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Information and Communication Technologies

Championing interoperability for financial inclusion: carrot or stick?

Thomas Lammer's picture
Mobile payments at Hawala Market in Daykundi, Afghanistan. Photo: Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion

Interoperability – a term used in a variety of industries, including telecommunications and financial services – is generally understood to refer to the ability of different systems and sometimes even different products to seamlessly interact. For payment systems, “interoperability” depends not only on the technical ability of two platforms to interact but also the contractual relationships between the entities wanting to interact. Traditionally, interoperability has been established by the same type of institutions, by banks’ participation in a central retail payment infrastructure (e.g. a central switch or an automated clearing house) and adhering to a payment scheme (e.g. a card scheme or a credit transfer scheme).

These days interoperability in retail payments is no longer limited by national borders and the overall ecosystem has become more complex. Non-bank payment service providers have emerged (many of them mobile network operators-MNOs) and there are new types of payment instruments (e.g. mobile money). Innovative payment instruments often start as proprietary solutions, processed in-house rather than via a central platform. In that regard, interoperability can help tear down barriers by enabling transactions between customer accounts of different mobile money solutions. In some countries, interoperability even facilitates transactions across different type of accounts (e.g. deposit transaction accounts held with banks and mobile money accounts held with non-bank service providers).

How satellites and social media help us anticipate the needs of conflict-affected countries

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank Group plays a major role in recovery and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries. Therefore, it is important for us, in collaboration with international partners, to engage in assessing the needs and planning for recovery and reconstruction as much ahead of time as possible. In recent times, we have been conducting broad-brush damage assessments in active conflict situations using innovative remote-based techniques like satellite imagery or social media analytics to provide not only damage numbers and trends but also qualitative information on the status of various services. These new approaches have helped us maintain situational awareness of and be ready for recovery when the situation allows.

During the initial stages of recovery efforts, supporting local-level recovery initiatives can serve as a springboard for large-scale reconstruction programs, which remains our biggest comparative advantage. Therefore, there is a need to expand these assessments to include other elements of recovery, which would inform preparation of multi-sectoral local level recovery interventions in the short-term, and major reconstruction programs in the medium- to long-term.

Want to empower women? Digital Financial Services are the way to go!

Duncan Green's picture

Sophie Romana (left) and Shelley Spencer (right) report back from the June 8 high level roundtable organized by NetHope and USAID, which brought together mobile banking and gender champions to reflect on how Digital Financial Services (DFS) can galvanize women’s empowerment.

Women’s empowerment is often measured by their access to resources and ability to make decisions over how they are used.  Recent evidence shows that DFS delivered through mobile phones deserves solid A's against each metric. This is not just hopeful musing by us as two empowered women with banking apps on our mobile phones, it is the consensus of a cross section of thought leaders with a seat at the table in Washington including USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Better than Cash Alliance and UNCDF, CGAP, and Women for Women International, as well as our own organizations, Oxfam and NetHope.  We recently spent a morning reflecting on rigorous academic and implementation research on DFS use by women — all to be published soon — and pathways to close the gender gap in DFS product use.

Oxfam has long known that women play a central role in financing family and community needs. What we are now finding is that DFS tools can enhance their role.  To study the impact of DFS on Saving for Change (SfC) savings groups in Senegal, Oxfam divided up 210 SfC groups (over 5,000 women) into 2 cohorts: one who participated in the project and the other as a comparison set.  Women who participated in the pilot saved and borrowed more than the comparison groups. The differences are not marginal.  There is a significant difference in savings.

 
Graphs: Saving for Change Mobile Banking, First Assessment & Learning Review, March 2016, Oxfam America

Media (R)evolutions: Citizens are eager to interact with their cities but need greater access to digital platforms

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.

Digital technologies have been lauded for their ability to set aside social and geographic boundaries, allowing people to communicate with others from different backgrounds in different parts of the world.  They are also known for their capacity to collect and track data on end users that can be used in the aggregate to inform decision-making. This level of engagement and data analysis led some to wonder if digital technologies would democratize communication and service delivery between governments and their citizens. Civic leaders, the argument followed, who embrace new technologies could benefit from deeper community engagement and increased stakeholder awareness on government initiatives and would be equipped with a steady flow of constituent feedback and a transparent track record.  Communities would be rewarded with insights into the functioning of new systems and the demand for city services as well as means to report inconsistencies or problems.
 
While the dream of proper two-way communication and digital feedback loops has not been realized by most cities, citizens would appreciate direct, real-time interaction with their local governments. While less than one-third of citizens (32%) are currently providing feedback to their local authorities, over one-half say they would like to do so. A large number of citizens (51%) want wider access to digital platforms to enable them to communicate with government or expansion of free wifi in public spaces (50%), perhaps signaling that basics, like access to the Internet and digital literacy skills, may have the greatest impact on citizens’ ability to interact. Many citizens— in both developed and developing countries— still lack broadband access at home and have limited data to use on smartphones. This means that as governments attempt to interact on digital platforms and share information online, they also need to be mindful of the digital divide within communities.
 

