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April 2013

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mobile for Development Intelligence
Scaling Mobile for Development: A developing world opportunity

“The mobile phone holds the power of ubiquity. Across the developing world, around 40% of people now actively subscribe to mobile services. Including those with access to a mobile despite not owning one would push the connected population to well over 50%. However, while access to core services such as banking, electricity and sanitation is near universal in developed regions such as Europe and the United States, it is enjoyed by below 50% in several developing regions.

This confluence underlines the opportunity held by Mobile for Development, which seeks to draw investment and partnership to scale mobile-enabled services that can help to facilitate service delivery in the absence of traditional modes of infrastructure that would otherwise do this. Indeed, Mobile for Development is a growing sector, with well over 1,000 live services now tracked by the GSMA across the developing world in verticals such as money, health, education and entrepreneurship. The problem is that while the sector has enjoyed continued growth in the number of services over the last 5-7 years, scale and sustainability have generally not been achieved.”  READ MORE

Is Working on Governance Reform Like the Sport of Curling?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A few weeks ago, I attended an internal seminar here at the World Bank. Topic: the governance challenges in a big, complex, not -aid -dependent, and deeply corrupt country.  The team working on governance in the country wanted to present ideas to the broader community in the Bank and receive feedback. It was a good and lively discussion, and you will forgive me for not going into the details.  But something happened that I wanted to bring to broader attention. After the country team had presented the work they were doing, one of those asked to lead the comments was my esteemed colleague, Nick Manning, one of the most experienced public sector governance advisers anywhere.

Nick opened his remarks with this arresting image. I paraphrase him thus: Some of you I’m sure are aware of the Olympic sport of curling. You see these people with a broom sweeping the ice in front of a ball. Those who do this swear that sweeping the ice makes a difference. So, maybe what we do in these situations is like sweeping the ice to shape the path of the ball that is rolling down, and we hope it makes a difference.

Merit, Privilege or Slumdog Millionaires? Income Inequality and Social Mobility

Duncan Green's picture

In memory of Sebastian Levine, who liked to read these posts.

This post is written by Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Oxfam’s Head of Research (twitter @rivefuentes)

In Danny Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire, the young character wins a large pot of money against all odds. The movie is a fantasy tale for all practical purposes. The hero knows the responses posed to him in a quiz show through a number of coincidences and lucky breaks. It was his only chance to become wealthy.

What type of societies give better, more just chances to everyone? What is the connection between opportunity and socio-economic disparities? There are, at the risk of being simplistic, two broad sources of inequality: inequality resulting from individual entrepreneurship and effort (I’ll call it merit inequality) and the inequality that reproduces privilege and elite capture (I’ll call it privilege inequality).

A simple way to discover whether inequality is actually a result of merit is to think how far effort and hard work can take us. I recently heard Kaushik Basu, the new Chief Economist at the World Bank, detail an anecdote about this during a meeting with civil society people in London.  When Basu visits his home city of Kolkata he goes for long walks and sometimes he wanders around a privileged district that stands in sharp contrast with the nearby slums. The close proximity of the two vastly different lifestyles ensures that slum dwellers also visit this district. Then Basu said, to the best of my recollection: “it is not fair to tell a kid in the slum that by working hard he will be able to achieve the wealth needed to live in that neighbourhood.”

Of globalization’s promises and perils

Swati Mishra's picture

As a student in 2003, I had an opportunity to interview a social activist about food security in India. Among other things, she blamed globalization for the slow demise of the local food industry. She went a step further and labeled globalization as depriving people (small scale farmers and workers) of their livelihoods. Her solution for India to become a leader in the food industry was by staying local, small, and forming cooperatives rather than fostering large agribusiness. This was quite a contrasting view at a time when India was starting to see benefits from its economic liberalization. In retrospect, I was interviewing someone who was ahead of a trend where activists were increasingly wary about the downsides of globalization and its impact on development.

Since then, globalization has sped up and contentious debates over who ultimately benefits have grown. And just as finance ministers from various countries were converging on Washington to discuss vital issues like extreme poverty, global macroeconomic prospects, jobs creation, and inclusive growth, revisiting globalization seemed germane to tackling development challenges.

Corrigendum: Migration and Development Brief 20

Dilip Ratha's picture

The Migration and Development Brief 20 issued on April 19, 2013 contained a tabulation error in Table 1 of page 11. This affects the estimates highlighted below, which were shifted by one year. For example, the remittance inflows for the World in 2012 were reported as $514 billion, instead of $529 billion.

The View Across Haiti & the Need for Disaster Resilience

Rachel Kyte's picture

Available in Français

Rachel Kyte and others in the Political Champions group met with officials in Haiti. Photo credit: PNUD HaitiStanding atop a disused amphitheater in a disused airforce base, we could see over the surrounding area. On the right, a sea of shacks nuzzled together in hope and desperation. On the left, stretches of cracked concrete with just one shack here, one shack there.

The emptying expanse to the left was the story of success. More than three years after the massive earthquake that shattered so much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, rental subsidies were moving households quickly out of camps to houses in the community.

Silicon Valley: Where Innovation Meets Development

Sanitation Hackathon Team's picture

Sanitation Hackathon LogoThe Sanitation Hackathon & App Challenge three grand prize winners, mSchool, Taarifa, and SunClean, flew over from their home countries, Senegal, Tanzania, England, and Indonesia to attend the awards ceremony in Washington, DC. With a 64inch touchscreen provided by Microsoft, the teams showcased their apps to sanitation sector specialists at the WB-IMF side event on Investing in Sanitation.

Debating MOOCs

Michael Trucano's picture

MOOOOOOOCsThree recent posts on MOOCs (MOOCs in Africa, Making Sense of MOOCs -- A Reading List & Missing Perspectives on MOOCs -- Views from developing countries) have generated a large amount of traffic and 'buzz' over the past week on the EduTech blog, and so we thought we'd interrupt our normal Friday publishing schedule to bring you one more.

Over the past month, the EduTech Debate site has been featuring posts and comments from authors exploring various issues and opportunities presented by the phenomenon of so-called Massive Online Open Courses. While perhaps it hasn't been a 'debate' per se, it has featured responses and reactions from the authors to each other's posts, and I thought I'd quickly highlight the conversation that has been occurring over there, in case you may have missed it and doing so might be useful.

Communicating Climate Risks to Investors: the Next Major Ratings Failure

Alan Miller's picture

 Reserves of coal outside a power generation plant. - Photo: Shutterstock

Only a few years ago, the failure to properly quantify and communicate the risks of a widely traded commodity, mortgage-backed securities, caused major damage to the US and ultimately the global economy. According to the IMF, total losses will approach $4 trillion (pdf). A significant share of the losses were incurred by pension funds and insurance companies typically viewed as among the more risk-averse and cautious segments of the investment community.

A new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Research Institute on the Environment and Climate Change evaluates the failure to properly value the risks of climate policy to companies with major fossil fuel reserves and finds a similar potential for massive financial fall-out. They conclude that “Between 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are ‘unburnable’ if the world is to have a chance of not exceeding global warming of 2°C.” (A short video explaining the research and mapping the amounts of investment at stake in different countries is available online).


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