalai Lama once said - that if you ever feel you are too small to make a difference then try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. And the same goes for business. Every big business starts as a small business. General Electric was at one time the world's biggest company and it started with a simple but revolutionary idea - the invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1878 and the vision of just one person Thomas Edison.
Walmart started with a single store in 1945 and is now the largest private employer in the world. Starting with one store and the idea of making lots of cheap goods available all over the US, Walmart has created more than 2 million jobs. And of course more recently we have lots of examples in the technology and innovation space Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Dell and Facebook. All are multi-billion dollar companies that started out in a single room, a basement or garage with a simple idea shared at first by a one or two people.