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November 2018

Resilient housing joins the machine learning revolution

Sarah Elizabeth Antos's picture

 World Bank

Machine learning algorithms are excellent at answering “yes” or “no” questions. For example, they can scan huge datasets and correctly tell us: Does this credit card transaction look fraudulent? Is there a cat in this photo?

But it’s not only the simple questions – they can also tackle nuanced and complex questions.

Today, machine learning algorithms can detect over 100 types of cancerous tumors more reliably than a trained human eye. Given this impressive accuracy, we started to wonder: what could machine learning tell us about where people live? In cities that are expanding at breathtaking rates and are at risk from natural disasters, could it warn us that a family’s wall might collapse during an earthquake or rooftop blow away during a hurricane?

How Russia can further improve its tobacco taxation efforts to boost health and life expectancy

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Over the past 10 years Russia has made great progress in increasing the life expectancy of its people. Back in the mid-2000s, we documented the dramatic decrease in life expectancy in the post-Soviet period in the report “Dying Too Young,” due especially to high mortality among working-age men. Behavioral risk factors, such high rates of cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, economic and social dislocation, a shift in the predominant diseases and the deterioration of the health care system, including access to it, all contributed to premature death and a dramatic shrinking of the Russian population that hadn’t been seen since World War II. 

Burning bright or burned out? The outlook for coal and natural gas markets

Peter Nagle's picture

This blog is the third in a series of ten blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook. Earlier blogs can be found here.
 
Recent developments and outlook: coal

Coal prices rose 12 percent in the third quarter—the fifth straight quarterly increase—and are up 23 percent relative to the same quarter of 2017. Weather patterns in Asia and Europe have been the main drivers of the rise in prices. Low winter temperatures at the start of the year raised demand for fuel for heating, while unusually hot summer temperatures boosted electricity demand for air conditioning. In addition, low hydro availability and supply constraints in the two largest markets--China and India—increased coal imports.

Prices are projected to decline from current elevated levels as China is expected to reduce coal imports by stimulating domestic production, as well as by lowering the share of coal in energy consumption. Upside risks include continued strong growth in electricity demand in other emerging markets that will be met to some extent by coal. Production shortfalls in China and India could also raise import demand and support prices.
 

Weekly links November 16: Remembering TN, targeting vs universal transfers debates, farcical robustness checks, bad replication techniques, and more...

David McKenzie's picture

Fighting corruption: the importance is crystal clear

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Katie Stevens/Shutterstock
© Katie Stevens/Shutterstock

My parents didn’t know that the name they chose for me meant “transparent” in Spanish. But they did know the importance of transparency, honesty and integrity, and passed on to me these values when I was growing up in Bulgaria. I hold them dear in my work at the World Bank. 

A lack of transparency fuels corruption, a corrosive force that hits the poor and the vulnerable the hardest. Its effects are very real. Corruption stops medicine and drugs from reaching the sick, stops schools from being built, leads to roads washing away in the rain, and empties the public coffers. In the most fragile corners of the world, corruption undermines work to bring stability or prevent violence and extremism from taking root. 

‘Improving’ versus ‘improved’ sanitation: the case of shared toilets in Ghana

Sanyu Lutalo's picture

Ms. Tettey wakes her children up at 3.30 am every morning to be able to make it to the front of the line at the nearest public toilet block, located about 150 meters from her house in Accra’s La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly.  Like many residents of low-income informal settlements in Greater Accra, the Tettey family rents a single room in a compound house with about ten other families.  The 2008 Ghana Living Standards Survey reports that 79% of Ghanaians live in compound houses consisting of several households built around a common open area or yard that share basic utilities like water, electricity and sanitation, where available.  The use of shared toilets was the only alternative the Tetteh family had to open defecation when at home.  During the day, the adults tried to take advantage of the public toilets near the market where Mrs. Tettey works, and the children were encouraged to use the toilets at their school before coming home.  The Tetteys are among the 80 percent of Ghana’s population that lack access to ‘improved’ or safely managed sanitation.

An improved sanitation facility is defined as one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently exclude shared toilets from their definition of safely managed sanitation.  Likewise, to meet the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP)’s definition of improved sanitation, toilets must be used by only one household, and they should meet certain design standards that prevent human contact with faeces.  These definitions are driven by concerns that an increased number of users, among other factors, reduces the overall levels of hygiene and cleanliness of facilities and decreases their safety, thereby limiting access for women, children, and the elderly, and precluding achievement of the health, social and environmental benefits of having adequate sanitation.

