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March 2016

Does “Rational Ignorance” make working on transparency and accountability a waste of time?

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America (gosh, they do have august sounding job titles, don’t they?)

As the poorest half of the planet sees that just 62 people have more wealth than all of them, collective frustration at extreme inequality is increasing.  To rebalance power and wealth, many in our community are turning to transparency, accountability, participation and inclusion.  Interrogate that “development consensus,” however, and opinions are fractured over the benefits and costs of transferring power from the haves to the have-nots.

Social Media Information OverloadIn truth, our theories of change often diverge.  Most development organizations may agree on the need to advocate for more Investment, Innovation, Information, strong Institutions and Incentives, but some organizations are genuinely committed to only one of those “I’s”, and that can be problematic:  Oxfam often finds itself choosing and moving between the relentless positivity of politically benign theories of change (e.g. we just need more “investment” or “innovation”), the moderation of those who focus exclusively on transparent “information” with no clear pathway to ensure its political relevance, and the relentless negativity of activists that think the only way to transform “institutions” or realign the “incentives” of elites is to beat them up in public.

Oxfam’s challenge is to be both explicit in our theory of change and show sophistication and dexterity in working across that spectrum.  If Oxfam’s theory of change is based on a citizen-centered approach to tackling global systemic challenges like extreme inequality, then our opportunity may be engaging the “rational ignorance” of citizens and consumers.
 

Transforming India through Digital Innovation

Darshan Yadunath's picture
Girl on cellphone. Aurangabad, India. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In recent decades, India’s growth story has been difficult to ignore. And the Indian technology revolution, a key contributor to this growth, has been remarkable. The information technology industry contributes to nearly 9.5% of India’s GDP and is the largest private sector employer, generating some 3.5 million direct jobs, and over 10 million indirect jobs[1].
 
However, the dividends of India’s digital growth have been unevenly realized, providing lots of opportunities for improvement, including:  
  • Mobile penetration in India is still relatively low. India’s rural populace makes up approximately 68% of the population but account for just over 40% of its mobile users[2].
  • India ranked 156th in the world in terms of broadband penetration (at over 19%) as per the UN Broadband Commission report released in 2015.[3]
  • Roughly nine out of 10 workers are informally employed and lack social protection. Most workers lack adequate education or skills and the educated youth faces high unemployment rates.[4]

Nepal: Bridging the Accountability Gap, one Village at a Time

Franck Bessette's picture
Program for accountability in Nepal
Reforms in public financial management have been impressive, but beyond the district level, it is still difficult to track collection of public resources and public expenditure.


Most villages in Nepal, immersed in beauty, also struggle with poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and weak service delivery. Then there are those which have been additionally affected by the April/May 2015 earthquakes where nearly 9,000 people lost their lives, more than 22,000 people were injured and more than 500,000 houses collapsed or were damaged.

While the decentralization process in Nepal has a long history, in recent years the amount of public resources spent at the village level steadily increased to reach Rs. 23 Billion (approx. US$ 217 Million*) in 2014 (out of Rs. 450 Billion – approx. US$ 4.2 Billion - of the government budget). These resources are mainly targeted at local investments, social security entitlements and school support programs. Have villages really benefitted from this increase in public spending? Do we know if the substantial amounts committed by donors (over $4 Billion) for post-earthquakes reconstruction will be efficiently spent and in a transparent fashion once they reach villages?

Quote of the week: Alicia Garza

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Movements are destroyed by conflicts over money, power, and credit. We have to take seriously the impact of not being able to have principled disagreement, or we’re not going to be around very long.”

Alicia Garza, an African-American activist, a labor organizer, and writer who lives in Oakland, California. She is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, and also works as the Director of Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She has organized around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against and gender non-conforming people of color.
 

Jordanian venture aims to use technology to empower refugees

Christine Petré's picture
Loay Malahmeh, a co-founder of 3D Mena

The organization Refugee Open Ware is on a mission to empower refugees by giving them access to new technologies, such as 3D-printing. “We want to raise awareness about what 3D-printing can do,” explains Loay Malahmeh, a co-founder of the Jordanian company, 3D Mena and a partner in Refugee Open Ware. “How it can not only solve real problems, but also unleash immense, untapped potential.”

Weekly links March 25: nudges, helpful Stata commands, saving more and earning more, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

2015: The 25th year of Mongolia’s partnership with the World Bank

Jim Anderson's picture
This is the final entry in our series on the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank. (To read the series from the beginning, click here for the 1991 post.) Befitting the 25th year of the partnership, the year 2015 was a year focused on knowledge.

The latest estimates of poverty in Mongolia showed both progress and reason for concern. The National Statistical Office (NSO) and the World Bank have worked together on the methodology for estimating poverty since at least 2002. The estimates showed that the poverty rate declined from 27.4 percent in 2012 to 21.6 percent in 2014, continuing the trend of 2010-2012. The estimates also showed, however, that many people are near the poverty line and remain vulnerable as the economy softens. 

The lessons of Carabayllo: making tough choices in the fight against TB

Carlos Ferreyra's picture
Former Tuberculosis Patient is Symbol for World Bank Group President
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Poverty and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis condemned Melquiades Huaya Oré to a certain death.

He was 17 in 1993, and so thin that doctors needed only a few fingers to encircle his arms; his skin was stretched so taut that you could see his ribs and other bones. All the odds were against Melquiades, and he should been another number in the statistics of TB, a major public health threat that costs 4,000 lives daily.

Globally, 9.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis in 2014, one million of them children. According to the latest world health statistics, in 2014, 1.5 million people died of the disease.


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