What impact do development finance institutions (DFIs) like the IFC have on actual development? Today, George Yang and I release a paper that tries to take a sectoral approach to impact: does an IFC electricity investment lead to more power production per capita in a country, or financing provided to local banks lead to a larger proportion of people with a bank account?
CGD Policy Blogs
Can technology help? At the most basic level, a COVID ID would be a digitized version of the Yellow Card, the paper-based International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis that many international travelers carry with them traveling to and from high-risk areas of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust digital issues into the spotlight by highlighting the importance of government access to accurate and timely information for public health surveillance and accelerating the shift towards a digital-first approach in many countries, due to the need to provide services at a distance. It has also brought to the forefront difficult questions about the limits that should be placed on governments and companies that seek to use potentially sensitive data to monitor the spread of disease and target public health efforts.
Directing innovation to overcome barriers to development in the world’s poorest countries is surely a good use of aid, then. But who should decide the barriers to overcome, and how should the research and development be supported?
While the spread of COVID-19 overshadowed the launch of the first digital strategy from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in early April, the pandemic has also highlighted its significance by calling attention to the importance of access to digital technology and accelerating the global trend towards increased reliance on digital systems.
Increased reliance on digital tools to monitor the spread of disease raises serious questions about how to prevent governments from using those same tools to track individuals for other purposes after a health crisis has subsided.
The “more and better data” movement is based on the premise that well-intentioned governments can better serve the poor and vulnerable if they have basic information about them. Until recently, this notion would have seemed uncontroversial. But growing concern about the risks created by the misuse of data—particularly personal data—has led to a shift in attitudes in the development community.
Less than 45 percent of the area of Tanzania is covered by any form of cell phone reception. Telecom providers target high-population areas first, so the percentage of the population covered by the cell phone signal is 83 percent. But the problem is that the remaining 17 percent of the population, or 9.2 million people, is spread over 55 percent of the country—meaning the density of potential users is low. Especially because rural populations tend to be poorer than city dwellers, the revenue generated per cell tower may be too low to justify rollout.