Making sustainable transport a reality requires a coordinated strategy that reflects the contributions and various interests of stakeholders around the world.
The Sustainable Mobility for All partnership has a critical part to play in kickstarting this process. The initiative is working to raise the profile of sustainable mobility in the global development agenda and unite the international community around a vision of transport that is equitable, efficient, safe, and green.
The issue of mobility and sustainability resonates well with countries’ concerns. The recent UN Resolution focusing on the role of transport and transit corridors in sustainable development demonstrates the continuing importance attached to the issue of transport and mobility by national governments around the world.
After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.
Getting more youth to engage productively in agriculture is not, and won’t be, an easy job. As an aspiring goat farmer and student in agribusiness management, I know that it takes real passion and commitment to make a living from agriculture. I am currently rearing 40 free range goats on a small farm in my village. On average, I spend about Uganda Sh30,000 to rear each goat—which I normally sell off during the Christmas season at Shs 200,000. This year, I intend to use the money to expand the business, and invest in high value crops to take advantage of the free manure from the goats.
For the past two decades, I've worked on issues at the intersection of the education and technology sectors in middle- and low-income countries and emerging markets around the world. It's been a fascinating job: Over the past 20 years, I've been an advisor to, evaluator of, and/or working-level participant in, educational technology ('edtech') initiatives in over 50 such countries. When it comes to ICT use in education, the promised revolution always seems to be just around the corner. Indeed: I am regularly pitched ideas by people who note that, while many past promises about the potential of the use of new technologies in education have failed to pan out, they are confident that "this time, it's different".
At the same time, I am quite often asked to help other folks identify intriguing initiatives that might, individually and/or collectively, illuminate emerging trends and approaches in this sector:
"I'm interested in examples of innovative educational technology projects from around the world, especially those primarily focused on helping teachers and learners in developing countries. In other words: Not the usual suspects. Can you suggest a few projects and companies that I might not know about -- but should?"
I receive a version of this request most every week (sometimes even multiple times in a single day). Given the frequency of such inquiries, I thought I'd quickly highlight 20 such efforts from around the world, in the hope that people might find this useful. The hope is to point readers in the direction of some interesting projects that they might not know much about, but from which there is much we can learn.
While I am not sure if, indeed, things will turn out to be 'different this time around', the overall volume of such projects, and the sophistication of many of them, are quite notable. There is more happening, in more places, than ever before. A number of efforts have been informed (in good ways) by past failures. That said, others will no doubt attempt to 'reinvent the flat tire' and display a characteristic common to Einstein's definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Hopefully none of the groups profiled below will fall into that trap, but I suspect that a few of them might.
The list here, a mix of for-profit and non-profit initiatives, is deliberately idiosyncratic and non-representative (see the many caveats and explanations that follow below the list). Some of these projects are no doubt doomed to 'fail'; others will most likely be restructured more than once as they try, to borrow the words of Deng Xiaopeng, to "cross the river by feeling the stones". And maybe, just maybe, a few of them might actually turn out to be as 'transformative' as they hope to be.
With that said, and in alphabetical order, here are:
20 innovative edtech projects from around the world
Education is a ‘black box’ -- or so a prevailing view among many education policymakers and researchers goes.
For all of the recent explosion in data related to learning -- as a result of standardized tests, etc. -- remarkably little is known at scale about what exactly happens in classroomsaroundtheworld, and outside of them, when it comes to learning, and what the impact of this has.
This isn't to say that we know nothing, of course:
The World Bank (to cite an example from within my own institution) has been using standardized classroom observation techniques to help document what is happening in many classrooms around the world (see, for example, reports based on modified Stallings Method classroom observations across Latin America which seek to identify how much time is actually spent on instruction during school hours; in many cases, the resulting data generated are rather appalling).
Common sense holds various tenets dear when it comes to education, and to learning; many educators profess to know intuitively what works, based on their individual (and hard won) experience, even in the absence of rigorously gathered, statistically significant 'hard' data; the impact of various socioeconomic factors is increasingly acknowledged (even if many policymakers remain impervious to them); and cognitive neuroscience is providing many interesting insights.
But in many important ways, education policymaking and processes of teaching and learning are constrained by the fact that we don't have sufficient, useful, actionable data about what is actually happening with learners at a large scale across an education system -- and what impact this might have. Without data, as Andreas Schleicher likes to say, you are just another person with an opinion. (Of course, with data you might be a person with an ill-considered or poorly argued opinion, but that’s another issue.)
side observation: Echoing many teachers (but, in contrast to teaching professionals, usually with little or no formal teaching experience themselves), I find that many parents and politicians also profess to know intuitively ‘what works’ when it comes to teaching. When it comes to education, most everyone is an ‘expert’, because, well, after all, everyone was at one time a student. While not seeking to denigrate the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, or downplay the value of common sense, I do find it interesting that many leaders profess to have ready prescriptions at hand for what ‘ails education’ in ways that differ markedly from the ways in which they approach making decisions when it comes to healthcare policy, for example, or finance – even though they themselves have also been patients and make spending decisions in their daily lives.
One of the great attractions of educational technologies for many people is their potential to help open up and peer inside this so-called black box. For example:
When teachers talk in front of a class, there are only imperfect records of what transpired (teacher and student notes, memories of participants, what's left on the blackboard -- until that's erased). When lectures are recorded, on the other hand, there is a data trail that can be examined and potentially mined for related insights.
When students are asked to read in their paper textbook, there is no record of whether the book was actually opened, let along whether or not to the correct page, how long a page was viewed, etc. Not so when using e-readers or reading on the web.
