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How can developing countries make the most of the digital revolution?

Nagy K. Hanna's picture

Also available in: French

Digital technologies have been transforming the global economy. Yet many countries have yet to experience the full developmental benefits of digital technologies, such as inclusive and sustainable growth, improved governance, and responsive service delivery. Given the magnitude of change in competitive advantage that digital technologies can confer on adopters, the risks of slow or poor adoption of these innovations can be dire for industries, governments, individuals, and nations. So, how can policy makers successfully harness the digital revolution for development? This is the motivation behind my new publication: Mastering Digital Transformation (Emerald, 2016).

From my long experience in development assistance, I saw how information poverty in its many forms has led to policy planning and management without facts, disconnected enterprises, inefficient markets, poor service delivery, disempowerment, corruption, and more. The ongoing ICT revolution has been long ignored in development thinking and practice. Development practitioners and ICT specialists remain disconnected. I studied the experiences of countries pursuing digital transformation, and captured key lessons and takeaways in several books.

Digital transformation is not a technological fix, a blueprint plan, a one-off event, or a one-size-fits-all strategy. Rather, it is a social learning process, sustained over time, involving diverse stakeholders. Its ultimate objective is to harness the global digital revolution to meet a country’s specific socio-economic priorities. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. It is driven by vision, leadership, innovation, learning, and partnerships among government, business, and civil society.

Ten Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
The global identification gap is a significant challenge for sustainable development. We hope the new Principles on Identification are an important step to closing it. 
 
In the modern world, many everyday transactions—such as opening a bank account, registering for school, activating a SIM card or mobile phone, obtaining formal employment, or receiving social transfers—require individuals to prove who they are. For the estimated 1.5 billion people in developing countries who lack proof of identity (World Bank data, 2016), this creates a serious obstacle for full participation in formal economic, social, and political life.  Like individuals, governments also need robust, secure identification systems to perform core state functions and administer many of the programs and services vital for development, including social transfers, education and healthcare, and emergency and disaster response.
 
Growing awareness of the need for more inclusive, robust identification systems has led to a global call to action, embodied in Target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”. As public attention is increasing, a number of successful initiatives from around the world have highlighted the development benefits of reliable identification systems.

Burkina Faso’s digital ambition: transforming through eGovernment and digital platforms

Samia Melhem's picture

Burkina Faso has embarked on a journey to put public data infrastructure at the heart of social and economic development. But what does this mean? And why should ICT and digital data be a priority when a large segment of your population still cannot access to the internet? This is precisely the question that the upcoming World Bank-funded eBurkina project is meant to answer.

First Burkina Faso open data e-services realized with support from the World Bank

Burkina Faso, a low-income landlocked country in West Africa, has the ambition to reform public administration differently. More specifically, the country sees ICT and digital innovation as a key opportunity to accelerate development and meet the objectives of its national development strategy (PNDES). This approach is consistent with the World Development Report 2016 on Digital Dividends, which found that, when used properly and with adequate policy interventions, ICTs can be a powerful tool for social and economic development.

Watching Tanzania leapfrog the digital divide

Boutheina Guermazi's picture
 
Digital opportunities are the fuel of the new economy. They have significant impact on both the economy and society. They contribute to growth, create jobs, are a key enabler of increased productivity, and have significant impact on inclusion and poverty reduction. They also provide the ability to leapfrog and accelerate development in key sectors like health and education.
 
Why is this important?  It is important because “going digital” is not a temporary phenomenon. It is a revolution—what the World Economic Forum calls “the 4th industrial revolution”. It is happening before our eyes at a dizzying pace, disrupting every aspect of business, government and individuals’ lives. And it is happening in Tanzania.

ICT essentials for rebuilding fragile states

Mark Jamison's picture
Photo credit: STARS/Flickr
Enabling a robust market for information and communications technologies (ICTs) is fundamental to rebuilding fragile and conflict affected states (FCSs) and addressing the human suffering. As I have explained elsewhere, ICTs are critical because they can be used to alert people to renewed violence, build community, restart the economy, and facilitate relief efforts. The critical strategies that enable ICTs are protection of property rights and minimal barriers to competition.
 
South Sudan provides examples of the importance of ICT. Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative’s Youth Peacemaker Network tells the stories of John from Twic East Country whose life was spared by a phone call warning of an impending attack, and of Gai Awan, Artha Akoo Kaka, and Moga Martin from Numule whose ICT trainings opened employment and education opportunities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) explains how ICT can help protect refugees: Biometrics enabled Housna Ali Kuku, a single mother of four, to obtain precisely scheduled treatments for her respiratory tract infection and for her children. GPS is used to identify sources of diseases and to track their spread.
 
A World Bank study by Tim Kelly and David Souter identified five themes in post-conflict recovery and how ICT plays critical roles.

