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Labbing and Learning: Scaling Innovation at the World Bank Group

Aleem Walji's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français

Aleem Walji, director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, recently gave an interview to Forbes and the Skoll World Forum on all things innovation and development. This blog post highlights some of the key points from that interview.

When I joined the World Bank at the end of 2009, I was asked how we could more systematically support innovation. We started by building on the Bank’s own “access to information” policy, which was foundational for our Open Data initiative. When we made our data available to the world in a machine-readable format, searchable, and reusable, back in April 2010, people came in droves. Within months, we had more traffic to our data catalogue than the World Bank homepage.

Another powerful insight we had was to link maps through “Mapping for Results” with poverty data and project results to show the relationship between where we lend, where poor people live, and the results of our work. While it may sound simple or obvious, even today development partners struggle to map the relationship between projects they fund and poverty indicators in a given country. We quickly realized the value of “mapping aid” and making aid data transparent and comparable. The Open Aid Partnership grew out of that impulse.

World Bank Group President Jim Kim: Inside the G20

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Русский

The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn't be forgotten in these important discussions.

A New Partnership With Moldova

Abdoulaye Seck's picture
Also available in: Русский

I landed in Chisinau on a short flight from Frankfurt a mere two years ago. I immediately liked this vibrant and cosmopolitan city built with white limestone and awash with greenery, and remember thinking that it has the potential to attract scores of tourists. But tickets to fly into Chisinau were expensive in 2011.

I also recall so vividly my first trip through the Moldovan countryside shortly after.  An amalgam of bright green leaves on walnut trees contrasted the yellow of the sunflowers that grow in fields with some of the most fertile soil in the world. I was immediately struck by the immense potential that Moldova holds in agriculture.


Good things have happened since then.

PPPs: Infrastructure Is in Demand, So Where Is the Investment?

Jordan Z. Schwartz's picture

It should be celebration time for public-private partnerships and other forms of private investment in infrastructure.  The pent-up demand for infrastructure in the developing world has never been greater—over double the $900 billion per year being spent now, according to our rough estimates; and governments around the world are falling over themselves to show donors, strategic investors and creditors alike how committed they are to attracting private investment to infrastructure.

Private Investment in InfrastructureSomehow, as we release the 2012 data on private participation in infrastructure (PPI) across the developing world [see: PPI Database], I just can’t get myself to pop the champagne.  True, the march into higher levels of investment, uneven as it is, continues.  Commitments for PPI totaled $182 billion in 2012 and most developing countries clocked in with at least one private investment.  But the total is still less than 20 percent of what the developing world is spending on infrastructure, and less than 10 percent of what is needed to reach growth targets.  It is still less than one percent of GDP for developing countries.

If the demand is out there, what are all those investors scared of?

The Value of Listening and Learning from Indigenous Peoples of the World

Luis Felipe Duchicela's picture

Luis Felipe Duchicela speaks at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. UN PhotoAfter six months as the World Bank's Senior Adviser for Indigenous Peoples, I have found that we have a golden opportunity to strengthen our commitment to Indigenous Peoples and bring them in as partners as we work to fulfill the World Bank’s mission of eradicating extreme poverty, achieving shared prosperity, and fostering sustainable development.

I have had the opportunity over the past several months to launch a conversation with Indigenous Peoples around the world. It began as a preliminary discussion of how best to consult around our safeguards policies, but it has become much more, in large part due to the tremendous energy and enthusiasm of indigenous groups.

In our first meeting in Guatemala this spring, we were talking with Mesoamerican representatives about the outreach we would be starting soon around safeguards policies. They listened and then said: Well, what we think you’re trying to do is actually to have a dialogue with us. Through dialogue, you do not just ask us what we think of a finished or semi-finished product, but rather you listen to our points of view, and we have a conversation about it, a discussion, to reach an agreement. And that’s what we’ve done, and we’ve received expressions of approval, enthusiasm and hope from Indigenous Peoples in many parts of the world – Russia to Thailand to Peru.

The Time to End Poverty Is Now

Joachim von Amsberg's picture

If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.

Learning from Data-Driven Delivery

Aleem Walji's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | 中文 | Français

Given confusion around the phrase “science of delivery,” it’s important to state that delivery science is not a “one-size-fits-all” prescription based on the premise that what works somewhere can work anywhere. And it does not profess that research and evidence ensure a certain outcome.
A few weeks ago, the World Bank and the Korea Development Institute convened a global conference on the science of delivery. Several development institutions assembled including the Gates Foundation, the Grameen Foundation, UNICEF, the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, and the mHealth Alliance. We discussed development opportunities and challenges when focusing on the extremely poor, including experiments in health care, how technology is reducing costs and increasing effectiveness, and the difficulty of moving from successful pilots to delivery at scale.
The consensus in Seoul was that a science of delivery underscores the importance of a data-driven and rigorous process to understand what works, under what conditions, why, and how. Too often in international development, we jump to conclusions without understanding counterfactuals and assume we can replicate success without understanding its constituent elements.

Monthly World Bank Updates on Economic Developments in Russia Now Available

Birgit Hansl's picture
Also available in: Русский

Since our most recent Russia Economic Report (RER) just four months ago, the World Bank revised its 2013 growth outlook for Russia – down from 3.3 percent to 2.3 percent. This downward revision in May represents a decline in our projections by 1.0 percentage point compared with March, and 1.3 percentage points compared with October 2012.

From Mozart to Sustainability – New Ideas from Salzburg

Benedikt Lukas Signer's picture

Jim Bacchus (standing), a former U.S. congressman, WTO appellate judge and chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Governance for Sustainability, watches a session.To most of us, Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart and the Sound of Music. But the city is also host to another global institution, much less well known yet influencing thinking around the world. For over 60 years, the Salzburg Global Seminar has been “convening imaginative thinkers from different cultures and institutions,” providing a space for people from all walks of life to “challenge present and future leaders to solve issues of global concern.” Past speakers at Salzburg include our own President Jim Yong Kim (by video link).

I recently returned from four days in Salzburg, participating in a seminar on “New thinking for Sustainability,” a joint initiative with the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Governance for Sustainability. The organizers did a great job bringing together a wide range of thinkers and practitioners from 26 countries. Participants ranged from a local government official in Pakistan to a former Mexican presidential candidate; from a young Thai researcher at the beginning of her career to a former secretary general of the Club of Rome looking back on decades of experience.

Opinions about the actions needed to face the challenges of the 21st century were almost equally diverse. Some participants emphasized the need for action at the local level, others stressed the crucial role of private sector, others still passionately argued that feasible solutions can only come through a strong state.

Yet a number of general principles seem to have found wide agreement (my own summary):

A Voice Against Corruption

Leonard McCarthy's picture

Last week, Transparency International published its 2013 Corruption Barometer, which reports the findings of a survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries on their interactions with corruption, the institutions and sectors they see as most corrupt, and their perceptions on whether they have a role in combating corruption. The report captures a number of trends, including the view that corruption is worsening across many sectors; it also calls for governments to strengthen their accountability platforms and enhance standards for procurement and public financial management.

This year’s survey found that 27% of people report having paid a bribe in the past year, nearly the same percentage as in the 2010/2011 report (26%). This indicates that more than a quarter of people surveyed have been touched by bribery.
There was a follow-up question: If the respondent did pay a bribe, what was the reason? The answer given most often, with 40% of responses, was “to speed things up.” This high rate of bribes for speed of service, to me, suggests a troubling complicity: The person paying the bribe may feel entitled to more rapid service at the expense of others.