The World Bank recently hosted two events showcasing innovative tools and practices that can be used to help build bridges between schools and their local communities, helping to promote and support greater transparency, good governance and citizen engagement along the way.
The CheckMySchool (CMS) initiative in the Philippines (“promoting social accountability one school at a time”) is one of those projects that people intuitively ‘get’. Why not use tools like the web, Facebook, and mobile phones to help inform communities about the types of resources that their schools are supposed to have – and offer a way for them to report back when something is not as it should be?
The Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, include 52 countries spanning the Caribbean, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as the South China and Mediterranean Seas. They range from low-income countries such as Haiti to high-income countries like Barbados and Singapore.
Despite their diversity, many of them have a challenge and irony in common. Being small, often remotely-located, and usually without domestic fossil fuel reserves, these countries rely on imported fossil fuels for their energy, and bear the brunt of high and volatile oil prices. The irony is that many of these same islands have abundant renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, hydro and geothermal. And many are at sea-level, vulnerable to sea-level rise provoked by climate change, and highly-sensitized to the urgency of making a transition to a greener economy—a transition that would reduce their exposure to petroleum price shocks and hikes.
There has been a lot of buzz lately around open development, and new initiatives seem to be popping up everywhere. My colleague Maya talks about what open development means exactly in her blog and Soren Gigler discusses openness for whom and what. Soren points out that “openness and improved accountability for better results are key concepts of the Openness agenda.” However, he cautions that openness is not a one-way street. For positive impact, citizen engagement is crucial and it’s important to “close the feedback-loop” through the facilitation of information flows between citizens, governments, and donors.
In light of this, a prime example of a successful initiative with an innovative citizen-feedback mechanism is “Check My School” (CMS) in the Philippines. Launched by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) just a little over a year ago, it has managed to get real results on the ground. The results and lessons learned were shared at an event held last week at the World Bank. The speaker was Dondon Parafina, ANSA-EAP’s Network Coordinator.
“More and better jobs” is a goal for many policymakers around the world (along with part of the title for a recent World Bank South Asia flagship report on employment). How to create “good jobs” is a key question that the next World Development Report is also expected to help answer.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to harnessing technology for economic development is addressing the digital divide. How can we do so? This is a big question and to answer it comprehensively by looking at all the work on this area is beyond the scope of this blog. However let’s look at a few obvious ways of overcoming the digital divide:
(1) Development projects that focus on, and are relevant to the poor. The Monitoring of Integrated Farm Household Analysis Project (IFHAP) was conducted every five years from 1996 to 2007 in the thirty-three (33) major rice- producing provinces in the Philippines. The study noted the potential of mobile phones as key tool for information dissemination in agriculture as they are widely owned. In 2007, 90% of the farm households surveyed owned at least one mobile phone. I agree with the authors of this study that while policy, infrastructure, and digital divide do indeed aid in assessing readiness; a social dimension is also present, which we ignore at our own peril.
In the Philippines and Guatemala, local groups have taken the mantra “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” to a whole new level. MyShelter Foundation and Hug It Forward use discarded plastic bottles as ‘eco-bricks’ to work with local communities to build “Bottle Schools” – providing an innovative response to the problems of plastic waste and the chronic lack of educational infrastructure.
We know the impact of violence can last generations. We also know that people can be affected by repeated cycles of conflict and instability. The result is that the poor get poorer and become less resilient to further shocks, whether natural or man-made.
A “hearts and minds” model of conflict posits that development aid, by bringing tangible benefits, will increase population support for the government. This increased support in turn can lead to a decrease in violence, partly through a rise in population cooperation and information sharing with the government. At least one previous observational study in Iraq found that development aid is indeed associated with a decrease in conflict.