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Communicating volcanic risk: lava, eruptions and uncertainty

Jon Mikel Walton's picture
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA

We live in an age of compounding uncertainty. The unpredictable impacts of climate change and the rapid urbanization of societies is increasing the complexity, difficulty, and necessity of making sound decisions when faced with numerous options. This uncertainty is acute with respect to natural disasters – for example, predicting hurricane intensity or locating the next big earthquake remain challenging tasks despite advances in science and monitoring tools.
The challenge of anticipating and communicating the risk of volcanic eruptions to communities requires complex decision-making. Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano and Indonesia’s Mount Agung are recent examples where the warning signs were present (small earthquakes, increasing gas emissions, and more), yet an eruption came much later than expected. Volcanic eruptions are therefore a double-edged sword that often creates a decision-making dilemma. While signs of volcanic activity can provide adequate time for preparation and evacuation, the very same signs can also create conditions of extreme uncertainty, which can be exacerbated by piecemeal communication around eruption events.
So, what have we learned from recent experiences on the challenges of communicating volcanic risk? 

Can modern technologies facilitate spatial and temporal price analysis?

Marko Rissanen's picture

The International Comparison Program (ICP) team in the World Bank Development Data Group commissioned a pilot data collection study utilizing modern information and communication technologies in 15 countries―Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam―from December 2015 to August 2016.

The main aim of the pilot was to study the feasibility of a crowdsourced price data collection approach for a variety of spatial and temporal price studies and other applications. The anticipated benefits of the approach were the openness, accessibility, level of granularity, and timeliness of the collected data and related metadata; traits rarely true for datasets typically available to policymakers and researchers.

The data was collected through a privately-operated network of paid on-the-ground contributors that had access to a smartphone and a data collection application designed for the pilot. Price collection tasks and related guidance were pushed through the application to specific geographical locations. The contributors carried out the requested collection tasks and submitted price data and related metadata using the application. The contributors were subsequently compensated based on the task location and degree of difficulty.

The collected price data covers 162 tightly specified items for a variety of household goods and services, including food and non-alcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; clothing and footwear; housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels; furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance; health; transport; communication; recreation and culture; education; restaurants and hotels; and miscellaneous goods and services. The use of common item specifications aimed at ensuring the quality, as well as intra- and inter-country comparability, of the collected data.

In total, as many as 1,262,458 price observations―ranging from 196,188 observations for Brazil to 14,102 observations for Cambodia―were collected during the pilot. The figure below shows the cumulative number of collected price observations and outlets covered per each pilot country and month (mouse over the dashboard for additional details).

Figure 1: Cumulative number of price observations collected during the pilot

Five lessons in infrastructure pricing from East Asia and Pacific

Melania Lotti's picture
Photo: © Dini Sari Djalal/World Bank

In the infrastructure domain, “price” is a prism with many façades.
An infrastructure economist sees price in graphic terms: the coordinates of a point where demand and supply curves intersect.
For governments, price relates to budget lines, as part of public spending to develop infrastructure networks.
Utility managers view price as a decision: the amount to charge for each unit of service in order to recover the costs of production and (possibly) earn a profit.
But for most people, price comes with simple question: how much is the tariff I have to pay for the service, and can I afford it?

To unlock student potential in East Asia Pacific, be demanding and supportive of teachers

Michael Crawford's picture

Among the 29 countries and economies of the East Asia and Pacific region, one finds some of the world’s most successful education systems. Seven out of the top 10 highest average scorers on internationally comparable tests such as PISA and TIMSS are from the region, with Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (China) consistently among the best. 

But, more significantly, one also finds that great performance is not limited to school systems in the region’s high-income countries. School systems in middle-income Vietnam and China (specifically the provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong) score better than the average OECD country, despite having much lower GDP per capita. What is more, scores from both China and Vietnam show that poor students are not being left behind. Students from the second-lowest income quintile score better than the average OECD student, and even the very poorest test takers outscore students from some wealthy countries. As the graph below shows, however, other countries in the region have yet to achieve similar results.

