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Information and Communication Technologies

African leaders committed to building a digital economy

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Mbarak Mbigo helps his colleagues who are software developers at Andela, in Nairobi, Kenya. © Dominic Chavez/IFC


We only have to look at the way we communicate, shop, travel, work and entertain ourselves to understand how technology has drastically changed every aspect of life and business in the last 10 years.

Technology-driven changes are radically transforming the world and enabling developing countries to leapfrog decades of “traditional” industrial development. But disruptive technology also increases the stakes for countries, which cannot afford to be left behind.

Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated its capacity to harness technology when it embraced the mobile telecom revolution in the 2000s. Now again, there is huge potential for digital impact in Africa. But to achieve that, the five foundations of a digital economy need to be in place - digital infrastructure, literacy and skills, financial services, platforms, and digital entrepreneurship and innovation.

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
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Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

Leveraging technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank


Billions of people are connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge -- foreshadowing stunning possibilities.  This potential is multiplied by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data processing, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, blockchain, etc.
 
This so called 4th industrial revolution can help accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Science, Technology and Innovation, together with Financing for Development, were identified by the UN as one of the two main “means of implementation” to achieve the SDGs by 2030 as it cuts across all SDGs as highlighted by International Telecommunication Union’s Fast Forward Progress Report – Leveraging Tech to Achieve the SDGs.

Toward a linked and inclusive economy

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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The arrival of broadband internet is set to significantly improve medical services in Tonga. © Tom Perry/World Bank.
The arrival of broadband internet is set to significantly improve medical services in Tonga. © Tom Perry/World Bank.

While some studies predict automation to eliminate jobs at a dizzying rate, disruptive technologies can also create new lines of work. Our working draft of the forthcoming 2019 World Development Report, The Changing Nature of Work, notes that in the past century robots have created more jobs than they have displaced. The capacity of technology to exponentially change how we live, work, and organize leaves us at the World Bank Group constantly asking: How can we adapt the skills and knowledge of today to match the jobs of tomorrow?
 
One answer is to harness the data revolution to support new pathways to development. Some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day from cell phones, sensors, online platforms, and other sources. When data is used to help individuals adapt to the technology-led economy, it can make a huge contribution toward ending extreme poverty and inequality. Technology companies, however well intended, cannot do this alone.

Demystifying technologies for digital identification

Luda Bujoreanu's picture
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© iStock

With more than 1.1 billion individuals without official proof of identity, a myriad of technologies is advancing at a faster speed than ever before and becoming more affordable, making it possible for nations to leapfrog paper based approaches of the past. Yet, it is becoming a challenge to understand and keep up with the various technologies and advancements that are especially relevant for digital identification systems. Identification for Development (ID4D) launches a new Technology Landscape report providing an overview of current and emerging technology trends in digital identity.
    
Whether a country is enhancing existing ID systems or implementing new ones from the ground up, technology choices, when appropriately selected and implemented, can scale #ID4D enrollment and authentication to help reach the missing billion. Technology choices can also enable identification systems to lead to tangible benefits across a range of areas, such as financial inclusion, health services, and social protection for the poorest and most vulnerable. This #ID4D Technology Landscape report reminds us that additional factors and risk mitigating measures need to be considered when choosing certain #digitalidentity technology. These include the need for proper privacy and data protection, open standards and vendor neutrality, that match with cultural contexts, economic feasibility and infrastructure constraints. 

In Senegal, a call to invest in people and the planet

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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For three days this month, the West African nation of Senegal was in the spotlight of global efforts to combat climate change and improve education in a rapidly changing world.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Senegal’s President Macky Sall co-hosted a conference in Dakar to replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – a funding platform to help low-income countries increase the number of children who are both in school and learning.

African leaders and partners stepped up to announce their commitment to provide an education that prepares children to compete in the economy of the future and advances socio-economic progress.

Heads of state from across the continent described their challenges—including terrorism, insecurity, the influx of refugee children who need an education, the strain on national budgets, and the cultural bias against educating girls.

Can cryptocurrencies and blockchain help fight corruption?

Enrique Aldaz-Carroll's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español
© Pixbaby/Creative Commons
© Pixbaby/Creative Commons


Blockchain and cryptocurrencies similar to Bitcoin could transform the way we make payments and do business. They also hold great promise as a method of fighting corruption.

Technological advances have made it possible to dramatically increase the accountability and transparency of public financing to reduce corruption. For example, if a government decides to construct a road, it can now track how each dollar is being spent, identify all the users of the funds, and ensure that only those authorized to spend money do so on originally intended expenses within the permitted time. Fraud and corruption investigations that now take on average 15 months could be performed at the touch of a button and at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, this type of financial tracking would be a deterrent for bribes in the public sector, which amount to between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion annually, roughly 2 percent of global GDP. This in turn would increase development impact. All it would take is adopting a cryptocurrency and using blockchain software.

What keeps the President of the World Bank up at night?

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting comes at a time of good news for the world economy. As we said in this month’s Global Economic Prospects report, for the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year.

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