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Overview

  • The Digital Development Global Practice works hand in hand with governments to help create strong foundations  for the digital economy to thrive. Our work focuses on addressing supply and demand side constraints to digital transformation, around key pillars  including inclusive access to fast, reliable, safe  and affordable internet. Across the World Bank Group, we are working  to stimulate demand for digital applications, digital skills and digital platforms to support governments, business and individuals to participate more fully in the digital economy.  

    Digital technologies are at the forefront of development and provide a unique opportunity for countries to accelerate economic growth and connect citizens to services and jobs. In times of crisis, from natural disasters to pandemics such as the one the world experienced with COVID-19, digital technologies are what’s keeping people, governments and businesses connected.  They can unlock innovative solutions to complex development challenges and help countries skip traditional stages of development from digital banking to blockchain and telemedicine

    Yet, at the end of 2019, half of the world population is still without internet access, the vast majority concentrated in developing countries. Of the 25 least connected countries in the world, 21 are in Africa but the pace at which the internet is growing in Sub-Saharan Africa is also one of the fastest in the world.

    Fostering digital inclusion is of paramount importance. One billion people in the world cannot prove their identity which limits their access to digital services and opportunities. The gender gap is still wide in least developed countries where women are 33% less likely to use the Internet than men and 25% less likely to know how to leverage digital technology for basic purposes such as using a table sheet. South Asia has the biggest gender gap with women being 51% less likely to use mobile internet than men.

    With the potential of digital technologies to expand access to markets and opportunities, helping countries invest in digital development is an important aspect of the World Bank’s work to reduce poverty and inequality.  The  numbers speak for themselves: the digital economy is equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP, growing two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. Research shows that a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration in Africa would result in an increase of 2.5% of GDP per capita. In a post COVID-19 environment, digitalization efforts will accelerate across the globe, but most developing countries do not currently possess the right tools and environments for that.

    What will it take for countries to reap the benefits of technological progress, and participate fully in the global digital economy?

    Closing the global digital divide: Even though new technologies are spreading rapidly around the world, 4 billion people still lack access to the internet.  

    Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow: Innovation is radically changing the nature of work: new jobs are emerging, others are evolving. To compete in the digital economy, countries will need to prioritize education and build the digital skills of their workforce. In other words, they need to invest in people.

    Developing secure, reliable digital systems: As the world is going digital, strengthening capacity in areas like cybersecurity and data protection has become more important than ever.

    Last Updated: Oct 27, 2020

  • The World Bank provides an extensive range of services and solutions to make sure client countries can harness the power of digital development.

    Our activities in the sector  is based on an ecosystem approach for digital transformation involving strong collaboration across the World Bank Group and focusing on five key elements which, combined, form the basis for strong and inclusive digital economies:

    • Digital infrastructure (fixed and mobile broadband, fiber-optic cables, etc.) is the backbone of the digital economy. Access to digital connectivity should be universal, safe  and affordable.
    • Digital financial services and digital identification allow individuals, businesses, and governments to interact and conduct transactions.
    • Digital innovation and entrepreneurship need a supportive ecosystem of government regulations and access to financing.
    • Digital platforms, including e-commerce and e-government, drive usage and foster economic activity.
    • Digital literacy and skills create a digitally savvy workforce and boost competitiveness.

    Besides telecommunications expertise, building the five foundations of the digital economy requires capacity in multiple other fields, including finance, private sector development, education, labor, social protection, etc. As a result, the digital agenda mobilizes a wide variety of experts throughout the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA.

    While multidisciplinary collaboration is essential to the success of digital development itself, it also creates opportunities to integrate cutting-edge digital solutions across sectors—whether it be using geospatial analysis to improve disaster risk management, deploying wifi-enabled sensors to monitor crops remotely, or using big data from mobile devices to design better public transport networks.

    But even though technology has opened a wealth of new possibilities for global development, it does not come without risk. Cybersecurity and data protection, in particular, have become a growing concern. We work closely with client countries to help them implement the infrastructure, tools, and regulations that are necessary to address these challenges. We are also focusing on making sure that digital opportunities are inclusive while aksi managing risks of exclusion.

