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
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.