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Digital Technology

Transforming microfinance through digital technology in Malaysia

Djauhari Sitorus's picture
Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, launching the Virtual Teller Machine (VTM) at the National Savings Bank. Digital technologies such as the VTM are now changing the way microfinance works. Photo: The Star

The rise of artificial intelligence: what does it mean for development?

Leebong Lee's picture

Video: Artificial intelligence for the SDGs (International Telecommunication Union)

Along with my colleagues on the ICT sector team of the World Bank, I firmly believe that ICTs can play a critical role in supporting development. But I am also aware that professionals on other sector teams may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.

Typically, there are two arguments against ICTs for development. First, to properly reap the benefits of ICTs, countries need to be equipped with basic communication and other digital service delivery infrastructure, which remains a challenge for many of our low-income clients. Second, we need to be mindful of the growing divide between digital-ready groups vs. the rest of the population, and how it may exacerbate broader socio-economic inequality.

These concerns certainly apply to artificial intelligence (AI), which has recently re-emerged as an exciting frontier of technological innovation. In a nutshell, artificial intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines. Unlike the several “AI winters” of the past decades, AI technologies really seem to be taking off this time. This may be promising news, but it challenges us to more clearly validate the vision of ICT for development, while incorporating the potential impact of AI.

It is probably too early to figure out whether AI will be blessing or a curse for international development… or perhaps this type of binary framing may not be the best approach. Rather than providing a definite answer, I’d like to share some thoughts on what AI means for ICT and development.

Virtual Reality: The Future of Immersive Learning for Development

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Former Bougainvillean combatant, now cocoa farmer Timothy Konovai tries out VR for the first time (World Bank/Alana HolmbergIn the blink of an eye, virtual reality can take you from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan to a first responder’s mission in Nepal, from practicing surgery in Nigeria to tracking storms from earth observation satellites across South America. Virtual reality adds a new dimension to the learning experience: presence, the feeling of actually being in another place.
 
Learning from this new generation technology is becoming available at your fingertips for a minimal cost. Although virtual reality is still in its infancy, its cutting-edge approach and storytelling is already impacting development education, where it can draw us closer to the many development challenges we face.
 
What Exactly is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality refers to technology that generates realistic images, sounds, and other sensory inputs that replicate an environment. A headset completely immerses the individual in the environment being generated. Immersion is a word you will hear quite a bit related to virtual reality: immersive learning, immersive simulations, or immersive applications. The most famous virtul reality tool now is probably Oculus Rift.

Media (R)evolutions: Trends in information and communication technologies

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Every year the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) publishes Measuring the Information Society Report that looks at the latest developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Here are some of the latest ICT trends according to ITU.  

Regional comparisons:
  • Europe continues to lead the way in ICT development;
  • A number of countries in the Americas significantly improved their performance in the ICT Development Index (IDI);
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region is the most homogeneous in terms of ICT development;
  • The Asia-Pacific region is, by contrast, the most heterogeneous;
  • There is great diversity in ICT development across the Arab States;
  • Africa is working on pushing up its IDI performance.
Internet potential underused:
  • Many people have access to Internet, but many do not actually use them;
  • The full potential of the Internet remains untapped;
  • Many people still do not own or use a mobile phone;
  • Progress in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – mobile-cellular prices continued to decrease in 2015, and the price drop was steeper than in previous years;
  • Affordability is the main barrier to mobile-phone ownership;
  • Fixed-broadband prices continued to drop significantly in 2015 but remain high – and clearly unaffordable in a number of LDCs.
The issue of affordability of various ICT services needs to be at the forefront of the development agenda in order to decrease the digital divide. Despite the fact that the overall mobile-cellular prices, as well as fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband prices have dropped in recent years, affordability of ICT services is still one of the key barriers to ICT uptake.  The role of ICTs is crucial in ending poverty, providing millions with access to a wealth of educational resources, and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The recent report also finds that the gender gap is prominent in many aspects of technology. For example, “data on mobile-phone usage by gender shows that the percentage of male users is higher than that of female users in most countries, although differences are small in most economies.” However, in some countries gender gap is significant in the mobile-phone ownership. For example, in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone.
 

#6 from 2016: Media (R)evolutions: Time spent online continues to rise

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on February 10, 2016.  
 

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Roughly how many hours do you spend online each day? How many hours do you spend on social media? If you’re like most people, you’re are spending more and more time online, and you’re spending much of that time on social media networks.

Each year, We Are Social collates key data from multiple sources to make sense of the digital and social trends affecting media and technology. Digital in 2016 is the latest report, and the following graphs illustrate data the organization obtained from the Global Web Index. GWI conducts annual interviews with 200,000 internet users across 33 markets in quarterly waves, each of which has a global sample size of 45,000 – 50,000 internet users.
 
Amongst the 30 economies surveyed, Filipinos and Brazilians spend the most time using the internet, clocking an impressive 5.2 hours per day on average. Together with Thais, Brazilians also top the list for the amount of time spent using mobile internet, logging an average of 3.9 hours per day on their devices.  Contrary to what you might expect, the Japanese and South Koreans spend the least amount of time on the internet each day, logging only 2.9 and 3.1 hours respectively. This matches previous years in which these countries have been at the bottom of the spectrum.

