In most regions of the world, over 70 percent of freshwater is used for agriculture. By 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals.
About 12 years ago, one of my World Bank Group colleagues told me that his team had just launched an incubation program and I should join the unit. “Incubation?” I asked. “What does that mean?” I’ve always believed that a strong domestic private sector is the key to a sustainable development path for developing countries. So I decided to make the leap and, fast forward 12 years, terms like SMEs, start-ups, incubation, acceleration, and business development services have become part of my daily vocabulary.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the chance to meet many entrepreneurs, policymakers, and investors. I saw them succeed, and I saw them fail. Most importantly, from their experiences, I learned a few important lessons.
1) Growth aspirations
We should never forget to distinguish between entrepreneurs who have a small business to sustain their families — necessity entrepreneurs — and those who have ambitions to become market leaders — opportunity entrepreneurs. Why? Because they are driven by different incentives, face different challenges, and have different chances to scale their companies.
2) The lifecycle of an enterprise
The lifecycle of an enterprise refers to different stages that define the evolution of a business — from idea to prototype, from initial sales to profitability, expansion, and growth. This sounds very linear but it is, in fact, a roller coaster. And unfortunately, as opposed to real roller coasters, which are usually pretty safe, many firms fall off the ride and, among those who stay on, most don’t grow. In OECD countries, out of 100 firms that start, only seven actually grow.
Your project or program can target either segment of entrepreneurs but you need to be clear about which one you are targeting so you can manage effectively your — and your stakeholders’— expectations.
3) Unconscious incompetence
How do you know what will unlock the company’s ability to grow? How does the entrepreneur know what the company needs to scale?
The challenge with approaches that wait for the entrepreneur to identify the problem and ask for assistance — the business development services model — is what psychologists call “unconscious incompetence.” Basically, you don’t always know what you don’t know. Think about it: what do entrepreneurs always answer if you ask them what they need? ...finance! How about customers?! How about management and processes? I’m not saying finance is not needed, but it is an over-stated need …or perhaps as marketing professionals would say – a “want,” not a “need.”
A comprehensive diagnostic of the enterprise would identify the correct pain point. In many cases, the “need” is actually not finance, but rather “profitability” and “growth.” It may be external finance, or it may be more customers or higher efficiency that gets you there.
Across large swaths of the developing world, a new trend is taking hold: governments are targeting public and private investments in specific geographic areas in the hopes of creating spatial “development corridors.” These strategies are guided by the belief that concentrating and co-locating infrastructure investments in specific locations can create clusters of interconnected firms, nurture the development of value chains, reduce unemployment, and improve the provision of basic public services.
As we celebrate World Water Day, I find myself thinking about my work and one central question: how do you reach 8 million Filipinos with no access to clean water? I remember growing up in Pampanga, a province north of Manila, and visiting my aunt’s house every weekend where I had to pump water from a deep well and carry buckets so we could water plants, wash clothes, and clean the backyard pig pen. Fortunately, these days there’s always water from the faucet so we don’t work as hard to do chores.
But the story isn’t the same for everyone. While our local water utility largely improved its services over the years, I can’t say the same for the rest of the country, especially in rural areas. While there are already over 4,700 water utilities in the Philippines, about half are very small and unregulated.
From Mozambique’s white-sand beaches to Iceland’s snow-white ports, a fisheries delegation learns how private rights, transparent management, and data analysis can transform a fishing industry.
The development community has experienced various “revolutions” over the years – from microfinance to women’s rights, from the green revolution to sustainable development. Each of these awakenings has improved our understanding of the challenges we face; each has transformed the development landscape, mostly for the better.
We now see the beginnings of another, long-overdue, revolution: this one focused on the fundamental role of land in sustainable development. Land has often been at the root of revolutions, but the coming land revolution is not about overthrowing old orders. It is based on the basic fact that much of the world has never gotten around to legally documenting land rights. According to the World Bank, only 10% of land in rural Africa and 30% of land globally is documented. This gap is the cause of widespread chaos and dysfunction around the world.
