Syndicate content

Better knowledge for better innovation policies: the new Innovation Policy Platform

Gerardo Corrochano's picture

We are surrounded by innovations – the outcome of innovative activities. Some affect us more than others. Some are more visible than others. In reading this blog post on a computer or a portable device, you can see how this innovation has made your personal and professional life more productive (although not necessarily easier).
You might not have heard, however, about other kinds of innovations – like the eco-friendly and affordable cooking stoves that reduce exposure to toxic gases for people in Mongolia, substantially increasing their health and lowering costs. All kinds of innovations improve people’s lives from Ulaanbaatar to Washington, increasing social well-being and driving economic growth.

Governments can support innovation through the effective use of public policy. Innovation has steadily climbed its way to the top of policymakers’ agendas in recent years, in developed and developing countries alike. This is illustrated by the importance given to innovation in such strategies as the European Commission’s “Europe 2020” growth strategy, China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011 -2015), or Colombia’s National Development Plan (2010-2014). Yet despite the growing consensus around innovation as a driver of sustainable growth, governments face considerable difficulties in identifying, designing and implementing the best-suited policy instruments and approaches to support innovation.

Defining good policies is a walk on a tightrope. Much like the barriers that constrain innovators inside an economy, policymakers face high costs of retaining and retrieving valuable information and best practices to help define their policies. To address this issue, the World Bank – in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – has developed a new tool destined to enhance the capacity of policy practitioners around the world to support innovation through better policies.

The Innovation Policy Platform (IPP) is a one-of-a-kind web-based interactive space that provides easy access to open data, learning resources and opportunities for collective learning on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of locally appropriate innovation policies. The IPP contains a wealth of practical information on a wide array of innovation-related topics, such as financing innovation, technology transfer and commercialization, and innovative entrepreneurship. The IPP is intended to enable North-South and South-South policy learning and dialogue through a wide array of case studies, policy briefs and collaborative working tools. The IPP aims to create a dynamic community of practice. It is now available to the public and can be accessed at www.innovationpolicyplatform.org.

Innovation Policy Platform

Powering Up Africa to Reduce Poverty

David Lawrence's picture

I recently saw saw a short video by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, on the United Nations Foundation website, that illustrates how electricity can transform the lives of women and reduce poverty. There is no shortage of evidence to show how electricity can reduce the burden of manual labor for women, freeing them to study, start their own businesses, or invest more in their children. There are also many stories of how solar power and efficient stoves contribute to poverty reduction. These methods work, and I’m all for it. But I can’t help but be frustrated at their scale. It’s great to help people, one family at a time. But wouldn’t it be great if hundreds of thousands of people could get electricity, all at once?
 
Nowhere is the need for electricity greater than in Sub-Saharan Africa. Half a billion Africans live without electricity — more than half of its population of 910 million and a sizeable percentage of the 1.3 billion people without power globally.

Getting the measure of asset recovery

The OECD this week released a report measuring how its member countries are performing in their efforts to stem illicit financial flows (IFF). While much attention is likely to focus on the chapters discussing money laundering, tax evasion and bribery -- the main sources of illicit financial flows -- the report features an important discussion of the other side of the equation: how are OECD countries performing in returning illicit financial flows?

Thanks to the efforts of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), there is data available on the recovery of illicit flows from bribery and corruption. The OECD report previews some of this information, showing that OECD countries have improved their results in terms of freezing assets (increasing from US$1.225 billion in 2006-2009, to US$1.398 in the shorter period of 2010-June 2012). At the same time the figures demonstrate that there has been little progress on asset returns (from US$276 million in 2006-2009, to US$147 million in 2010-June 2012). Most of the activity in both periods has been in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States -- countries that have made asset recovery a political priority and that have adopted innovative approaches to overcome the barriers involved in the process.

What matters – and what doesn’t – for youth financial inclusion

YouthSave, created in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation in 2010, investigates the potential of savings accounts as a tool for youth development and financial inclusion in developing countries by co-designing tailored, sustainable savings products with local financial institutions and assessing their performance and development outcomes with local researchers.
 
