Syndicate content

Women wavemakers: Practical strategies for closing the gender gap in tech

Alicia Hammond's picture
© Andela Kenya
© Andela Kenya

“Degrees get you the job, but they don’t help you to keep it.” Virginia Ndung’u, a trainee at Nairobi’s software developer accelerator Moringa School highlights one of the many challenges in ensuring students are prepared for the digital economy.

Technology is changing the skills needed for work, and increasing demand for advanced cognitive skills, socio-emotional skills and greater adaptability, as the 2019 Report on the Changing Nature of Work finds, building on the World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends. As technology becomes prevalent in other sectors, the demand for tech skills is increasing, even for entry-level positions. 

What to do after your education system is hacked

Michael Trucano's picture
Help! I've been hacked!
Help! I've been hacked!

In my experience working with education officials around the world over the past two decades, the confidence of senior leadership in an education system's approach to computer and data security is often inversely proportional to how much time, energy and expense have been devoted to considering security issues, to say nothing of the robustness and comprehensiveness of related approaches being deployed.

As part of my job at the World Bank, I help ministries of education think through issues related to the use of new technologies in education. Along the way, there has been, in my experience and generally speaking, comparatively little attention, energy and resources paid to issues of computer and data security as part of the rollout of digital technologies in education in many parts of the world, and especially in middle and low income countries, where I spend the bulk of my time.

At a basic level, this should not be too surprising. Resources are often quite scare, as is related know-how. Most initiatives focus first on introducing computers (and later tablets and other gadgets) into schools, and on rolling out and improving connectivity. Many countries new to the use of computers in schools are challenged to adequately handle some of the most basic security-related tasks, like installing (and keeping updated) anti-virus packages on individual devices. And to be honest: The initial stakes are often quite low. Only over time, once a critical mass of infrastructure is in place -- and is being used -- do thoughts turn to any significant extent to issues of computer and data security. But still: Unlike passing out shiny new tablets to schoolchildren or cutting the ribbon on a new educational makerspace, strengthening an education system's security practices typically doesn't make for compelling photo opportunities. For education ministers who typically enjoy short tenures in their jobs, it's often quite logical to leave such issues for the next lady (or guy) to handle.

That said, as connectivity spreads and improves, and as education systems move beyond a patchwork of often small and uncoordinated pilot projects to become more dependent on their ICT infrastructure at the classroom, school and system level, 'security' is gradually added to the list of responsibilities of a few staff, related budget line items are established, and sometimes small units are formed inside education bureaucracies.

Even then, though, digital security concerns usually tend not to be prioritized by ministries of education, and much of what is done is reactive in nature. In my experience, only when one of two types things take place do computer security issues get real attention: (1) when there is a move to computerized, especially online, testing; and/or (2) when something important is 'hacked'. (There is a third catalyst for action -- government regulation -- but that typically occurs only after one or both of these first two things have occurred.)

During dialogues with government around 'edtech issues', it's been my standard practice to try to insert a bullet point related to 'security' onto the formal agenda. For the most part, this has been tolerated ("of course we think security is important!"), but (if I am being honest) not always particularly welcome, and it is often the last agenda item, the kind of thing where the related discussion gets cut short and people close by saying, "We wish we had more time to discuss this."

In the past two years, however, things have begun to change a bit. While still never the focus of our discussions, people from a number of ministries of education with which I have worked have begun to bring up this issue proactively. Often, related exchanges begin with some form of the question, "We are thinking about introducing online testing but are wondering if we might get hacked -- how worried should we be, and what can we do to prevent this from happening?"

My response to this sort of question is usually is something along the lines of, "You are right to be worried, and there are a lot of things you can and should be doing as a result." (Whether or not online testing is actually a good idea is a separate question, and discussion.) We then quickly talk through a number of the standard high level issues, topics and concerns, touch on the feasibility and cost of a number of related first (and second, and third, and fourth ...) steps that need to be taken, and at the end draw up a list of names and organizations for potential follow-up. Before the discussion 'ends' (a discussion about computer security never actually 'ends', of course; once opened, Pandora's Box can never be fully closed), I make sure to make the following statement, and pose a related question:

Prevention is important. Obviously! I am glad to see that this is increasingly prominent on your agenda. If you have a checklist of things you are concerned about, and a list of how you are addressing them, we can take a look at it and talk through some potential related issues, to the extent that this might be useful. We can also talk about some other countries where some bad things have happened, in case any of those stories might be of interest.

