Transport lending accounts for almost 21 percent of the World Bank’s total active portfolio, and three-quarters of World Bank projects include an information and communication technology (ICT) component. But what is the impact of these projects?
According to recent studies, multilateral lending for transport amounts to 29 percent of multilateral development bank assistance, only 0.4 percent of all impact evaluations have transport as a core topic, and only 2.5 percent include ICT.
"When you look at how transport is handled in global discussions, we are the neglected sector," said Nancy Vandycke, Lead Economist for the World Bank's Transport and ICT Global Practice. "We need a narrative, and we need the evidence to support this narrative."
A new initiative between the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID) and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) seeks to do that. The initiative,“Impact Evaluation – Connect for Impact,” aims to transform the way that both transport and ICT projects are designed, implemented and evaluated. It was launched on June 22, 2015 at a workshop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by the World Bank's Transport and ICT Global Practice, and convened 175 people from 18 client countries – including development practitioners, subject-matter experts and researchers.
“We’re very excited [to open] this window on transport,” said Stevan Lee, Senior Economist for the British Department for International Development (DFID), which is helping fund the initiative. “We’re looking at doing relevant, conclusive research on transport, and this looks extremely promising.”
The workshop helped kick-start a global collaboration that will offer a systematic sector approach to generating concrete evidence of what works, what does not, where, when and why. The success of this initiative depends greatly upon collaboration between the world’s eight MDBs, which sent representatives to the workshop.
“This is a first step. One way to do better work is to measure the impacts of what we’re doing,” said Esteban Diez-Roux, Principal Transport Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Representative of the MDB Working Group on Sustainable Transport. “We hope that the other development banks will join us, and they’ve expressed interest in doing so.”
Better evaluations will also help increase the impact and value of investments in transport and ICT projects – which is especially critical due to increasing urbanization across the globe. By 2050, at least 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, emphasizing the need for new and revitalized infrastructure. Physical and virtual connectivity – including roads, public transit, broadband and Internet access – are crucial drivers of economic growth and sustainable development.
A stronger commitment to impact evaluations, with better systematic analysis and intellectual rigor, can give donors and governments added confidence about their current interventions. It can also help encourage future investments, which are crucial to closing infrastructure gaps, especially in developing countries.
“The idea is not just to evaluate the infrastructure that you place, but also to improve and maximize the impact of that infrastructure,” said Ariana Legovini, Manager for the World Bank's Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) group.
The “Impact Evaluation – Connect for Impact” program will develop a new analytical framework, fill knowledge gaps and collect data for transport and ICT investments. These activities will help build capacity – as well as collaboration – across MDBs and client countries. The initiative is critical to addressing increasingly large and complex challenges, including urban planning, transport systems and climate change implications.
“This is crucial, because we need to rethink how we design our projects to maximize their impact on the ground, for the benefit of the poorest households,” said Pierre Guislain, Senior Director for the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice. “We are in the development business because we want to improve the lives of people in the countries where we work. And that is called impact.”