A digital agenda for green, resilient, and inclusive development in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal

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Countries worldwide are navigating their way out of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, while facing the adverse effects of climate change. The world needs innovative approaches to build back better, mitigate and adapt to the biggest development challenges of our time. Mindful of this need, the World Bank Group has been engaging with the governments of Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka to help increase access to and use of digital technologies and pave the way for a green, resilient, and inclusive development (GRID).

In the Maldives, we are working to understand climate change and support adaptation better. Our work in Sri Lanka is helping build more resilient public services. In Nepal, we aim to mobilize private capital to close digital access gaps in rural and mountainous regions.

Maldives: Adapting to climate change

Maldives faces existential risks with climate change and rising sea levels. While engaging in global discussions on decarbonization, it is also looking to diversify its economy beyond tourism and fisheries, while decentralizing service delivery beyond the crowded capital city of Malé. For all of these, Maldives is looking at using digital tools. 

Our engagement thus far with the Government set the stage for improving the country’s connectivity with the global internet and increasing access to affordable broadband across the country’s many islands. Presently, a third of the population lives without such access, limiting public service delivery such as online learning or telemedicine. Connectivity challenges also limit the country’s ability to monitor and collect data on climate change’s impact on sea levels, coastlines, and weather patterns.  

Smart climate adaptation measures rely on data for climate models and predictions. Data also informs design, decision making, planning, and monitoring of adaptation measures and policies. Thus, improving the reach of networks and data processing capacity in the Maldives can help design better approaches to climate resilience, provide farmers with information that can enhance food security, and reduce the risks of disasters. Building on this, the World Bank is now working towards strengthening and supporting the implementation of the country’s national adaptation plan through the establishment of a shared data platform for adaptation.

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Improving networks and data in the Maldives could help farmers make better decisions and boost food security

Sri Lanka: Building more resilient government systems

Digital technologies have played a major role in the government’s response to COVID-19. It has allowed governments to continue functioning and deliver services to their people. With support from the World Bank, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in Sri Lanka has been leading efforts to build resilience by enhancing its government network and providing Government agencies with the digital tools and services to work remotely and deliver public services. 

For example, ICTA plans to roll out a digital Forms.gov.lk solution as a new contactless solution for the public and businesses to fill and submit relevant documents to obtain public services digitally. A secure and robust government-wide email and collaboration service with video conferencing facilities is also in the works.  ICTA is also enhancing the capacity of the government cloud infrastructure (LGC 2.0) to support more services, as the agency continues to shift its services online. A disaster recovery site will also be established for LGC 2.0 so that critical data is not lost in times of exogenous shocks, including natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones. These investments will help Sri Lanka build back better, ensuring that the Government is positioned to continue its operations and deliver services in the face of future shocks.

Nepal: Creating an inclusive digital economy

Nepal had been working towards realizing its vision of a digital economy—captured in the 2019 Digital Nepal Framework—to create an engine of growth and expand service delivery across its challenging terrain. The pandemic has accelerated those plans, as the digital divides across urban and rural areas and among households at different income levels became starkly evident. For example, two-thirds of Nepal’s schoolchildren could not access remote learning during school closures, often due to limited access to devices or networks.

Working with policymakers, the World Bank has identified opportunities to mobilize private capital to close these access gaps. Extending high-capacity networks by sharing the costs and the risks, while also leveraging advanced technologies, such as fifth-generation wireless (5G) networks can help boost digital inclusion. In parallel, partnerships to build remote learning or telemedicine services can put more people in touch with these services. We are now developing a program to increase access to affordable and secure broadband networks for more people and businesses, while also creating digital platforms that can help rapidly and reliably deploy public services.

Developing a green, resilient, and inclusive digital economy

Looking forward from these excellent examples, we hope that a growing base of knowledge can help chart pathways out of the pandemic and its effects, while preparing for other challenges by building back better on solid digital foundations. The experiences of countries such as Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, suggest that meaningful execution of the GRID approach serves the people and their nations.



Guangzhe Chen

Vice President for Infrastructure, The World Bank

Faris Hadad-Zervos

World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka

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