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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.
 

Leveraging the link: Public Investment Management and Public-Private Partnerships

Aijaz Ahmad's picture
Jordan is my second home, as I have worked there, off and on, since the late 1990s. I have watched Amman grow from a relaxed city into a hustling, bustling regional business and financial hub. Even though my Arabic is still rusty, there is no shortage of development partners and government officials ready to talk in our common language — the vocabulary of public investment management (PIM) and public-private partnerships (PPPs).
 
Amman, Jordan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recently I was invited to speak at Public Investment Management (PIM): Best Practices Workshop hosted in Amman, Jordan by the World Bank Group’s regional Governance team, led by Emmanuel Cuvillier. My job there was to show the linkages between public investment planning (PIP) and PPPs. As I prepped for my speaking engagement, I realized how little progress we, the global PPP community, have made in developing an integrated approach for undertaking investment projects.

One obvious reason for this is that PIMs are not fully integrated in the planning functions by most governments. And PPP projects that follow privatization programs have adopted many of the habits of the privatization programs — for example, only work on a list of selected entities, and establish an ad-hoc commission/committee tasked to undertake evaluation and tendering — with the ultimate aim of obtaining private investment.

But there’s an important difference in the case of PPPs. We are not selling assets, we are creating assets. The project does not end when the public and private parties sign the contract, as is the case in privatization; in fact; the project begins at that point, and has to be monitored over many years for performance and delivery. Typically, the project reverts back to the public sector at the end of the PPP agreement term. And finally, unlike the case with privatization, the public sector almost always commits to various kinds of fiscal commitments (real or contingent) in PPPs.