Albert Einstein once said: “The only source of knowledge is experience.” For years I have wondered about this. Surely you can understand something without actually having done it. After all, mankind’s understanding of the vast universe is greater than what can be directly experienced, and some of it is derived from theoretical reasoning. I was on my way to the 2018 Africa Carbon Forum to share fiscal policy lessons under the CAPE program and the debate was still raging in my head when I arrived at the UN campus in Nairobi Kenya.
Prices in African agricultural markets fluctuate a lot: “Grain prices in major markets regularly” rise “by 25-40% between the harvest and lean seasons, and often more than 50% in more isolated markets.” To an economist, this looks like a massive missed opportunity: Why don’t farmers just hold onto their harvested grain and sell at a much higher price during the lean season?
Gender-based violence (GBV) has largely been understood as the act of violence against women. Hence society forgets that men also suffer the same way that women do, or even worse.
It wasn’t until I began to share my own story of survival that I realized how vulnerable men were to GBV. Two years ago, I was raped and I conceived a child as a result. I was 19-years-old at the time, but since the incident, I have written and spoken extensively about the aftermath of my rape. I cannot say that I don't think about my rape on a regular basis, instead it has just become a part of my primordial goo that courses through my veins and makes me who I am.
The International Comparison Program (ICP) team in the World Bank Development Data Group commissioned a pilot data collection study utilizing modern information and communication technologies in 15 countries―Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam―from December 2015 to August 2016.
The main aim of the pilot was to study the feasibility of a crowdsourced price data collection approach for a variety of spatial and temporal price studies and other applications. The anticipated benefits of the approach were the openness, accessibility, level of granularity, and timeliness of the collected data and related metadata; traits rarely true for datasets typically available to policymakers and researchers.
The data was collected through a privately-operated network of paid on-the-ground contributors that had access to a smartphone and a data collection application designed for the pilot. Price collection tasks and related guidance were pushed through the application to specific geographical locations. The contributors carried out the requested collection tasks and submitted price data and related metadata using the application. The contributors were subsequently compensated based on the task location and degree of difficulty.
The collected price data covers 162 tightly specified items for a variety of household goods and services, including food and non-alcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; clothing and footwear; housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels; furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance; health; transport; communication; recreation and culture; education; restaurants and hotels; and miscellaneous goods and services. The use of common item specifications aimed at ensuring the quality, as well as intra- and inter-country comparability, of the collected data.
In total, as many as 1,262,458 price observations―ranging from 196,188 observations for Brazil to 14,102 observations for Cambodia―were collected during the pilot. The figure below shows the cumulative number of collected price observations and outlets covered per each pilot country and month (mouse over the dashboard for additional details).
Figure 1: Cumulative number of price observations collected during the pilot
We live in an age of compounding uncertainty. advances in science and monitoring tools.
The challenge of anticipating and communicating the risk of volcanic eruptions to communities requires complex decision-making. Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano and Indonesia’s Mount Agung are recent examples where the warning signs were present (small earthquakes, increasing gas emissions, and more), yet an eruption came much later than expected. Volcanic eruptions are therefore a double-edged sword that often creates a decision-making dilemma. While signs of volcanic activity can provide adequate time for preparation and evacuation, the very same signs can also create conditions of extreme uncertainty, which can be exacerbated by piecemeal communication around eruption events.
Ceilings on lending rates remain a widely-used instrument in many EMDEs as well as developed economies. The economic and political rationale for putting ceilings on lending rates is to protect consumers from usury or to make credit cheaper and more accessible. Our recent working paper shows that at least 76 countries around the world, representing more than 80% of global GDP and global financial assets, impose some restrictions on lending rates. These countries are not clustered in specific regions or income groups, but spread across all geographic and income dimensions.
In the last few years, CSA—which is an approach to agriculture that boosts productivity and resilience, and reduces GHG emissions- has gained momentum as understanding of its critical importance to the food system has risen. Nearly every government representative and farmer I meet during my missions (most recently in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan) expresses genuine interest in making CSA part of their farming routines and agricultural sector.
This momentum is reflected in the Bank’s own actions. Since the Bank started tracking CSA in 2011, our CSA investments have grown steadily, reaching a record US$ 1 billion in 2017. We expect to maintain and even increase that level next year as our efforts to scale up CSA intensify.
For every software developer in the United States, there are five open jobs. Africa, meanwhile, has the youngest, fastest-growing population on earth, with more people joining the labor force over the next 20 years than the rest of the world combined.
With this idea in mind, and the powerful belief that "brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not," Andela, founded four years ago, began recruiting recent graduates in Africa with the mission of connecting them to job opportunities in high-tech companies. Today, about 650 developers in Lagos, Nairobi, and Kampala work full-time for over 100 firms spread across 45 cities worldwide.
In Gaile Parkin's novel Baking Cakes in Kigali, two women living in Kigali, Rwanda – Angel and Sophie – argue over the salary paid to a development worker: "Perhaps these big organisations needed to pay big salaries if they wanted to attract the right kind of people; but Sophie had said that they were the wrong kind of people if they would not do the work for less. Ultimately they had concluded that the desire to make the world a better place was not something that belonged in a person's pocket. No, it belonged in a person's heart."
It's not a leap to believe – like Angel and Sophie – that teachers should want to help students learn, health workers who want help people heal, and other workers in service delivery should want to deliver that service. But how do you attract and motivate those passionate public servants? Here is some recent research that sheds light on the topic.
Editor’s note: The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the World Bank Group, its Board of Directors or the governments they represent.
Even as domestic tax reform is in the political limelight, there is growing attention to taxation in the developing world and the role of citizens in shaping tax policy.