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December 2011

The Aakash, India's $35 (?) Tablet for Education

Michael Trucano's picture

the tablet: resistance is futileOn 5 October 2011, the Indian Ministry for Human Resource Development announced the launch of a new low cost educational tablet: the Aakash. Developed by the London-based company DataWind with the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, the Aakash has been described by some as potentially heralding a new 'Internet revolution' within India education, doing for educational computing what the mobile phone has done for personal communications over the past decade.  The launch of this product has been accompanied by a great deal of press attention, some laudatory, some less so.  Following on a visit by Indian HRD Minister Sibal in October, DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli stopped by the World Bank yesterday to talk about the Aakash, and more broadly, about sustainable business models to drive the broad adoption of computing and Internet devices in the developing world.

Some critics have noted that this is not the first time such a device has been promised for India, recalling the general hoopla that greeted earlier devices like the Simputer and the $100 laptop (OLPC) project.  What is different this time around, they ask, and why is the government subsidizing the purchase price of this particular gadget?

Decentralizing Kenya: Four Paradoxes

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

When I was growing up in Bavaria—Germany’s largest and proudest state—there were a lot of efforts to revive remote regions, especially those bordering the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

There were special incentives for industries to locate in these regions and important federal subsidies to their local governments. Other countries made much more radical attempts at reshaping their economic geography.

Indonesia forced people from “overpopulated” Java to resettle in remote parts of the country, including to the culturally distinct province of Papua. Brazil, Nigeria, and Tanzania relocated their capitals to “decongest” their mega-cities.

All of these experiments yielded the same result: complete failure! Germany’s remote regions never became centers of economic activity, while the big cities—especially in emerging economies—continued to mushroom and grow.

These lessons are important for Kenya as it embarks on a massive decentralization program—arguably the most radical in the world today.

d’Urban: Cities leading at COP17

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.

The following Monday at the COP venue, an important partnership was announced. All five multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) launched an unprecedented partnership committing all of the world’s development banks to particularly cooperate on cities and climate change efforts. The MDBs – that provide about $8.4 billion of basic services support to cities annually – will work toward common tools and metrics for GHG emissions and urban risk.

During COP17 itself, cities that were leading this effort shared their experiences: Rio de Janeiro presented their revised GHG emissions inventory, an important leadership contribution; Tokyo outlined the impressive first year operation of its first-ever city-based emissions trading system; Mexico City issued the first Annual Report of the Mexico City Pact; Mayor Parks Tau of Johannesburg chaired a well attended C40 event. By my count, in just seven days, there were at least 100 events highlighting the critical role for cities to lead the world’s mitigation efforts, and better prepare to adapt to changing climate.

Making carbon finance work for the poor

Rachel Kyte's picture

During this week in Durban, we announced two new financial initiatives designed to help the least-developed countries access financing for low-carbon investments and enable them to tap into carbon markets after 2012 - the Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) and the third tranche of the BioCarbon Fund (BioCF T3).

The funds, focused on agriculture and access to energy, are designed to strengthen links to private sources of capital via carbon markets for some of the world's poorest communities.

The new instruments will help client countries to buy carbon credits from a range of projects including household biogas systems in Nepal, cook stoves in Africa, reforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, soil carbon in Kenya, and municipal solid waste in Uganda.

Ci-Dev, aiming to raise USD 120 million, is a partnership of donor and recipient countries, where public and private sector are pledging their support to capacity building and carbon market development in the poorest countries of the world.

The second initiative, the BioCF T3, will focus on reforestation and agriculture projects.

The agriculture projects are another example of the climate-smart agriculture we have been talking about all week – and deliver a triple win of increased food security and resilience through reduced soil erosion and increased land fertility as well as the access to new carbon markets.

Apps For Climate Competition Kicks Off

Tim Herzog's picture

New content aims to bring app developers and programmers together with the World Bank's open climate data.

On December 2nd, 2011 the World Bank Group announced the launch of a new “Apps for Climate” competition, to discover extraordinary ways to use open climate data. The competition encourages scientists, software developers, development practitioners and others to create applications that use open data to help solve the development problems that climate change poses. It aims to promote innovative use of open climate data – for example, through apps that help understand and manage weather-related disasters, to agriculture, food and water supplies, rising sea levels and other climate related development challenges.

What can we learn from medicine: Three mistakes to avoid when designing a trial registry – Guest Post by Ole Dahl Rasmussen

If you are like most people working with quantitative data in development, getting too many statistically significant results is probably not your most pressing problem. On the contrary, if you are lucky enough to find a star, whether it's of the 1%, 5% or 10% type, there are plenty of star-killers to choose from. In what is perhaps the only contribution to the rare genre of 'econometrics haiku', Keisuke Hirano reflects on one of them: T-stat looks too good // Try clustered standard errors - // Significance gone (in Angrist and Pischke's MHE).

Should developing countries shift from focusing on improving schools to improving parents?

Emiliana Vegas's picture

I travel to many developing countries in the context of my work for The World Bank. I visit schools that receive financial support and technical assistance from the Bank to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of students. Each time, I ask teachers in these schools what they think would make the biggest difference in the learning outcomes of their students. The most common answer is “better parents.” I often wonder if this response is, in some conscious or unconscious way, an excuse to help teachers explain the poor outcomes of their students (especially those from the poorest households) and their low expectations of what their students can achieve. However, both common sense and solid research indicate that parents matter.

Managing Risk and Keeping Focused in Turbulent Times

Mallory Saleson's picture

It’s been almost a year since Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking a wave of protests in his country and ensuing events that led to what we now refer to as the “Arab Spring”. Today, these events were remembered, and the future of the region debated, during a seminar MIGA co-hosted with the Financial Times in London on Managing Global Political Risk: Old Risks, New Moment.

Tunisia’s Minister of Finance Jalloul Ayed spoke passionately, eloquently, and with tremendous insight about the challenges and opportunities facing his country, noting many look to Tunisia as setting the pace and showing the way. “So far so good”, he noted, adding “democracy is now hopefully part of our political tradition.” But there is a daunting road ahead, dealing with the priorities, creating jobs for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth, encouraging much-needed investment. His biggest concern? “We cannot lose focus; we have to reform and get the job done.”

Should Development Organizations be Hunting Gazelles?

David McKenzie's picture

Last week I presented some early findings from ongoing work at the IADB, at Innovations for Poverty Action’s SME initiative inaugural conference. There was a lot of interesting discussion about early results from efforts to improve management and skills in small and medium firms, discussion of the most appropriate ways of financing these firms and the extent to which a personal vs automated approach to determining creditworthiness can be used, and an interesting panel on policies towards the missing middle. However, the one theme that has got me thinking the most is something that seems to come up a lot in discussions of microenterprise development and SME programs recently, namely should development institutions and policymakers be directing fewer resources at microfirms and more at high-growth-potential enterprises or gazelles?

Gazelles are defined by the OECD to be all enterprises up to 5 years old with average annualised growth greater than 20% per annum, over a three year period, and which have 10 or more workers. Recent work in the US, and looking at firms around the world have emphasized the role of a subset of dynamic, fast-growing young firms in net job creation, leading to policymakers and practioners focused on job creation to think we should be devoting more effort to identifying and supporting these gazelles, and decrying the lack of venture capital markets in developing countries. For example, see this scoping note by Tom Gibson and Hugh Stevenson at the IFC.


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