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Musicians, funky technologists, and the World Bank: What do they have in common?

Sean Ding's picture
Also available in: Français
Every March, some 45,000 people flood into Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), a set of film, music, and interactive festivals.  Since 1987, SXSW has been an epicenter for performers and filmmakers to showcase their talent, and more recently, for technologists and startup founders to launch new products and apps, such as Foursquare and Twitter (in 2007). This year, SXSW has brought to Austin discussion of big ideas such as extreme bionics, women in tech, anti-robot advocacy – and literally big devices such as GE’s 14-foot barbecue smoker
 
SXSW 2015. © Ed Schipul licensed under CC BY 2.0


At first sight, SXSW may appear to have little in common with the World Bank Group, the largest development institution in the world. Yet, creativity and technology, the two founding principles of SXSW, are often cited as two key factors for the World Bank Group to tackle the most daunting development challenges of the 21st century. At this year’s SXSW, a number of panel discussions around innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology in emerging markets are bringing the World Bank’s development agenda and Austin’s passion for technology much closer together. Among them two panels focusing on the risk and return of African Tech startups, and the innovation ecosystem in emerging markets, organized by infoDev, a World Bank program that supports innovation and entrepreneurship globally.

Partnering with the mining industry in good times and bad

Anita Marangoly George's picture
Heading to my first African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa recently, I was wondering how receptive mining companies would be to the idea of greater partnership given that commodity prices were at historic lows. While there was some hesitation from isolated voices, the overwhelming consensus was, YES, partnerships that promote shared benefits are critical to the sector in both the good times and the bad.
The key in this commodities downturn is to develop win-win partnerships. A central theme at Indaba was the importance of hiring and training local people, and increasing the focus on local procurement which, in turn, helps diversify local economies through linkages to mines’ supply chains. Best practices in training for small and medium-sized enterprises in health, safety, environmental and quality standards were highlighted as well as initiatives to ensure women share in the benefits flowing from mining evenly.
 


Collaboration is also key to ensuring that the power generated for mining in Africa benefits communities. Power-mining integration is essential when you consider that Sub-Saharan Africa today only generates 80 gigawatts of power each year for 48 countries and a population of 1.1 billion people. Two-thirds of people in the region live entirely without electricity and those with a power connection suffer constant disruptions in supply. Without new investment and with current rates of population growth, there will be more Africans without power by 2030 than there are now.

Three breakthroughs that can help bring power to over a billion people

Charles Feinstein's picture
Solar panels in Mali (© Curt Carnemark / World Bank).This blog post was originally published on Ideas Lab.

Breakthroughs in energy technology are happening all over the world, improving access to power for people and making a real difference in their quality of life. While technological innovation tends to come predominantly from developed economies, we see incredible entrepreneurialism in developing countries when it comes to adopting and adapting new technology for local markets and needs. The challenge for poorer countries is getting timely access to the best and cleanest technologies.

When I was approached by Ideas Lab to share my energy innovation predictions, I decided to crowdsource ideas from my team in the World Bank’s Energy Global Practice. These are people in regular — almost daily — contact with the government and private sector in the world’s key emerging markets and low-income countries.

Their workdays are occupied by the challenge of improving energy services for millions of people in developing countries while also reaching the 1.2 billion people in the world still waiting for any electricity connection. And the challenge is to do this in ways that are sustainable for economies, people and the environment.

1. In terms of technology breakthroughs, at the top of everyone’s list: energy storage.

Why we have to #Get2Equal

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 中文
Also available in Bahasa Indonesia

Women are emerging as a major force for change. Countries that have invested in girls’ education and removed legal barriers that prevent women from achieving their potential are now seeing the benefits.

Let’s take Latin America. More than 70 million women have joined the labor force in recent years. Two-thirds of the increase in women’s labor force participation in the last two decades can be attributed to more education and the fact that women marry later and have fewer children. As a result, between 2000 and 2010, women's earnings contributed to about 30% of the reduction in extreme poverty in the region.
 
Women are often paid far less than men, while they also perform most
of the world’s unpaid care work. © Mariana Ceratti/World Bank

In fact, for countries to leave poverty behind, both men and women need to get to equal and push the frontiers of equal opportunities even further. But to get there, we need to tackle three issues.

First, violence against women needs to end. More than 700 million women worldwide are estimated to have been subject to violence at the hands of a husband or partner. Domestic violence comes with great cost to individuals but also has significant impact on families, communities, and economies. Its negative impact on productivity costs Chile up to 2% of its GDP and Brazil 1.2%. 

Many girls and women have little control over their sexual and reproductive health: If current trends persist, more than 142 million girls will be married off over the next decade while they are still children themselves.

Recent Floods in Malawi Hit the Poorest Areas: What This Implies

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture
 
Malawi flood map 2015


By Stéphane Hallegatte, Mook Bangalore, and Francis Samson Nkoka

Malawi is no stranger to significant flooding. In January 2012, floods affected more than 10,000 people and caused US$3 million worth of damage to households and infrastructure. But this year’s floods are much larger in magnitude, even unprecedented.