Malaysia’s digital future needs faster Internet

Siddhartha Raja's picture
As an early pioneer in the digital economy, Malaysia has many of the building blocks to leapfrog to a new digital future, but the country will need faster Internet to go the next mile. Photo: bigstock/ mast3r
About 20 young women in the eRezeki center in Shah Alam, Malaysia work quietly on their computers as the class proceeds. They are there to learn about how to work online to earn  an income. On banners nearby are vignettes of Malaysians—many from the bottom 40% of the income group, and the primary target group for this program—who have benefited from these opportunities. One businesswoman selling clothes and furniture online since 2013 saw her monthly sales increase ten-fold after learning how to better market her products online.  A retired lecturer learnt about online work opportunities and began performing dispatch services for delivery apps, earning over RM 2,400 (~US$580) a month.

Poverty lies beyond the unemployed

Isis Gaddis's picture

Globally, poverty by employment status is highest among unpaid workers (22 percent), followed by self-employment, and those out of the labor force (both 12 percent). Not surprisingly, income-earning capacity (proxied by employment status) is strongly associated with poverty and gender. When disaggregated by sex, there are roughly equal numbers of men and women among the poor who are unemployed. There are more men than women among the self-employed poor. However, women make up most of the poor who are unpaid workers or out of the labor force. To learn more, read the recently released Poverty and Shared Prosperity report 2018, “Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle.”

Brazil’s small farmers offer lessons to India

Priti Kumar's picture
Angela, on the far left and dressed in red, is a small-holder farmer and entrepreneur in Brazil. She started a banana business that expanded to packed lunches for truckers, college students, and travelers. Credit Priti Kumar/World Bank

“Once, it was a rodeo day here and my son asked for money to go. But I didn’t have the money and told him to sell our farm’s bananas on the road instead. So, he took 50 bunches of bananas and sold them all in a few hours. Soon I started a banana business. The sales enabled me to expand my business to packed lunches for truckers. Over time, with the help of my family, the road administration, and my own investments, I started receiving invitations to make meals for college students and travelers.”

Angela, small-holder farmer and entrepreneur, São Paolo, Brazil.

 
Angela told us her story one afternoon as we ate the delicious lunch she had prepared for us at her rather humble roadside eatery in rural São Paulo, Brazil.

Her story was not only touching but also summed up the importance of entrepreneurial foresight and the power that collaboration holds in opening new doors for poor farming communities.
 
India and Brazil have much in common. Both have smallholder farmers - called family farmers in Brazil - (although these farmers make up a much smaller proportion of Brazil’s overall farming community and have a different landholding structure).

Yet Brazil, like many other Latin American countries, has been able to promote commercial agriculture and raise farmers’ incomes by creating collectives, comprised mainly of family farmers.
 
Even though family farmers represent a small slice of Brazil’s cooperatives, the impact of their collectives is considerable.

Often referred to as the “breadbasket of the world”, half of Brazil’s food comes from its 1,500 plus agricultural co-operatives, which employ more than 360,000 people.

The productivity of Brazil’s agriculture is evident.

With only 15% of Brazil’s population living in rural areas, more than 20% of its GDP comes from the agriculture sector.

 In India, on the other hand, 66% of the people live in rural areas while just 15% of GDP comes from agriculture.
 
Brazil’s success in making agriculture more market-oriented and raising farmer incomes holds many lessons for India.

For many years now, India has recorded a surplus in most critical agricultural commodities. 

Yet, farmers’ incomes continue to be subdued.

To help farmers earn more from the land and move onto a higher trajectory of growth, India has gradually shifted its policy focus to linking farmers to markets, as well as enabling them to diversify their production and add value to their produce.
 
So how do Brazil’s farmer collectives work?

Ready to launch: The World Association of PPP Units & PPP Professionals

Ziad Hayek's picture



There is hardly a government today that does not consider some sort of public-private partnership (PPP) to be relevant and integral to its development strategy.

Everywhere you go now, there are individuals and institutions dealing with PPP policy and all the complex aspects of tendering, implementing, and supervising PPP projects. A specialization has arisen, which has become a career for many people and an industry for many institutions, public and private. 


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