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Information and Communication Technologies

What will it take for Romania to fully reap the dividends of digital transformation?

Marc Lixi's picture
Last week I was in Bucharest and attended the launch of the World Development Report (WDR) 2016: Digital Dividends. The event was co-hosted by the National School of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA) and the World Bank.

It was the first country-focused launch in an EU member state and brought together academics, business executives, regulators, journalists, former and current policy-makers to discuss the digital agenda and its implications for Romania’s EU2020 targets, growth and development.

But this launch is not the only reason why Romania stands out.

The country actually represents a paradoxical case study in terms of digital transformation.    

Romania boasts nine of the world’s top fifteen cities with the fastest broadband internet, yet over 40% of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion – the highest rate in the EU.

Attention governments: Big Data is a game changer for businesses

Alla Morrison's picture

When I speak about big data with government leaders in our client countries around the world, I often find that many have some awareness of big data, but for many, that's where the story ends. Most are not sure how it is going to affect them or what they should do. Most leaders are largely unaware that the impact of big data is likely to be broad and deep. What governments do (or fail to do) will likely shape up the competitiveness of their countries' businesses for the next generation.  

In countries further along on its adoption curve, big data has already started to transform not only the information technology sector but almost every business in every industry. Incorporation of big data today is analogous in many ways to the transformative effect of electricity on industries in the 19th century. While electricity production and distribution became an industry in itself, it also led businesses in all sectors to redesign their processes to take advantage of this new resource, leading to unprecedented productivity gains of the Second Industrial Revolution. It isn't surprising therefore that at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, there was much talk about the global economy being on a brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by big data enabled innovations. Governments in emerging economies cannot afford to be left out of this conversation. 

In this blog I hope to show how big data, as a new resource – one that is abundant and rapidly growing – is transforming the business environment and changing the way companies compete with each other. I will also offer suggestions for actions and policies that governments can initiate to position their economies for the advent of the so-called Big Data Revolution, and show that if they don't, they risk losing market share to more digital data-savvy competitors. Finally, I will share a new tool: Open Data for Business (OD4B) Assessment and Engagement Tool, that the World Bank has launched to help governments lay the foundation for the use of one type of big data – open government data – by the private sector.

Digital teaching and learning resources: An EduTech reader

Michael Trucano's picture
real textbooks in real shopping carts ... so *that's* where the metaphor comes from!
real textbooks in real shopping carts ...
so *that's* where the metaphor comes from!

Yesterday the World Bank hosted a great discussion related to strategies for tackling the high cost and low availability of textbooks, with a specific focus on needs and contexts across Sub-Saharan Aftrica.

This event served as the Washington, DC launch for a World Bank publication which debuted last year at an event in Cote d'Ivoire, Getting Textbooks to Every Child in Sub-Saharan Africa: Strategies for Addressing the High Cost and Low Availability Problem.

(Those interested in the topic of 'textbooks in Africa' more generally may also wish to have a look at a companion book published by the World Bank in 2015, Where Have All the Textbooks Gone? Toward Sustainable Provision of Teaching and Learning Materials in Sub-Saharan Africa.)

As a complement to yesterday's discussions, a number of posts related to the use of digital teaching and learning materials that have appeared on the World Bank's EduTech blog have been collected here, to make them easier to find, and in case making them available in this way can help in a small way to help enrich any related conversations.

(Please note that additional links will be added to this page over time as relevant related posts appear on the blog.)


Four ways open data is changing the world

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

Library at Mohammed V University at Agdal, RabatDespite global commitments to and increasing enthusiasm for open data, little is actually known about its use and impact. What kinds of social and economic transformation has open data brought about, and what is its future potential? How—and under what circumstances—has it been most effective? How have open data practitioners mitigated risks and maximized social good?

Even as proponents of open data extol its virtues, the field continues to suffer from a paucity of empirical evidence. This limits our understanding of open data and its impact.