But, no matter how successful you are when it comes to protecting your digital infrastructure and your data, if you are using connected digital technologies in your education system, at some point in the future:

You. Will. Be. Hacked.

Weekly links July 27: Advances in RD, better measurement, lowering prices for poop removal, and more...

David McKenzie's picture
  • Matias Cattaneo and co-authors have a draft manuscript on “a practical guide to regression discontinuity designs: volume II”. This includes discussion of a lot of practical issues that can arise, such as dealing with discrete values of the running variable, multiple running variables, and geographic RDs. Stata and R code are provided throughout.
  • Great Planet Money podcast on the Poop Cartel – work Molly Lipscomb and co-authors are doing to lower prices for emptying toilets in Senegal.
  • A paper on how to improve reproducible workflow – provides an overview of different tools for different statistical software packages, as well as advice on taskflow management, naming conventions, etc.
  • J-PAL guide on measuring female empowerment
  • Reviewing a paper that you have already reviewed before? This tweet by Tatyana Deryugina offers a good suggestion of using a pdf comparison tool (she suggests draftable) to compare pdfs to see what has changed

Introducing two new dashboards in the Health, Nutrition and Population data portal

Haruna Kashiwase's picture

We’re pleased to launch new dashboards in the Health, Nutrition and Population Portal, following the portal’s revamp last year. The renewed HNP portal has two main dashboards covering Population and Health. Both dashboards are designed to be interactive data visualization tools where users can see various population and health indicators. Users can access various charts and maps by selecting specific time, country or region and indicators. We have added new indicators, charts and new health topics such as Universal Health Coverage and Surgery and Anesthesia. Below are some examples of stories gleaned from our dashboards.

India’s population is projected to surpass that of China around 2022

China, with 1.4 billion people, is the most populous country in the world in 2017. However, India, the second most populous country with 1.3 billion people, is projected to surpass China’s population by 2022. China’s total fertility rate (the number of children per woman) has also declined sharply since the 1970s.

Investing in prevention: A new World Bank Group approach to crisis

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Riyaad Minty/Creative Commons
© Riyaad Minty/Creative Commons

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  This was his message to Philadelphians on how to avoid house fires, at a time when they were causing widespread damage to the city and its people.

His words ring true today, as we face global crises – natural disasters, pandemics, violent conflicts, financial crises, and more – that hit rich and poor countries alike, and have lasting consequences especially for the world’s most vulnerable people. They can take the lives of millions of people and cost the world trillions of dollars in damages and lost potential.

Five new insights on how agriculture can help reduce poverty

Luc Christiaensen's picture
A Cambodian farmer
A Cambodian farmer - Photo: Chor Sokunthea / World Bank

The view that a productive agriculture is critical for employment creation and poverty reduction is now widely shared within the development community. Yet, this has not always been the case. In the run up to the 2008 world food price crisis, many development practitioners, government officials and economists doubted whether agriculture could still play this role, especially in Africa. Agro-pessimism had set in during the 1990s and 2000s, with a decline in policy attention and agricultural investment.  The food price spikes of 2008 brought a realization that more needed to be done to strengthen agriculture in developing countries.

How to test water quality? Low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing

Pratibha Mistry's picture
A multi-compartment bag with a colorimetric reagent for E. coli testing
using a most probable number approach.

Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Water quality is central to the challenge of ensuring safe water for all. Here we present the third entry in a three-part blog series on low-cost, low-tech water quality testing. In previous posts, we discussed options for measuring physical and chemical aspects of water quality. In this final post, we explore low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing.

Your summer reading list: PPPs, human capital, and lessons from Iceland’s national soccer coach

Geoffrey Keele's picture


Juan Salamanca | Pexels

It’s hard to believe summer is already half over. I am sure many of you, like me, have been stuck at your desks for most of July, but here’s hoping we all get out in the sun in August. But before you go, make note of these really interesting articles that have come out over the last few months that might just make the perfect porch reading for those looking to tune out, but still stay engaged.
 
The Road
The Globe & Mail
 
Highway BR-163 cuts a rough path through Brazil’s conflicting ambitions: to transform itself into an economic powerhouse and to preserve the Amazon as a bulwark against climate change. This beautifully presented story takes you along the 2,000-kilometer BR-163 corridor in Brazil’s Amazon region to look at the competing needs of those living along this important national artery. It’s not just about a road, but about development itself, and why balancing the economic and social needs of a nation and its people is no simple task.


Pages