There is much (potentially) to be excited about here. Few would argue against having greater access to more learning opportunities, especially when those opportunities are offered for 'free', where there is latent unmet demand, and where the opportunities themselves are well constructed and offer real value for learners. As with MOOCs at the level of higher education, however, we perhaps shouldn't be too surprised if these new opportunities at the high school level are first seized upon *not* by some of the groups with the greatest learning needs -- for example, students in overcrowded, poorly resourced secondary schools in developing countries, or even students who would like a secondary education, but for a variety of reasons aren't able to receive one -- but rather by those best placed to take advantage of them. This has been largely been the case for initial adopters of MOOCs. (One of the first studies of this aspect of the 'MOOC Phenomenon', which looked at MOOCs from the University of Pennsylvania, found that students tended to be "young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries.")
As a practical matter, some of the first types of beneficiaries may, for example (and I am just speculating here), be homeschooling families in North America (while not necessarily comparatively 'rich' by local standards, such families need to be affluent enough to be able to afford to have one parent stay at home with the kids, and generally have pretty good Internet connectivity); international schools around the world (which can offer a broader range of courses to students interested in an 'American' education); and the families of 'foreign' students looking to apply to college in the United States (the edX course “COL101x: The Road to Selective College Admissions” looks, at least to my eyes, tailor made for certain segments of the population of learners in places like China, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.). In other words, at least in the near term, a Matthew Effect in Educational Technology may be apparent, where those who are best placed to benefit from the introduction of a new technology tool or innovation are the ones who indeed benefit from it the most.
Longer term, though, it is possible to view this news about movement of a major MOOC platform into the area of secondary education as one further indication that we are getting further along from the 'front end of the e-learning wave' (of which MOOCs are but one part) to something that will eventually have a greater mass impact beyond what is happening now in the 'rich' countries of North America and the OECD.
Learning with new technologies has of course been around for many decades but, broadly speaking, has not (yet) had the 'transformational' impact that has long been promised. "Gradually, then suddenly" is how one of Ernest Hemingway's characters famously describes how he went bankrupt. Might this be how the large scale adoption of educational technologies will eventually happen as well in much of the world?
I f so, one credible potential tipping point may be a 'black swan' event that could push all of this stuff into the mainstream, especially in places where it to date has been largely peripheral: some sort of major health-related scare. (For those unfamiliar with the term, which was popularized by Nicholas Taleb, a 'black swan' is a rare event that people don't anticipate but which has profound consequences). One of the first ever posts on the EduTech blog, Education & Technology in an Age of Pandemics, looked at some of what had been learned about how teachers and learners use new technologies to adapt when schools were closed in response to outbreaks involving the H1N1 influenza virus: the 'swine flu' that afflicted many in Mexico about six years ago; and an earlier outbreak of 'bird flu' in China. I have recently been fielding many calls as a result of the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa asking essentially, 'Can we do anything with technology to help our students while our schools are closed?', and so I thought it might be useful to revisit, and update, that earlier post, in case doing so might be a useful contribution to a number of related discussions are occurring.
In disaster risk management, we often pay close attention to the latest technological boosts to better understand risks and help communities prepare for the next disaster. While such efforts are commendable, I noticed that
Such messages teach us how to keep hazards away from people (reducing existing risks) as well as how to keep people away from hazards (avoid creating new risks). On my latest trip to Japan, we hosted government officials from Armenia, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan as part of an experts’ visit focusing on disaster risk management, acting on Japan’s rich culture of passing on such decisive messages to future generations.
The word “disruption” is frequently used to describe technology’s impact on every facet of human existence, including how people travel, learn, and even speak.
Now a growing cadre of digital humanitarians and technology enthusiasts are applying this disruption to the way humanitarian aid and disaster response are administered and monitored.
Humanitarian, or crisis, mapping refers to the real-time gathering and analysis of data during a crisis. Mapping projects allows people directly affected by humanitarian crises or physically located on the other side of the world to contribute information utilizing ICTs as diverse as mobile and web-based applications, aggregated data from social media, aerial and satellite imagery, and geospatial platforms such as geographic information systems (GIS).