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information and communication for development (ICT4D)

Can urban innovation ecosystems be developed with little broadband infrastructure?

Victor Mulas's picture
We are witnesses the surge of tech startup ecosystems in cities globally.  This is happening in both developed and developing countries.  In my previous blog post I showed this trend and the studies that confirm it. Among the questions we are looking for in our research to map urban innovation ecosystems is whether there is a minimum set of requirements for these ecosystems to emerge.  A minimum set of infrastructure or skills of the population, for instance.  What we are encountering is that, although you need a minimum level of infrastructure, e.g., there must be at least some broadband connectivity and mobile phone networks, this level is much lower than many people expect.  A city does not need to have 4G mobile broadband or fiber optic fixed broadband widespread.  It is enough to have broadband connection in some key points (particularly hubs and collaboration spaces) and basic mobile phone coverage and use, e.g., 2G mobile phone service.  A similar conclusion is applicable to the skill level of the population.   The results of the study of New York tech ecosystem shows that almost half of the employment created by the ecosystem do not require bachelor’s degree.  In this blog post I present the case of Nairobi and the tech start up ecosystems emerging in Africa and how these ecosystems can not only surge, but compete internationally despite having limited broadband connectivity (both mobile and fixed).  This is also part of the paper I am working out and the research we are doing on urban innovation ecosystems.
 
Map of Accelerators and Collaboration Spaces in Nairobi. Source: Manske, Julia. 2014. Innovations Out of Africa. The Emergence, Challenges and Potential of the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem.

Categorizing the collaboration and community promotion spaces that make urban innovation ecosystems tick

Victor Mulas's picture
A variety of collaboration spaces are spreading across urban innovation ecosystems. This makes sense intuitively, because collaboration spaces create and — in some cases — manage and sustain the communities that make the ecosystem exist and grow. 
 
Collaboration space in Barcelona, Spain.
​Photo: Victor Mulas

I believe that collaboration spaces are, in fact, one of the key elements to create and grow urban innovation ecosystems in cities. Our current research in mapping urban innovation is starting to provide results that seem to validate this hypothesis. We are seeing that collaboration spaces that create and manage communities are critical nodes of city urban innovation ecosystems. 

We will share more results about this analysis in future blogs but given the relevance of these spaces, I summarized what I believe are the most relevant categories of collaboration spaces. This list, which I prepared for a paper I am working on, is not prescriptive and it is not closed by any means. To the contrary, it just presents a starting point and I welcome comments to expand and refine these categories.

How Open Data can fight poverty and boost prosperity in Kyrgyzstan

Roza Vasileva's picture
All around the world, governments are recognizing the value and potential of Open Data. This is clear from the G8’s adoption of an Open Data Charter in June 2013 (with the G20 likely to follow suit), the growing number of countries adopting Open Data initiatives, and the 64 countries that have committed to Open Government Partnership action plans (most of which focus on Open Data). Kyrgyzstan has taken the first steps down this path.
 
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Photo: flickr/pjgardner

The Kyrgyz Government has been implementing the Open Government Policy and has already undertaken several measures, such as creating official web portals for state bodies including Open Budget, Electronic Procurement, Foreign Aid and many others. Through these websites, citizens can find information about public services and activities offered by government ministries and other state agencies.
 
In 2013, based on a comprehensive analysis of Kyrgyz public information resources and in consideration of plans for leveraging ICT for good governance and sustainable development, the government designed an e-Government program and corresponding Action Plan for 2014-2017 with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This program was approved by the Kyrgyz government on November 10, 2014.
 
In addition, this year the UNDP provided support to set up an online network for the Prime Minister’s online community liaison offices. This network has 63 connection points nationwide and supplements the Kyrgyz government’s official website by strengthening relations between the government and civil society by informing citizens about ongoing reforms, as well as and challenges that have been resolved for the country’s communities and citizens. This is one of the existing examples of Kyrgyz government utilizing its openness for greater citizen engagement.

Makers and education, part one: how are disruptive technologies affecting the way we educate?

Saori Imaizumi's picture
Girls learning how to design and make a toy with a laser cutter, which increases
interest in STEM career options. Photo: Saori Imaizumi/World Bank Group

Affordable, accessible technologies can democratize opportunities for EVERYONE to become innovators and inventors. Countries can take advantage of this opportunity to create new jobs, new industry and skilled workers to achieve further economic growth and increase competitiveness. Also, preparing citizens with problem solving skills and entrepreneurial mindsets helps solve various social problems in the country in an innovative manner.
 
