Remember when you were a kid and everyone asked: “What do you want to become when you grow up?” What did you answer? Have you fulfilled your dreams?
Most of us aspire to live our lives to the fullest; to develop our talents; to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we may feel lost in the great scheme of things. But as the World Bank Group’s Jim Yong Kim points out: The most successful movements to change the world started with a small group of like-minded people. Think of the movements to find a treatment for AIDS, to promote human rights or to ensure gender equality.
Mobile money has taken off in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, where mobile operators are developing successful services. At the end of 2013, there were 219 mobile money services in 84 countries, demonstrating the extensive reach of this technology. Around 70% of people in the developing world now have access to a mobile phone, which serves as a gateway to financial services for millions of people where physical bank branches either don’t exist or aren’t readily available.
Mobile money services have made it easier and cheaper for people to use financial services, and especially for people to send payments. bKash, for example, is one such company working to “widen the net of financial inclusion” through mobile money services. In Bangladesh, bKash has 8 million registered users who use the service to send payments and remittances for a very low cost. In a country where much of the population lives in remote areas, bKash has had a great deal of success reaching the otherwise underserved with financial services through its network of 76,000 agents.
But payments are just the beginning. Some innovators are now putting digital finance at the core of their business models by allowing people to pay in small increments, often in a pay-as-you-go format, via their mobile money accounts for crucial services. The technology behind mobile money also allows for the expansion of other digital financial services such as credit, insurance or savings.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, discusses her trip to Poland, its economy, progress in boosting shared prosperity, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.
Wednesday, April 9
Next week, we’ll be hosting our Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., which will attract a few thousand leaders in development from around the world. To set the stage for these meetings, I talked this week about the fundamental issues in global development and how we’re undergoing dramatic changes inside the World Bank Group to meet those great challenges.
We live in an unequal world. The gaps between the rich and poor are as obvious here in Washington, D.C., as they are in any capital. Yet, those excluded from economic progress remain largely invisible to many of us in the rich world. In the words of Pope Francis, “That homeless people freeze to death on the street is not news. But a drop … in the stock market is a tragedy.”
While we in the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.
Four years ago the World Bank Group opened its data to the public hoping innovators would find new ways to use the data. At the same time, a growing number of governments were also opening up their data – to be more accountable, and to spur economic activity around the data. Today, the open data entrepreneur has emerged. About 500 companies that use open data in their business have sprung up in the United States alone, and similar businesses are cropping up all over the world, even in countries with limited data — let alone open data.
So far, this open data-fueled sector is still small, but it promises to take the delivery of useful information to a new level as it grows. In the United States, businesses are using utilities data to promote energy efficiency, education data to help find the best schools, and health data to allow people to check symptoms and make doctor appointments, to name a few examples. A 2013 study by McKinsey & Co. estimates open data could help generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value for the global economy.
But can open data entrepreneurs help tackle global challenges and make a difference in developing countries, including in the poorest and most fragile countries? A recent World Bank event explored that question, bringing in one of the private sector pioneers in the use of open data, The Climate Corporation, along with Metabiota, a for-profit firm tracking emerging diseases in developing countries, and Joel Gurin, author of Open Data Now and the lead on a New York University-based project, Open Data 500.
- open data
With its scenarios of increasing risks as a result of climate change – from sea level rise to disappearing fish populations, food insecurity, and forest diebacks from extreme heat – the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a picture of a complicated future where no one gets by unscathed, where existing vulnerabilities are exacerbated, and where, as Fred Pearce so aptly puts it, we need to “prepare for the worst.”
But, as the scientists rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be like this.
As the 15th Annual World Bank Land and Poverty conference convenes in Washington, DC, this week, it is clear that the effective governance and use of land have profound implications for many of the global challenges we face today – from managing rapid urbanization to creating jobs, stimulating investment, ensuring food security, supporting climate smart agriculture, and enhancing transparency.
To contribute to this global conversation, the World Bank Group and UNCTAD have prepared a joint report, The Practice of Responsible Investment Principles in Larger-Scale Agricultural Investments, which analyzes the impact of larger scale agribusiness investments – especially on local populations.