The Proposition: "Can state-owned banks play an important role in promoting financial stability and access?"
The other day, my colleague Roger Gorham, a transport economist working in Africa, shared with me an interesting story. He was in Lagos, meeting with stakeholders about setting up public-private partnerships for transport initiatives. One meeting revealed that, in an effort to improve service, a private entity had invested in new taxis for Lagos and in each had installed a GPS unit. This little revelation may not seem interesting, but it was very exciting to Roger, who also learned that the company has amassed more than 3 years of GPS tracking data for these taxis (which, incidentally, troll the city like perfect probes, nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and that this data could be made available to him, if he thought he might make some use of it.
Now, if you are reading this blog, chances are that you realize that with this kind of data and a little analysis, we can quickly and easily reveal powerful insights about a city’s transport network – when and where congestion occurs, average traffic volumes, key traffic generators (from taxi pick-up point data), occurrence of accidents and traffic blockages in real time, and even the estimated effects of congestion and drive cycle on fuel efficiency.
As Roger said, “They are sitting on a gold mine and don’t even know it….”
We opened our data
When we opened our data at the World Bank last April, we were excited by the possibility of users coming up with applications and uses of development data that we would have never come up with ourselves. What we did not expect, however, was the scale of response, creativity, and energy from the software development community, researchers, and other user groups from so many parts of the world.
We challenged developers
The Apps for Development competition challenged developers globally to apply their creativity, talents, and insights about social and economic indicators to create tools, games, or analysis that would help people better understand how to use large data sets to address development problems.
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."
Remittances are recovering...
After steep declines in 2009, remittances to Central Asian countries Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Armenia are seeing healthy recovery. Kenya also saw a 17% jump in remittances in November 2010.
- weekly news
Earlier this month, I was invited to be a keynote speaker on the theme of "Education for Economic Success" at the Education World Forum, which brought education ministers and leaders from over 75 countries together in London.
Education is fundamental to development and growth. The human mind makes possible all development achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.
A new paper by Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz at the Brookings Institution reports a remarkable acceleration in the pace of progress against absolute poverty since 2005, as can be seen in Figure 1 of their paper (found here). This would be great news if it could be believed, but there are reasons for doubt.
In “updating” the World Bank’s estimates using the Bank’s PovcalNet site, Chandy and Gertz have relied heavily on forecasts rather than estimates based on new surveys. Household surveys are the only credible method of measuring poverty. The technology has improved, but naturally the data take time to collect and process. We still do not have sufficiently recent surveys for many countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest overall poverty rate. The next edition of the World Bank’s regular three-yearly updates of its survey-based estimates of global poverty measures is scheduled for release later this year, and will go up to 2008, and revise consistently back to 1980. (Information on the last update can be found here. The paper documenting the methods and testing their robustness can be found here.)
The annual BETT Show, which takes place every January in London, claims to be the "world's largest education technology exhibition and trade show", with over 600 exhibitors and 100 seminars. Those who visit it are typically overwhelmed by the vast scale of the exhibition space at London-Olympia, by the big crowds, and, for lack of a better term, all of the cool stuff. As in past years, I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Education World Forum (EWF), an annual gathering of 60+ education ministers that occurs during the two days before BETT begins (the last morning of the Forum actually takes place at BETT itself), and so was able to stay on and tour the BETT exhibition space. As in previous years, my goal was to visit every vendor and exhibitor.
In case it might be of any interest, and like I did back in 2009, I thought I would share some random impressions (ten of them, in fact) from this tour below:
When the government of Uganda released a report ranking the Police Force as the most corrupt institution in Western Uganda, a native NGO called the National Foundation for Democracy and Human Rights (NAFODU) responded with a series of measures to bring changes in the ways the Police Force is operated in order to restore public trust and confidence in the institution.
Damien’s earlier post called into question one commonly-held view of the cause of the spread of HIV in Africa, namely male promiscuity.
A paper by Pauline Leclerc and others (hat tip to Mark Gersovitz) seems to show that there is even greater uncertainty. Leclerc and co-authors tried to simulate the dynamics of the epidemic in Zambia but found that the parameters needed to fit epidemiological models were beyond what the data would allow.
In short, thirty years later, it appears as if we still don’t know what caused the disease to spread the way it did on the continent. Perhaps there is no single set of causes, and that the evolution of the disease is different in different parts of Africa. Perhaps we should move beyond epidemiological models and look to other disciplines for the answers.
At any rate, to fight the epidemic effectively, we need to know how and why it became an epidemic.