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Culture and Development

Everybody is an Innovator

Thrishantha Nanayakkara's picture

Join Thrishantha and other experts on the World Bank Sri Lanka Facebook page on April 2nd at at 4PM Colombo Time for a live chat on innovation!

One day, I was driving in a remote town in Sri Lanka, when I saw this encouraging scene. A few school kids were playing cricket on a rainy day, and they had made a wicket out of three umbrellas. It might look simple, but a very powerful message about innovation is hidden right there. An innovator in my view is somebody who practices to ask two simple questions: 1) is there a better way to do this, or simply, is there a way to do this? 2) why did it happen that way? The second question is driven by the curiosity to learn the rules of nature, while the first question is driven by a very healthy attitude to get things done by exploiting the rules of nature. The kids who used the three umbrellas for a wicket simply asked if they could find something in their environment to serve the purpose of a wicket. Quite subconsciously, these kids, by embedding in nature, by walking barefooted on mud, grass, and sand, have mirrored natural laws of nature in their brains, that provided them with the basis to change the utility of an umbrella to a stump of a wicket. Therefore, in my view, best innovators are those who are active outside the classroom as well as in the classroom and laboratories.

Poor but happy?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

A common belief in rich countries is that people in Africa are poor but happy. This image is time and again confirmed by popular reality shows on Western television, in which the rich-and-famous visit little-known tribes in the most remote villages of rural Africa, only to concede, in front of a dozen cameras, that despite all their hardship, the people they visited really seemed happier than the average burnt-out desk-warrior in their home countries.

Are the poor in Africa really happier? In recent years economists started focusing on happiness and its measurement, a field long considered too trivial to pay much attention to. Recent research on the topic gives conflicting, and sometimes surprising, results. In 2012, an Ipsos poll measuring the degree of happiness in 24 countries found that self-reported levels of happiness were higher in poor and middle-income countries than in rich ones, seemingly confirming popular beliefs.  In contrast, the first World Happiness Report, also published in 2012, finds that the rich countries in Scandinavia are the happiest on earth, while four poor Sub-Saharan African countries are at the bottom of the list. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, pioneered by the Kingdom of Bhutan, comes up with a number of surprises of its own: the GNH is highest among the young and the unemployed (and also-perhaps less surprising-among the unmarried), which seems at odds with today’s television images of the streets of Madrid and Athens.

Why ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and why NOW?

Lahiru Pathmalal's picture

“If you think the most important thing you need at a startup is capital, you will be wrong. It’s the wealth of mentoring and handholding you will have getting your business up and running.”

I have been asked to write a few paragraphs on the use of ICT for creating jobs and solutions in Sri Lanka. Even though I am an entrepreneur of an upstart, the question really stumped me. Why? As an entrepreneur my main objective is to establish a profitable business venture guided by some core values; this question has made me rethink where ICT stands in the context of job creation and solutions.

Well, the short answer to the first question is YES. It creates jobs; in the short time we have been in operation we have seen rapid growth and have hired several people to join our team. In the future we will continue to need additional staff as we expand our operations. One can argue that through job creation, our site is playing a role in alleviating unemployment and thus a part of the solution. But, ICT can offer Sri Lanka so much more.

From Water Pumps in Cambodia to Global Social Enterprise Support

Dougg Jimenez's picture

Combining the experience of running the DM2006 award winning social enterprise: Ideas-at-Work (IaW), the knowledge acquired with the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) program (2007), and her recent completion of an MBA (2012), Angelique Smit decided to found the Social Enterprise Support initiative, a network group that provides support and advice to fellow social entrepreneurs in a variety of areas.

Created after intense consultation with social entrepreneurs about their support needs in their path to build successful business models, Social Enterprise Support (SE-Support) emerged as a place where social entrepreneurs from all over the world find fellow social-minded entrepreneurs for a sounding board, bouncing ideas, brainstorming or advice.

Using Technology to Create Value

Rukmankan Sivaloganathan's picture

SAR TechnologyJoin an online discussion with Sri Lankan youth entrepreneurs on Friday, 22nd March at 3-5pm on the World Bank's Sri Lanka Facebook page and learn from their experiences in the online field.

The internet is now an indispensible part of our lives for most of us. Whether it be checking email or Facebook or looking up something on Google or Wikipedia, we just can’t live without it (or at least, we feel that way!). However, it’s the way in which the Internet, by converging audio-visual, telecom, and computer networks into what we now call Information and Communications Technology (ICT), has made it easier for anyone with an idea or a dream to go out there and use these tools to create solutions, services, and products and create value, that makes it so powerful and empowering.

