“50% of Arab world citizens are dissatisfied with public services in their area,” according to a World Bank survey — which prompted not one, but two sessions at the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. So it was no coincidence that the meme #BreaktheCycle emerged in another Middle East and North Africa (MENA) panel, “Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World,” which also revisited the theme of the social contract in both oil-importing and exporting countries.
Middle East and North Africa
Civil wars are not only a human tragedy for the countries that experience them, but they can also have an impact on neighbouring countries. That is the case also for the devastating civil war in Syria - one of the most violent in recent times. The war has caused devastation and hundreds of thousands deaths, displacing over 6 million people, and forcing another 3 million to flee the country as refugees.
The human tragedy of thousands of asylum seekers floundering—and dying--in the Mediterranean highlights an unprecedented global challenge for the 21st century. “In terms of migrants and refugees, nothing has been seen like this since World War Two“, says Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migrants (IMO). Globally there were estimated to be 16.7 million refugees and 34 million Internally Displaced People (IDPS) at the end of 2013. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen alone have created o some 15 million refugees and IDPs. The numbers are growing almost on a daily basis. Just in the past few weeks, the fighting in Yemen has displaced another 150,000 while fighting in Iraq’s Ramadi has added another 114,000 to Iraq’s total displaced of around 3 million refugees and IDPs.
If the earth gets much hotter this century, life will get harder for most people across the world. But how much harder will it be for people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region already known for its heat and aridity? For many, climate change evokes thoughts of bitterly cold winters, burning hot summers, long droughts, and spectacular floods. But for MENA, climate change will also mean the loss of traditional incomes, forced migration and a constant struggle to make ends meet. Earth Day is a moment to examine the link between the impact of climate change on nature and humankind.
Lower oil prices are a boon for oil importers around the world. But how well are oil-producing countries adapting to the apparent end of a decades-long “commodity supercycle” and lower revenues? And what does this mean for the global economy?
World Bank economists provided insights on the situation in six developing regions at a webcast event April 15 ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. The discussion focused on the challenge of creating sustainable global growth in an environment of slowing growth.
World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu said the global economy is growing at 2.9% and is “in a state of calm, but a slightly threatening kind of calm. … Just beneath the surface, there’s a lot happening, and that leads to some disquiet, concern – and the possibilities of a major turnaround and improvement.”
The World Bank collaborated with local Lebanese technology communities to host Open Innovation Week in Beirut at the end of February, bringing speakers from prominent US-based institutions, such as Google, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts International Technology (MIT) for “tinkering with a purpose”. That purpose was to harness the power of open source tools to fix problems and build up their technology and entrepreneurship skills.
Oman’s national e-Governance initiative — which is called eOman — came into effect in 2003 and since then has been serving as the main framework for Oman’s digital transformation, including ICT industry and infrastructure development, creation of better public services and development of human capital. Since 2009, Oman has been consistently recognized by the United Nations Public Service Programme for its efforts.
We asked Dr. Salim Sultan Al-Ruzaiqi, Chief Executive Officer of the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman — the agency responsible for the implementation of eOman strategy — to share with us the key solutions his agency has been working on to tackle the country’s development challenges and to highlight some of the lessons learned. Read Dr. Al-Ruzaiqi’s selected responses below, or download the full version of the interview here.
Can you tell us some of the key points of the Oman Digital Strategy (e.oman)?
Let me start first by emphasizing that His Majesty’s grand vision of diversifying the Omani economy was the key driver of embarking on developing and implementing e.oman. This grand vision was set out in the economic vision 2020 that included transforming Oman into a sustainable knowledge based society. In His address to Oman Council in November 2008, His Majesty stressed the need to develop the technological and practical skills of citizens and provide them with the resources and training required to enhance their capabilities and incentivize them to seek knowledge. His Majesty also directed the Government to simplify processes, adopt technology in its daily operation, and focus on electronic delivery of its services.
- client perspectives
- information and communication for development (ICT4D)
- information and communications technologies
- information and communication technology
- Big Data
- open data
- open data portal
- Open Data initiative
- Service Delivery Arrangements; eGov; eGovernment; eGovernance
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Middle East and North Africa
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The surprising benefits of autocratic elections
After a bitterly contested election campaign and several controversial postponements, Muhammadu Buhari engineered an upset of Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, the country’s first-ever case of electoral turnover. Legislative elections will follow on April 11, while two other African countries, Sudan and Togo, are also scheduled to hold elections over the next two weeks. Besides the coincidence in electoral timing, these countries share another surprising link—all three are generally recognized as autocracies. The marriage of autocracy with contested elections is, in fact, the norm nowadays. All but five autocracies have held a national election since 2000, with about three in four allowing multiparty competition. What makes these regimes autocratic is that the elections fail to meet democratic standards, typically with state power being used to favor the ruling party.
Cellphones for Women in Developing Nations Aid Ascent From Poverty
New York Times
Here is what life is like for a woman with no bank account in a developing country. She keeps her savings hidden — in pots, under mattresses, in fields. She constantly worries about thieves. She may even worry about her husband taking cash she has budgeted for their children’s needs. Sending money to a family member in another village is risky and can take days. Obtaining a loan in an emergency is often impossible. An unexpected expense can mean she has to pull a child out of school or sell a cow the family relies on for income. Or, worse, it can mean she must give birth at home without medical assistance because she doesn’t have the money for a ride to a clinic. In ways big and small, life without access to financial services is more difficult, expensive and dangerous. It constrains a woman’s ability to plan for her family’s future. At the community level, it traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of developing countries.
How can we boost the impact of employment programs for low-skilled and vulnerable citizens? A recent project in Tunisia suggests that choice is a key ingredient in ways you may not expect.
Once an unmentionable endemic, corruption seems to have gained the honor of the limelight. It is now at the forefront of the public debate in Lebanon. Today, Lebanon’s political scene is watching in amazement as government ministers compete in a race to show how seriously each of them is taking the fight against corrupt practices. They are pushing ahead with an often controversial crackdown, publicly naming suspected felons.