In a 2013 report entitled “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” the McKinsey Global Institute identified 12 potentially economically disruptive technologies, including mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and advanced materials.
 
Team-based learning through
technologies. Photo: Saori
​Imaizumi/World Bank Group

​I touched upon how these disruptive technologies and low-cost technologies affect the pedagogy of skills development and education, as well as their implications for international development in my previous blogs (New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills and What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?) and a feature story (Communities of "Makers" Tackle Local Problems).
 
Elaborating on these posts, I will explore the topic on “how can kids, youth and adults prepare in response to rapid technological changes” from the pedagogy and institutional model perspectives. My analysis is derived from the lively discussion that I recently attended on “Exploring 3D Printing for Development,” organized by IREX and my work at the World Bank.

Connectivity equals opportunity: PPPs narrow the "broadband gap"

Pierre Guislain's picture
A billboard announces the arrival of high-speed broadband internet
in downtown Nukua'lofa, the capital of Tonga. Photo: Tom Perry / World Bank
You don’t need to be a grandparent or even have a particularly long memory to recall a time when information and communications technology (ICT) devices were luxuries only a few could afford, if not something lifted entirely from the pages of science fiction. Reform of the ICT sector happened fast, both in broadband and mobile, and we all feel it in our personal and professional lives. The extraordinarily rapid uptake of mobile telephony in developing countries is the most compelling element of the
ICT story, but it’s only partly about the technology itself.

The real plot twist lies in why reform took off so quickly. Simply put, the incumbents did not see mobile services as threatening. Telecom companies thought of it as a fancy, add-on service that would be useful for rich people but unthreatening to the standard business model. However, the new technology was able to fill gaps in countries where there was no service at all, and it was able to make very rapid inroads. Elsewhere, people would have gone through a more traditional rollout of fixed network and then mobile; in developing countries, mobile became the main service because incumbent service was so poor. Mobile moved in because the incumbents had not done their job.

This shows that the most important element of progress in ICT is the creation of an environment where competition can flourish. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key players in this chapter of the ICT narrative. We see this in articles and interviews throughout Handshake, which examines PPPs in broadband and mobile/telecom (which together comprise our definition of ICT) and the services this infrastructure makes possible. In other words, we’re looking at PPPs whose infrastructure creates connections and whose services deliver connectivity.

What makes a nation smart: the view from Singapore

Yulia Danilina's picture
It is always exciting to learn from innovators. With its vibrant and competitive ICT sector, Internet penetration levels among the highest in the world and advanced ICT infrastructure, Singapore is a global information-communication hub and leader in ICT-enabled solutions.
 
The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), together with other agencies are working towards Singapore’s vision to becoming the world’s first smart nation. That’s why World Bank Group colleagues were eager to hear from Mr. Chan Cheow Hoe – IDA’s Government Chief Information Officer (CIO) – and his team during their visit to World Bank on September 24, 2014, about their vision of a “smart nation”.
 
Mr. Chan opened the conversation by offering his understanding of the basics: what is “innovation”? Innovation, according to him, is a means to very concrete ends: solving people’s problems. When pursuing innovation in certain areas of life, we should first ask ourselves “what problems are we going to solve?” The answer to this question should guide our search for technologically enabled solutions.
 
A “smart” nation is one whose government employs innovative technologies to effectively respond to its peoples’ needs, improving their social and economic prospects. It does so inclusively, so that all sub-segments of the population benefit. This citizen-centric approach is the key to understanding governance in a smart nation; unlike business entities, the government cannot choose its customers and must serve all citizens. In doing so, the government has to deal with diverse subjects and issues, which adds complexity to the task. For this reason, the government should have a long term view and plan.   

​Smart Africa returns – with a focus on Rwanda

Samia Melhem's picture
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (center) and Minister Jean Philbert
Nsengimana (left) work with children during the recent
"Smart Rwanda Days" conference in Kigali.
“Smart” is in. So is digital. According to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, “digital innovation has leveled the playing field, making it easy for anyone from anywhere can compete in the global economy. Today, ideas do not have borders and therefore countries cannot be landlocked.”

Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda convened a “Smart Rwanda Days” conference, bringing together participants from seven countries. During the two-day event, attendees were asked to “take the pulse” of digital development across Africa – as well as within their own countries – and then set concrete roles and responsibilities for current members of the Smart Africa alliance (Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Gabon). The event was co-sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union, the African Union and several private-sector companies.
  The Smart Rwanda Master Plan (SRMP), developed by the government in consultation with representatives of civil society and private sector, in February 2014, calls for better services to citizens through e-government and ICT education at all levels. The Plan includes a specific focuses on broadband networks and tertiary education, as well as fostering investments, innovation and creative local content to strengthen ICT. “Africa is on unstoppable move forward that tremendous progress is being made, but also the room for increasing speed and impact is limitless,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister for Youth and ICT.

Taking Open Data to the next level to deliver solutions for inclusive rural growth

Saki Kumagai's picture
“It is not data [that] makes you powerful; it is how you use it. That is exactly what our government has set out to do…data empowers not only the holder of it, but also the people who receive it and are empowered by using it.” – Minister KT Rama Rao
 
Over the past several years, I have attended many Open Data-related events in Washington, DC and elsewhere. But as far as I remember, no one has addressed the opportunities and potentials of Open Data for greater government accountability, citizen engagement, empowerment of the poor, and inclusive rural growth as speakers and presenters did in early September in Hyderabad, India.
 
Being transparent — through Open Data in this context — is an achievement itself. Transparency has been at the center of attention of the Open Data movement for some time. However, as many of us know, being open is a means to an end — the more important questions are what to open, as well as for what purpose, for whom and how.
 
On the morning of September 4, 2014, I was sitting in a packed conference room for a workshop with high-level government officials, members of the project implementation unit, civil society organizations, academics, IT firms, and media. We were all blown away by the opening speech delivered by the Honorable KT Rama Rao, Minister of IT and Rural Development for the Government of Telangana, one of India’s 29 states. This opening speech set the tone for the workshop on Open Data Solutions for Rural Development and Inclusive Growth.
 
KT Rama Rao at workshop on Open Data Solutions for Rural Development and Inclusive Growth

Government disrupted – now for the creative construction phase

Jane Treadwell's picture

There is almost nothing that government can or should do alone,” said one of the panelists at a recent global webinar on the future of digital government.[1] 
 
This was just one of the many signals of the disruptive and creative impact that digital platforms, dynamic connections and cross-sector co-design and participation are having on the role and practice of governments. While some are resisting, the outcomes that many predicted in the early days of e-government are now possible through “silo-busting,” merged back-office infrastructures and focused collaborative relationships with civil society, businesses, citizens and communities. To some degree, this reflects Professor Carlotta Perez’s creative construction phase of a revolution (also described in this paper) and reinforces two critical success factors: execution and deployment capabilities.
 
Eight senior government leaders from the World Bank-sponsored High–Level Experts, Leaders and Practitioners (HELP) network, together with participants from 35 countries, led a discussion on the challenges and opportunities associated with digital government. 

Fostering cities as technology innovation ecosystems: a big opportunity for developing countries

Victor Mulas's picture
Source: Florida, Richard (2013) “The Global Startup Cities”

​Cities are becoming the new ecosystems for innovation. Recent studies on venture capital (VC) investment in the United States reveal that innovation is moving from suburbs to downtown areas. Today, San Francisco hosts more VC investment than Silicon Valley and New York – a city where the innovation startup scene was merely anecdotic 10 years ago – has become the third-largest technology startup ecosystem in the United States, with more than US$2.4 billion VC investment in 2011.  

This trend is not unique to the United States. Start-ups are surging in other major cities around the world, including London, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Cape Town, Mumbai, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, to name a few.

New technology trends have reduced the cost of technology innovation. Cloud computing, open software and hardware, social networks and global payment platforms have made it easier to create a startup with fewer physical resources and personnel. If in the 1990s, an entrepreneur needed US$2 million and months of work to develop a minimum viable prototype, today she would need less than US$50,000 and six weeks of work (in some cases, these costs can be as low as US$3,000). This trend is allowing entrepreneurs to take advantage of cities’ agglomeration effects: entrepreneurs “want to live where the action is,” where other young people, social activities and peers and entrepreneurs are. They look for conventional startup support, such as mentor networks or role models, but also for nightlife, meet-ups, social activities and other potential for “collisions” – a combination best provided by cities.

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