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March 2017

Between 2 Geeks: A new podcast about data and development

Tariq Khokhar's picture

I find data to be a great way of getting into a subject.

Take forests for example. Making this map  about where forests have been lost and gained since 1990 led me down a wonderful rabbit hole of learning about China’s successful reforestation programs, how forests support people’s livelihoods, the definitions of what counts as a forest (hint: it’s not just “a bunch of trees”), and how organizations use a variety of sources from nationals surveys to satellite imagery to produce this data.

Not only is there a story behind every number, but numbers can help to tell the story of development.  

That’s the idea behind a new podcast - “Between 2 Geeks” in which Raka, Andrew and I, talk to folks who create and use data, as they work across the field of international development.

We’ve got a great lineup of guests, and discuss topics including Africa’s “demographic dividend” - how population structures are shaping the future of the region; a new risk insurance mechanism designed to help stop pandemics like the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak; and how metadata from cell phone networks can be used to estimate measures of migration and poverty.

Just like the forest map, I’ve found each episode to be a peek into the rabbit hole of a new subject - I’ve learned how to better communicate about uncertainty, the economics of large scale renewable energy systems, and what the future of how data is produced and used may look like.  

We’ve really enjoyed making the first series of this podcast and we hope you’ll tune in. The opening episode will be available on Tuesday April 4th - it’ll be posted here on The Data Blog, on the World Bank’s SoundCloud channel, and you can subscribe to “World Bank’s Podcasts” in your podcast app or on iTunes.

 

Engineering growth: Innovative capacity and development

William Maloney's picture
This analysis, co-authored by William Maloney and Felipe Valencia Caicedo, was originally published on VoxEU, an economic-policy website of the Centre for Economic Policy Research.  

Abstract: The generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and technology are assumed to be drivers of modern economic growth, but there is a lack of firm empirical evidence of this. This column uses the first detailed data on the density of engineers in the western hemisphere to argue that historical differences in innovative capacity, as captured by the density of engineers in 1880, explain a significant fraction of the Great Divergence. The results confirm the imperative of developing higher-order human capital.
 

The generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and technology are fundamental drivers of modern economic growth. Authors agree that human capital is an important part of the innovative capacity required to facilitate this process, but it is not clear which type of human capital is most important. Some have argued for literacy, secondary, or tertiary education, while others stress higher-order technical skills (Goldin and Katz 2009). In his classic article on endogenous growth, Romer (1990) puts the research engineer at centre stage. From a historical perspective, Mokyr (2005) decides that scientifically minded and engineering-minded technicians were instrumental in industrialisation. These so-called 'upper tails of knowledge' are thought to have been particularly important during the second Industrial Revolution between 1870 and 1914.

The lack of systematic historical data on either the prevalence or impact of engineers on income has made it hard to confirm empirically the importance of these skills. Conceptually, Murphy et al. (1991) argue for the importance for modern growth of engineering, compared to less productive professionals such as lawyers. More recently, Cantoni and Yutchman (2014) show higher growth closer to medieval universities, and Squicciarini and Voigtländer (2015) relate faster French industrialisation in 1750 to Encyclopedie subscriptions. To date, however, neither the historical prevalence of Romer's research engineers nor Mokyr's engineers and mechanics have been quantified in a globally comparable form. In our recent work (Maloney and Valencia Caicedo 2017), we argue that historical differences in innovative capacity, as captured by the density of engineers in 1880, explain a significant fraction of the Great Divergence in the Western Hemisphere as documented by Galor (2011), among others.

Density of engineers in 1900

Our initial contribution to the debate has been through data collection. We have created the first systematic information on the density of engineers at the country level – and additionally for the US and Americas at the state or county level – for the western hemisphere. Geolocated patenting density data for the US allow us to tease out innovative versus adoptive capacity (as posited by Mokyr 1992). We control for other levels of education that, as mentioned before, may also have been important, including basic literacy, secondary schooling, college attendance, and the presence of other high-level professions such as lawyers and physicians.

Breaking through the manufacturing glass ceiling: The case of Arçelik

Aref Adamali's picture




White goods are big business, and it's easy to see why. They're among the most important products for any person who cooks and does laundry, making life easier across a wide range of household functions. Therefore, it is unsurprising that as a manufactured product category – that includes refrigerators and freezers, dishwashing machines, washing (and drying) machines, and stoves – global exports hit almost $90 billion in 2015.
 
Some countries that will leap to mind when thinking about white goods – because of the prominent consumer brands that emanate from them – are Germany (with such household names as Bosch or Miele) and the United States (Whirlpool). As with all manufactured goods, China is also a big exporter. However, among the world’s top exporters for home appliances is a county that not everyone would immediately guess: Turkey.
 
Turkey is in the top ten global exporters of fridges and freezers, washing machines and stoves, only just missing the top ten for dishwashers – but with growth averaging 15 percent a year over the past ten years, it's only a matter of a few years before Turkey is among the top-ranked exporters for this product too.
 