Over the last few months, The GovLab (@thegovlab), in collaboration with Omidyar Network (@OmidyarNetwork), has worked to address these shortcomings by developing 19 detailed open data case studies from around the world. The case studies have been selected for their sectoral and geographic representativeness. They are built in part from secondary sources (“desk research”), and also from more than 60 first-hand interviews with important players and key stakeholders. In a related collaboration with Omidyar Network, Becky Hogge (@barefoot_techie), an independent researcher, has developed an additional six open data case studies, all focused on the United Kingdom.  Together, these case studies, seek to provide a more nuanced understanding of the various processes and factors underlying the demand, supply, release, use and impact of open data.

After receiving and integrating comments from dozens of peer reviewers through a unique open process, we are delighted to share an initial batch of 10 case studies, as well three of Hogge’s UK-based stories. These are being made available at a new custom-built repository, Open Data’s Impact, that will eventually house all the case studies, key findings across the studies, and additional resources related to the impact of open data. All this information will be stored in machine-readable HTML and PDF format, and will be searchable by area of impact, sector and region.

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR

If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:

On Your Mark — Get Set — Pitch!

Katerina Koinis's picture

Charity Wanjiku pitching for Strauss Energy
What does the journey of an entrepreneur look like? For founders like Mark Zuckerberg, it often begins with a groundbreaking idea, followed by several rounds of fundraising through Ivy League and Silicon Valley networks. But what if you weren’t raised in the United States? And what if your idea is not global in reach — but instead addresses clean technology needs that are unique to your region?
The World Bank Group’s Climate Innovation Centers are one solution to this challenge. The seven centers — in the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Vietnam — support more than 270 clean-technology startups with training programs, grants and mentorship. Increasingly, the centers have turned to competitions to help entrepreneurs grow.

Bootcamps and pitching competitions have emerged as promising opportunities for jump-starting an entrepreneur’s journey. Participants train intensively with seasoned entrepreneurs to perfect their pitch. They learn to showcase their business idea and strategy in mere minutes before a panel of judges. Winners bring home significant prizes — and, perhaps more important, connections with potential investors and a greater understanding of the business landscape.
The 1776 Challenge Cup is a pitching competition on a grander scale. The Challenge Cup is a tournament for startups from around the world to share their vision on a global stage and compete for more than $1 million in prizes. 1776, a Washington-based incubator and seed fund, hosted its first annual Challenge Cup in 2014. Past finalists have developed mobile training for Middle Eastern women entering the workforce, have built charging devices for electric vehicles, and have disrupted the value chain in Kenya for perishable goods like bananas.

How to become a digital innovator in Pakistan

Anna O'Donnell's picture
Students Learning at the Earn through Freelancing Training
Students learning at the Earn through Freelancing training. Credit: Empower Pakistan/World Bank
It is possible today to be sitting almost anywhere in the world and -- provided you have access to a computer and the internet -- you can be working on international projects, learning through online courses, or collaborating with other young people worldwide.

These kinds of connected communities can be a great short-term solution to some of Pakistan’s challenges in creating jobs.  

Pakistan is home to a large youth population, with nearly 100 million youth under the age of 24. Creating more and better jobs for this new generation will be a major development challenge. According to Pakistan’s own estimates, the country will need to grow at around 7 percent a year to absorb all these young people into productive economic participation. But constraints on energy supply as well as budget and capacity constraints on government are going to make this challenging in the short term.

What we have seen working in Pakistan over the last few years is that there is an emerging cultural shift that is becoming more accepting of self-employment and entrepreneurship as legitimate employment pathways for young people.

Given the constraints of the domestic economy to absorb all these young people, many of the employment opportunities will come through the establishment of new businesses. And the tech industry in Pakistan has shown a steady and healthy growth rate in recent years, with the potential both to drive growth through the development of new business models, startups and innovation.

One of the major issues we have seen working here is that many young people are curious about how the internet and technology can offer employment, but are not sure where to start.

Want a digital career? Here’s how to get started:

For those interested in learning some skills and linking to work through international marketplaces—also called freelancing—there are resources available to help with training.
Many of the top freelancing sites offer introductory materials to learn basic freelancing, such as Upwork and SamaSchool. Independent online learning sites also offer courses and certificates, most notably Coursera.