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July 2014

Promising uses of technology in education in poor, rural and isolated communities around the world

Michael Trucano's picture
don’t worry: your solutions -- and possibly your salvation – have finally arrived!
don’t worry: your solution (salvation?)
has finally arrived!

One persistent challenge for educational policymakers and planners related to the potential use of informational and communication technologies (ICTs) in remote, low income communities around the world is that most products, services, usage models, expertise, and research related to ICT use in education come from high-income contexts and environments.

One consequence is that technology-enabled 'solutions' are imported and 'made to fit' into what are often much more challenging environments. When they don't work, or where they are too expensive to be replicated at any scale, this is taken as 'evidence' that ICT use in education in such places is irrelevant -- and possibly irresponsible.

That said, lessons are being learned as a result of emerging practices, both good and bad, in the use of ICTs in education in low resource, poor, rural and isolated communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific that may be useful to help guide the planning and implementation of educational technology initiatives in such environments. (It may even turn out that the technological innovations that emerge from such places many have a wider relevance …. but that is a topic for another discussion.)

Products like the BRCK (a connectivity device designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya by many of the people behind Ushahidi to better address user needs in places where electricity and internet connections are, for lack of a better word, ‘problematic’) and MobiStation (a solar-powered 'classroom in a suitcase' which features a projector and lots of off-line educational content developed by UNICEF Uganda) remain notable exceptions to the lamentable reality that, for the most part, ‘solutions’ touted for use in schools in e.g. rural Africa, or in isolated communities in the Andes, are designed elsewhere, with little understanding of the practical day-to-day realities and contexts in which such technologies are to be used. Many people who have lived and worked in such environments are quite familiar with well-meaning but comparatively high cost efforts often informed more by the marketing imperatives embedded in many corporate social responsibility efforts than by notions of cost-effectiveness and sustainability over time or the results of user-centered design exercises.

Notes From the Field: Customs Reform in Russia, a Sophisticated Client with a Long Border

Miles McKenna's picture

Editor's Note: "Notes From the Field" is an occasional feature where we let World Bank Group professionals conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank Group. All interviews have been edited for clarity.

The interview below was conducted with Amit Mukherjee, a Lead Public Sector Specialist with the World Bank Group. Amit works in the WBG’s new Governance Global Practice, where much of his work centers on the Russian Federation. Amit was the project team leader for the recent Russian Federation Customs Development Project (CDP), which helped to reform and modernize the country's Federal Customs Service. Approved in 2003, the CDP wrapped up last year—with some impressive results. The Trade Post spoke with Amit about his experience in Russia, what makes reform in the country challenging, and where the two parties’ relationship can bring about positive outcomes in the future.

Measuring the Economic Cost of Child Marriage

Quentin Wodon's picture

Today the U.K. government and UNICEF jointly hosted the first Girl Summit to mobilize efforts to end child, early, and forced marriage as well as female genital mutilation. According to a 2013 report by UNICEF, 30 million girls are at risk of suffering genital mutilation  over the next decade. Recent reports by UNFPA and UNICEF suggest that more than one-third of girls are married before age 18.
The incidence of child marriage is dropping, but only slowly. In many countries, laws have been adopted to prevent marriage below 18 years of age, but they are often not well-enforced and more needs to be done. There is widespread consensus that child marriage violates the rights of girls, limits their school attainment, learning, and future earnings, and has negative impacts on their’ health and that of their children. Child marriage clearly contributes to poverty and limits economic growth. And yet the practice continues to be perceived mostly as a social issue, not an economic one.

Juggling Labor, Credit, and Crops in Zambia

Kelsey Jack's picture

Experimental harvest of provitamin A-enriched orange maize, Zambia, 2010. Photo credit: Flickr @CIMMYT

When one part of the local economy fails, it spills over into other parts of the economy. Maybe this isn't so surprising. However, recent research in Zambia highlights a less obvious link: farmers who can't get access to credit during the hungry season (January to March) increase their off-farm labor supply, drive down wages, and maybe even undermine their own agricultural yields.Fortunately, there is new evidence that providing consumption loans can help farmers invest in their own fields, and — we hope — boost their productivity.

Open Data for economic growth: the latest evidence

Andrew Stott's picture
One of the key policy drivers for Open Data has been to drive economic growth and business innovation. There’s a growing amount of evidence and analysis not only for the total potential economic benefit but also for some of the ways in which this is coming about. This evidence is summarised and reviewed in a new World Bank paper published today.