Beginning in early January, heavy rains triggered significant flooding in the southern and eastern districts of the country. The districts which experienced the largest impacts include Nsanje and Chikwawa in the south and Phalombe and Zomba in the east. So far, the flooding has affected more than 600,000 people, displaced over 170,000, and damaged agricultural crops covering more than 60,000 hectares.

While aggregate numbers and economic cost indicate the seriousness of the event, it is critical to look at exactly who is affected in the country. We have found that the poorest are on the front line.

#BestOf2014: Six Popular Environmental Stories You Shouldn’t Miss

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
As we get ready to kick off the new year, let’s recount the voices and stories about how we can enhance the way we interact with our planet. From Ethiopia to Indonesia, we’ve seen our efforts improve lives and help incomes grow as countries and communities strive for greener landscapes, healthier oceans and cleaner air.
 
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
 
1. Raising More Fish to Meet Rising DemandPhoto by Nathan Jones via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Aquaculture is on the rise to help feed a growing population. New #Fish2030 report: http://t.co/0fbH4fLDJO http://t.co/Lm5eHsGZaR

— World Bank (@WorldBank) February 6, 2014

Thoughts on Resilience: Action versus Definition

Marc Sadler's picture
Photo by F. Fiondella (IRI/CCAFS) via Flickr CCA new word has entered the running for buzzword of the moment: “Resilience” seems to appear on every other page and is lauded at events as the focus for all. Indeed, academics, institutions and organizations seem to be racing to define the term, which will most likely end in confusion and competing definitions.

However, the reality of the concept is extremely straightforward. Resilience equals the ability of people, communities, governments and systems to withstand the impacts of negative events and to continue to grow despite them. Or maybe that is simply the definition I use.

Whatever the definition, what we can agree on is the need for action. It has always been challenging to convince people to invest in things that are preventative—quite simply, demonstrating impact requires proving a negative most of the time. However, with the apparent increase in frequency and severity of negative events, political and commercial willingness to take prevention, avoidance and risk management seriously is increasing.

Trade in Fishing Services—Good or Bad? Separating Myth from Fact

Tim Bostock's picture
Small-scale fishers in West Africa. Courtesy MRAG, Ltd.A colleague recently quizzed me on the extent to which our latest report—Trade in Fishing Services: Emerging Perspectives on Foreign Access Agreements—specifically addresses the World Bank’s goals of reducing poverty and sharing prosperity in developing countries. My brief answer was “comprehensively!”. Helping the poor and protecting the environment may not be the first things that pop into your mind when you think about foreign fishing access arrangements. However, when considered as international trade in fishing services, these arrangements do have the potential to deliver real benefits to the poorest people in developing countries. How? Well, let’s immediately dive deeper into the report…
 
Foreign access rarely receives good press. Although over half of the world’s exclusive economic zones are subject to some form of foreign fishing arrangement, there is a perception that industrialized nations are "giving with one hand while taking away with the other." Criticism abounds regarding the role that foreign fleets play in overexploiting coastal state fish stocks, in engaging in illegal and unreported activity, in contributing to conflicts with small-scale fisheries and in generally undermining domestic fishing interests in vulnerable developing economies.

Climate smart management for farms, forests and everything in between

Diji Chandrasekharan Behr's picture
A high-level panel on adaptation-based mitigation at the Global Landscape Forum 2014 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by PROFOR)The energy at the Global Landscapes Forum held alongside the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Lima was electric—charged by the enthusiasm of the scientists, practitioners, indigenous peoples, investors, policy makers, youth and government negotiators who came together to share their latest innovations, tools and ideas for tackling climate change across land uses—from farms to forests and everything in between. Conversations were passionate as we discussed how to bring together our efforts to address climate change and achieve sustainable development at the landscape level—by working in a coordinated manner on agriculture, forests, water and more. 

A notable shift at the 2014 Forum from previous ones, in addition to the mounting numbers in attendance (the event “sold out” with registration closing weeks early), was the buzz about adaptation. It permeated across panels and speakers, making clear the conversation on land-based sectors and climate change has moved well beyond mitigation. The Program on Forests (PROFOR) contributed to advancing the conversation by convening a high-level panel on “Moving forward with adaptation-based mitigation.”    

Creating and Sustaining an Essential Partnership for Food Safety

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文
Photo by John Hogg / World BankThis week, the Global Food Safety Partnership will hold its third annual meeting in Cape Town, just ahead of the holiday season when food safety issues are not on everyone’s minds. They should be. Unsafe food exacts a heavy toll on people and whole economies, and is cited as a leading cause of more than 200 illnesses. However, safe food does not need to be a luxury—which is something that motivates and animates our work at the World Bank Group. Food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. Increasingly, we are learning how food safety affects people, and disproportionately impacts the lives and livelihoods of poor people.This growing awareness about food safety is partly because of the food scares that have shaken many countries in recent years. Food safety incidents occur anywhere in the world—both in industrialized and developing countries alike and in countries large and small...

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