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June 2012

Monitoring Inequality

Martin Ravallion's picture

Inequality is getting more attention in efforts to monitor development progress. Alongside established measures of poverty and human development there have been calls for monitoring inequality. How should this be done?

We focus here on just one aspect of inequality, though an important aspect, namely the inequality of consumption or income. This is about “inequality of results” not “inequality of opportunities,” which may be more important but is much harder to measure. And there are other dimensions of inequality that matter, such as inequality in access to health and education services.  But this is the obvious place to start.

Let them eat laptops?*

Michael Trucano's picture

in my hand I have a very precious gift for youAs a result of reading the recent IDB study on the impact of the One Laptop Per Child project in Peru, my World Bank colleague Berk Ozler recently published a great post on the World Bank's Development Impact blog asking "One Laptop Per Child is not improving reading or math. But, are we learning enough from these evaluations?

Drawing insights from his readings of a few evaluations of technology use (one in Nepal [PDF] and one in Romania) he notes that, at quick glance, some large scale implementations of educational technologies are, for lack of a more technical term, rather a 'mess':

"The reason I call this a mess is because I am not sure (a) how the governments (and the organizations that help them) purchased a whole lot of these laptops to begin with and (b) why their evaluations have not been designed differently – to learn as much as we can from them on the potential of particular technologies in building human capital."

Three members of the team at IDB that led the OLPC Peru evaluation have responded ("One Laptop per Child revisited") in part to question (b) in the portion of Berk's informative and engaging post excerpted above.  I thought I'd try to try to help address question (a).

First let me say: I have no firsthand knowledge of the background to the OLPC Peru project specifically, nor of the motivations of various key actors instrumental in helping to decide to implement the program there as it was implemented, beyond what I have read about it online. (There is quite a lot written about this on the web; I won't attempt to summarize the many vibrant commentaries on this subject, but, for those who speak Spanish or who are handy with online translation tools, some time with your favorite search engine should unearth some related facts and a lot of opinions -- which I don't feel well-placed to evaluate in their specifics.) I have never worked in Peru, and have had only informal contact with some of the key people working on the project there.  The World Bank, while maintaining a regular dialogue with the Ministry of Education in Peru, was not to my knowledge involved in the OLPC project there in any substantive way. The World Bank itself is helping to evaluate a small OLPC pilot in Sri Lanka; a draft set of findings from that research is currently circulating and hopefully it will be released in the not too distant future.

That said, I *have* been involved in various capacities with *lots* of other large scale initiatives in other countries where lots of computers were purchased for use in schools and/or by students and/or teachers, and so I do feel I can offer some general comments based on this experience, in case it might of interest to anyone.

Meeting sustainable energy challenges by seizing private sector opportunities

Vivien Foster's picture

Photo Credit: David Waldorf for the Rural Solar Project in BangladeshA successful inclusive green growth strategy has to address the question of how we generate and consume energy. Indeed, the energy question is where poverty and climate pressures meet. One in five people worldwide lives without electricity. Two in five use wood, charcoal, dung or coal to cook and heat their homes, usually at risk to their health.

Your Top 5 questions about World Bank Open Data

Maryna Taran's picture

This page in Spanish | French | Arabic | Chinese

When the World Bank opened its doors and launched the Open Data Initiative two years ago, our Data Help Desk was flooded with questions, requests and comments from students, researchers, journalists, economists, statisticians and more. The demand for our data has only grown, and right now, our team answers around a thousand data-related queries a month by email and phone.

Meet the World Bank Open Data Helpdesk Team


Rio+20: When Legislators Make Their Voices Heard

Sergio Jellinek's picture

También disponible en español

Rio+20 has an unexpected effect on participants.

While government representatives attend interminable sessions to reach a consensus on the final text for the Sustainable Development summit, legislators from 85 countries managed to reach an agreement in record time. They made a commitment to promote legislation in their respective countries on green and inclusive growth, in other words, growth that respects the environment and benefits everyone in society.

