This post is jointly authored by David Evans and Bruce Wydick.
A daunting question faced by many non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in poverty work is—after all the fundraising, logistical work, direct work with the poor, and accounting is all done—one naturally wonders: Is my NGO having a positive impact? Indeed, as a recent Guardian article highlighted, “If the [NGO] sector wants to properly serve local populations, it needs to improve how it collects evidence.” Donors are also increasingly demanding evidence of impact from NGOs, no longer just the large funders, but the small individual donors as well.
This post is jointly authored by David Evans and Bruce Wydick.
Globally, around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services. In Southeast Asia, there are 264 million adults who are still “unbanked”; many of them save their money under the mattress and borrow from so-called “loan sharks”, paying exorbitant interest rates on a daily or weekly basis. Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion for economic development, the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made this one of their top priorities for the next five years.
Last week, the World Bank Group presented the latest data on financial inclusion in ASEAN to senior representatives of the ministries of finance and central banks of all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The session, held in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the joint activities the new World Bank Research and Knowledge Hub and Malaysia is undertaking to support financial inclusion around the world.
Safety nets have the potential to play an important role in protecting the well-being of poor and vulnerable households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the world’s poorest region—and also one of the most unequal—targeted social program transfers are an effective way to fight poverty and ensure shared prosperity. But social safety net resources are limited and identification of households with the greatest need is difficult in most African countries. Evidence of effective safety net program targeting is needed to justify using existing resources, to gain support for additional investments, and to guide country efforts to improve social safety net coverage of both long-term (chronic) poor and short-term (transient) poor households.
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials. The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp. For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.
No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.
Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.
For a detailed account of how the city dealt with this rule, see here. An excerpt:
During the odd-even period, the use of cars fells by 30 per cent while those car-pooling went up by a whopping 387.7 per cent, indicating the success of the government’s push towards that option. Delhiites using private auto-rickshaws went up by 156.3 per cent compared to the period before odd-even, while Metro use went up by 58.4 per cent.
On average, the respondents’ took 12 minutes less to commute from home to work during the odd-even period. Car and bus users reached their workplaces 13 and 14 minutes faster during the 15-day period
I will come to the outcomes of this pilot in just a moment. Outcomes aside, the Delhi government’s Odd-Even plan has yielded a rich bounty. It sets the template for citizen engagement with a public policy reform experiment: heightened awareness regarding the core issue, mass participation, intense public scrutiny, and a data-driven discourse. Let’s take these one-by-one.
Despite transformative innovations in digital technologies, the digital divide is still substantial. What can be done to spread digital dividends - that is, the broader development benefits of digital technologies – more widely? How can digital technologies contribute to the World Bank Group’s twin goals of eradicating extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity?
As this year’s World Development Report on “Digital Dividends” notes, digital finance is likely to play a key role in answering these questions. One of the main messages of the report is that digital development is not a matter of access alone.
Digital connectivity is key, but it is only a starting point for successful digital development. It is as important to strengthen other factors that interact with technology - such as responsible regulation and accountable institutions - in order to make digital technologies work for the poor. The World Development Report calls these other factors the ‘analog complements’ to digital technologies, which fall into three categories: regulation, skills, and institutions.
Forced displacement is a multifaceted phenomenon caused by persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation and other situations that directly endanger lives, freedom and livelihoods. Displacement may be triggered by such diverse actions as development projects, land and assets expropriation and human trafficking, among others. Since women and men traditionally have different socio-cultural-economic roles and positions they are also affected in different manners by forced displacement. Gender play an important role in the decision to flee, throughout the displacement process as well as in the decisions and experience related to finding solutions. The different dimensions of displacement have gender differentiated impacts, requiring a better understanding of how different parts of displaced and host communities are affected at each phase of the displacement cycle.
In 2013, we went to Liberia to find better answers to this question: who are the vulnerable youth? We wanted to put a human face to statistics. Analysis of statistical data revealed that some youth are more vulnerable than others. Rural youth, young mothers, ex-combatant youth, poor youth, and poorly-educated youth are especially at risk.