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Governance

E-bureaucracy: Can digital technologies spur public administration reform?

Zahid Hasnain's picture
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


“By introducing an automated customer management system we took a noose and put it around our own necks. We are now accountable!”

This reflection from a manager in the Nairobi Public Water and Sewerage utility succinctly captures the impact of MajiVoice, a digital system that logs customer complaints, enables managers to assign the issue to a specific worker, track its resolution, and report back to the customer via an SMS. As a result, complaint resolution rates have doubled, and the time taken to resolve complaints has dropped by 90 percent.

MajiVoice shows that digital technologies can dramatically improve public sector capacity and accountability in otherwise weak governance environments. But is this example replicable? Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable?

Meet four women leading the drive for open data in Africa

David Mariano's picture

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog from Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute. This article was first published by This is Africa on 17th January 2017​.

 
Nkechi Okwuone

Across Africa, innovators are using open data to gain greater insight into local issues, and create new public services. From government open data platforms to startup accelerator programmes, open data is increasingly recognised as a tool for tackling challenges across a range of sectors including health, education and agriculture.

This autumn, in six cities across South Africa the Responsive Cities Challenge encouraged designers and entrepreneurs to use open data to develop solutions that will improve local government services. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, the CartEau project is using open data to map safe drinking water points and latrines across the country for the first time. These examples show how open data is a powerful vehicle for addressing complex problems.

Increasing digital connectivity is important for economic growth, education and democratic participation but the equalising force of the Web is only meaningful when everyone is included in the digital sphere. According to the Web Foundation, women face disproportionate barriers to access, with poor women in urban areas in 10 developing countries they looked at 50% less likely to be connected to the Internet than men in the same age group.

Open data – data anyone can access, use or share – is transformative infrastructure for a digital economy that is consistently innovating and bringing the benefits of the Web to society. Open data often goes hand in hand with open working cultures and open business practices. While this culture lends itself to diversity, it is important that those who are involved in open data make sure it addresses everyone's needs. It is therefore encouraging to see that open data initiatives in African countries are being led by women.

Making social accountability part of Mongolia’s DNA

Marcela Rozo's picture
Mongolia has made good progress in its economic and political transitions during the last two decades, but this growth has not been fully translated into improved quality of public services, particularly for the poor and vulnerable. Despite the government’s legal and regulatory reforms to improve transparency and citizen participation in the management of public funds, the pace of implementation is still lagging.  

As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?
Local champions for social accountability are building their vision for the project.
© SDC and World Bank Mongolia

10 Knowledge Products from Sub-Saharan Africa You Don’t Want to Miss

Daniella Van Leggelo-Padilla's picture
Examine, evaluate, analyze, and explore… The World Bank Group’s comprehensive research, reports, and knowledge products do just that, providing policy makers and stakeholders from all sectors across Africa access to reliable evidenced-based data to assist in their decision-making processes.

Two cheers for the 2017 Governance and the Law World Development Report

Brian Levy's picture
The 2017 World Development Report is a landmark document for the development community. Historically, the point of departure for development practitioners (including those within the World Bank) has been to promulgate technocratic, ‘best practice’ solutions to development challenges. For more than two decades, this ‘best practice’ approach has been put into question by a growing avalanche of research on the political, institutional and governance underpinnings of development. The 2017 WDR does an heroic job of assembling and synthesizing this voluminous research into a compelling statement of why ‘best practices’ fail to address some core constraints, and thus do not achieve their intended results.
 

Some will doubtless critique the report for its  promiscuous use of jargon. But empathy is called for. The WDR team surely confronted some formidable internal political challenges. It needed to frame its argumentation in a way that spoke directly to economists, who remain intellectually hegemonic within the organization. As important, it needed a framing that was politically acceptable across the range of the extraordinarily diverse constituencies that make up the Executive Directors of the Bank – from the United States, to China, to Russia, to the Nordic countries as well as Latin American, African and other Asian and European constituencies. My sense  is that the document has met this challenge. So a first loud cheer to the WDR for successfully, and hopefully irreversibly, consolidating the centrality of politics and institutions in the development discourse.

Involving communities to achieve sustainable development

Annette Dixon's picture
Discussing community priorities
Former refugee Jeyaranjini discusses community initiatives with her local project officer in northern Sri Lanka.
Photo Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Jeyaranjini lives near Kilinochchi in Northern Sri Lanka with her husband and daughter. They have been rebuilding their lives through the North East Local Services Improvement Project (NELSIP), which uses a Community Driven Development (CDD) approach to tailor projects based on community needs in this conflict affected region. 

