The World Bank’s ICT innovations for accountability and service delivery
In an increasingly connected world, creative uses of technology provide new opportunities to enable two-way information flows between governments and citizens. Through its ICT Knowledge Platform on Innovations for Accountability and Service Delivery Initiative, the World Bank is playing a central role in promoting sustainable governance and addressing developmental challenges through the use of information and communications technologies.
While conventional approaches to development often lack adequate mechanisms to incorporate citizen feedback, innovative uses of technology provide powerful tools to transform the way public services are delivered to citizens and enhance accountability. The near-universal reach of mobile communications combined with interactive mapping and social media is empowering citizens to communicate directly with governments and service providers.
Since its inception in 1995, the World Bank Group’s Information and Communication Sector Unit has sought to increase participation in the global information economy and expand the use of ICTs in developing countries. Providing policy advice in over 80 countries, the Unit supports research and development initiatives with both governments and civil society organizations through the promotion of online platforms, institutional reform, regional skills development and partnerships with other international organizations.
ICT Knowledge Platform on Innovations for Accountability and Service Delivery
The ICT Sector Unit recently launched the ICT Knowledge Platform on Innovations for Accountability and Service Delivery, an ICT-based strategy that aims to leverage innovation and citizen involvement, and ensure transparency in developing countries. The platform provides unprecedented opportunities to low-income earning countries by using technology to target the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The ICT Knowledge Platform utilizes current World Bank resources to support and connect policy writers, social activists, companies and citizens. The initiative capitalizes on the universality of mobile communications and uses crowdsourcing technology to involve expert opinion on strategy and programme design. Application development networks and a development applications store assist in supporting these initiatives by enabling open source access to practical tools for business owners and practitioners in the developing world. Under the initiative, the exchange of information on a regional basis is facilitated through the creation of virtual ‘knowledge communities’ that are based on shared experience and learning. In support, the platform uses fast-cycle evaluations and yearly publications to distill knowledge and identify conditions under which technology can transform public service delivery and enhance accountability.
Apps for Development
As part of the ICT Knowledge Platform initiative, the World Bank launched the Apps for Development competition in April 2010. The competition was facilitated by open data sharing, enabling access to information such as the African Development Indicators and Millennium Development Indicators. The competition uses World Bank data to connect the development community with software providers and global citizens, challenging developers to create apps that relate to the MDGs. Apps for Development received entries from 36 countries, a third originating in Africa alone. Concepts ranged from simple games to research applications, demonstrating the varied opportunities that exist for ICTs to respond to global challenges in a development context.
For example, with water sustainability and food security being central to the achievement of the MDGs, the 'Save the Rain' entry encourages users to calculate the potential productivity of rooftops and infrastructure to capture and save rainwater anywhere in the world. Using Google maps, the app allows the user to virtually map water-harvesting opportunities in their area, helping communities make informed decisions about how best to capture rainfall for effective agricultural use.
Similarly, the Farmerscommunity app targets global food shortages by harnessing the growing influence of social media technology. This entry focuses specifically on expanding regional and global networks between farmers through peer-to-peer communication. Farmerscommunity provides an open source, free, online arena in which farmers can advertise products, share produce information, contact potential suppliers and exchange tips. In doing so, apps such as Farmerscommunity are helping to increase food security by expanding farmers’ access to markets and creating opportunities for product innovation through exchange.
Another entry in the Apps for Development competition, TradeCirclex, is targeted at raising awareness around the establishment of a global partnership for development, goal 8 of the MDGs. The app promotes the exploration of UN Comtrade trade data and the World Bank’s World Development Indicators in a visually appealing and user-friendly format. For the general public, the app’s content is easily accessible and interactive yet it also has the potential to be an effective tool for researchers to investigate data regarding market access for developing countries.
The results of the Apps for Development competition, announced on 25 April 2011, will be published in the next issue of International Trade Forum.