Facts, figures and questions scribbled on the blackboard disappear once the class bell rings; when this information is entered into, say, Blackboard TM (or any other digital learning management system, for that matter), they can potentially live on forever.
And because these data are, at their essence, just a collection of ones and zeroes, it is easy to share them quickly and widely using the various connected technology devices we increasingly have at our disposal.
A few years ago I worked on a large project where a government was planning to introduce lots of new technologies into classrooms across its education system. Policymakers were not primarily seeking to do this in order to ‘transform teaching and learning’ (although of course the project was marketed this way), but rather so that they could better understand what was actually happening in classrooms. If students were scoring poorly on their national end-of-year assessments, policymakers were wondering: Is this because the quality of instruction was insufficient? Because the learning materials used were inadequate? Or might it be because the teachers never got to that part of the syllabus, and so students were being assessed on things they hadn’t been taught? If technology use was mandated, at least they might get some sense about what material was being covered in schools – and what wasn’t. Or so the thinking went ....
Yes, such digital trails are admittedly incomplete, and can obscure as much as they illuminate, especially if the limitations of such data are poorly understood and data are investigated and analyzed incompletely, poorly, or with bias (or malicious intent). They also carry with them all sorts of very important and thorny considerations related to privacy, security, intellectual property and many other issues.
That said, used well, the addition of additional data points holds out the tantalizing promise of potentially new and/or deeper insights than has been currently possible within 'analogue' classrooms.
But there is another 'black box of education' worth considering.
In many countries, there have been serious and expansive efforts underway to compel governments make available more ‘open data’ about what is happening in their societies, and to utilize more ‘open educational resources’ for learning – including in schools. Many international donor and aid agencies support related efforts in key ways. The World Bank is a big promoter of many of these so-called ‘open data’ initiatives, for example. UNESCO has long been a big proponent of ‘open education resources’ (OERs). To some degree, pretty much all international donor agencies are involved in such activities in some way.
There is no doubt that increased ‘openness’ of various sorts can help make many processes and decisions in the education sector more transparent, as well as have other benefits (by allowing the re-use and ‘re-mixing’ of OERs, teachers and students can themselves help create new teaching and learning materials; civil society groups and private firms can utilize open data to help build new products and services; etc.).
What happens when governments promote the use of open education data and open education resources but, at the same time, refuse to make openly available the algorithms (formulas) that are utilized to draw insights from, and make key decisions based on, these open data and resources?
Are we in danger of opening up one black box, only to place another, more inscrutable back box inside of it?
Этой зимой я побывала в Центре занятости в г. Караганда, Казахстан, где встретилась с людьми заинтересованными в открытии собственного бизнеса. Я до сих пор помню волнение в их голосах когда они говорили о своих идеях.
Была пара, которая с помощью микрокредитов от правительства начала придорожное обслуживание на станции по техническому осблуживанию (СТО), надеявшаяся воспользоваться ростом автотрафика между Астаной и Алматы. Они сказали, что хотели бы понять рынок лучше, чтобы более эффективно вести свой бизнес. Уязвимые к внезапным изменениям на рынке или появлению новых технологий, как частные предприниматели они хотят знать как улучшить производительность и развить свое дело.
Water investments are lumpy and costly: financing is essential to spread the costs of these investments out over time. For water, development finance institutions still provide the bulk of such financing. It can no longer be the only one, however. The costs of extending universal access to safe water and sanitation has been estimated at US$ 114bn per year, which is a substantial increase compared to what was invested to reach the Millenium Development Goals. In contrast, in 2014 total official development finance for water, including grants and loans with varying degrees of concessionality, reached a mere US$18 bn per year, three times more than in 2003 but still woefully insufficient to meet all investment needs.
To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, governments will need to better target their investments and leverage more financing from private sources, including from households that can afford it (via more realistic and fair tariff policies and incentives to invest in things like toilets) and from commercial finance providers, including microfinance institutions, commercial banks, bond investors or venture capitalists.
The United Nations estimates that with the population reaching 9 billion by 2050, global food demand will double, with much of that growth in developing countries.
While the gloom-and-doom predictions of Malthus and a long line of neo-Malthusians have failed to materialize, still, one does have to wonder how all those hungry mouths are going to be fed.
What will it take to ensure that the recent food crises do not become permanent features of the world of the future? While countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are quite heterogeneous in their production potential, overall they are well equipped to contribute to meeting this challenge.
Edit 5/19/2014: The blog is based on the IPU data as of January 2012. Our friend Andy Kotikula points out that since then, Bhutan has elected its first female minister. We also note that many more women ministers were elected, and 6 countries in Table 1 - The Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, and Singapore - now have women ministers. The new IPU data as of January 2014 will be available in the Gender Data Portal and WDI on July 1, 2014.
A new World Bank report, Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity, underscores the importance of enabling girls and women to fulfill their potential and make their voices heard. For women in the developing world who work in ministerial positions, are their voices being heard? The data shows us that more than 20% of elected ministers in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are women.
Using data published in the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal, these two regions’ share of women in ministerial positions are a 10-percentage-point higher than other regions, an encouraging trend since 2005. For me, one really eye-opening insight is this: here are two regions with very different socio-economic characteristics: Latin America and the Caribbean, with mostly middle income countries and high levels of school enrollments, and Sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a majority of low income countries with lower levels of school enrollments. Yet they both have the highest level of female political representation compared to other regions.
This week, myself and colleagues from the World Bank Group will participate in the World Trade Organization’s Sixth Global Review of Aid for Trade. The bi-annual meetings, held at WTO headquarters in Geneva, bring together trade ministers, civil society, international development institutions and the private sector to monitor progress made toward connecting developing countries to the global trade system.