Creating “Solid Ground” for gender equality in land access

Jane W. Katz's picture
In Brazil, a woman trained through the School of Women Leaders explains to her neighbors what she has learned. Photo: Maria do Carmo Carvalho / Habitat for Humanity

Despite the fact that women represent about half of the global population, produce the majority of global food supply, and perform 60% to 80% of the agricultural work in developing countries, women own less than 20% of land worldwide.

Written laws often fall short of adequately protecting women’s tenure rights; while in some countries, formal national laws explicitly discriminate against women. In post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, women face particular hurdles to secure tenure and shelter. Even in areas with strong protections of equality and non-discrimination, displaced women often struggle to assert their property rights.

On March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity International launched its first global advocacy campaign, “Solid Ground,” which envisions a world where everyone has access to land for shelter. Promoting gender equality and addressing inequitable or unenforced laws, policies, and customary practices affecting women’s rights to security of tenure and inheritance, has been a primary focus of the campaign.

Now mid-way through the campaign, Solid Ground has grown to include 37 national Habitat for Humanity organizations, 17 partner organizations, an active microsite (and in Spanish,, and has provided direct financial assistance to country programs working on gender and land issues. In its first year, over 1.3 million people are projected to have improved access to land for shelter through the Solid Ground campaign with a goal of reaching 10 million people, especially women.

Through a variety of efforts to build capacity, mobilize allies, influence policymakers, and work together with our partners, we are seeing signs of progress being made to achieve successful outcomes in helping facilitate women’s land ownership and empowering women to understand and achieve their rights. A sampling of some strategies, cases, and upcoming plans are highlighted below. 

Pricing water when the poor share: evidence from Manila: Guest post by William Violette

This is the ninth in this years' job market series
Despite large investments in piped water throughout the developing world, the share of urban households without piped water has remained stable at 5% for middle-income countries and at 20% for low-income countries over the past decade.  Given health, time-savings, and other benefits from piped water, how can water utilities set prices in order to close gaps in access while still covering costs?  Conventional wisdom is that subsidizing fixed connection fees with high marginal prices can improve access especially for the poor, but this policy can have the opposite effect when households share water connections, which is common in the developing world.  I observe that over 23% of households in Manila access piped water through a neighbor's connection.  In this context, high marginal prices weaken incentives for households to extend water access to their neighbors through sharing.  Similarly, connection fee subsidies may have limited impacts on access because sharing households already split any fixed costs with their neighbors.

Philippines: Keeping in step with what employers want

Pablo Acosta's picture
Step up to the Jobs Challenge

It is said that some employees are hired because of their technical skills, but fired due to their behaviors or attitudes, such as arriving late or showing a lack of commitment to achieve the firms’ goals. This complaint seems to be frequently mentioned during our many discussions with Filipino employers.
But what does the hard evidence show, beyond anecdotal remarks? Do Filipino employers have difficulty finding workers with the right “soft skills” (socio-emotional skills, right attitudes and behaviors)? And if so, do we have evidence that it leads to better pay? And how are employers, employees and government responding to these labor market signals?

Approaches to selecting infrastructure financing options

Ferdinand Pecson's picture

A medida que los países se preparan para reunirse en la cumbre del G-20 en Turquía la próxima semana, las necesidades de crecimiento y de infraestructura a nivel mundial serán una de las principales preocupaciones de los tomadores de decisiones. Y con razón: la infraestructura – las carreteras, los puentes, los puertos, las plantas de energía, el suministro de agua - impulsan el crecimiento económico en muchos países, facilitando la manufactura, los servicios y el comercio. Pero no es sólo una cuestión de construir más. Para lograr un buen desarrollo en un planeta estresado por el cambio climático y la disminución de los recursos naturales, la infraestructura tiene que ser sostenible.