One of the first things I did after the earthquake on 25th April was to connect with my family through the internet as phone lines were then not available. Never before had I been so grateful to have internet access. The quakes in April and May claimed more than 9,000 lives and injured thousands. Million others are now homeless. Of the many ways the Nepalese community, international development organizations, and the Government initially supported the most affected, Internet and open data platforms played a major role. As info-hubs they provided updates for those in Nepal and elsewhere in the world and helped monitor post-disaster rescue and relief efforts.
Information and Communication Technologies
Strong trade connectivity can help disaster response and recovery by ensuring that humanitarian relief goods and services get to where they are needed when disaster strikes. Trade policy measures, however, can sometimes have adverse effects. Research led by the World Bank highlights that a common complaint of the humanitarian community is that customs procedures can delay disaster response, leaving life-saving goods stuck at borders. Other measures such as standards conformity procedures, certification processes for medicines, and work permits for humanitarian professionals can slow the delivery of needed relief items. Border closures can exacerbate situations already marked by human tragedy and unlock full-scale economic crises.
This nexus between trade policy and humanitarian response was discussed at an event organized jointly by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization at the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade on June 30 in Geneva. Among the steps suggested to address concerns were rigorous disaster planning; better coordination between humanitarian actors, implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement and better recognition of the role of services.
As part of the Bank’s ongoing effort to adapt to the changing needs of client countries, the Bank is modernizing its procurement framework. This will help us deliver stronger project results while maintaining the integrity and high standards of our procurement framework.
The two key elements of this transformation in Bank procurement involve the Procurement Policy Reform, to take effect in 2016, and STEP, the Bank’s new electronic procurement planning and tracking platform.
On July 21, 2015, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the new Procurement Framework, which will go into full implementation during 2016. This new framework allows the Bank to better and more effectively meet the varying needs of clients by ensuring greater flexibility and choice of methods. Alongside the new framework, an electronic platform, Systematic Tracking of Exchanges in Procurement, branded as STEP, is being rolled out and will be implemented worldwide in the coming months.
This system jointly developed by Operations Risk Management (OPSOR) within Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS), the Global Governance Practice (GGP), and Information Technology Services (ITS) departments, is a cornerstone of the World Bank Group’s procurement reform efforts and goes hand-in-hand with policy and procedural changes.
There is a huge gap between a child playing with a smartphone and a young adult who is capable of manipulating that technology to make an income, or to create a business. Assuming that today’s young people are digital natives seriously risks equating the ability to consume media with the ability to participate in the digital economy. Education systems need to ensure that young students and workers are prepared to capture the benefits that smarter machines and connectivity will bring. Accepting this responsibility, and not assuming that young people everywhere are naturally able to access and participate in the digital economy, will be a critical first step.
The past month was full of climate-related stories in the media, including speeches by the Pope in Washington DC and New York, the joint China-US statement, and the announcement of China’s cap-and-trade scheme starting 2017.
We may still hear about differences of opinion on what is causing climate change and what needs to be done and by whom, but it is happening, and that efforts to resolve these differences are made in conventions and meetings, in houses of Congress, in media or public debate.
At 9:00 am this past Monday morning, almost 30 people crammed into a small conference room at the World Bank in DC to talk about ... videogames. (A good number more were queued up online to join in, but unfortunately technical snafus prevented them from participating -- our continued apologies if you count yourself among that group.) The featured presenter at this discussion, my colleague Mariam Adil ("Meet the Woman Who's Shaking Up Pakistan's Social Gaming Industry"), the founder of GRID (Gaming Revolution for International Development), shared some of the interesting and innovative things she has been doing to help create and roll out a number of educational mobile apps, as a contribution to broader discussions on topics related to 'early childhood development' (ECD).
Providing children and their caregivers with access to quality pre-school education opportunities is a primary activity of the World Bank's work related to early childhood development. No one who participated in Monday's discussion expressed the view that 'technology is the answer to the challenges of ECD'. That said:
Are there approaches and activities related to early childhood development worth pursuing that can be complemented, and in some cases helpfully enabled by, new technologies?
As the related World Bank strategy states, "Investing in young children through ECD programs—ensuring they have the right stimulation, nurturing and nutrition—is one of the smartest investments a country can make to address inequality, break the cycle of poverty, and improve outcomes later in life."
Given the proliferation of mobile phones in communities around the world, there can be no denying that such things are increasingly in the hands of parents and caregivers (and, for better or worse in the hands of children as well, both briefly and for extended periods of time).
What are we learning about what is possible, and what is useful, to do with these devices that can complement and extend many ECD activities and programs?
It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
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.Tech gurus have been discussing the growing presence of the Internet of Things, the wiring together of all our devices, as well as predicting how it might create “ambient intelligence”. Ambient intelligence refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people. Within these environments, systems could sense what the human inhabitant needs and deliver it without being requested to do. Ambient intelligence is the amalgamation of neural networks, big data, IoT, wearables, and device user interfaces into services that can automate processes and make recommendations to improve the users’ quality of life.
A house could adjust its temperature based on behavioral and physiological data that the owner’s car collected during the commute home. A smartwatch may be a key to an office door, automatically unlocking the room as the wearer approaches. An at-home security system might learn what constitutes ‘normal’ activity and then send an alert to the owner when their dog needs to be let outside. At a grander scaled, sensors can now closely monitor the environmental impact of our cities, collecting details about sewers, air quality, and trash.
Working in the renewable energy sector for the World Bank since 2010, I have visited more than 50 Micro Hydropower Plants (MHPs) in rural Nepal. From villages high up in the hills inaccessible by even the toughest 4WD jeeps to settlements perched on steep slopes, to one powerhouse that could only be reached by crossing a cold river with shoes in hand.
And with every community I visited, every family that welcomed me, I felt the same happiness to see them celebrate the commissioning of a MHP in their village. They enjoy evenings and nights as they chat, eat and watch TV with their family under the electric lights.