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April 2010

Mobile Phones and Literacy in Rural Communities

Michael Trucano's picture

mobile learning while sittingGiven their low costs and increasing ubiquity, even in very poor communities, much has been written about the potential for mobile phones to aid in the delivery of 'anytime, anywhere' education. But what might such educational practices look like in practice? The MILLEE project  (Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies) has been examining this issue for the last six years, beginning with low-income communities in the urban slums and villages in India.

In a recent presentation at the World Bank, Matthew Kam, the founder of MILLEE, shared experiences from ten rounds of iterative small pilot field studies in developing and testing mobile phone gaming applications that enable children to acquire language literacy in immersive, game-like environments. One goal of this work is to investigate how to make localized English language learning resources more accessible to underprivileged children, at times and places that are more convenient than schools. (A short video profile of the project is available here; it is not embedded for direct viewing on this blog because it features a 15-second commercial at the beginning.)

A focus on gender issues at the Spring Meetings

Sameer Vasta's picture

In their discussions this weekend, the Development Committee will be assessing five strategic priorities for the Bank in a post-crisis environment. Gender is considered a cross-cutting issue that will factor into all of the Bank's work in these priority areas.

Gender is also getting special attention this year from IDA (International Development Association) deputies as they deliberate the current round of funding known as the IDA16 replenishment.

Attitudes, Opinions, and Why Dinner Matters

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.

Spring Meetings: What’s on the agenda?

Angie Gentile's picture

Development Committee meeting. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

“Spring Meetings” is the name used to describe a series of events—seminars, roundtables, press briefings and official meetings—spread over five or so days every year and all geared toward one thing: improving the lives of people in the developing world.

Discussions throughout the week focus on a broad range of topics (see meetings and civil society forum schedules) and are in many ways a prelude to the main event—the official meeting of the Development Committee—a group of 24 finance and development ministers appointed by each of the countries, or groups of countries, represented on the Boards of Executive Directors of the Bank and Fund. This year's meeting is set for Sunday, April 25.

The Development Committee meets twice a year and advises the Boards on critical development issues and on the financial resources needed to promote economic development in developing countries. The President of the Bank has a special responsibility to propose topics that he believes require the ministers’ attention.

This year’s agenda, just announced, includes:

  • Strengthening Development after the Crisis: World Bank Group Post-Crisis Directions, Internal Reforms and Financial Capacity
  • World Bank Group Voice Reform: Enhancing Voice and Participation of Developing and Transition Countries in 2010 and Beyond

Better drug supply chains keep thousands more children alive

Monique Vledder's picture

On April 21, a few days before World Malaria Day, we announced some very encouraging results from a pilot project in Zambia through which we were testing various improvements in the public sector supply chain for lifesaving drugs. What we had been trying to do, with support from DfID and USAID, was to remove bottlenecks and get key supplies like pediatric malaria drugs off the shelves in district storage facilities and out to patients in rural areas on time.

When private sector techniques--like hiring someone to plan drug orders based on actual consumption in rural public health centers--were used to strengthen the public sector supply chain, we saw that the availability of pediatric malaria drugs nearly doubled in rural health centers in the 16 pilot districts.

This is a very significant finding, as just 7 percent of children in rural Zambia receive first-line treatment for malaria within 24 hours of developing fever (Zambia National Malaria Indicator Survey, 2008). We estimate that if these techniques are scaled up nationwide, 27,000 children could be saved from malaria deaths between now and 2015—cutting child mortality from malaria by 37 percent in Zambia.

From Collapse to Recovery: Latin America and Caribbean rebound from crisis

Carlos Molina's picture

With the global economic crisis in the rearview mirror, Latin American economies are on a fast track to full recovery and will post a solid 4 percent growth for 2010.

This is no small feat, says the Bank’s chief regional economist Augusto de la Torre, in his new report on the region’s economic prospects ‘From Collapse to Recovery’ (pdf). The region’s rebound, he explains, is one of the world’s strongest, second only to Asia’s, which is the main engine pushing global economies towards a full-fledged recovery.

From iconic species to iconic case studies

Iconic species – the panda, the tiger, the bald eagle, and even the small but spectacular corroboree frog – have been the vehicle for spreading the environment message.  That message can change and become more subtle. 

 Photo © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

Mr Zoellick’s message at the launch of the Tiger Initiative in 2008 focused on integrating “environmental concerns ...  into the mainstream of development and operational plans”.   His statement in relation to the National Geographic’s “Vanishing Icons” photo exhibit (in the World Bank headquarter's atrium in DC) advanced the discussion to the tiger’s “largely untapped potential to spur balanced development”.  The conditions and actions needed to improve the habitat of the tiger are closely related to those needed to improve the livelihoods of local communities and vice versa.

Some plant communities are emerging as iconic ecosystems.  The mangroves are the best example.  Their role as a habitat and breeding ground for so many species, as a resource for local people and in coastal protection are listed again and again.  They feature in the recent WRI publication “Banking on Nature’s Assets” which forcefully makes the case that Multilateral Development Banks can strengthen development by using ecosystem services and describes some of the case studies and tools we have to help do this.

But we are also seeing the emergence of “iconic case studies” and this is a concern to me. 

Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution crisis: Summertime complacency won’t solve the wintertime problem

Arshad Sayed's picture
No mountains are visible beyond this pollution cloud. (Late November 2007)

It certainly feels like the worst of winter is over for another year, well until December anyway. Daytime temperatures now reach above 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) regularly, the city’s ice sculptures have melted and the slippery footpaths have thawed, making walking in the city safer and easier. There’s also a visible improvement in Ulaanbaatar’s (UB) air quality.

On most days, from my office window, I can now see the beautiful snow-dappled mountains that surround UB; during the heavily polluted winter months the horizon is completely hidden behind a thick grey-brown smoky haze. 


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