    In Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), the Digital Development Global Practice’s portfolio included 33 standalone digital development projects, with total commitments amounting to US$1.8 billion. In addition, digital development components are increasingly included in projects across different sectors such as transport, education, health, agriculture, and public sector management. In FY 2020, IFC committed financing for a total of $432 million in Telecom, FinTech, and Venture Capital

    World Bank interventions in the digital sector are informed by in-depth research and analysis. Recent publications include:

    In addition to direct financial assistance and analytical work, the World Bank leverages its convening power to pool knowledge and resources from a vast array of public agencies, experts, innovators, private companies, and investors.

    To make digital solutions more easily accessible to developing countries, the World Bank created the Digital Development Partnership (DDP), a platform for digital innovation and development finance. The DDP brings together public and private sector partners to foster the creation and implementation of digital development strategies, and to facilitate global knowledge exchange on digital development.

    2020 will see the launch of a Digital and Disruptive Technologies Secretariat to facilitate mainstreaming of digital and disruptive technologies across sectors while fostering innovative solutions. An immediate focus of the Secretariat will be COVID-19 emergency response, recovery and resilience building. 

    The Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D), hosted by the World Bank, catalyzes the creation of robust and inclusive digital identification systems through analytics, assessments, and financing. Digital technology has unprecedented potential to close the global identification gap and transform the lives of the almost one billion people who still lack an official ID.

    Leveraging the same, synergetic, multi-global practice platform of ID4D, the Bank recently launched the Government-to-Person payments (G2Px) initiative. This effort focuses on digitizing cash transfer/social assistance payments as a means of contributing to the long-term development goals of individual agency/choice across providers, financial inclusion, and women’s economic empowerment. The initiative comes at a crucial time when governments around the world are scaling up social assistance and finding ways to directly transfer funds to individuals. . 

    In Africa, the World Bank Group is supporting the African Union’s efforts toward the digital transformation of the continent through the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) in support of the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2030. Its sets an ambitious and bold vision to digitally connect every individual, business and government in Africa  by 2030 and seeks to propel the continent forward and ensure that African countries reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

    In the Middle East and North Africa, the MENATECH initiative aims to support MENA countries in accelerating their digital transformation, with a priority focus given to widespread affordable and good quality access to broadband as well as to financial services.

    In South Asia, the Digital Economy for South Asia (DE4SA) initiative aims to support all eight South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) with digital economy assessments and targeted technical support and policy dialogue to identify bottlenecks in the foundations of the digital economy, and maximize benefits of the digital economy while mitigating the risks. This ambitious effort for South Asia will also include a deeper look at informality in South Asia, and the effects of digital technologies and digital business models, particularly digital platforms, towards it.

    The Digital Development Global Practice is coordinating the cooperation with the development community on digital issues, including with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and the UN Broadband Commission (BB Com). Under the Broadband Commission, we are currently supporting the efforts to improve school connectivity through analytical work and support to the Giga initiative, a global initiative to connect every school to the internet. Our teams are collaborating with Giga to map schools, assess their connectivity needs and identify technology and financing solutions to connect them.

    Together with the Development Economics team, we are co- leading the Mobility Analytics Task Force, which aims at generating analytics on mobility to inform mitigation policies for preventing the spread of the virus. The Task Force will use data from Mobile Networks Operators (MNOs), smartphone applications and data aggregators. We are leveraging our close relationships with telecom operators worldwide in order to facilitate access to MNOs in the world.

    Last Updated: Oct 27, 2020

  • In the battle against COVID-19, the WBG is working to help countries increase bandwidth and manage congestion, ensure the continuity of critical public services, and power financial technologies as demand for services such as health care, mobile payments, food delivery, and e-commerce increase.   We’re developing regional and country action plans with measures tailored to each country.  A few examples:  

    • In Malawi, we’re providing support for home-based work and remote working facilities for our government counterparts, as well as connectivity to health centers and hospitals.
    • In Turkey, the Safe and Quality Schooling and Distance Education Project will provide safe schooling through distance education during COVID-19 pandemic and for resilient recovery.
    • In Mali, we are helping the government continue to provide education through a variety of channels like radio, television and internet.

