You may start with a few questions, such as:
Are schools wheelchair accessible? Do disabled children have a chance to receive high-quality education despite being “different”? How well trained are teachers to be inclusive of children with disabilities?
Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Most of them live in developing countries. Every day, they tend to face different forms of discrimination and social exclusion.
Despite these challenges, persons with disabilities can flourish in society, as proved by the studies of Professor Tom Shakespeare from the UK’s University of East Anglia.
Young Egyptians have an amazing potential that is not yet being utilized. We have a well-established business sector, but with the establishment and success comes an aversion to trying new things. To innovating. While the business sector has made incredible impact on my country, there are still gaps. Gaps in jobs and gaps in services that would allow our most marginalized citizens to escape poverty. This is where entrepreneurs, especially young ones, can help.
Is artificial intelligence the future for economic development? Earlier this month, a group of World Bank staff, academic researchers, and technology company representatives convened at a conference in San Francisco to discuss new advances in artificial intelligence. One of the takeaways for Bank staff was how AI technologies might be useful for Bank operations and clients. Below you’ll find a full round-up of all the papers and research-in-progress that was presented. All slides that were shared publicly are linked here, as well as papers or other relevant sites.
Plenty of vibrant discussions on the role of cash transfers in the ‘graduation’ agenda…
Banerjee et al are back with a new NBER paper on the classic graduation model (a package of assets, training, coaching, and savings). They explore two variants: whether the transfer of assets only would generate similar impacts, and whether access to a savings account and a deposit collection service would generate comparable impacts. Neither outperforms the holistic package. Similarly, a CSAE paper by Sedlmayr et al assesses graduation variants in Uganda--the full package of transfers and training, only the transfers, transfers with only a light-touch training and just attempting to boost savings. They find that cash only was less effective than the more integrated interventions.
At the One Planet Summit in December 2017, French President Emanuel Macron cautioned that “we are losing the battle” on climate change and are “nowhere near” being able to contain rising temperatures to between 1.5°C to 2°C. Instead, Macron warned, temperatures could rise by 3.5°C or more by the end of this century.
Altering the trajectory of carbon emissions will require implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the individual country commitments agreed in Paris. Fiscal policies have a key role to play in this process: about one third of the NDCs include references to specific fiscal incentives -clean-energy subsidies, energy taxes, carbon taxes, or a combination thereof - in their NDCs. However, the effectiveness of finance ministers in incorporating climate action into their work presents mixed results. Although explicit fossil-fuel subsidies have fallen, fiscal policies in most countries continue to favor fossil fuels over renewable energy. Consider these points uncovered by recent studies:
The discussions on budget transparency and open data have been gaining momentum over recent years. Not only is it important that governments publish budget data on web sites, but also that they disclose meaningful data and full picture of financial activities to the public. The question is, how much of the disclosed information and documents are reliable? What is the scope of disclosed information? Is there any reliable information about other important aspects of fiscal discipline and transparency?
A number of fiscal transparency instruments and guidelines have been developed by civil society groups and international organizations to evaluate the existence, regularity, and contents of certain key budget documents published in the public domain and whether the information comply with international standards. However, current instruments do not concentrate on the source and reliability of published information, as well as the integrity of underlying systems and databases from which governments extract data.
When it comes to economic success, Tanzania offers a model for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth has averaged 6.5 percent per year over the past decade, and between 2007 and 2012 nearly a third of the poorest 40% of the population rose out of poverty. However, the progress towards improving water and sanitation access for all has not kept a similar pace.
A new report by the World Bank, ‘Reaching For The SDGs’ was launched by the Honorable Eng. Isack Kamwelwe, Minister of Water and Irrigation on March 20 in Dar es Salaam. In her welcome address, Ms. Bella Bird, Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, and Burundi said, “adequate WASH is a crucial component of basic human necessities that allow a person to thrive in life”. The report shows how water and sanitation services need to advance substantially in order to achieve much needed improvements in health and wellbeing that will help the country fulfill its true potential. Progress in this area still has a long way to go.
Video: Artificial intelligence for the SDGs (International Telecommunication Union)
Along with my colleagues on the ICT sector team of the World Bank, I firmly believe that ICTs can play a critical role in supporting development. But I am also aware that professionals on other sector teams may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.
Typically, there are two arguments against ICTs for development. First, to properly reap the benefits of ICTs, countries need to be equipped with basic communication and other digital service delivery infrastructure, which remains a challenge for many of our low-income clients. Second, we need to be mindful of the growing divide between digital-ready groups vs. the rest of the population, and how it may exacerbate broader socio-economic inequality.
These concerns certainly apply to artificial intelligence (AI), which has recently re-emerged as an exciting frontier of technological innovation. In a nutshell, artificial intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines. Unlike the several “AI winters” of the past decades, AI technologies really seem to be taking off this time. This may be promising news, but it challenges us to more clearly validate the vision of ICT for development, while incorporating the potential impact of AI.
It is probably too early to figure out whether AI will be blessing or a curse for international development… or perhaps this type of binary framing may not be the best approach. Rather than providing a definite answer, I’d like to share some thoughts on what AI means for ICT and development.