All text messages are not created equal

Pierre Guislain's picture
Photo credit: Adam Fagen/Flickr
Eight months after the launch of the World Development Report 2016 on Digital Dividends, I am happy to report that our efforts to operationalize the findings are well under way. For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere, affordable access to broadband internet is key. This requires both robust broadband infrastructure, and the strengthening of analog complements to digital solutions, including a pro-competitive and effective regulatory framework, a sound business environment, good governance and digital skills.

One of our main areas of focus is the enabling environment – helping governments foster digital development by putting in place the right policies and regulations.

Now, what are some of the main issues?

First, across the world, but especially in developing countries, competitiveness continues to be dragged down by ‘red tape’, including numerous procedures, authorizations and delays to start a business or launch a service, costly and unreliable property registration, or stifling labor regulations. I am sure you are all familiar with the Doing Business report and the World Bank’s many programs to support business reforms worldwide.

While the digital industry also faces these regulatory hurdles, it is confronted with additional challenges.

Let me give you an example. With your phone in hand, you are about to send a text message to a friend. Your phone offers you a choice: to send the text message through your mobile operator, or to send it via the internet through an app. Depending on what platform you use, your text message will be taxed differently. All text messages are not created equal: different digital services are treated differently from a regulatory and fiscal point of view, with no real level playing field.

SDGs Made with Code: Giving women and girls the power to change the world

Mariana Dahan's picture
Increasingly more aspects in our lives are powered by technology, yet women aren’t represented in the roles that create this technology. In many places there are barriers to simply using technology, let alone, creating it. Women in India and Egypt are six times more likely than women in Uganda to say that internet use is not considered appropriate for them, and that their friends or family may disapprove. Learning to create with technology opens up opportunities for women to express themselves, have the ideas heard and contribute to shaping our future. Even though there’s so much more we need to do, we’re inspired to see the movement around the world to break down these barriers and start contributing their voices to the field of technology.

We recently met Mariana Costa from Laboratoria – a nonprofit that empowers young women by providing them access to the digital sector. In the next three years Laboratoria will train more than 10,000 young women as coders. This tech social enterprise located in Peru, Mexico and Chile, helps young women - who have not previously had access to quality education – enroll in an immersive five-month training program at Laboratoria’s Code Academy, where students achieve an intermediate level on the most common web development languages and tools. Their technical development is complemented with a personal development program that helps them build the soft skills needed to perform well at work. Successful graduates also receive mentoring and job placement and are usually able to pay-back the cost of the course during their first two years of employment. Most of the time, these young girls are the only breadwinners in their households.

What is Korea’s Strategy to Manage the Implications of Artificial Intelligence?

Hyea Won Lee's picture

AlphaGo, Google’s DeepMind Artificial Intelligence (AI) program for Go game, recently beat the world’s top ranked Korean grandmaster Lee Se-dol in a five-game Go match in Seoul. Lee’s defeat by 4-1 turned into a shock for the Korean public and quickly spurred a major discussion on the state of Artificial Intelligence development and its broader impact on society. In response to the soaring public attention, the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) has laid out the Artificial Intelligence Information Industry Development Strategy, which aims to strengthen the foundation for AI growth.

The Importance of Mapping Tech Hubs in Africa, and beyond

Rachel Firestone's picture

As the World Bank’s ongoing mapping of Tech Hubs in Africa comes out with its newest edition, we wanted to share the rationale behind this exercise and highlight its links to other efforts in this innovative space.

Our mapping activities began tracking tech hub and incubators in the African context since 2014 with periodic updates, focusing specifically on those who support digital entrepreneurship.
 
Complementing other World Bank work in this realm, such as research on mLabs and mHubs, contributions to the Makers’ movement, support to mobile app competitions, bootcamps and hackathons, and an upcoming Pan-African Acceleration program, the Tech Hubs in Africa map highlights the presence and potential interaction between digital entrepreneurs, while furthering the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and increasing shared prosperity. The exercise also provides data points for ongoing inquiry into the relationship between innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation, and sustainable livelihoods. 

Public-private cooperation to build digital identity systems

Julia Clark's picture
Today, the World Bank, Secure Identity Alliance, and GSMA have launched a joint white paper,  “Digital Identity: Towards Shared Principles for Public and Private Sector Cooperation”. Building on an existing body of research on digital identity for sustainable development, this paper takes a first step in framing key issues, benefits and challenges for public-private cooperation to build digital identity systems. It highlights the primary dividends and risks of digital identity ecosystems, describes the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders, and discusses emerging models of identity systems and partnerships. In addition, it suggests some common themes and principles that stakeholders should consider in order to ensure that digital identity systems are inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable. We hope that it serves as a basis for future analytical work in this important area.
 
Individuals, governments and private sector companies share a common interest in having trustworthy systems that enable end-user identity verification. Public sector agencies need inclusive and secure identity systems to administer government programs and delivery of services, including elections, social transfers, tax collection and border security. Similarly, private firms often rely on government-issued identification (e.g., birth certificates and national IDs) to verify the identity of their users and build their own identity systems to support client services. For the end-user, it is all about security of personal data and timely and efficient access to services and benefits. 

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