The project is an initiative of the YouthSave Consortium, led by Save the Children in partnership with the Center for Social Development (CSD) at Washington University in St. Louis, the New America Foundation, and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
 
YouthSave provides an opportunity to assess the effects of savings on tens of thousands of youth and find out what matters – and what doesn’t – for youth financial inclusion. Which youth will participate in a savings program? How will participants use their accounts? To track this, YouthSave has built the largest database of its kind and recently released a report on 10,710 young participants.

Comoros’ Next Chapter – Revitalizing Growth in a Post-Conflict Environment

Stephanie Liu's picture

What does it take revitalize private sector growth in a post-conflict country?

In the Union of the Comoros, an archipelago nation off the coast of East Africa, decades of institutional instability are giving way to the re-establishment of political calm, and, in the process, setting the stage for a better business environment.

But challenges abound. Entrepreneurs and investors alike still face numerous administrative barriers to starting a business, getting credit, or even accessing investment guarantees.

The World Bank Group and a community of international partners have been working with the Comorian government and the private sector since 2010 to find ways to minimize such barriers. Since that time, a series of regulatory reforms have been introduced. Steady improvements to the investment climate were seen in this year's Doing Business report. Reforms have reduced the number of days and procedures needed to start a business among other indicators. And by recently joining the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the Comoros has boosted its investment potential by providing political risk insurance to foreign investors.

In this video, below and online, see how these reforms and institutional collaboration are signaling the start of a new chapter for this post-conflict country.
 

Comoros' Next Chapter


 

Cities’ Elusive Quest for a Post-Industrial Future

Stefano Negri's picture

What do rusting industrial cities have in common with outmoded BlackBerries? In this era of constant technological progress, talent mobility and global competition, it's striking how many similarities can be drawn between cities and companies, and the need for both to continuously adjust their industrial strategies to avoid oblivion or bankruptcy.

Cities can lose their vigor and vitality just as surely as a once-hot product can lose its cutting-edge cool. RIM, the maker of the the once-ubiquitous BackBerry,
has been leapfrogged by companies with more nimble technologies; Kodak, once synonymous with photography, went bankrupt when it failed to make the transition
from film to digital. The roll call of withering cities – once proud, yet now reduced to rusting remnants – shows how cities, like companies, can lose their historic raison d’etre if they fail to hone their competitive edge.

Heavy industries like steelmaking and automobile assembly once powered some of the world’s mightiest economic urban areas: Traditional manufacturing industries shaped their identity, giving their citizens income and pride. But globalization, competition, shifting trade patterns and changing consumer trends are continuously reshaping the competitive landscape, with dramatic impact on cities and people. Over the past century, industrialized regions like the Ruhr Valley of Germany, the Midlands of Great Britain and the north of France – along with the older shipbuilding cities around the Baltic and North Seas, and the mono-industrial cities of the former Soviet Union – have struggled to make the transition to different industries or toward a post-industrial identity. Their elusive quest for a post-industrial future has had a dramatic impact on their citizens.

The same issue has become daunting in recent decades for aging manufacturing regions in the United States, which have suffered the prolonged erosion of their industrial-era vibrancy. That kind of wrenching change is bound to soon confront other cities in the developing world, as they struggle to adapt their urban cores, civic infrastructure and industrial strategies to an era that puts a higher premium on nimble cognitive skills and advanced technologies than on bricks-and-mortar factories, blast furnaces and big-muscle brawn.

For fast-growing cities in the global South, many of which are urgently seeking solutions amid their sudden urban growth, there could be many lessons in the experience of older cities in the developed world in making such a transition.

A series of recent conferences among urban policymakers and practitioners – backed by a wide range of rigorous academic research and practical client-focused experience in building competitiveness – provide insights that city leaders and the World Bank Group’s practitioners can leverage as they craft programs for transformative urban strategies. 

