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The World Region

E-bureaucracy: Can digital technologies spur public administration reform?

Zahid Hasnain's picture
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


“By introducing an automated customer management system we took a noose and put it around our own necks. We are now accountable!”

This reflection from a manager in the Nairobi Public Water and Sewerage utility succinctly captures the impact of MajiVoice, a digital system that logs customer complaints, enables managers to assign the issue to a specific worker, track its resolution, and report back to the customer via an SMS. As a result, complaint resolution rates have doubled, and the time taken to resolve complaints has dropped by 90 percent.

MajiVoice shows that digital technologies can dramatically improve public sector capacity and accountability in otherwise weak governance environments. But is this example replicable? Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable?

The Global Infrastructure Project Pipeline: Linking private investors with public infrastructure projects

Richard Timbs's picture



In 2014, the Brisbane G20 Leaders’ Summit tasked its newly announced Global Infrastructure Hub with ensuring there is a “comprehensive, open-source project pipeline database, connected to national and multilateral development bank databases, to help match potential investors with projects.”
 
The G20, based on advice from the B20 (a private sector forum) had recognized a key issue for the private sector: the lack of clear and consistent early stage information on government infrastructure projects across the globe.
 
Private investors armed with billions of dollars were being hamstrung by a lack of useful and informative data to guide their planning for investments.

Partnering to measure impacts of private sector projects on job creation

Alvaro Gonzalez's picture
Worker in Ghana
For the poor and vulnerable of the world, jobs are key to ending poverty and driving development. But not all jobs are equally transformational.  
Photo: Jonathan Ernst / World Bank

Jobs are what we earn, what we do, and sometimes even who we are. For the poor and vulnerable of the world, jobs are key to ending poverty and driving development. But not all jobs are equally transformational. Good jobs add value to society, taking into account the benefits they have on the people who hold them, and the potential spillover effects on others. For example, inclusive jobs, such as those that employ women, can change the way families spend money and invest in the education and health of children.  

A hybrid model to evaluate energy efficiency for climate change mitigation

Govinda Timilsina's picture
In response to global calls for climate change mitigation, many countries, especially in the developing world, have considered pursuing policies that can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and also ensure additional economic benefits. Accelerating the adoption of energy efficient technologies is one of the main options as it may help reduce consumers’ spending on energy besides reducing GHG emissions.

Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Nathalie Hoffmann's picture

Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

Things to do with Trade and Competitiveness Data… thank you API

Alberto Sanchez Rodelgo's picture

Who are Spain's neighbors? Is Canada closer to Spain than Portugal? What about Estonia or Greece? The answer? Depends on the data you are looking at!

Earlier this week I crunched data based on a selected list of indicators from the new Open Trade and Competitiveness platform from the World Bank (TCdata360) and found some interesting trends[1]. In 2009 Spain was closer to economies like Estonia, Belgium, France and Canada while 6 years later in 2015, Spain's closest neighbors were Greece and Portugal. How and when did this shift happen?

Other trends I spotted using the same data? It seems the Sub-Saharan region ranks the lowest in Ease of Doing Business, that in 2007 Israel held the record for R&D expenditure as % of GDP, while in the same year Malta topped FDI net inflows as % GDP, and that the largest annual GDP growth in the last 20 years occurred in Equatorial Guinea in 1997.

Figure 1: Dots represent values for an economy at a given point in time for years 1996 to 2016 overlaying their box-plot distributions. Colors correspond to geographical regions.

Trade has been a global force for less poverty and higher incomes

Ana Revenga's picture

In the ongoing debate about the benefits of trade, we must not lose sight of a vital fact. Trade and global integration have raised incomes across the world, while dramatically cutting poverty and global inequality. 

Within some countries, trade has contributed to rising inequality, but that unfortunate result ultimately reflects the need for stronger safety nets and better social and labor programs, not trade protection.

Five Film4Climate films to inspire you in 2017

Lucia Grenna's picture



It’s just one month into 2017, and for many,  that means they have just launched their New Year’s resolutions. The gym is still crowded, your refrigerator is still full of healthy food, but that initial motivation may not be as high as it was on, say, January 2. So, it’s time to find new sources of motivation and even inspiration for keeping that New Year’s resolution. One place to find that inspiration is the Film4Climate competition. If you’re trying to find a reason to persevere through whatever new challenges you are finding, look no further than the winners of this competition. All these films put things in a unique perspective.

The five winners in the short film category really can be your springboard for an inspiring 2017.

Toward next-generation performance budgeting

Donald Moynihan's picture
 Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Performance budgeting (PB) has a deep and enduring appeal. What government would not want to allocate resources in a way that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability? However, such aspirations have proven poor predictors of how performance data are actually used.

The potential benefits of identifying and tracking the goals of public spending are undeniable, but have often justified a default adoption of overly complex systems of questionable use. Faith in PB is sustained by a willingness to forget past negative experiences and assume that this time it will be different. Without a significant re-evaluation, PB’s history of disappointment seems likely also to be its future.

Rethinking governance for more effective policymaking

WDR Team's picture

We’ve all had those hallway conversations or coffee meetings or been privy to overhearing those chats… the ones where we have quick exchanges on why so many ‘best practice’ polices – such as those designed to reduce teacher absenteeism-- continually fail on implementation. Or why policies such as energy subsidies are so difficult to get rid of when they are universally recognized as regressive and encouraging inefficient energy use.

That’s where today’s launch of the 2017 World Development Report (WDR) on Governance and the Law led comes into play. The new report, co-directed by Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva and Yongmei Zhou, starts by acknowledging that all countries share a similar set of development goals: to minimize the threat of violence, to promote growth, and to improve equity. But too often, carefully designed, sensible policies to achieve these objectives are not adopted or implemented—and when they are, they too often fall short of achieving their goals. The report argues that the development community needs to move beyond asking “what is the right policy?” and instead ask “what makes policies effective in achieving desired outcomes?” As this WDR suggests, the answer has to do with governance—that is, the process through which state and non-state actors interact to adopt and implement those policies.


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