Growing steadily, then going global
 
Among Turkey’s better-known white-goods manufacturers is the firm Arçelik, a part of the industrial conglomerate Koç Holdings. Founded in 1955, Arçelik started off making office and metal furniture, producing its first washing machine in 1959, its first refrigerator in 1960, and launching a vacuum cleaner plant in 1979 and a dishwasher plant in 1993.

However, among the firm’s various accomplishments, one stands out, both to outside observers and for the company itself: when Arçelik broke out of Turkey to go global, first in the markets Arçelik sold to and then in its production locations.
 
This expansion has occurred both through organic growth and through strategic acquisitions. For example, aside from the Arçelik brand itself, among the firm’s flagship brands is Beko, initially a home-grown brand that in the 1990s was assigned to drive Arçelik’s expansion outside of Turkey. The Beko team was tasked with the goal of “being a world brand”: Today a Beko-branded product is sold, worldwide, every two seconds.

Weekly links March 31: inequality across firms and within households, measuring farm labor, should we fund research by lottery, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • In the Harvard Business Review, Nick Bloom discusses how a lot of inequality is getting driven by differences between firms: “companies are paying more to get more: boosting salaries to recruit top talent or to add workers with sought-after skills. The result is that highly skilled and well-educated workers flock to companies that can afford to offer generous salaries, benefits, and perks — and further fuel their companies’ momentum. Employees in less-successful companies continue to be poorly paid and their companies fall further behind”
  • Vox EU piece by Brown, van de Walle and Ravallion summarizing their work in two recent papers on the difficulties in targeting the poor “about three-quarters of underweight women and undernourished children are not found in the poorest 20% of households. This is consistent with evidence of considerable intra-household inequality”

What does it take for a woman in rural Bangladesh to break out of poverty?

Naila Kabeer's picture
Hafiza Begum
Women in rural Bangladesh have made great strides in breaking through employment barriers in areas such as agriculture and garment manufacturing. However, their contributions are not always recorded and there remain spaces such as rural markets that are male-dominated. How can these challenges be addressed? Photo Credit: Lupita Huq 

How does a poor woman in rural Bangladesh make use of her business acumen if she lacks education, lacks opportunities to learn new skills, no assets of her own, a husband who earns just enough for the family to survive from day to day, children to look after and a society that had traditionally disapproved of women working outside the home? 
 
The story of Hafiza Begum offers one answer. We interviewed her as part of our on-going research in Bangladesh, which sets out to understand its female labor force participation rates. This phenomenon of lower than expected female labor force participation appears to characterize the wider South Asia and MENA regions, despite their positive growth rates. What are some of the reasons? 
 
Hafiza was born into a family too poor to educate her and she was married off at an early age. Her husband worked for daily wages wherever he could find it. Their two young daughters went to school in the local madrassa because it was free. She emerged from our interview as a woman who was determined, within the social norms of her society, to combine caring for her family with finding the resources she needed to build up her own business.
 
She told her husband early in their marriage how she planned to do this. “Suppose you buy me a kilogram of onions to cook our meals with. If I use 2 onions in a meal, you won’t be able to tell. Even if I use half an onion for a meal, you still won’t be any the wiser. Yet if I use just half an onion every time I cook, our supply of onions will last longer and we will save money.”
 
This thrifty attitude had been the hallmark of her housekeeping throughout her marriage. She boasted to us that when her husband recently went away to work in a brickfield, she managed to save Rs.400 out of the Rs.500 he gave her to run the house. How did she do it? She went to the marshes near their house to catch fish, keeping some to eat and selling the rest to her neighbors. She supplemented the vegetables she planted on their homestead plot with edible greens that grew wild near their house. She spent money only on what she could not produce herself. 

In defense of the besieged economist (part III): It’s not just economics

Maurizio Bussolo's picture


In my previous two blogs – Policies Matter and The Rise of the Global Middle Class – I took inspiration from a recent conference and tried to think through some of the main charges against - and pleas by - economists when considering this new, more polarized world.

Here I will argue that, while economists should not take the blame for the rise of populism and subsequent backlash against globalization, the profession needs to assume the responsibility of producing a convincing (new) narrative to get people backing the idea that open markets can not only go together but also support an inclusive society.

And we can do this by going beyond ‘standard’ economics.    

Profiles of the Diaspora: Rym Baouendi

Web Team's picture


Born in Tunisia, Rym Baouendi left at the age of 18. After passing her Tunisian baccalaureate exam, she attended the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon (France) where she obtained a Master in civil engineering and urban planning as well as a degree in architecture from the Lyon School of Architecture. She later obtained a Master in building engineering from Concordia University in Montreal (Canada).

Announcing the 2017 World Bank #Blog4Dev contest winners!

Diarietou Gaye's picture


Hearty congratulations to Esther Nyawira Gitaka, Peter Safari Kagereki, and Linda Karimi Gitobu for emerging as the winners of the 2017 #Blog4Dev contest!

In this year’s contest, the youth were asked to share their ideas - in a 500-word blog - on whether “To farm or not to farm: What opportunities exist for the Kenyan youth to prosper in agriculture and agribusiness? Over 1,000 young Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 28 years submitted their blogs.


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