Syndicate content

Digital humanitarians

Ted Chu's picture

More than 25 million people are displaced every year by natural disasters, and millions more due to conflict. How can we help? Patrick Meier, director of social innovation at Qatar Computing Research Institute, has written a timely book on the subject. In "Digital Humanitarians," Meier argues that we must realize the potential of the digital revolution to address the most pressing humanitarian needs—from earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal to the refugee crisis in Europe.

The “digital humanitarian” movement took off in 2010, when thousands of volunteers used social media, text messages, and satellite imagery to support search-and-rescue efforts and human relief operations in Haiti. The data they gathered was used to create unique digital crisis maps that reflected the situation on the ground in near real-time. Their efforts motivated additional crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

Driving change in challenging contexts: four issues to address

Verena Fritz's picture
During war, markets help people survive. Salad traders in Garoule market, Mali.
© Irina Mosel / ODI

Recently, I participated in an ODI-organized conference on ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe as well as the adoption of the SDGs is bringing efforts to revive and accelerate development in challenging contexts to the forefront of political attention.

​Progress in such contexts is inevitably difficult. But actual practices are also still far from the possibility frontier of what could be done. Four issues stand out:

Climate change and e-Learning: a virtual success story

Neeraj Prasad's picture
Computer class at ENA school for distance learning in Cocody, Abidjan.
Photo: Ami Vitale / World Bank

The past month was full of climate-related stories in the media, including speeches by the Pope in Washington DC and New York, the joint China-US statement, and the announcement of China’s cap-and-trade scheme starting 2017.

We may still hear about differences of opinion on what is causing climate change and what needs to be done and by whom, but it is happening, and that efforts to resolve these differences are made in conventions and meetings, in houses of Congress, in media or public debate.

The things we do: Stop multitasking and start focusing

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Many believe that multitasking is the art of the productive. However, social science reveals that humans don't really multitask, but rather they rapidly switch among tasks. It's a cognitive illusion that actually results in less productivity and may harm the brain's natural abilities.

caffeinating, calculating, computeratingIn June of this year, a Chinese motorist was caught driving while undergoing intravenous therapy and talking on the phone.  A needle providing the intravenous therapy was stuck in the back of his right hand, which had been holding his phone, while he used his left hand to hold the iron pole with the intravenous fluid bag and also the car’s steering wheel.  Police in the city of Wenzhou in southeastern Zhejiang province, China were on patrol on June 20 when they saw the motorist driving at 80km/h.

The driver told police he was rushing to carry out some urgent matters so had left a health clinic before his infusion was complete. He claimed that it was not dangerous for him to be driving at the time because he was good at multitasking. The police didn’t buy his multitasking defense and fined the driver 150 yuan and deducted four points from his driving license for dangerous driving and using a mobile phone while driving.

In a famous study of drivers chatting on mobile phones, David Strayer and Frank Drews found that diving while using a mobile phone is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

The problems of multitasking don’t end with driving.  Harvard Medical School knows first-hand that multitasking increases the number of mistakes people make— a resident doctor nearly killed a patient after a text message distracted her from updating a prescription. 

These and other examples point to an undeniable truth: multitasking can be dangerous at its worst and inefficient at its best. Even simple can produce a kind of ‘attention interference’ when performed simultaneously.

Women traders in Africa’s Great Lakes

Cecile Fruman's picture

On the northern tip of Lake Kivu, where eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meets Rwanda, the pedestrian border crossing connecting the lush town of Gisenyi, Rwanda and the frenetic city of Goma in the DRC is called ‘’Petite Barrière’’. The name is misleading: the ‘’barrière’’ is in fact large and crowded, and features one of the highest daily flows of traders in Africa; between 20,000 and 30,000 traders cross it every day. For them, as for many others in the region, cross-border trade is a critical source of income.

Why Wait? Insurers, Take Steps to Reach the Women’s Market

M. Esther Dassanou's picture

In most developed nations, when dealing with the aftermath of a natural catastrophe, an accident, a divorce – or even retirement – women know they can buy and rely on insurance to handle the damages, give them access to long-term savings or, at a minimum, cover a portion of their lost assets. 

In emerging and developing markets, on the other hand, this is usually not the case. Working at IFC in Washington and staying in touch with my family at home in Senegal, I’ve heard countless stories of men and women living in terrible conditions after a natural disaster.

These are not only people with lower incomes. I’ve met women who have lost everything following their spouse’s death or divorce because customary practices and inheritance laws did not give them access to the family assets. (In fact, in 20 percent of economies around the world, women do not have the same inheritance rights as men.) Worse, there are women whose children have died because the public hospital was too full and too busy to accommodate them at the time they needed medical help, and because they did not have the means to afford private health care. 

These are sobering and, sadly, true stories that very seldom make headlines. Yet if we look at families’ needs and at how women tend to be more affected by death, disaster and family illness, the answer seems simple: insurance.

It’s only when something bad happens that, all of a sudden, people – especially women, who tend to be more risk-aware – wish that they had planned better to deal with the situation at hand. What tends to keep women from choosing insurance as the solution to their risk-mitigation needs are misperceptions, affordability, lack of awareness, lack of bank accounts or access, and the stories of people with insurance policies that do not seem to cover any claims.

5 ways to understand poverty data

Tariq Khokhar's picture
The World Bank has just updated the international poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90 per day. There’s a lot to read about both the rationale behind, and the implications of this revision. A good place to start is this blog by our colleagues in the research department and the associated technical paper explaining the data, methodology and results.

We’ve also produced a series of “understanding poverty” video explainers that go into poverty lines, poverty measurement, purchasing power parities (PPPs), why we're updating the international poverty line to $1.90/day and some highlights from the newly released data. You can watch all 5 videos in the playlist below:


Think regional, act local: a new approach for Maghreb countries

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly's picture
 Pichugin Dmitry l

Every organization, no matter how large, needs to pause occasionally and take a good, hard look at itself. It is vital for measuring the gap between intention and achievement, and charting a new course. For the World Bank Group (WBG), this “hard look” took the form of a gathering for three days in Marrakech, Morocco where we listened to voices from the ground, debated and reached consensus on an action plan for a renewed path for the Maghreb Team.