G20 Needs to Focus More on Growth

Zia Qureshi's picture

This is the central message of a report World Bank staff prepared as an input to the G20 Los Cabos summit held from June 18-19. The summit comes at a precarious time for the world economy. The Euro Area is facing a relapse into recession, with potentially large losses of output with global repercussions if current risks to stability and growth are not addressed forcefully. Recovery in other advanced economies is weak and faltering. Growth is also slowing in emerging economies that have been the drivers of global growth in recent years. Against this background, the Bank report, entitled Restoring and Sustaining Growth, conveys the following main messages:

Is Education for All Finally Possible?

Tanya Gupta's picture

The tragedy of our times is that access to quality education is limited.  Whether in the US, internationally, education remains a privilege that only select few are entitled to, whereas a majority of this without financial resources are forced to compromise on the quality of education or go without. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and illiteracy which condemns the poor to stay poor. In the past few years technology has emerged as the single biggest game changer in the field of education.  As computing has become cheaper and more powerful, access to technology has increased proportionately. Another trend has been led by those who question traditional education methods and structure. For example many feel that teachers unions lead to a shift in focus away from the child to the pecuniary interests of the teachers. Others argue that the traditional classroom lecture where teachers talk and students listen is no longer effective. These trends have led to some interesting developments. Of these one is the focus of nonprofit organizations on supplying cheap tablets for free in the developing world. Another is the interesting possibility of eliminating school systems and teachers via innovative use of technology.

Wanted: Your questions on challenges and benefits of living in the city

Huong Lan Vu's picture
Dean Cira will answer some of your questions in a video

Urbanization itself cannot guarantee economic growth, but it does appear to be an inevitable process on the way to development: no country has achieved high income status without first urbanizing, and nearly all countries become at least 50% urbanized before fully reaching middle income status.

The trick is in how to manage this process in a way that plays up the benefits and minimizes the challenges it brings.

When I was a little child, we lived in a 30m2 house in the suburbs of Hanoi, Vietnam, with intermittent supplies of power and clean water. But I enjoyed playing on the quiet and clean street in front of my house. Twenty years later, my whole neighborhood has been nicely renovated; there’s enough electricity to run all appliances in my house, including two air conditioners. But I get stuck in traffic every day on my way to work, and the smog is so thick I can hardly breathe, even with a mask on my face.

Urbanization has arrived to my hometown with both advantages and challenges. However, noises, heavy traffic, and air and water pollution are not unique to Hanoi. They can be observed in many cities in emerging countries all over the world (such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria). The Vietnam Urbanization Review notes that if these challenges are well managed, they will allow cities like Hanoi to retain its unique charm and livability while enjoying the benefits that urbanization brings.   

Do you have any questions on how to ease traffic congestion? Or dealing with high housing prices in your city? Do you want to share your own experiences? What are your concerns when moving in or out of a city?

Our urban expert, Dean Cira, is here to answer your questions. 

Send your question now using the comment function below to ask him and he’ll address on video five of all the questions received. We’ll take questions until the end of Wednesday, June 20. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by sending your questions to @worldbankasia.

Urban population (% of total)


Data from World Bank

Supporting People-Smart Regions

Peter Head's picture

Apollo synthetic diamondThe Ecological Sequestration Trust has had a busy two months hosting workshops and meetings in India, China, Africa and the UK to discuss how to help these demonstration regions become more resilient and successful.

During this time, I also attended the UrbanTec Conference in Beijing and was struck by how various presentations on ‘smart cities’ emphasized that ICT systems were the key to building more resource efficient and resilient cities.

The Aucoin Objection: Is Public Scrutiny Bad for the Civil Service?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Just in case you were tempted to think that the revolution in public scrutiny that more and more governments have to face these days can only be a good thing, Peter Aucoin pops up to say maybe this is problematic in ways we have not been focusing on. In an article in the April 2012 edition of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, titled ‘New Political Governance in Westminster Systems: Impartial Public Administration and Management Performance at Risk’ Aucoin examines the impact on the tradition of the impartial civil service in Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, among others:

  • Masses of media
  • Transparency and openness
  • Competition in the political marketplace

What is striking is that in all these developments that people like me celebrate he sees danger. You ask: what’s there not to like about these things? Plenty, he seems to reply.