Who Can Answer the Ghanaian Schoolboy’s Question?

David Lawrence's picture

“Why is America so rich and we are so poor?” The question came from a schoolboy in Ghana. It caught me by surprise. I hesitated before answering.
 
I didn’t have the knowledge to give him a solid answer. I was not an economist. I knew nothing about Ghana’s business enabling environment or its financial markets system. I didn’t know about the causes of poverty in Ghana, and was totally unaware of what the international donor community was doing about it. My knowledge of politics, colonialism and history was limited, although I was aware that Ghana had become independent from Great Britain on March 6, 1957.
 
Every schoolboy in Ghana knew that. Even me. The boy who asked the question was my classmate at Prempeh College in Kumasi. It was 1975. We were both 11 years old, and we wore the same uniform: khaki shorts and a short-sleeved green shirt. Neither of us understood that donor aid was already streaming into Africa to alleviate poverty, an effort that would later come under heavy fire.
                                                                                                    
In hindsight, it’s easy to criticize traditional poverty-fighting assistance. One of the sharpest critics is Dr. Dambisa Moyo, an international economist and author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa." Dr. Moyo notes that development aid has fueled corruption, has removed incentives for governments to become efficient, has created a culture of aid dependency, and has distorted markets. In a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, she points out that in spite of $1 trillion of aid delivered over 60 years, real per capita income in Africa has fallen. She argues that countries that rely on markets rather than aid are more successful, citing Ghana as an example.  “Governments need to attract more foreign direct investment by creating attractive tax structures and reducing the red tape and complex regulations for businesses,” she writes.
 

Settling with Justice

Jean Pesme's picture

Settlements in cases of foreign bribery cases are big news and growing.  More and more countries are allowing these procedures, and their law enforcement agencies are using them forcefully in their efforts to combat foreign bribery. The FCPA, which came into law in the US over thirty five years ago, has paved the way for many other countries to adopt similar legislations, in line with far reaching international agreements such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. These are very welcome developments, which should continue unabated.

The 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption – to which almost 170 countries have become party to - has created an environment for a radical and universal change in the international landscape of anti-bribery legislation. Actual enforcement is making a difference, as illustrated by the rapid growth in settlements by companies and individuals who have contravened the law and have to face the consequences - without going to a full trial. The figures are telling: over the past decade a total of US$ 6.9 billion has been imposed in monetary sanctions through settlements - which is clearly good news in the fight against corruption.

But in the midst of this positive development, there are a number of troubling concerns (from the perspective of the countries affected by corruption).  Research by the  UNODC/World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative in our new report ‘Left Out of the Bargain’ has revealed that those countries whose officials have been bribed are most often unaware of the settlements, and receive very little of the moneys involved. Of the US$ 6.9 billion, nearly US$ 5.8 billion came about when the countries where the settlement took place – mostly major financial centers - were different from those of the allegedly bribed foreign public official.

StAR’s analysis of 395 cases reveals that only about US$197 million, or 3%, was returned to the countries whose officials allegedly received bribes.
 

Meet the Innovators: Tech Entrepreneurs Forge a New Future for the Western Balkans

The countries of the Western Balkans – which include the states of the former Yugoslavia, along with Albania – are not exactly world-famous for their entrepreneurial spirit. Yet if you look at their societies more carefully, you’ll soon find a surprising number of new companies dotted throughout the Western Balkans. They’re already setting their sights beyond smaller domestic markets: They’re looking to Europe, and the world.

Financial Education: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Margaret Miller's picture

How can we successfully design programs to promote financial literacy and financial capability – that is, not just financial knowledge in the abstract, but also the practical skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to take care of one’s everyday finances? Amid the wide-ranging scholarship on financial education, researchers have documented that there is often a strong relationship between exhibiting financial knowledge and achieving good financial outcomes (such as saving for retirement, paying bills on time or avoiding mortgage default).

Pages