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March 2016

Where are the ‘Digital Dividends’ from the ICT revolution? The new World Development Report

Duncan Green's picture

© John Stanmeyer/National Geographic Creative. Used with the permission of John Stanmeyer/National Geographic Creative. Further permission required for reuse.Earlier this month I headed off for the London launch of the 2016 World Development Report, ‘Digital Dividends’. The World Bank’s annual flagship is always a big moment in wonkland, and there has been a lot of positive buzz around this one.

Here’s how the Bank summarizes its content (Frequently Asked Questions, pg. 5):

"What is the Report about? It explores the impact of the internet, mobile phones, and related technologies on economic development.

What are the digital dividends? Growth, jobs, and services are the most important returns to digital investments." (pg. 5)

How do digital technologies promote development and generate digital dividends? By reducing information costs, digital technologies greatly lower the cost of economic and social transactions for firms, individuals, and the public sector. They promote innovation when transaction costs fall to essentially zero. They boost efficiency as existing activities and services become cheaper, quicker, or more convenient. And they increase inclusion as people get access to services that previously were out of reach.

Why does the Report argue that digital dividends are not spreading rapidly enough? For two reasons. First, nearly 60 percent of the world’s people are still offline and can’t fully participate in the digital economy. There also are persistent digital divides across gender, geography, age, and income dimensions within each country. Second, some of the perceived benefits of the internet are being neutralized by new risks. Vested business interests, regulatory uncertainty, and limited contestation across digital platforms could lead to harmful concentration in many sectors. Quickly expanding automation, even of mid-level office jobs, could contribute to a hollowing out of labor markets and to rising inequality. And the poor record of many e-government initiatives points to high failure of ICT projects and the risk that states and corporations could use digital technologies to control citizens, not to empower them.

Preparing for the robots: Which skills for 21st century jobs?

Christian Bodewig's picture
Technology and big data can help capture and better understand the evolution of occupations and technical skills needs in real time: Just let the robots work for us. Photo by Justin MorganCC BY

The robots are coming and are taking our jobs. Or are they? The media and the blogosphere have been buzzing lately about the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on our lives. In particular, the debate on the impact of automation on employment has amplified concerns about the loss of jobs in advanced economies. And accelerating technological change points the spotlight on questions like: Do workers, blue and white collar alike, possess the right skills for a changing labor market? Are they prepared for the employment shocks that come with the so-called “fourth industrial revolution”? What skills strategy should countries adopt to equip their workforces for the 21st century?

Small public-private partnerships: inevitable and essential

Aijaz Ahmad's picture
Local governments are under pressure to provide more and better services. But in most cases, they cannot do this alone. An examination of the World Bank Group’s PPI database and the PPP databases of some key countries reveals that while there is a preponderance of larger public-private partnerships (PPPs), several small-scale PPPs with promising results have also been undertaken, especially at sub-national levels of government and by autonomous bodies affiliated with governments.

The PPI database suggests that approximately 40 percent of all projects are valued at less than $50 million, and approximately 25 percent of all projects are less than $25 million (Figure below). However, the database misses out on projects in several emerging sectors at the sub-national level. While non-traditional sectors are captured in country and sub-national databases, few of these databases are readily available in the public domain.
Source: Ahmad, A. and Shukla, S., A Preliminary Review of Trends in Small-Scale Public-Private Partnerships, World Bank Group 2014.

Smackdown: Provide the people of Africa with training, or with cold, hard cash?

David Evans's picture

In recent years, growing evidence supports the value of cash transfers. Research demonstrates that cash transfers lead to productive investments (in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia), that they improve human capital investments for children (in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Lesotho, Zambia, and Malawi), and that they don’t get spent on alcohol (all over the world).

At the same time, the vast majority of governments invest large sums in training programs, whether business training for entrepreneurs or vocational training for youth, with the goal of helping to increase incomes and opportunities.

Economic growth not enough for jobs in Ghana

William Baah-Boateng's picture
Ghana’s economy has grown consistently over the past three decades, however, inadequate job creation, the depth of poverty, and widening income inequality, remain major challenges. The inability of Ghana’s growth to deal with these challenges is an indication of the urgent need to rethink of Ghana’s growth strategy.
 

Why “inefficiency” is needed in energy financing for Africa

Aaron Leopold's picture
Source: Andrew Heath for Practical Action

One of the most important findings noted at the Africa launch of the World Bank's Progress Toward Sustainable Energy: Global Tracking Framework 2015 (GTF) report for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, is that despite recent trends to increase investment in the energy sector, we still need to double the number of new connections to modern energy services per year to reach universal access to energy by 2030.
 
Universalizing access to clean, modern energy services is at the heart of our ability to deliver on the new globally agreed sustainable development goals and climate agreements. Knowing this, the panel of experts discussing the findings of the report at the Africa Energy Indaba was asked a key question by Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director of the Bank's Energy and Extractives Global Practice - did we think achieving the universal access goal was possible in just a decade and a half?

1996: Taking stock of the profile of the poor, and the state of state enterprises

Jim Anderson's picture
Photo courtesy of The World Bank Group Archives

In 1996, Mongolia’s GDP growth declined to 2.2% in real terms and consumer price inflation jumped back up to nearly 47%.  The previous year had seen the launch of a project on Poverty Alleviation for Vulnerable Groups, a project which called for a deeper understanding of poverty in Mongolia.  In 1996, Mongolia - Poverty Assessment in a Transition Economy was released.  This was the first poverty assessment for Mongolia to be based primarily on the Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS).  The poverty assessment sought to provide an in-depth understanding of the economic, demographic, regional and social characteristics of the poor, and to promote poverty reduction as an explicit objective in the formulation of public policy and resource allocation.

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