Year in Review: 2016 in 12 Charts (and a video)

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Between the social, political, and economic upheavals affecting our lives, and the violence and forced displacement making headlines, you’d be forgiven for feeling gloomy about 2016. A look at the data reveals some of the challenges we face but also the progress we’ve made toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. Here are 12 charts that help tell the stories of the year.

1.The number of refugees in the world increased.

At the start of 2016, 65 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes, up from 60 million the year before. More than 21 million were classified as refugees. Outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, most refugees live in cities and towns, where they seek safety, better access to services, and job opportunities. A recent report on the "Forcibly Displaced" offers a new perspective on the role of development in helping refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities, working together with humanitarian partners. Among the initiatives is new financial assistance for countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that host large numbers of refugees.


Think you know who the manager's favorite is? You may be right: Technology Aided Gut Checks

Tanya Gupta's picture

Welcome to the sixth blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. So far in this series, we have focused on the tools and techniques of a just-in-time learning strategy. We will now switch gears and show how, with very little effort, we can use TAG checks to make simple yet (occasionally) profound conclusions about data - big and small.

As we delve into the details of TAG checks in the next several blogs, we will be using web programming tools and techniques to gather, process and analyze data. While we will try to be as comprehensive as possible in our explanations, it may not be always as detailed as we would like it to be. This forum, after all, is a blog and not a training tutorial. We hope by applying the just-in-time learning strategy that we have discussed so far in the series, you will be able to supplement what we miss in our explanations. Our goal for the overall series has been to empower you. We hope the first part of the series has made you an empowered self-learner.

The second part of the series will make you an empowered and savvy data consumer, a development professional who can confidently rely on the story the data tells to accomplish her tasks.

For the readers who are just joining in, we suggest that you become somewhat familiar with the just-in-time learning strategy by skimming the series so far.

Media (R)evolutions: Making broadband policy universal for inclusive development

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

In order to ensure economic and social development is inclusive, all citizens, including the poor and those living in rural areas, must have access to information. Communication services, which includes mobile broadband, remains a crucial element in this goal. However, cost, competition, demand and affordability, and customer distribution (among others) all influence how telecommunication firms view the feasibility of providing specific technology services.

National broadband plans (NBPs) and universal access and service (UAS) policies that provide regulation, financing, and access goals are essential to ensuring that a country can provide broadband services. These policies, which can be tailored to ensure they will provide access to poor and rural communities, should not be viewed as an obligation but an opportunity for growth. The World Bank acknowledges this in the 2016 World Development Report: Digital Dividends:

Government policies and regulation of the internet help shape the digital economy. Particularly through their policies for the ICT sector, governments and regulatory agencies create an enabling environment for the private sector to build networks, develop services, and provide content and applications for users. Increasingly, governments seek to cooperate across borders on issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, and cross-border data flows. Internet-enabling policies have evolved over time, especially those for the ICT sector [...] Broadband internet, in particular, is seen as a general-purpose technology, essential for the competitiveness of nations, and governments have invested more than US$50 billion in broadband networks since 2009 as part of stimulus packages. Most also have national broadband plans.


With this in mind, the Broadband Commission tracks national progress towards a set of targets, the first of which is to make broadband policy universal. Advocacy target 1 states, “All countries should have a National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their UAS definitions.” According to its latest annual report, The State of Broadband: Broadband catalyzing sustainable development, growth in the number of countries with NBPs has progressed over the past eight-year period, but has stabilized in the past three. There are now 151 countries with a NBP, and 38 have not yet developed one. Azerbaijan is the most recent addition to the list of countries with an approved NBP, and another seven countries are planning to introduce one: Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Saint Lucia and Togo.

Media (R)evolutions: Digital news gains ground on traditional print press

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Many newspapers and media watchers around the world bemoan the “death of print”, stirring a sense of loss because print newspapers represent something historical, nostalgic, or dramatic to their readers.  Many who lament the demise of print newspapers do so because they believe it signals two broad trends: younger generations don’t see the point of buying a hard copy of newsprint and people are reading less and are, therefore, less informed.  On the first point, it is true that in developed countries there has been a steady decline in the circulation of newspaper print editions, but it should be noted that print media is still growing in developing media countries, like India and China.  

On the second point, it’s clear that people are not actually reading less news. Data from Global Web Index makes it clear that internet users are spending more time each day perusing digital news. On average, adults with internet access are now spending 50 minutes a day reading online press – more than 10 minutes longer than they spend reading print versions. Mobiles phones have had a clear impact, allowing users to keep up with the news throughout the day, and 6 in 10 adults are now visiting news websites on their mobiles each month, with 41% using a dedicated news app. 

This data suggests that the market for paid news is not failing and there are possible business models for online news. The need for information will not vanish and their remains a market for high-quality credible news. Press sites will have to work harder, though, to convince consumers to visit their sites directly rather than social networks as Twitter and Facebook, which have been positioning themselves as prime sources for news.

Netflixing learning: How to select a good learning video?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Welcome to the fifth blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series where we use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.  Our last post talked about web videos as a learning tool. We shared five questions one should ask before choosing a video source over text, audio or other media. Once you have decided that video is the most suitable format for your particular learning task - the next question is finding the right video for you to watch. This is the focus of this blog. When it comes to learning videos, one size does not fit all. A highly rated learning video on YouTube may not necessarily suit your needs. The two key determinants of a good match are the type of learning you need to do and your familiarity with the subject matter.
 

What and How-To learning types

When it comes to learning something, most belong to the What category or the How-To category.


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