Blockchain is the subject of considerable hype, thanks largely to the rise (and fall and rise...) of high profile digital currencies. Beyond this spotlight, development experts and innovators are exploring whether the technology behind cryptocurrencies can be leveraged to advance gender equality.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that facilitates peer-to-peer transactions without using an intermediary. (The technology is also notoriously difficult to follow, but we find this brief video helpful and this talk explains blockchain well, if you have a bit more time.) Put simply, the system is maintained by collaboration, code and sometimes competition. Many experts refer to Google Docs to explain the concept: multiple users can access the same document simultaneously and they can all see the changes. This feature potentially makes it suited for validating records and processing financial transactions in the absence of strong institutions.
Sensors in elevators that alert government agencies to public safety risks; data from school bags to keep children safe; garbage trucks with the smarts to save cities money… The Internet of Things (IoT) will change everything. That is the conventional wisdom. We set out to look for evidence of this change in the government. How fast is it coming? Is it real? And our findings were mixed – sobering, but also encouraging.
On the plus side, we found government agencies keen to apply IoT to improve their business environment or reduce the burden on businesses while simultaneously increasing compliance. On the downside, very few IoT initiatives have been scaled beyond pilots, the business models to sustain IoT infrastructure are under-developed, and the policy landscape is woefully inadequate. There’s significant potential but it requires systematic, informed work by the government, private sector, and civil society.
“This can’t be Karamoja,” I thought, looking around me. I had read the reports, which focus on the vulnerability and poverty of this region in northern Uganda, home to the Karamojong, a nomadic people with their own language, traditions, and customs. But it’s one thing to read about a place, and quite another to visit it. Karamoja was stunningly beautiful: there were boulders the size of mountains scattered across the horizon, vibrant green bushes and pasture atop red clay earth, and uninterrupted blue skies.
Recently, I had traveled to Karamoja on a field trip to review the implementation of a government safety net, the Third Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III), which had scaled up in response to the recent drought.
Uganda’s population is predominantly rural and is limited in its ability to cope with production shocks. The country’s smallholder farmers, and especially the poorest 40% of households, are extremely vulnerable to drought [Uganda poverty study, WB 2016]. Drought response in Uganda has primarily been financed by international donors and delivered through humanitarians and NGOs, with the government playing a coordination role. This ad hoc, reactive approach presents drawbacks, including delayed response.
Start-ups are transforming cities. Entrepreneurs are inspiring creative communities and transforming the social and economic landscape of the neighborhoods where they cluster.
What drives entrepreneurs together and creates these communities? To answer this question, we looked at catalysts of entrepreneurial communities in cities around the world. The team found that a range of spaces — such as innovation hubs, incubators, maker spaces and fab labs — are at the core of these communities. They represent the main link between entrepreneurs and the broader economic and social fabric of the city. We call these “Creative Community Spaces” (CCS).
How are these CCS helping transform our cities? We compiled a set of case studies from around the world and analyzed their impact. There are more details in this report.
High-risk areas for natural disasters are home to 5 billion out of the 7 billion total people on our planet.
Overall . A rapid and early response is key to immediately address the loss of human life, property, infrastructure and business activity.
Severe flooding occurred during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand, resulting in more than 800 deaths. About 14 million people were affected, mostly in the northern region and in the Bangkok metropolitan area.
After such natural disasters, it is important that governments rapidly address recovery efforts and manage the financial aspects of the disaster’s impacts. Natural disasters can cause fiscal volatility for national governments because of sudden, unexpected expenditures required during and after an event.
This is especially critical in emerging-market economies, such as those in Southeast Asia, which have chronic exposure to natural disasters. To conserve and sustain development gains and analyze societal and financial risks at a national or regional scale, it is also critical to understand the impacts of these disasters and their implications at the socioeconomic, institutional and environmental level.
New project to monitor and evaluate flood severity
Financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, this World Bank Group’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) and Columbia University’s Earth Institute joint project aims to define an operational framework for the rapid assessment of flood response costs on a national scale. Bangladesh and Thailand serve as the initial demonstration cases, which will be expanded to other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank
Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.
Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs:
Never in recent history has anti-minorities rhetoric — anti-immigrants, anti-religious-minorities, anti-LGBTI — been so pronounced in so many countries around the world. Those groups, we are told, are the cause of our current economic crisis because they steal our jobs, fuel criminality and threaten our traditional way of living. And yet, the causes of our economic crisis are probably more nuanced, and initial research seems to suggest that more and not less social inclusion will help us overcome the instability of our times.
The exclusion of minorities from the labor force is becoming politically and economically unsustainable for many states that are struggling to retain their legitimacy and strengthen their competitive potential in an increasingly global marketplace. As a consequence, governments, international development agencies and academic institutions are now looking seriously at ways to develop policies that guarantee a more equal and sustainable form of economic development — development that addresses both short- and long-term economic goals.
The World Bank’s Equality Project attempts to address this problem. The idea driving the project is that institutional measures that hamper the access of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to the labor market and financial systems (such as legal and policy restrictions, or the absence of appropriate, positive nondiscrimination actions) directly affect their economic performance and, as a consequence, represent a cost for the economy: If a sizeable percentage of the population is not given the opportunity to acquire a high-quality education, a good job, secure housing, access to services, equal representation in decision-making institutions and protection from violence, human capital will be wasted, income inequality will grow and social unrest will ensue. The World Bank’s widely cited Inclusion Matters report puts it succinctly: “Social inclusion matters because exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic and political, and are often interrelated.”
The project collected and validated data on the legal framework of six pilot countries: Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Vietnam. The methodological approach of collecting cross-country comparable data according to key indicators yielded some general but interesting results, published in a research working paper in March 2017.
White goods are big business, and it's easy to see why. They're among the most important products for any person who cooks and does laundry, making life easier across a wide range of household functions. Therefore, it is unsurprising that as a manufactured product category – that includes refrigerators and freezers, dishwashing machines, washing (and drying) machines, and stoves – global exports hit almost $90 billion in 2015.
Some countries that will leap to mind when thinking about white goods – because of the prominent consumer brands that emanate from them – are Germany (with such household names as Bosch or Miele) and the United States (Whirlpool). As with all manufactured goods, China is also a big exporter. However, among the world’s top exporters for home appliances is a county that not everyone would immediately guess: Turkey.
Turkey is in the top ten global exporters of fridges and freezers, washing machines and stoves, only just missing the top ten for dishwashers – but with growth averaging 15 percent a year over the past ten years, it's only a matter of a few years before Turkey is among the top-ranked exporters for this product too.
Growing steadily, then going global
Among Turkey’s better-known white-goods manufacturers is the firm Arçelik, a part of the industrial conglomerate Koç Holdings. Founded in 1955, Arçelik started off making office and metal furniture, producing its first washing machine in 1959, its first refrigerator in 1960, and launching a vacuum cleaner plant in 1979 and a dishwasher plant in 1993.
However, among the firm’s various accomplishments, one stands out, both to outside observers and for the company itself: when Arçelik broke out of Turkey to go global, first in the markets Arçelik sold to and then in its production locations.
This expansion has occurred both through organic growth and through strategic acquisitions. For example, aside from the Arçelik brand itself, among the firm’s flagship brands is Beko, initially a home-grown brand that in the 1990s was assigned to drive Arçelik’s expansion outside of Turkey. The Beko team was tasked with the goal of “being a world brand”: Today a Beko-branded product is sold, worldwide, every two seconds.