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Information and Communication Technologies

Hackathons and mobile apps: developing innovative responses to sexual violence in Kyrgyzstan

American University of Central Asia - Hackathon Team Leaders's picture


As we take part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign over the coming weeks, we couldn’t be more excited about sharing an update than this one.

We recently brought a team of technologically savvy students together and worked hard for two days with very little sleep to develop an application to respond to sexual violence. The hard work paid off when our team was awarded first place in a Hackathon at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA).

Reversing the geospatial digital divide – one step, or leap, at a time

Anna Wellenstein's picture
Earth from space. Photo by NASA.

Global positioning systems (GPS), real time traffic maps, accurate weather forecasts, Uber, self-driving cars… Geospatial data is on full display 24/7 throughout the world these days.  It’s like nothing we have seen before. But none of this would be possible without the underpinning role of the government.

“Geospatial,” or location-based data has existed for hundreds of years – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated analytics that is being applied to it, thanks to technological advances.

What was once information only found in the domain of government, military, and select private sector, even up to the 1980s and 90s, has come into broad use over the last 20 years. With the increase of mobile technology and communications, handheld smart phones have democratized mapping, moving geospatial technology into the hands of every individual.

This summer, some tens of millions of people in the U.S. traveled to see the total solar eclipse, including a co-author of this blog. Not only was the eclipse amazing – but the drive back from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. showed the integration and impact of geospatial information in our daily lives.
 

New financial management technologies improve transparency and trust in Afghanistan

Mohammad Zaher Ebadi's picture
Many government civil servants are now using technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices in Kandahar Province.
Many government civil servants are now using technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices in Kandahar Province. Photo credit: Taimani Films/World Bank

The use of technology in Afghanistan’s government offices is not yet the norm. However, in the Directorate of Ministry of Finance (Mostofiat) in Kandahar Province, a province associated more with insecurity than with technology, we have used the power of technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices. 

Finance is the backbone of any country’s economy. Therefore, it is very important for it to be transparent and credible so that citizens as well as donors feel committed to the development process. With this in mind, we decided to implement the Afghanistan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS) and Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS), with the help of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFMR), a project implemented by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) with support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). SIGTAS was also supported through the ARTF Incentive Program.

Since 2007, when we started using AFMIS, we have been able to manage and execute budget-related activities, collect revenue, and pay salaries on time. A computerized system, AFMIS enables multiple users to access financial information and records, whenever and wherever they want. This was not possible with manual records.

Lessons From Mapping Geeks: How Aerial Technology is Helping Pacific Island Countries Recover From Natural Disasters.

Michael Bonte-Grapentin's picture

For many Pacific Island countries, natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis, are an all-too common occurrence. Out of the top 15 most at-risk countries for natural disasters globally, four are Pacific Island countries, and Vanuatu is consistently at the top.

In 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, and knowing the extent of damage was vital for the government to identify and plan reconstruction needs. A team of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) experts were sent out to quickly establish credible estimates of the damages and losses. Many damage reports were already available from the field, but with varying quality, and the challenge was to consolidate and verify them, within a very tight timeframe. Cloud cover also prevented us from getting satellite images, so we mobilized two UAV teams to fly below the clouds and capture high-resolution footage showing the impacts on the ground in the worst affected islands in Tafea and Shefa province.

Challenges continued throughout, from needing to coordinate airspace with those flying relief goods into affected areas, to transferring massive datasets over low internet bandwidths. But with team-effort and ingenuity, solutions were found; the UAV teams were able to capture valuable damage footage within sampled areas during the day, which were analysed overnight by volunteers of the Humanitarian Open Street Map (HOT) and the Digital Humanitarian Network; new workflows were developed to collate the data and to feed the outputs into the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment.   
 

Interpreted damage information post-Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, 2014: red – destroyed houses, orange – partially damaged houses, blue – no obvious damage to house.

#Blog4Dev: A Tech Hub in Mogadishu Aspires to Link Investors and Innovators

Awil Osman's picture



Joblessness among young Somali adults is a chronic issue confronting Somalia. Their unemployment rate is at staggering 67%. And the issue of youth joblessness is exacerbated by the large number of Somali students who graduate—from secondary schools and from tertiary organizations—with skills that are neither appropriate for Somalia nor competitive elsewhere.
 
Nonetheless, this aside, after almost three decades of turmoil—and of protracted conflict, terrorism, and piracy—Somalia is making huge entrepreneurial, socioeconomic, and political strides. This progress is encapsulated in a famous hashtag, popularized in 2017 and known as “#SomaliaRising.” In keeping with the spirit and momentum of this, we turned “Rising” into “iRise”—to demonstrate both how Somalis can improve  narrative, and bring our innovative and entrepreneurship ingenuity into play.
 
Our brand name is a catalyst for this hashtag and aims to popularize the movement.

In Somalia, communicating about reforms is just as important as implementing them

Hassan Hirsi's picture
Somalia’s government can generate revenue for public services if regulations and reforms are put in place. Photo: Hassan Hirsi/World Bank


Reform communications explains and promotes reforms to all concerned audiences, and ensures consistency, balance, and participation, all the way from a reform’s design to its implementation. It can also make sure that audiences understand the reform, contribute to stakeholder inclusion, and hold the owners of the reform accountable.
 