    Across Africa, where less than a third of the population has access to broadband connectivity, achieving universal, affordable, and good quality internet access by 2030 will require an investment of US $100 billion. This is according to a report launched in October 2019, at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group, which calls for urgent action to close the internet access gap and provides a roadmap to reach this ambitious goal. According to the report, nearly 80% of all required investments are directly related to the need to roll out and maintain broadband networks. However, connecting the unconnected is about more than just infrastructure: about 20% of required investments consists in building the user skills and local content foundations, and another 2-4% should be allocated to setting up the appropriate regulatory framework.

    To help achieve this objective, the World Bank Group launched the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) in support of the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2030 (formally endorsed by the AU in February 2020). Its sets an ambitious and bold vision to digitally connect every individual, business and government in Africa  by 2030. As part of the initiative, the Bank is conducting country digital economy diagnostics  to map the strengths and weaknesses of a country’s digital economy and identifies challenges and opportunities for future growth. We are also developing action plans for each of the five pillars of the digital economy, preparing regional projects to foster digital single markets in East and West Africa and making significant commitment of financial resources for digital economy projects and reform programs.

    We are working to bridge the digital divide in rural areas to connect the unconnected. For example, in Somalia, a country recovering from over two decades of conflict,  we supported the development of public–private partnership (PPP) options for extending backbone connectivity to enable citizens of Somalia to emerge from poverty and conflict by using information and communication technologies(ICTs) for fostering employment and entrepreneurship. In Niger, a country where half of the population is not covered by mobile broadband, the Smart Villages for Rural Growth and Digital Inclusion Project aims to increase digital connectivity and to bring digital financial services to underserved areas.

    As part of our Caribbean Digital Transformation Project, we are connecting homes, schools, government offices, and businesses to each other and the rest or the world and aim to achieve the same results on the other side of the globe to improve the digital connectivity of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), one of the most remote and geographically-dispersed countries in the world.

    In Bangladesh, a World Bank-funded project had a transformational impact by establishing the country’s core digital government foundations (including the first national datacenter, cybersecurity center and enterprise architecture). The project contributed to create 35,000 jobs for youth (more than one third were women) and boosted the IT industry revenue by 160 percent.

    In Peru, where two out of three women experience intimate partner violence (IPV), we are using technology to prevent and respond to gender-based violence —as part our Peru Centralized Emergency Response System project—while improving the efficiency of response to emergencies and help line requests in the metropolitan areas of Lima and Callao.

    Through the Digital Development Partnership (DDP), we are building strong partnerships with the private sector to foster the creation and implementation of digital development strategies for our client countries. DDP’s upcoming reports on harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G will address the positive and negative impact of these disruptive technologies. In March 2020, Google joined DDP which brings the total number of partners to twelve. In the Summer of 2019, Israel and The Netherlands also joined the partnership.

    Achieving universal and affordable connectivity calls for an accelerated private-public collaboration. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), GSMA  (Global System for Mobile Communications Association) and World Economic Forum (WEF) have joined forces to develop an Action Plan to help governments cope with the current crisis and ensure that essential digital technologies are available to citizens and businesses. In partnership with CES, the world’s largest and most influential technology event, we have launched a Global Tech Challenge to bridge the digital gender divide.

    Approximately one billion people around the world are without any officially recognized ID which limits their access to services and opportunities. Through the cross-global practice Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D), we help countries transform lives through inclusive and trusted ID systems. The World Bank is supporting more than 40 countries to design and implement “good” digital ID and civil registration systems, often in collaboration with other development partners. This support includes more than US$1.2 billion in pipeline or committed IDA and IBRD financing for implementation. In Nigeria for example, the Nigeria Identification for Development Project will provide Nigeria’s poorest individuals with a way to uniquely identify themselves thus enabling them to access welfare-enhancing services such as social safety nets and financial inclusion. Nigeria ID4D will also protect individuals’ data by developing a harmonized and enforceable, data protection and privacy framework. In the Philippines, we have been advising on the introduction of the new Philsys ID system. This shows global leadership as the Philippines joins Morocco as an early adopter of open source software that incorporates privacy enhancing features to give individuals greater control over their personal data. We are also working with Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, and Niger in the West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion program. 

    Last Updated: Oct 27, 2020

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