The project has helped build 611 km of roads, 23 km of storm drains, 400 community public spaces such as markets, parks, and playgrounds, as well providing improved access to water and electricity across Sri Lanka.

“Each community member used to be alone, but now we learn, exchange ideas, and make decisions together,” she said.

South Asia has a strong tradition of local participation

Let me offer a couple of other examples: Nepal’s Self Governance Act in 1999 decentralized services delivery to villages and districts. In Afghanistan, Community Development Councils (CDCs) receive funds, in which they then manage to support their villages.

In post-disaster contexts, CDD has shown to be fast, flexible and effective at re-establishing basic services. In fragile or conflict-affected states (FCS), the approach has also helped rebuild trust within communities, and between communities and governments.

Projects incorporating CDD approaches give control over planning and investments to community groups, and aim to empower communities to deliver services to the poor and vulnerable.

CDD principles can contribute to the realization of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a roadmap for the international development community to  promote sustainable economic, social, and environmental development by 2030.

Currently, the World Bank has 41 active CDD projects worth $6.1 billion in South Asia, including 21 projects in India worth $4.2 billion.

10 reasons to apply for World Bank-Annenberg Summer Institute

Roxanne Bauer's picture


How can professionals looking to lead reform initiatives find the best way forward?

They can start at the World Bank-Annenberg 
Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment, held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, from June 5 - June 16, 2017.

The course is designed for leaders, strategists and advisors who want to strengthen the critical competencies necessary to support change agents and reform initiatives in developing countries.  

If this sounds like you, but you need a little nudge, check out these 10 reasons why attending the Summer Institute is a good decision.

1. Strengthen the critical competencies necessary to support change agents and reform leaders in developing countries: The program was developed on the premise that successful implementation of policy reforms depends significantly on non-technical, real-world issues that relate to people and politics. 

2. Develop the skills necessary to bring about real change: Finding a way to push a reform forward can sometimes be elusive. Political or sectoral change is usually needed.  The course will develop your skills to analyze policy options and effectively mobilize support.

Rethinking governance for more effective policymaking

WDR Team's picture

We’ve all had those hallway conversations or coffee meetings or been privy to overhearing those chats… the ones where we have quick exchanges on why so many ‘best practice’ polices – such as those designed to reduce teacher absenteeism-- continually fail on implementation. Or why policies such as energy subsidies are so difficult to get rid of when they are universally recognized as regressive and encouraging inefficient energy use.

That’s where today’s launch of the 2017 World Development Report (WDR) on Governance and the Law led comes into play. The new report, co-directed by Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva and Yongmei Zhou, starts by acknowledging that all countries share a similar set of development goals: to minimize the threat of violence, to promote growth, and to improve equity. But too often, carefully designed, sensible policies to achieve these objectives are not adopted or implemented—and when they are, they too often fall short of achieving their goals. The report argues that the development community needs to move beyond asking “what is the right policy?” and instead ask “what makes policies effective in achieving desired outcomes?” As this WDR suggests, the answer has to do with governance—that is, the process through which state and non-state actors interact to adopt and implement those policies.

11 charts from the 2017 World Development Report on Governance & the Law

Tariq Khokhar's picture

What makes government policies work in real life for the benefit of citizens? The answer put forward by World Development Report (WDR) 2017 is better governance – the ways in which governments and citizens work together to design and implement policies.

The report is a detailed exploration of a complex topic. I won’t be able to do it justice in a short blog – I’d encourage you to download the report and summary here.

What I will do though, is pull out a few of the charts and ideas I found most striking while reading through it – have a look below and let us know what you think.

Constitutions have proliferated since the late 18th century

Constitutions – fundamental principles or laws governing countries – have proliferated since the late 18th century. The growing numbers, especially since the 1940s, correspond to the postcolonial increase in the number of independent states, and more recently the breakup of the Soviet Union.

… but they are often replaced or amended

The WDR finds that the effectiveness of constitutions in constraining power through rules is mixed – the average lifespan of a constitution is 19 years, and in Latin America and eastern Europe it is a mere eight years.

Chart: Gender Quota Laws Have Spread Worldwide Since 1990

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Over the last 25 years, different forms of gender quotas for representation in national legislatures have spread globally. Out of 74 countries studied where gender quota laws were passed, the 2017 World Development Report finds that 26 had achieved the quotes, and as of 2016, 48 countries had yet to do so.

Read more in 11 charts from the 2017 World Development Report on Governance & The Law


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