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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.

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.

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.

From Gigabytes to Megawatts: Open Energy Data Assessments for Accra and Nairobi

Anna Lerner's picture
Doing homework at night using power generated by human movement during recess earlier in the day.
This play-powered light is offered by Empower Playgrounds.  (http://www.empowerplaygrounds.org/

A new assessment of energy use in  Nairobi and Accra shows that measuring and sharing data would improve life for people in both capitals by increasing energy access and  efficiency. 
 
The key is access to information. Releasing energy information such as data on power networks, energy usage and on the potential to switch to renewables could mean more efficient development and improved services for consumers.  Access to data could bring many positive changes. It could speed up private sector and civil society engagements in the energy sector. For example, wind power companies could benefit from digital power network and wind resource data to find new markets. Or NGOs providing solar lamps for students could better target their operations by getting access to maps of off-grid communities and schools. 
 
When I started working on energy access and biomass in Mozambique in 2007, the concept of “open data” wasn’t even  on my radar.  But the  practical implications of not having that information was an everyday frustration.  My colleagues in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energies and  I would spent days searching for numbers we needed on basic trends, like key information on charcoal prices,  with little success. For urgent needs,  we would spend considerable amounts of time visiting line-ministries and other partners to see if we could pool our talents to come up with somewhat accurate data.  And this was for truly basic information, for a picture, say, of  biomass consumption in Sofala province, or a number for improved cookstoves in use across Mozambique. Back then, we couldn’t even imagine a national online portal that would publish all our missing data points in an easily accessible format. But the high cost of data gaps were apparent even then.
 

Sustainable Development Goals and Open Data

Joel Gurin's picture
Sustainable Development Goals. Source: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

The United Nations (UN) has developed a set of action-oriented goals to achieve global sustainable development by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by an Open Working Group of 30 member states over a two-year process. They are designed to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

To help meet the goals, UN member states can draw on Open Data from governments that is, data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose. This kind of data is essential both to help achieve the SDGs and to measure progress in meeting them.
 
Achieving the SDGs
Open Data can help achieve the SDGs by providing critical information on natural resources, government operations, public services, and population demographics. These insights can inform national priorities and help determine the most effective paths for action on national issues. Open Data is a key resource for:
  • Fostering economic growth and job creation. Open Data can help launch new businesses, optimizing existing companies’ operations, and improve the climate for foreign investment. It can also make the job market more efficient and serve as a resource in training for critical technological job skills.

MOOCs and e-learning for higher education in developing countries: the case of Tajikistan

Saori Imaizumi's picture
There has been a lot of talk and research on massive open online courses (MOOCs) and their potential impact, but is it really applicable to developing countries? How can universities take advantage of online content? And what kind of regulations and quality assurance mechanisms do we need? 

Last year, as a part of the “Tajikistan: Higher Education Sector Study,” I led a team to conduct pilot activities to assess the feasibility of using MOOCs and other e-learning content in higher education institutions (HEIs) in Tajikistan.

Recently the Government of Tajikistan has decided to discontinue existing correspondence-based programs for part-time students and shift to a “distance learning” system using computers and Internet technology. Thus, this study was conducted to assess the possibility of using information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve access, quality and relevance of higher education in Tajikistan. In addition, the study supported a mini-project to pilot a number of ICT-based solution models to tackle challenges identified in the country’s National Education Development Strategy.

Recently, we interviewed pilot participants about their experience participating in MOOCs, e-learning and distance education, and then produced a series of short video clips. These videos showcase the impact of potential use of online learning and distance education for improving access, quality and relevance of education as well as reduction of the gender gap. One of the female students in the video mentioned that distance education allows her to continue studying after having kids.

Here is the overview video that we produced:
 
ICT for Higher Education? The Case of Tajikistan

Makers and education, part one: how are disruptive technologies affecting the way we educate?

Saori Imaizumi's picture
Girls learning how to design and make a toy with a laser cutter, which increases
interest in STEM career options. Photo: Saori Imaizumi/World Bank Group

Affordable, accessible technologies can democratize opportunities for EVERYONE to become innovators and inventors. Countries can take advantage of this opportunity to create new jobs, new industry and skilled workers to achieve further economic growth and increase competitiveness. Also, preparing citizens with problem solving skills and entrepreneurial mindsets helps solve various social problems in the country in an innovative manner.
 
In a 2013 report entitled “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” the McKinsey Global Institute identified 12 potentially economically disruptive technologies, including mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and advanced materials.
 
Team-based learning through
technologies. Photo: Saori
​Imaizumi/World Bank Group

​I touched upon how these disruptive technologies and low-cost technologies affect the pedagogy of skills development and education, as well as their implications for international development in my previous blogs (New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills and What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?) and a feature story (Communities of "Makers" Tackle Local Problems).
 
Elaborating on these posts, I will explore the topic on “how can kids, youth and adults prepare in response to rapid technological changes” from the pedagogy and institutional model perspectives. My analysis is derived from the lively discussion that I recently attended on “Exploring 3D Printing for Development,” organized by IREX and my work at the World Bank.

What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?

Saori Imaizumi's picture

What is the implication of 3D printers on the World Bank’s mission of poverty reduction and boosting of shared prosperity? While figuring out the specifics is likely impossible, we do have a few hints at the possibilities.

3D Printer + Internet = Inclusive Education
The internet search engines we use almost every day have changed our lives, in terms of access to information, knowledge, and much more. But for the visually impaired, this invention has had little impact so far. However, through an innovative application of 3D printers, “search experience” for the visually impaired became possible using a voice-activated, 3D printer-installed, Internet search engine.

Mobile Innovation from the field: We can now talk directly with students, teachers and parents in Uganda

Kidus Asfaw's picture

This blog on a new user case of U-Report for targeted beneficiery feedback in Uganda was authored by Kidus Fisaha Asfaw with contributions from Merrick Schaeffer and Lyudmila Bujoreanu

Inspired by the success of using U-report to map and mitigate the spread of Banana Bacterial Wilt disease in Uganda’s banana crops, the World Bank team from the ICT unit (TWICT) decided take U-report’s functionality a step further by establishing an on-going dialogue with students, parents and teachers, who are direct beneficiaries of the Uganda Post Primary Education and Training Project (UPPET) project.

By tapping into Uganda’s network of over 236,000 U-reporters built by UNICEF, a joint ICT/UPPET team was able to identify and poll over 5,000 teachers, students, and parents associated with school supported by UPPET.  Throughout the summer, we have engaged these “special school reporters” in a series of mobile based SMS polls structured around their experiences with the use of the new textbooks and science kits supplied by the project. The responses from beneficiaries are providing useful insights from the field that are expected to improve the ongoing UPPET operation and provide useful inputs to the client in improving the utilization of learning resources in schools.

New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills

Saori Imaizumi's picture
Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember spending hours building and creating? Did you play with LEGO™s? Maybe you even participated in a robot building contest? How did this experience affect your curiosity and creativity skill?

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