Information and Communication Technologies
Every day we are reminded that the challenges faced in eradicating poverty are multifaceted and include complex economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions. For this reason, we work with a number of partners and experiment with many technologies to try and leverage the right community with the right skills and tools to address a given challenge.
July 1, 2011—The World Bank today marks the one-year anniversary of its Access to Information (AI) policy. The landmark policy increases transparency, accessibility and accountability of the Bank’s operations and programs.
Bank management and external stakeholders agree that implementation has gone well.
This week I’m at the Mobile World Congress, the annual jamboree for some 50,000 people from 200 countries whose livelihoods are focused on the device you probably wake up with, carry everywhere with you, and are more likely to miss than even your misplaced or stolen credit card: your mobile phone. I’m here because more than half of social media activity globally happens via mobile handsets and because if people from Mashable, Twitter, FourSquare and Google are turning up at the same place at the same time, it’s probably worth checking out. 2011 is signaling the full-on dominance of mobile web, internet, and social media in the mobile space.
There’s much to be in awe of here. In just the past 48 hours I’ve played with the 3-D handset on offer from LG, and seen a friend based in Nairobi brandish a $50 Huawei smartphone with Google’s operating system, Android (note that in the U.S., the typical Android handset costs north of $500 without subsidy from a mobile operator). And for the two billion or so people globally who probably can’t afford even a $50 handset, there was welcome news Monday when a firm called Gemalto announced that it had crafted what I’d call a poor man’s version of Facebook, housed on a SIM card and using SMS to send and receive data between handsets and Facebook servers. This means Facebook, which already reaches 600 million people, will potentially be available to almost anyone on the planet with a mobile device.
Though I work full-time on social media for the World Bank, my career started in public broadcasting. “Radio is the modern version of oral tradition,” a former journalism professor of mine would say, likening radio to the way in which people have communicated for years: using stories, narratives, to connect, to break down complex ideas into concrete pieces. That line resonated with me, summing up the power of radio to connect people using the shared experience of a broadcast.
Radio was – and still is - one of the most intimate forms of media ever created. It comes right into our homes, our cars, our showers (if you are lucky enough to have a shower). I’d wager that in any city in the world, people spend more time with the radio than they do any other form of media.
Unless they’re on Facebook. That’s different. I can’t recall when Facebook started getting more of my time than did the radio. Probably not long after I joined Facebook, in 2007. Four years ago, Facebook had 30 million users.
It’s been remarkable to me to see the level of excitement generated by the World Bank’s early efforts to “mash-up” the location of development projects within countries with MDG indicators like infant mortality, attended child births, and malnutrition. Being able to visualize correlations between poverty and the location of development projects is sometimes surprising, often encouraging and never uninteresting.
Why are health projects concentrated in parts of country X where life expectancy is high? Where are the water and education projects in country Y in districts with the highest rates of under 5 mortality? The answers are seldom straightforward but good data and simple visualizations can provoke good questions, healthy debates and animate stories of what’s going on. Some will be stories worth celebrating for replication and others will be about lessons learned and things to avoid.
But getting caught-up in the mapping narrative almost misses the point. In a geo-enabled world, many people can create maps and different maps will tell different stories. The key is liberating the underlying data that allows people to create maps in the first place. That’s what has started at the World Bank and where Mapping for Results goes beyond traditional GIS and mapping projects. It’s about geo-enabling the Bank and creating the foundational data that will allow for all kinds of analysis, better planning, better monitoring, and eventually direct engagement with citizens based on actual data.
I spent the day at Wolfram Data Summit 2010, where repository managers and experts from all over the world have convened in Washington to discuss the rewards -- and challenges -- of a new data frontier.
A series of speakers shared fascinating insights on the power of data, including examples of how data is at the forefront of new and exciting developments in the fields of medicine, health care, science, lexicography, media and more.
Rebuilding Europe’s steel capacity after WWII. Jump-starting Japan’s bullet trains. Eradicating riverblindness. Coordinating a global phase-out of leaded fuels. Renewing tsunami-ravaged Indonesia.
The world shares many major milestones with the World Bank’s own history. Our newly re-designed results timeline offers a “greatest hits” of international achievements with Bank involvement:
A few months ago, Valerie Hufbauer presented to the Web Managers Roundtable here in DC on sustaining a multilingual web presence here at the Bank.
I promised to get her slides up as soon as I could — we had a lot of people asking about them — but I've been remiss in my obligation. Apologies for the long delay, but here it is, Valerie's presentation from October 2009: