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Why is the World Bank on Medium?

Elizabeth Howton's picture
Also available in: 中文
A woman in a market in Guatemala City, Guatemala. © Maria Fleischmann/World Bank

The World Bank is working toward two incredibly ambitious goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring shared prosperity for the bottom 40% of the population in each developing country. To achieve these goals will take not only the World Bank Group, the United Nations and all the national and multilateral development agencies, it will take all of us.

5 ways to close the global innovation divide

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية
Participants gather at a hackathon in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo by Flickr user Erik (HASH) Hersman)

High income economies are dominating global innovation. Led by Switzerland, the top 10% are outpacing the rest in innovation as measured by the 2014 Global Innovation Index. This rich-poor innovation divide is striking with a handful of high income countries, mostly in Europe accounting for most of the top 10%. The bottom quintile consists of predominantly low income economies with more than half from Sub Saharan Africa.

 Global Innovation Index Report, 2014
Source: Global Innovation Index Report, 2014

The top innovating economies rate strongly on the quality of their institutions including a stable political environment and an effective regulatory and business environment. They benefit from and continue to invest heavily in human capital, research and development and infrastructure. They score highly on business and market sophistication – good management is fundamental for private sector innovation. They have also established most if not all of the elements of a successful innovation ecosystem. These countries consequently dominate in knowledge outputs including on most measures of knowledge creation, impact and diffusion as well as in technology and creative outputs.

It is difficult to imagine that poor countries or emerging markets without innovation will be able to catch up and become high-income economies in the 21st Century, an era already characterized by previously unimaginable technological progress and, importantly, international diffusion. Populations in these countries are in dire need of innovative solutions to deliver clean water and energy, health and education services, better housing, sanitation and transportation and increased food production while battling the adverse impacts of climate change. These economies need to create jobs for millions of unemployed youth leveraging the benefits of an increasingly digital global economy.

What can be done to bridge this yawning innovation and competitiveness gap?

Unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs around the world: The smartest investment to unlock global growth

Jin-Yong Cai's picture
Also available in: Español | 中文 | العربية
Jacqueline Mavinga, entrepreneur, Democratic Republic of Congo.  © John McNally/World Bank Group

​Since childhood, Gircilene Gilca de Castro dreamed of owning her own business, but struggled to get it off the ground. Her fledgling food service company in Brazil had only two employees and one client when she realized she needed deeper knowledge about what it takes to grow a business. To take her business to that next level, she found the right education and mentoring opportunities and accessed new business and management tools.

What will you do with access to information?

Cyril Muller's picture
View full infographic here.

A new phase of openness began five years ago on July 1, 2010, when the World Bank launched its Policy on Access to Information, which provides access to any information in the Bank’s possession that is not on a list of exceptions. The policy has served as a catalyst and has created an ecosystem of transparency initiatives to make World Bank information and data available to the public. In the years since 2010, the Bank has applied the principles underpinning Access to Information to accompanying initiatives such as Open Data, the Open Knowledge Repository, Open Finances, and Open Contracting, among others. The spectrum of transparency and innovation even extends beyond these initiatives to include the World Bank’s vision on Open Government.

Open approaches are paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with global citizens who can – and do – utilize the information and data to engage with and better their communities.

Moving from Innovation Island to Innovation Peninsula

Aleem Walji's picture
I’ve learned the hard way that setting up an innovation lab within a larger organization does not guarantee more innovation. In some ways, it triggers an auto-immune response rejecting what comes out of the lab rather than from ‘inside’ an organization’s core operations. It’s a natural response as most people think of themselves as ‘innovative’ especially in the absence of a clear definition of what is innovation.

Big gaps and Big Data

Aleem Walji's picture
Also available in: 中文
I recently gave a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science about Big Data and Analytics and why it matters for development. Unlike other speakers who warned about risks associated with big data - when too much is known about too many people without their consent - I discussed the problem of data gaps and data poverty in the developing world. The challenge of measuring of poverty is different because if we don’t have the data, we can’t know whether we’re making progress in fighting this stain on our collective moral conscience.  

Is it Innovation if it Has Been Done Before?

Aleem Walji's picture
When I joined the World Bank five years ago, I remember someone telling me that we love innovation as long as it’s been done before. Having been hired to manage an innovation practice, I was puzzled. Wasn’t innovation about risk and venturing into the unknown? But as counter-intuitive as it sounds, I’ve come to understand the spirit of the idea and recognize that any innovation ecosystem needs early adopters and scalers.

Let’s not Reinvent the Flat Tire: Thoughts on Poverty, Adaptation and Scaling-up

Aleem Walji's picture
I’ve been thinking about scale a lot lately and I’m increasingly skeptical that it is the right way to get greater development impact. Let me explain. On the one hand, how can you not ‘think big’ when there are still nearly 2.4 billion people living on less than $2 per day? But is a cookie-cutter solution to eliminating poverty feasible given the complex factors that cause poverty and the vested political interests that sustain it?