What does that mean in a country like Somalia? More importantly, what does that mean for a country like Somalia right now?

What can satellite imagery tell us about secondary cities? (Part 1/2)

Sarah Elizabeth Antos's picture

The buzz around satellite imagery over the past few years has grown increasingly loud. Google Earth, drones, and microsatellites have grabbed headlines and slashed price tags. Urban planners are increasingly turning to remotely sensed data to better understand their city.

But just because we now have access to a wealth of high resolution images of a city does not mean we suddenly have insight into how that city functions.

The question remains: How can we efficiently transform big data into valuable products that help urban planners?

In an effort a few years ago to map slums, the World Bank adopted an algorithm to create land cover classification layers in large African cities using very high resolution imagery (50cm). Building on the results and lessons learned, the team saw an opportunity in applying these methods to secondary cities in Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC), where data availability challenges were deep and urbanization pressures large. Several Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama were faced with questions about the internal structure of secondary cities and had no data on hand to answer such questions.

A limited budget and a tight timeline pushed the team to assess the possibility of using lower resolution images compared to those that had been used for large African cities. Hence, the team embarked in the project to better understand the spatial layout of secondary cities by purchasing 1.5 meter SPOT6/7 imagery and using a semi-automated classification approach to determine what types of land cover could be successfully detected.

Originally developed by Graesser et al 2012 this approach trains (open source) algorithm to leverage both the spectral and texture elements of an image to identify such things as industrial parks, tightly packed small rooftops, vegetation, bare soil etc.

What do the maps look like? The figure below shows the results of a classification in Chinandega, Nicaragua. On the left hand side is the raw imagery and the resulting land cover map (i.e. classified layer) on the right. The land highlighted by purple shows the commercial and industrial buildings, while neighborhoods composed of smaller, possibly lower quality houses are shown in red, and neighborhoods with slightly larger more organized houses have been colored yellow. Lastly, vegetation is shown as green; bare soil, beige; and roads, gray.

Want to explore our maps? Download our data here. Click here for an interactive land cover map of La Ceiba.

Data on firms by firms: how companies like Gap could remove investment barriers

Andreja Marusic's picture
To invest or not to invest? When determining whether to enter a new market, businesses must fully understand the potential risks and opportunities. To do so, they need access to information on relevant market players, such as potential suppliers, customers or competitors. While governments require businesses to supply data when registering as well as throughout their operation, these repositories of data held by business registries, tax authorities, statistical offices and other registries are often not updated properly nor are they made available to the general public in a comprehensive way.

Spotting fires from space helps India’s foresters

E. Vikram's picture
 Vikas Gusain (April 2017)
Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. Ground fire in Chir Pine forests in Gumkhal, Pauri Garwal District, Uttarakhand, India. Credit: Vikas Gusain (April 2017)

The three-day international workshop on forest fires organized by the World Bank and the Forest Ministry of India is a watershed event in the management of forest fires in the country (1-3rd November 2017). On the first day, discussions were held on the latest technology being used to alert foresters to fires.

Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, forest-dependent communities in central India burn the forest floor to encourage the growth of tender tendu leaves, and to collect mahua flowers which standout easily on the charred forest floor.

In the northeast and some parts of central India, forests are rotationally burnt to ashes to enrich the soil for agriculture. After a few seasons of cropping, the depleted area is left to nature and the trees grow back once again. In the western Himalayas, pine needles are cleared every year to encourage the growth of grass for cattle-fodder. When pine needles full of resin pile up year after year, it takes just one spark from a careless smoker to burn down an entire forest of enormous value.

In remote areas, forest fires may not be detected for hours or even days, leading to an irreversible loss of forest wealth. Like any other hazard, the earlier one gets to know about the outbreak, the better it is for both the authorities and the people. Since traditional ways of gathering information from people perched on watch towers are not very effective, satellite sensors that can detect heat and smoke from space have now come to the rescue of foresters across the country.   

Today, the Forest Survey of India, in partnership with the National Remote Sensing Centre, uses these satellite detections to alert foresters across the country about the exact location of forest fires. All steps in the detection and dissemination process have been fully automated – including the processing of satellite data, filtering out fires that burn outside forests, composing personalized SMSs to relevant people, as well as sending them across. This system has helped fire alerts to reach people within 45 minutes to 1 hour of detection, enabling foresters to reach the spot quickly and contain the damage.

The Internet of Things – from hype to reality

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE

Sensors in elevators that alert government agencies to public safety risks; data from school bags to keep children safe; garbage trucks with the smarts to save cities money… The Internet of Things (IoT) will change everything. That is the conventional wisdom. We set out to look for evidence of this change in the government. How fast is it coming? Is it real? And our findings were mixed – sobering, but also encouraging.

On the plus side, we found government agencies keen to apply IoT to improve their business environment or reduce the burden on businesses while simultaneously increasing compliance. On the downside, very few IoT initiatives have been scaled beyond pilots, the business models to sustain IoT infrastructure are under-developed, and the policy landscape is woefully inadequate. There’s significant potential but it requires systematic, informed work by the government, private sector, and civil society.


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