On September 19, 2014, a Kenyan middle-aged woman was waiting for a bus at a stop in Nairobi. When the bus stopped, a group of men surrounded her, and started to strip and assault her for wearing a miniskirt in public. She screamed and cried out for help, but only a couple of brave people reached out and gave her clothes to cover herself.
This kind of sexual violence against women is not unprecedented in Kenya, but this time was different. The brutality of the violence was caught on camera and went viral online. On November 2014 alone, at least four such attacks were recorded across Kenya. The numbers for violence against women are disturbing: according to the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2010 in Kenya, 48.2 percent of women feared that a household member could be sexually harassed.
The tiny village of Narma Dih, off-grid in Bihar, India, was lit only by the full moon and the beam of a battery-powered pico projector. A makeshift screen hung on the outside wall of a modest dwelling. A clump of small children clung to each other and stared at the screen, transfixed. Behind them sat a circle of sari-clad women, equally absorbed. A few men stood in back. The object of their rapt attention? Not a Bollywood extravaganza, but a locally produced how-to video on seed preparation for okra cultivation.
I was in Narma Dih to get a first-hand look at Digital Green, which uses technology to accelerate the diffusion of agricultural innovations. The WDR 2016 is all about storing and sharing information, and that is at the heart of agricultural extension. There can be high returns to putting the right information in the right hands at the right time. This is especially true if you can show farmers ways of being more productive with their existing resources -- for instance, showing them how to intercrop, or to make better compost. But credibly transmitting this kind of information has always been difficult, labor-intensive and costly. Agricultural extension agents are typically assigned to serve an impossibly large number of farmers spread over a logistically daunting stretch of countryside. And the traditional form of information transmittal leaves something to be desired. In Bihar, the agents have travelled the back roads shlepping flipcharts, text-heavy and just plain heavy, one per topic. The flipcharts may not adequately convey new techniques to illiterate farmers, let alone give them confidence to try a risky new idea. Would you believe someone who told you that you could sow 90% fewer seeds while boosting your yield? (That's the promise of the system of crop intensification, whose diffusion is a goal of the Bank-supported Jeevika Project.)
- WDR 2016
The following post is the first in a series exploring 'internet for development,' the theme of the World Bank's upcoming World Development Report 2016.
Why should we invest in internet access in developing countries when there are more important problems like providing clean toilets? That was one of the questions posed to Vint Cerf following his recent presentation on Emerging Internet Trends that will Shape the Global Economy here at the World Bank. Vint is one of the “Fathers of the Internet”. In the 1970s he was part of a small team that developed the protocols and standards that guide the open, global communication system that we all rely on every day. Today he is Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and a preeminent thinker about the current state and future of the internet.
Vint’s presentation was the second seminar organized by the World Development Report 2016 (WDR): Internet for Development. This World Development Report (WDR) will look at the impact of the internet – in a broad sense – on businesses, people and governments. And it will evaluate policies in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and in complementary sectors that will help countries receive the highest social and economic returns from those investments. In his wide-ranging talk and in a meeting with the WDR team, Vint touched on all of those issues. Here are a few of his thoughts.
"Once upon a time in the faraway Baltic region was a tiny nation of Estonia. Newly independent, with a population of 1.3 million, and with 50 percent of its land covered in forests, it was saddled with 50 years of under development. While it was operating with a 1938 telephone exchange, it’s once comparable neighbor across the gulf, Finland, had a 30 times higher GDP per capita and was waltzing its way into new technological advances. Estonia was faced with the challenge of catching-up with the rest of the world. It too embarked upon the technology bandwagon, but revolutionized it’s progression, by creating identity, secured digital Identity for its citizens. And finally, Estonia became a country teeming with cutting-edge technology. The end. “