Agricultural transformation is a priority for Africa. Across the continent, the significant information needs of farmers—accurate local weather forecasts, relevant advice on agricultural practices and input use, real time price information and market logistics—remain largely unmet. To the extent that rural regions are typically sparsely populated with limited infrastructure and dispersed markets, the use of innovative information and communication technologies (ICTs) overcome some of these information asymmetries and connect farmers to opportunities that weren't necessarily available to them earlier. Harnessing the rapid growth of digital technologies holds hope for transformative agricultural development.
Local participatory development is a strategy that is being deployed by governments in developing countries to achieve a variety of socio-economic goals. These include sharpening of poverty targeting, improving service delivery, expanding livelihood opportunities and strengthening the demand for effective governance. Without doubt, an engaged citizenry involved in achieving these goals, especially in rural hinterlands, could hold the government more accountable.
According to the World Bank there are two major modalities for inducing local participation- community development and decentralization. While the former supports the efforts to bring villages, neighbourhoods or household groupings in the process of managing resources without relying on formally constituted local governments, the latter refers to efforts to strengthen village and municipal governments on both the demand and supply sides.
However, what is critical for effective as well as inclusive governance is a state- nongovernmental organization partnership wherein the ‘demand side’ enables citizen participation through access to information and empowerment. Further, that it fosters outcome oriented mechanisms for deliberative decision making at the grassroots.
While global economic growth has been sluggish in recent years, Africa has been growing. We’ve seen a resurgence of traditional sectors such as agriculture and the extractive industries as well as promising new ones such as ICT. Not surprisingly, these booming sectors need highly skilled technicians, engineers, medical workers, agricultural scientists and researchers. Yet large numbers of African graduates remain unemployed as their skills are often not in line with industry requirements.
TEDxSendai allowed us to engage differently with a broader public around a key development topic. We thought the TEDx approach was worth exploring for several reasons:
- The TEDx platform – licensed by the TED Conference – has great presence and a great community of people who are interested in new ideas.
- The World Bank’s own move to open data, knowledge and solutions aligned well with the “ideas worth spreading” philosophy of TED events.
- TEDx’s multidisciplinary approach allowed us to engage with different voices and more creatively with a broader audience.
Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time around to exchange knowledge and potentiate economic and social development.
Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agriculture production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena.
A panel on strengthening partnerships that took place earlier this week at the Civil Society Policy Forum during the 2010 Spring Meetings looked at how partnerships were integral to the response after the earthquake in Haiti.
The panel, which featured speakers from the World Bank, USAID, IMF, Save the Children, and the German Marshall Fund, explored the ways various organizations came together to ensure effective post-disaster revitalization and development outcomes after the disaster in Haiti.
One such example of collaboration and partnership was in the sharing of Bank geo-spatial data with community groups like Random Hacks of Kindness and CrisisCamp. (More on the Bank's new open data initiative here.)
According to The Financial Times, the U.S. government’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board plans to launch in October what the FT calls “the most complex government website in history." The Recovery Board, an independent body headed by Chairman Earl Devaney, is tasked to oversee the outflow of the US $787 billion stimulus package to jumpstart the ailing economy, and the state-of the-art website is intended to engage citizens in tracking the use of taxpayer money.
What caught my attention is the premise behind this initiative—that citizens know best what is happening in their own communities. In an effort to rein in waste, fraud, and abuse of stimulus funds, the Recovery Board is putting into practice the principles of accountability and transparency through partnership with citizens. The Board understands that to carry out its mandate successfully, it needs to equip citizens with information so that they can help the Board do its job. As Mr. Devaney explains, “The website will unleash a million citizen IGs [inspectors-general].”
These days, that title alone is probably enough to have most of you continue reading.
Pakistan's leap into international news headlines has mostly been a result of a series of unfortunate events. The global spotlight has also extended to Pakistan's education system, and the tone of that coverage has mirrored that of Pakistan’s other problems. A recent New York Times article described the growth of madrassas in southern Punjab, claiming that lack of access compelled citizens to turn to these schools as a last resort to educate their children.
Rather than contributing to this debate, I wanted to discuss education in Pakistan from a different angle by talking about the problem solvers. It seems like an appropriate time to write on these issues considering the recent World Bank approval of the Sindh and Punjab Education Sector Projects, two credits totaling over $650M to support the wide-scale education reform programs in these two major provinces.
I’ve been reflecting on further lessons learned from our project that I could share with everyone. I’ve come up a number and they’re all interlinked. The first is that inevitably when you’re implementing innovative projects in complex contexts, you’re going to need to work with partners.
"Civil society is an important partner in the development process." Within the current development context, there's nothing particularly remarkable about this generic sentence. If anything, it merely reflects the now commonly espoused viewpoint that civil society should be considered an important constituency in development planning.