Blog reader: “Dan! The government is one big system. Why didn’t your blog on the latest research on the quality of governance take this into account?”
Dan (Rogger): “Well, typically frontier papers in the field don’t frame their work as ‘modeling the system’ [which do?] However, Martin Williams at the Blavatnik School of Government hosted a conference last week on ‘Systems of Public Service Delivery in Developing Countries’ that directly aims to discuss how research can take into account the systemic elements of governance.
I recently visited one of Bioversity International’s project sites in Begnas, where I met farming couple, Surya and Saraswati Adhikari. They proudly showed me around their biodiverse farm, pointing out some of the 150 plant species they grow and explaining that each one has a specific use. They showed me the vegetables, rice, gourds and legumes they grow to eat and sell; the trees that provide fruits, fodder and fuel, and the many herbs for medicinal and cultural purposes.
Selilah stares out over a landscape she has inhabited for 70 years. In the valley below, deep gullies scar the slopes where rains have carried away the soil. Living with three of her four sons, she is struggling to make ends meet in this part of Sidama Zone, Ethiopia, where, she says, there used to be a forest more than 40 years ago.
Now most trees have been felled and water is scarce. Selilah spends two hours a day collecting her two jerrycans (50 liters) from a neighboring kebele (neighborhood), but when that source fails she has to buy water from a vendor at ETB 6 (30 US Cents) per a jerrycan, a huge cut into her income.
In the last 10 years, she says, the rains have changed – they are lighter than before and more infrequent. As a result, production from her meager plot – just 0.25 ha – is declining. After her husband died more than a decade ago, she now only makes ends meet through the daily wage-labor income of her sons. Like many others, Selilah is on the frontline of climate change in a landscape under increasing pressure.
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:
An expatriate Indian physics professor, when traveling back home to India, found himself harassed by endless extortion demands. As a way to fight corruption by shaming the officials who ask for bribes, the professor created a fake currency bill: the zero-rupee note.
The notes are identical to Indian banknotes, but carry the slogan, and the pledge, .
Vijay Anand, president of the non-governmental organization 5th Pillar, thought the idea could work on a larger scale. Initially, the NGO printed 25,000 zero-rupee notes and distributed them to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Since 2007, the NGO has distributed more than one million bills in five languages, covering 600-plus institutions. Volunteers hand them out near places where officials often solicit bribes, such as railway stations and government hospitals.
Vote buying has shaped much of Philippine politics throughout history. For many politicians, distributing private goods and cultivating patronage to individual supporters is one of the most effective electoral strategies.
While the line between public and private is traditionally blurry, people who are used to this relationship with those who hold positions in government tend to measure politicians’ performance in terms of how much they provide private goods as opposed to broad public goods.
But though it may have been prevalent, vote buying has been a serious constraint in the country. Research has shown that practices such as vote buying and political dynasties undermine public service delivery and poverty reduction. How can these practices, which are so deeply embedded in Filipinos’ political way of life, begin to change?
World Bank President Jim Kim recently said “we will not reach our twin goals […] unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Sexual and gender minorities are particularly important for the Bank because they are (likely) overrepresented in the bottom 40% -- the target of the Bank’s goal to promote shared prosperity.
Why only “likely”? Because robust data on LGBTI development outcomes is rare, even in high income countries. With support from the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund, we are seeking to fill some of these data gaps, starting with research in the Western Balkans.
What we do know is that, across the board, barriers to education and employment contribute to greater chances of being poor – and this may be worse for LGBTI individuals.
Available data on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people shows that youth are more likely to face barriers in getting a good education. It’s also harder to find – and keep – a job, pushing LGBTI people further into poverty.
. And that’s just a start.
The use of data and technology in procurement make it possible for governments to make informed decisions to maximize development impact. At the World Bank, the Public Integrity and Openness Practice is developing a set of Transformational Engagements, one of which focuses on Data Analytics, to catalyze better outcomes from procurement processes.
The engagement will use data analytics to solve pressing developmental problems. The plan is to combine work on addressing common data problems (how to digitize paper records, how to link different data records, how to present data findings in ways that are accessible and influential) with efforts at the country level. Powered by advanced data analysis, countries can undertake empirical-based examinations of when best value is achieved via procurement, or in which cases and sectors government contracting is promoting the development of competitive and dynamic private sectors.
Work undertaken within the Bank will be informed by the concurrent efforts of others who are exploring different approaches and different techniques to using data and data analytics to drive improved performance. The World Bank seeks to play a constructive role within a community of initiatives to harness the power of information to change how governments function, the relationship between government and non-governmental actors, and the lives of people. Committed to an inclusive process of learning-by-doing, the World Bank is dedicated to building partnerships with researchers, government officials, the private sector, and civil society.
- The World Region
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Open Governance; Open Data; Public Finance Management; Public Procurement; Information and Communication Technology; Public Integrity and Openness Practice; Transformational Engagements; Data Analytics; Private Sector Development; Citizen Participation
Bill Lyons / World Bank
A new World Bank report addressing the widespread dissatisfaction of citizens with the delivery of essential public services and calling for accountability in public service delivery in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was released a few weeks ago.
The statistics in Trust, Voice, and Incentives: Learning from Local Success Stories in Service Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa are grim, as nearly three quarters of MENA students are scoring “low” or “below low” in international student performance tests and one third of the public health clinics in MENA countries lack essential medicines and staff.
The good news, however, is that the report also sheds light on local success stories in health and education where, to citizens. The examples from Jordan, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories highlight the power of collaboration and mutual trust between citizens and public servants to produce better results.
Give people the ability to engage, and they will change the world. Or will they?
The massive expansion of political voice and social activism over the past several decades -- ranging from the mushrooming of citizen-led initiatives for transparency and accountability, to the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and the eruption of protest movements in countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Turkey and Mexico – has generated great enthusiasm about the transformational potential of popular participation.
The reality, however, is more complex than that.
Think back to the Arab Spring and the extraordinary mobilization of so many people who managed to topple one authoritarian regime after another. The streets were theirs, but in most of these countries ousting dictators has turned out to be much easier than building political systems that are more democratic and open for citizens to engage. While much in demand,
I recently prepared a module on Citizen Engagement and Development Outcomes for a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on “Engaging Citizens: A Game Changer for Development?”, just launched by the World Bank Group and partner organizations in both Washington, DC and London.