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Information and Communication Technologies

More voices mean smarter cities

Stephen Davenport's picture
Urban cityscape.  Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

With the ink barely dry on the Sustainable Development Goals, naturally the just-completed Open Government Partnership annual summit focused on how greater openness can accelerate progress toward the goals.
The open government agenda is most closely linked to the ambitious Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which among other targets includes the objective of ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Though progress in this area is maddeningly difficult to quantify, evidence increasingly shows that participation, the next transparency frontier, matters to development outcomes. Making the target explicit, it is hoped, will galvanize efforts in the right direction.
There are many issues one could propose to tackle with citizen engagement strategies, but to narrow the topic of discussion, let’s consider just one: enabling smart growth in the world’s exploding cities and megacities.  Estimates suggest that by 2035 most of the world’s extreme poor will live in urban areas.

STEPing ahead with procurement reform

Robert Hunja's picture

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.

Think you know everything about Governance? Take the challenge!

Ravi Kumar's picture

Recently we blogged about a global solutions group on open governance at the World Bank, subnational governmentspublic investment management in Ethiopia and more.

If you weren’t able to check out those blog posts, take this quiz, which we think is fun, and still sharpen or refresh your knowledge about issues related to governance.
And please tweet at @wbg_gov to share your score!

Sharing is scaring: Can shared corporate services save costs in the public sector?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In late June, we sent two of our bravest colleagues, Marta and Marcelo, on a daring mission into the Tundra, close to the Arctic Circle. Even though the temperature was in the mid-80s (mid-20s Celsius), you could feel the glacial breezes. Since our unit focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, you might wonder what brought them so far north.

The team had arrived in Toronto, Ontario with a mission: to learn more about shared corporate services (SCS) and their potential application to save costs and improve government efficiency in other parts of the world.   

In the late 90s, reeling from a financial crisis, the provincial government of Ontario was faced with a daunting task: to cut a third of its administrative budget in one year. In other words, they had to do more with less. Over the next decade the government managed to save C$43 million in direct costs and C$227 million through efficiency gains. Their secret was an innovative solution borrowed from the private sector.

Lessons from the taxi industry to improve Romania’s governance

Ismail Radwan's picture
taxi in Romania
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank

The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
About a year later I returned to Bucharest to find a new system in place.  An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport.  Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
What made the difference? 
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.  
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient. 
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology. 

 What are the implications for governance reform? 

The future of government is open

Stephen Davenport's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

The World Bank Group sees the pillars of a more open and citizen centric government--transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration--as strategic priorities in its work on governance because they suggest concrete ways to promote shared prosperity. Having made significant strides to increasing openness in the Bank's own work, we seek to build on this progress to support client governments in their own efforts to make the development process more inclusive. 

Good communication strategy is essential for good governance

Ravi Kumar's picture
2010 post earthquake Haiti. Photo - Mercy Corps Mercy Corps
2010 post earthquake Haiti. Photo: Mercy Corps

When trust in governments around the world is at a historic low, and a myriad of challenges continue to overwhelm leaders, it’s imperative for government agencies to revamp their strategic communications approach.
Whether it is during a natural disaster or a policy consultation process, citizens expect honest and useful communications from their government agencies. This expectation isn’t misplaced, as they now live in a world where mobile phones and the Internet are ubiquitous.
Governments often succeed or fail because of the way they communicate their vision, mission and policy objectives with the wider citizenry. In a digital age, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that governments ought to be proactive in the way they communicate and engage with citizens.
The decreasing price of technology such as mobile phones is leading to the rapid democratization of digital communicators.
Recently, when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal, Nepalis inside and outside the country wanted actionable information as soon as possible. Many of them were talking about the devastation even before the government’s initial statement. Twitter and Facebook are popular in Nepal and people were using the platforms to talk about damage and rescue.
As a Nepali citizen, I know my government has yet to be digitally savvy. Thankfully, the government launched a Twitter account to share the latest devastation numbers and information about rescue operation. It was a strategic use of the tool in a time of crisis.

Procurement data for better development outcomes

Joel Turkewitz's picture

Even marginal improvements in procurement efficiency can mean big savings. And that’s just a start.
The use of data and technology in procurement make it possible for governments to make informed decisions to maximize development impact. At the World Bank, the Public Integrity and Openness Practice is developing a set of Transformational Engagements, one of which focuses on Data Analytics, to catalyze better outcomes from procurement processes.
The engagement will use data analytics to solve pressing developmental problems. The plan is to combine work on addressing common data problems (how to digitize paper records, how to link different data records, how to present data findings in ways that are accessible and influential) with efforts at the country level. Powered by advanced data analysis, countries can undertake empirical-based examinations of when best value is achieved via procurement, or in which cases and sectors government contracting is promoting the development of competitive and dynamic private sectors.
Work undertaken within the Bank will be informed by the concurrent efforts of others who are exploring different approaches and different techniques to using data and data analytics to drive improved performance. The World Bank seeks to play a constructive role within a community of initiatives to harness the power of information to change how governments function, the relationship between government and non-governmental actors, and the lives of people. Committed to an inclusive process of learning-by-doing, the World Bank is dedicated to building partnerships with researchers, government officials, the private sector, and civil society.

What’s proactive governance?

Ravi Kumar's picture
See the inforgraphic in high resolution here. Designed by Boris Balabanov, World Bank

Let’s say on a dark, cold day, electricity supply to your house is suddenly interrupted. With no heat and light, you furiously walk to the nearby government energy administration office to file a complaint.
As you file your complaint, an official also asks for your mobile number and tells you that within the next 24 hours, you will receive help. A day later, you get a text message or robocall asking you whether you have been helped and how the service was.  
This process—when government proactively seeks feedback directly from citizens about the quality of its services and makes it mandatory for service providers to use smartphones and creates dashboards for citizens to view real-time information on service delivery—is called proactive governance.
Proactive governance was first introduced in 2011 in Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan.

What would Pakistan 2.0 look like?

Ravi Kumar's picture
Moonlit Gate, Lahore, Pakistan  Gateway to the Badshahi Mosque, with Lahore Fort opposite
Gateway to the Badshahi Mosque, with Lahore Fort opposite. Photo: Michael Foley

If you have ever doubted that the mother of invention is necessity, then look no further than Pakistan.
Pakistan has struggled to provide opportunities to its people for decades. But the country is turning the tide.
People in Pakistan are determined to define their destiny. They are using all of the resources at their disposal to tackle their challenges..