Bringing Art to Life!

Mary Ongwen's picture

The great artist Pablo Picasso once said, "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." It was with a similar vision that the South Asia region of the World Bank organized the art exhibition, 'Imagining Our Future Together' last month. The purpose was to unite South Asian artists from all countries to highlight the lack of unity that hinders progress in the region and to create a vision of a more cooperative and prosperous future.

As someone who joined the South Asia region fairly recently, the art brought to life for me the development challenges the region faces in terms of identity, conflict, and gender inequality. As I listened to Guest Joint Curator, Elena Grant, explain the stories depicted in the art work, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the art and the depth of the themes communicated: from the symbolism of the four animals represented on the Indian national emblem to the hopes and dreams of a single young woman dashed by the dark realities of an early marriage.

It's About Time for the Men to Step Up!

Prabu Deepan's picture

As part of World Bank South Asia's "What Will It Take to End Gender-Based Violence" campaign, we invited Prabu Deepan to blog about his ideas as the co-founder of the Stitch Movement in Sri Lanka.

Join Deepan for a live chat on Tuesday, March 5 at 4:00 p.m. Sri Lanka time. Location: facebook.com/worldbanksrilanka.

Gender norms and stereotypes not only affect women, they have an impact on men too. As a child whose father lost his job, I had to quit school and pick up the responsibilities of a man, to support my family financially. It has been more than 13 years and I have never stopped working; this is stressful. Studies show that men’s stress and childhood trauma increase the probability of them perpetrating violence against their partners, in comparison with a man who hasn’t had a stressful life or a traumatic childhood.

Of course, I don’t beat women, harass them, or even tease them because of my difficult upbringing. I guess most of you share the same sentiment. If I’m not someone who perpetuates violence against women and girls, then why is it my problem, right? I’m a good guy, I respect women, I treat them equally and definitely have never harmed them physically, so why worry about all of this?

The Prize & Price of a Hot Breakfast

Patti Petesch's picture

Breakfast in Peru. Samuel Bravo Silva/Flickr Creative Commons

Without a doubt my most vivid memories from my work on the new gender report On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries were my journeys to Peru and Liberia to pilot questions for focus groups. We conducted pilots in rural and urban areas, but as terribly different as these settings were, the level of similarities that emerged surprised me.

Namely, I imagined that traditional gender norms would be much less apparent in modern and rapidly urbanizing Lima when in fact, it was not the case. Young women in Lima described their day as getting up before sunrise in order to get a hot breakfast on the table, and then juggling a flurry of activities - including part-time work as supermarket cashiers and bank tellers. The descriptions were very similar to those we heard from women in other countries.

It was startling that gender norms in a modern city were not much different from norms in a rural community of a low-income country. Just like women from poorer and more traditional places, women in Lima helped their husbands make ends meet on top of long hours of household work. Just like in less developed communities, teenage pregnancies for girls as young as 12 and 13 were cited as a problem of deep concern. All of this in a place where girls went to high school and college, and had access to a modern family planning clinic right in their neighborhood.

Like the Kumbh, Every Day

Onno Ruhl's picture

Kumbh Mela at the banks of Ganga,( photo by: Martje van der Heide)

When we got closer I saw that the bridge at the confluence was not a bridge:  It was a line stitched together from hundreds of little boats full of people.  Our own little boat went straight for it and docked at what looked like a slightly more important boat.  I then realized this was the place to take a dip…

Is Rwanda Set to Reap the Demographic Dividend?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

From almost every point of view, Rwanda’s performance over the past decade has been an unambiguous success story.

Between 2001 and 2011, Rwanda’s economy grew by 8.2 percent per annum, earning the country a spot on the list of the ten fastest growing countries in the world. Poverty rates fell by 14 percentage points, effectively lifting more than one million Rwandans out of poverty. Social indicators followed the general trend: Net enrolment in primary school increased to almost 100 percent, completion rates tripled, and child mortality decreased more than threefold, hitting the mark oftwo-thirds reduction as targeted by the Millennium Development Goals.

Yet buried under all this good news lays another maybe even more important evolution.  After a decade-and-a-half stall, total fertility rates in Rwanda dropped from 6.1 in 2005 to 4.6 in 2010. This means that during a period of five years, the average number of children a woman of childbearing age can expect to have, has declined by 1.5.


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