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The promise of digital banking for Nepal’s remote areas

Farhad Ahmed's picture
Rural maintenance workers engaged in culvert maintenance at Parsa District. Credit: World Bank

On a fine Tuesday morning Roghan Devi, a routine road maintenance worker from Dhanusha district visits the local branch of Mega Bank - a commercial bank in Nepal, to receive her monthly salary. She was notified about this through a text message in her mobile phone. Just a few years back, it was unimaginable for her, and for most of the women from her community, to have a personal bank account.
 
This initiative is part of a World Bank-supported Strengthening National Rural Transport Program (SNRTP) project that works in 33 districts employing over 1,800 routine maintenance workers- over 70% of them are women - to enhance the availability and reliability of transport connectivity for rural communities. To support this initiative, SNRTP forged a joint collaboration with the private sector. 

Reading ICAI’s review of DFID WASH results

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), UK’s aid watch dog, today, released its review of DFID’s programming and results in water sanitation and hygiene (WASH). In this impact review, they take a close look at the results DFID reported in its 2015 Annual Report; results that cost £ 713 million between 2010 – 2014. 

Do read the full report here.

Some thoughts on the areas of concern in the report:

  • The focus on ‘leaving no one behind’ is spot on. It is easy to stack up impressive WASH numbers if one ignores the poorest and the most vulnerable in communities. Safe sanitation and hygiene need to be universal for health benefits to accrue to communities. Within WASH, sanitation is specifically complex, sometimes also called a ‘wicked problem’ – a challenge foremost, of inducing lasting behaviour change. The very nature of careful social engineering required to bring about this behaviour change seems to run contrary to some of the factors that make an intervention scalable – an ability to standardise inputs and break programme components down to easily replicable bits.
  • Within the broad basket of ‘service delivery’ interventions, WASH is one of the trickier sectors when it comes to measuring sustained impact, especially at scale. Naturally then, ICAI find that while DFID’s claims of having reached 62.9 million people are broadly correct, it is very hard to establish if the benefits are sustained. Therefore, the results reported remain at the ‘output’ level and that is what ICAI ends up assessing, even though what they set out to do is an ‘impact’ review. While the report speculates on sustaining benefits beyond the 2011-15 period, I wonder whether those that accessed the programme in 2011-12 continued to experience any benefits in 2015.
  • The link with government systems, in terms of implementation, monitoring and sustenance remains unclear: another typical WASH issue. Barring say, India, (and this is true especially in sub-Saharan countries, government WASH budgets are highly inadequate. A lot of the work that happens is funded by donors and this implies that monitoring and maintenance happens outside the official system. Achieving local ownership in such a context is a challenge.
  • ICAI finds it difficult to assess value for money (VfM) in DFID’s WASH programmes. On one hand, it finds that there isn’t enough competitive procurement, but also there is a lack of established metrics and benchmarks to analyse VfM. Following DFID’s own 3Es framework, an Economy and Efficiency analysis should be possile across the portfolio, and as far as I can tell, is rapidly being developed in the sector, and within DFID. However, partly as a consequence of the lack of ‘outcome/impact’ data, cost-effectiveness studies are likely to remain a challenge. This work by an OPM-led consortium should be particularly relevant in improving VfM analysis across the sector.

Youth radicalization—looking at the supply side

Kamel Braham's picture
 posztos | Shutterstock.com

Tunisia is one of the most secular countries in the Arab region, and it has one of the most developed education systems. Yet, young people from there are attracted in their thousands—like in no other country—to jihadism. The answer to “why?” may lie in the classroom, where radical movements prey on children in elementary and high school, and most especially on vulnerable children who feel marginalized from mainstream society.

How a parking project in Bhutan contributes to Gross National Happiness

Adele Paris's picture
Photo by Flickr user Khaled Monsoor

In Bhutan, the only country that measures success on a scale of Gross National Happiness (GNH), government officials actively research ways to make residents’ lives happier. So when it became apparent that the growing number of vehicles in Thimphu, the capital city, was increasing traffic congestion and causing intense frustration among locals, the authorities started looking for a solution to restore contentment among its citizens.

Quote of the week: Olle Häggström

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“There is no denying that advances in science and technology have brought us prosperity and improved our lives tremendously … but there is a flip side: some of the advances that may lie ahead of us can actually make us worse off, a lot worse.”

- Olle Häggström, a professor of mathematical statistics and head of the mathematical statistics division at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He works with research, research supervision, teaching and popular science. His main research interest is probability theory, where his goal is to understand how the behavior of a system consisting of very many small components depends on the properties of the components. His other intellectual interests include philosophy, climate science and futurology.

Panama Canal expansion: A smart route for boosting infrastructure in Latin America

Philippe H. Le Houérou's picture
Since it opened in 1914, the Panama Canal has been one of the world’s most important trade assets and a marvel of engineering. Its expansion has doubled the canal’s cargo capacity, adding a new lane and bigger locks that will shake up shipping routes and make seaborne trade less costly and more efficient.
 
© Panama Canal Authority


Panama, already projected to be Latin America’s fastest-growing economy over the next five years, was the big winner when the expanded canal opened its locks on June 26. New port projects and related logistics hubs are in the works to attract global manufacturers and further enhance the country’s competitiveness.

From local to global ambitions: the benefits of standards compliance

Karuna Ramakrishnan's picture
Standards are a critical element of the trade landscape. Standards are regulations set by either public or private bodies (including firms) to ensure that products are fit for consumption, that they meet specific technical standards, or that they can be used as inputs for specific commercial processes such as manufacturing. Developing countries are often hampered by a lack of access to independent and credible inspection, testing, certification and accreditation services – what can be termed the “standards infrastructure." 
 

Let’s talk business: Knowledge-sharing helps make Sub-Saharan Africa more competitive

Catherine Masinde's picture

The Ease of Doing Business Initiative (EDBI) is helping turn sub-Saharan Africa’s markets into attractive investment destinations.
 
Over the past 15 years, Sub-Saharan African countries have been on a tremendous journey to reform their business environments. The results speak for themselves: In the “Doing Business” 2016 report, Sub-Saharan Africa recorded about 30 percent of the reforms that were implemented worldwide, and the region boasted half of the world’s top 10 improvers – making it the best-reforming region worldwide. As one example of what those trends mean: It takes four days to register a company in Kenya today, as compared to 54 days as recently as 10 years ago. In Rwanda, it takes an entrepreneur 32 days to transfer property – less time than it takes in Germany – compared to the 370 days that were required 10 years ago.
 
Despite the encouraging improvements, however, most Sub-Saharan African countries rank in the lower tier of the Doing Business measurements. Beyond the data about business conditions, it takes an average of 130 days for a business in the region to get a new electricity connection – yet, even after that business has such a connection, it experiences frequent power outages. The outages consume almost 700 hours per year – the highest such figure in the world.
 
We know that good practices, which are being implemented in the region, can help address such problems. The great challenge is to share that knowledge of good practices across reforming countries.
 
The EDBI is a peer-to-peer learning event that was requested by African countries that hope to facilitate knowledge-sharing about Doing Business reforms. For three days last month, Kenya hosted this year’s conference, whose theme focused on leveraging ICT to improve governments’ service to businesses – and ultimately to each country’s citizens. That theme seemed fitting for Kenya, which is a global success story on seamlessly integrating technology in citizens’ lives. Kenya, as you may recall, is the country that invented MPESA, the unique mobile-money payment system, and that is now rolling out “eCitizen,” the online government service portal.


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