 

Interview with Cecilia Lerman on internet policy in Latin America

CGCS's picture

In this interview, Celia Lerman, professor and researcher of Intellectual Property at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella law school, discusses her path to internet governance work and her recent publication on internet policy in Latin America, “Multistakeholderism and Internet Governance".  Lerman reflects on the crucial role of multistakeholderism in the movement for open democracy and the broader issues facing the implementation of a successful model of internet governance. 

How did you first become interested in internet governance and multistakeholderism?

I became interested in internet governance early in my career when I was working as an intellectual property lawyer in Buenos Aires, working with international domain name disputes. The procedures for solving these disputes caught my attention: it seemed so strange to me that the domain name disputes I was working on had to be submitted to a panel based in Geneva and hold the procedure in English, even when both parties were based in Latin America and spoke Spanish as a first language. That sparked my interest in exploring better rules and solutions for Latin American internet users relating to their rights on the Internet.

Soon after I started working in academia in 2011, I participated in my first ICANN meeting as a fellow in Dakar, Senegal, and in the Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest organized by American University. Both meetings were incredible windows to internet governance and policy discussions for me.
 

What overlap is there between the fields of internet governance and your other expertise, such as intellectual property law?

The overlap between internet governance and intellectual property law is feared and loathed by many, especially when IP laws are used to restrict the sharing of content over the internet and jeopardize freedom of expression. But the intersection is not necessarily negative. Interestingly, IP laws are uniquely helpful to think through novel issues of internet policy and governance, and what the rules about intangible property should be like. This may be why many IP scholars are increasingly involved in the field of internet policy.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

More people in less space: rapid urbanisation threatens global health
The Guardian

The global population looks set to rise to 9.7 billion people by 2050, when it is expected that more than two-thirds of humanity will be living in urban areas. The global health community is bracing itself. Compared to a more traditional rural existence, the shift in lifestyle and inevitable increase in exposure to pollution will lead to significant long-term rises in non-communicable diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Worrying as this prospect may be, current population trends are already altering the global health landscape even faster than we realise, and that could pose far bigger and more immediate problems. When population growth is combined with other pressures, such as climate change and human migration, some parts of the world are likely to experience unprecedented levels of urban density.

How Being Stateless Makes You Poor
Foreign Policy
For the first 24 years of his life, third-generation Palestinian refugee Waseem Khrtabeel rarely noticed any difference between himself and his Syrian neighbors. Like his parents, Khrtabeel was born and raised in Damascus. He speaks with a distinct Syrian accent, just like that of his many Syrian friends. But Khrtabeel is not like other Syrians. He’s stateless.The first time Khrtabeel, 30, grasped the magnitude of that word was in early 2010, after graduating from Damascus University with a mechanical engineering degree. Khrtabeel was elated when he secured an interview with the Saudi Binladin Group, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent construction companies. On an unseasonably warm day in January, he arrived at the company’s recruiting office in southwestern Damascus promptly at 2 p.m., energized and confident. He was shown the door less than seven minutes later.

My advice for future policymakers: See the public’s success as your success

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

Students line up to wash their hands before eating at Kanda Estate Primary School in Accra, Ghana. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The most important word in "public policy" is "public" — the people affected by the choices of policymakers.

But who are these people? And what do they care most about? Policies evolve as the concerns of generations change over time. Regardless of whether you are generation X, Y, or Z, people want the same things: prosperity and dignity, equality of opportunity, justice and security.

Five ways to increase citizen participation in local waste services

Silpa Kaza's picture
ICT services offered by I Got Garbage in Bangalore
Web platforms, apps, and citizen surveys are changing how solid waste management services are conducted globally and showing that waste infrastructure alone is simply not enough. These interactive platforms provide incentives, quantify actions, and increase pressure on service providers, and thereby improve waste management with greater citizen engagement.
 
The World Bank recently hosted five individuals representing organizations and projects that use information and communications technology (ICT) to engage citizens with local waste services. Their varied approaches reveal incentive models that effectively lead to strategic behavior change.

Conflict of interest: Digital privacy vs. national security

Roxanne Bauer's picture
It’s a dilemma only known in contemporary times: how to balance security and privacy.

Today, the internet is increasingly accessed through mobile devices, people are sharing more across multiple outlets, and bulk collection of data is growing. Private, personal information—Google searches, page clicks, GPS locations, and credit card swipes are all collected constantly and invisibly, often without the consumer's permission. Not only are businesses engaging in this tracking, but governments are also conducting surveillance on the basis of national security concerns. 

Governments have defended their actions by claiming that the information gathered helps fight threats to national security, both foreign and homegrown. People understand that governments need to give due weight to both privacy and national security; unfortunately, many do not receive even the most basic information regarding their country’s surveillance programs or whether their privacy is being violated.

According to Claire Connelly, “people’s right to privacy is being reduced by the day on the grounds of national security. And while it’s important to keep people safe from terror and other forms of national security threats, it’s arguable whether this should come at the cost of privacy."
 
Conflict of interest: Digital privacy vs. national security

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