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September 2012

Open Data + Urban Transport = ?

Holly Krambeck's picture

For fun, suppose you were a software developer, and you came up with a terrific idea to communicate public transit information. For example, imagine your city experiences frequent floods, and you have devised an automated system that sends SMS texts to passengers, advising them of alternative transit routes during emergencies.

How much revenue do you think you could earn for that software? How many people could you positively impact?

 

What if I told you that today, by taking advantage of one tiny revolution in open data, you could take those numbers and multiply them by 350, turning $100,000 into $35 million, or 1 million people into 350 million? Sounds pretty good, right? If you are in international development, sounds like a promotion…

MicroForester: Seeding social entrepreneurship while planting trees

In May 2012, Alexander Shakaryan’s MicroForester, which is an online platform to stimulate reforestation in designated parts of the world, received the runner-up prize of infoDev and Nokia’s m2Work Challenge. The m2Work competition was a global call for innovators to design jobs that anyone could do from a mobile phone. Three months later, the Armenian developer assesses next steps for his fledgling company.

As an entrepreneur, winning a competition is only the beginning of the tougher part of the journey, which is creating a real company from an idea. You can win a competition with just an idea, but winning investors and customers depends on lots of other things like money, connections, and fame. The m2Work competition was good for local fame, and the m2Work Hackathon will help as well, but more importantly the events show us who the entrepreneurs are and how to help us on our own tough journey.

The m2Work hackathon is planting the seeds for innovative entrepreneurship (Credit: ILRI, Flickr Creative Commons)A few months ago I received an email from the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) about the m2Work contest. Inspired by the idea of microwork and driven by my love for nature, I had an idea for an app to allow people in different corners of the world to use their phones to earn money by planting trees. That was MicroForester.

Since the competition we have put together a great team of developers. We have developed an application for mobile platform iOS. The first trees have already been planted with MicroForester in Yerevan, Armenia. We have a sponsorship agreement with a local leading food industry company, and we also have mining companies interested in financing the project. We have a signed Letter of Commitment with the American Institutes for Research for a future USAID-funded reforestation project in Cambodia.

Can you teach an aging brain new skills?

Cristian Aedo's picture

Today, employers all over the world report difficulties in finding workers with adequate skills. While much of the focus is on young labor market entrants not acquiring the right set of skills, governments also face the challenge of retooling the skills of their current workforce to reflect a changing economic environment and labor market.

Catching up on schooling in South Sudan

Tazeen Fasih's picture
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As we drive along the semi-paved roads leading out of Juba, I wonder somewhat despondently how this one-year-old country that has been so deeply affected by conflict can prosper and grow with a literacy rate of just 27 percent. When we reach our destination—a tiny school that caters to poor children who are orphaned or with no family support, we are greeted by a loud welcome song. Children chant in a colorfully decorated hut led by a swaying young teacher whose baby sleeps peacefully on her back.

The vibe in the hut energizes me, and I begin to realize what the resilience of this nation is all about. Some of the facts in a new report on education in South Sudan start to come alive to me. This country has come a long way within a short period of time, but still has a very long way to go to catch up with the rest of Africa. Some of the children in this hut are among the 700,000 more students who were able to enroll in school between 2005 and 2009.

Is Shadow Banking Dangerous for You?

Otaviano Canuto's picture

payment bookFrom hedge funds to mortgage-backed securities, unregulated and risky activities have fallen out of favor since the Lehman Brothers debacle. Aggressive, casino-type behaviors and obscure transactions definitely played an important role in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008. But are all financial activities that operate outside the regular banking system bad?

Challenges of a Hidden Potential

Luis Ernesto Garcia's picture

One third of the planet's freshwater is under the surface. While there is a 100 times more water in the ground than in rivers and lakes, all of it is not easily accessible. Although groundwater is considered a renewable resource, it may be hours old, hundreds of years old or even thousands of years old, depending on its depth and point of entry. At the same time, there are regions of the world such as Africa where the potential of large volumes of water naturally stored underground is not being used sustainably to reduce poverty, provide food security and contribute to climate change adaptation. But sustainable use of groundwater and the management of aquifer systems imply overcoming many hurdles, not only technical, but economic, social, and cultural.

Why jobless? The growth pattern

Caroline Freund's picture
       

High unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) largely reflects the growth deficit.  While China has been growing at 10 percent for a decade and has unemployment below 5 percent. MENA is the mirror image, growing at 5 percent and suffering unemployment above 10 percent. The absence of strong growth in MENA has been a serious constraint to employment. It's worth noting though that MENA’s employment situation is not accurately described by the jobless growth that has plagued much of the industrial world in recent years.

Beyond communication: How functional is your mobile phone?

Justine Espina-Letargo's picture
Noel Aspras in the Philippines says that "even the lowliest of farmers owns a cellphone now" because it has become a necessity. Watch the video below.

When I lost my mobile phone two years ago, I felt dismembered. After all, my cellphone was constantly by my side, serving as alarm clock, calendar, and default camera for those ‘Kodak’ moments you couldn’t let pass. It was also a nifty calculator that I turned to when splitting restaurant bills with friends.

After grieving the loss of my “finger” for two days, I pulled myself together and got a new, smarter phone that allowed for faster surfing on the web, audio recording and a host of other functions that, well, made me quickly forget the lost unit. A blessing in disguise, I told myself.

So when no less than a farmer from Pagsanjan in the Philippines’ Laguna province told me that mobile phones were “no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” and added that “even the lowliest of farmers riding on a carabao (water buffalo) owns one,” I couldn’t agree more.

Optimiste pour la Guinee

Phil Hay's picture

At a fishing enclave called Baie des Anges on Guinea Conakry's Atlantic coast, the country's development challenges are laid bare. In this make-shift settlement shrouded with blue tarpaulins and weighted down with stones and old tires, families battle the constant threat of flooding while they struggle to make a living from fish they smoke on cinder-block stoves. For the poor people of Guinea, better times can't come fast enough.

The statistics are tough to read. Here in Guinea, it rains for six months a year and yet drinking water is hard to find. The country has some of the world’s largest deposits of bauxite and iron ore, and still one in two people lives in grinding poverty. And it’s getting worse. The poverty rate has jumped from 53% of the population in 2007 to more than 55% in 2012. Blessed with some of Africa’s most significant agricultural and hydro-electric potential, few homes outside downtown Conakry have power at night unless they run generators; and food is often in short supply.

World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop with women leaders in Guinea, ConakryI joined the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, on a recent trip to Guinea where he held development talks with the President, Professor Alpha Condé, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Said Fofana, Cabinet Ministers, and local business leaders. In his discussions Diop was optimistic about the country’s development future and its potential to tackle its energy shortages, boost its agriculture production, and use its rich mining resources to transform the economy and development prospects of some of Africa's poorest people.


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