There’s a range of studies that suggest that the potential prize from Open Data could be enormous - including an estimate of $3-5 trillion a year globally from McKinsey Global Institute and an estimate of $13 trillion cumulative over the next 5 years in the G20 countries.  There are supporting studies of the value of Open Data to certain sectors in certain countries - for instance $20 billion a year to Agriculture in the US - and of the value of key datasets such as geospatial data.  All these support the conclusion that the economic potential is at least significant - although with a range from “significant” to “extremely significant”!

Prospects Daily: Global stock market indexes fall amid Gaza and Ukraine concerns, U.K.’s consumer confidence falls for first time in 2014, China signs currency swap agreement with Switzerland

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture

Financial Markets

Major global stock market indexes fell while bond prices rallied on Monday amid worries over the Gaza strip and Ukraine. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.5% to 337.95 at the close in London following a 0.8% gain last week. U.K.’s FTSE 100 declined 0.3%, France’s CAC40 lost 0.7%, and Germany Dax fell 1.1% to its lowest level since May 9. In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 115 points, or 0.7% to below 17,000 and the S&P 500 index retreated 12 points or 0.6% in mid-afternoon.

Roads and the Environment: Lessons from the Yiba Expressway

Chris Bennett's picture

My last project in China before transferring to Europe and Central Asia in 2008 was the Yichang-Badong (Yiba) expressway. This was a US$ 2.2 billion expressway through very challenging terrain, including the ‘Three Gorges National Park’. 
It was massive—as evidenced by the following:

  • 172 km of expressways and 35.4 km of inter-connecting roads
  • 148 bridges for a total length of 70 km
  • 75 tunnels for a total length of 61 km
  • 3.75 million m3 of earthworks
  • US$ 12.6 million/km
Faced with these challenges, including the longest tunnel of 7.5 km, the Hubei provincial government was concerned about the potential negative environmental impact of the project. These concerns were echoed by some at the Bank who I recall saying ‘why on earth would you want to put an expressway through a national park?’

The answer was quite simple. The expressway was going ahead with or without the World Bank’s involvement. The Hubei government wanted the Bank to assist them in making the project an example of how to construct an expressway through an environmentally sensitive area with minimal impacts. Management fully supported this and I was tasked with helping realize this vision, although unfortunately I was not involved with the implementation.

Should the World Bank Become A Remittance Center?

Dilip Ratha's picture

Last week the New York Times featured an editorial suggesting that the World Bank should become a remittance center. Remittances are the "largest and arguably most effective antipoverty effort in the world.....financed by the poor themselves...,” it stated. “But the cost to transfer those billions is likely to rise soon...[as] big banks are leaving the money-transfer business, including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase."  

"If banks can’t profitably transmit remittances — and won’t do so as a low-margin courtesy — then other secure, low-cost options must be found. One solution would be for the World Bank to become a remittance center.” 

Cross-Border Banking in Africa – What are the Opportunities and Challenges as African Banks Expand Across the Continent?

Dorothe Singer's picture

Cross-border banking has been an important part of Africa’s financial systems since colonial times. While it has long been dominated by European banks, its face has changed significantly over the past two decades. African banks have not only significantly increased their geographic footprint across the region (see Figure 1) but have also become economically significant beyond their home countries in a number of countries across Africa. As their banks have expanded across borders, South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya have emerged as the dominant regional financial centers (see Figure 2). Yet despite this increase in cross-border banking activity within Africa there has been a lack of comprehensive research and analysis on this topic. In a new policy report we try to fill this gap by documenting the growth of cross-border banking in Africa and assessing the risks and benefits of cross-border linkages as well current supervisory arrangements for cross-border supervisory coordination.

Figure 1: Cross-Border Expansion of African Financial Groups over Time,

 Cross-Border Expansion of African Financial Groups over Time, 1990-2013

New Metadata Query Feature in DataBank

Paige Morency-Notario's picture

DataBank is a data retrieval, analysis, and visualization tool that allows users to create, save, and share custom charts, tables, and maps. We launched the tool two years ago and have been making improvements based on user feedback ever since. Last year we released a multilingual version of the tool, and today we're pleased to announce a new feature that allows users to query country, series, time, and footnote metadata.

What can DataBank do?

  • It enables users to easily create custom queries on data drawn from 52 databases
  • It lets users create and customize charts, tables, and maps
  • It makes it easy to select, save and share data and visualizations
  • It's available on both computers and mobile devices
  • DataBank and selected data are available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese
  • It now allows users to create custom metadata queries
  • Watch the tutorial and read the FAQs to learn more about the basics of DataBank