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September 2009

Americas conference raises region’s expectations about its future

Carlos Molina's picture

In the lead-up to the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, the Latin America and Caribbean Region VPU of the World Bank is co-hosting and attending the Americas Conference.

Government and business leaders attending the Americas Conference went home Wednesday with a renewed sense of accomplishment after devoting two intense days to tackling an ambitious yet urgent agenda for the region’s future.

The grand rooms of the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables still reverberate from the animated discussions that took place here amid the lush settings of Miami’s oldest city. These discussions will likely steer the debate on two of the most important issues facing the region: the global financial crisis and renewed threats to democracy in the region as embodied in the Honduran crisis.

An Unconventional Tactic for the Fight Against Poverty

Ben Safran's picture

Since May, the Internet has been a-buzz with the “bridge bus”, a never-before-seen public transit contraption scheduled for a 186 km route pilot in Beijing later this year. The bus straddles existing roadway lanes, creating a moving tunnel-like effect for the vehicles underneath. The vehicle’s Shenzhen-based designers claim that the system can move up to 1,200 passengers at a time (300 per bus), without taking away from existing road space, while at the same time reducing fuel consumption (the bridge bus runs on electricity, partially supplied by solar panels), and at a lower cost than building a subway. A revolution!

I am a big fan of entrepreneurial innovation in transit. And when I see something truly innovative and different come out of one of the countries where we work, I get very excited! But there is something about this concept -- something that doesn’t seem quite right…

Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges: New Data on 500 Cities

Susmita Dasgupta's picture
should she be more interested in ensuring that he meets her technical or functional specifications if this partnership is to work?
should she be more interested in ensuring
that he meets her technical or functional
specifications if this partnership is to work?

ICT-related procurements in the education sector, especially large scale ones, are not easy.  A recent World Bank Internal Evaluation Group report noted that "ICT procurement has been highlighted as a major implementation constraint in several country and regional portfolio reviews and is a critical dimension of design." Rapid changes in technology mean that many ministries of education have a hard time keeping up with what's current in the market, let alone what might be coming next.

Even in places where anti-corruption measures are well considered and implemented, government auditors and external watchdog groups may be challenged to identify dodgy practices in some ICT-related areas.  (Have you ever read the fine print on large scale bandwidth contracts for schools? Such things are often not for the feint of heart.) It is not unknown to hear whisperings about vendors -- or consultants close to them -- providing 'assistance' of various sorts in writing a request for proposals (or certain technical specs that appear in such RFPS), and of course vendors often hope that their showcase pilot projects may inspire ministries of education to think in certain ways about what is possible, and even desirable. For many ministries of education, the line between 'influence' and 'undue influence' in such cases can be very clear in some circumstances, but rather hazy in others.  

As part of a very interesting Q&A period after a presentation at the World Bank a few years ago, mention was made about some of the challenges faced in a state in southern India which was exploring whether so-called thin client solutions might be worth considering in its schools. Essentially, the issue was this: Traditional practice when procuring computers for schools had focused on ensuring that each computer met a defined set of minimum technical specifications. In an alternative, 'thin client' set-up, it was possible to use workstations that had less robust specifications, provided they were connected to a powerful server whose processing power substitutes for that of the client computer. To oversimplify:

[-] 'traditional' approach: lots of pretty powerful computers
[-] 'alternative' approach: lots of relatively underpowered computers, connected to one very powerful computer

The point here is not to imply that one type of arrangement is on its face better or worse. Rather, it is to highlight that, if you write an RFP in a certain way -- in our example here, requiring that *every* computer meet a certain relatively high technical specification (processing speed, hard drive size, etc.) -- you may exclude proposals that feature non-traditional or 'alternative' or new approaches.

One way around this is to put more emphasis on functional specifications, rather than technical specifications, in certain components of your RFP. Not sure what this means in practice? When discussing such issues with ministries of education, I often point to an RFP at the heart of a procurement process in the U.S. state of Maine as a way to highlight an approach to procurement that is, at least in terms of most of the places where the World Bank works helping to advise education leaders, rather rare. While I am certainly no procurement expert -- thankfully we have plenty of very good ones at the World Bank to whom I can refer people -- I offer the comments below based on many discussions with ministries of education about their  challenges in this regard, in case doing so might be of any interest.

Is Sue Unsworth Right about Donors and Politics?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
A Girl Entering a High school Courtyard © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank
A student leader in her school's anti-violence and coexistence project entering the school's courtyard     © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank

We live in a world where one in every three women has suffered some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime. This statistic translates to a staggering 1 billion women globally who have been abused, beaten or sexually violated because of their gender. 
 
Every November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we are reminded that gender-based violence continues to be a global epidemic with dire consequences for women, their families and entire communities. It leads to negative mental and physical health consequences for women and limits their decision-making ability and mobility, thereby reducing productivity and earnings. Beyond the individual harm, it also has substantial economic costs. Global estimates suggest the cost of gender-based violence to be as high as 3.7 percent of GDP – or $1.5 trillion a year.

Uzbekistan’s struggling private sector

Arvind Jain's picture

Exactly one year ago, the Financial Times gave a positive gloss on Uzbekistan’s economic prospects. One of the sources for the FT’s take on Uzbekistan was Alisher Ali Djumanov, a managing partner at Eurasia Capital Management and (as the article points out) the only alumnus of Insead in the country. He had this to say:

Americas conference tackles Latin America's thorny Issues

Carlos Molina's picture

Since May, the Internet has been a-buzz with the “bridge bus”, a never-before-seen public transit contraption scheduled for a 186 km route pilot in Beijing later this year. The bus straddles existing roadway lanes, creating a moving tunnel-like effect for the vehicles underneath. The vehicle’s Shenzhen-based designers claim that the system can move up to 1,200 passengers at a time (300 per bus), without taking away from existing road space, while at the same time reducing fuel consumption (the bridge bus runs on electricity, partially supplied by solar panels), and at a lower cost than building a subway. A revolution!

I am a big fan of entrepreneurial innovation in transit. And when I see something truly innovative and different come out of one of the countries where we work, I get very excited! But there is something about this concept -- something that doesn’t seem quite right…

Regional Finance Roundup: Is East Asia leading the world out of the crisis?

James Seward's picture
Photo by CIAT via CIFOR Flickr每当我目睹资源耗减速度、水土流失状况和日益减少的鱼类种群以及气候变化对几乎每个生态系统造成的影响,我总会看到一个正在缓慢且无情地退化的自然界。我把这些情况统称为“倒退的现实”,一种新常态,一种刚刚缓慢出现的现象,它把我们诱入被动境地,并且诱使我们接受一个富裕程度和多样化程度更低的世界。

有生以来,我看到了到处游弋着五彩斑斓鱼类的水域。如今,这些水域就像空荡荡的水族馆一样变得毫无生机。我也看到了我家乡波哥大市街道两旁的数千棵树在短短数年内没了踪迹。

这种情形让人感到沮丧。但随着世界各地保护区专家、自然资源保护者和决策者本周齐聚澳大利亚悉尼参加世界公园大会,人们仍可以看到很大希望。

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