New surveys reveal dynamism, challenges of open data-driven businesses in developing countries

Open data for economic growth continues to create buzz in all circles.  We wrote about it ourselves on this blog site earlier in the year.  You can barely utter the phrase without somebody mentioning the McKinsey report and the $3 trillion open data market.  The Economist gave the subject credibility with its talk about a ‘new goldmine.’ Omidyar published a report a few months ago that made $13 trillion the new $3 trillion.  The wonderful folks at New York University’s GovLab launched the OpenData500 to much fanfare.  The World Bank Group got into the act with this study.  The Shakespeare report was among the first to bring attention to open data’s many possibilities. Furthermore, governments worldwide now routinely seem to insert economic growth in their policy recommendations about open data – and the list is long and growing.

Map

Geographic distribution of companies we surveyed. Here is the complete list.

We hope to publish a detailed report shortly but here meanwhile are a few of the regional findings in greater detail.

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All things to all people: what the Internet means to our lives

It is difficult to imagine our world without the Internet. Apart from online social media, cat videos, online banking, and Wikipedia-fueled homework assignments, the Internet underpins financial transactions and economic activities around the world. Without it, airlines, banks and stock markets would be unable to coordinate in real-time their global or — in many cases — their national and local interactions. However, like many global concepts, the Internet is sometimes too large and too complex an idea and infrastructure; it is all things to all people.


People work on computers at a busy
Internet center in Accra, Ghana.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst / World Bank

What does the Internet mean to the lives of its users? There are a number of interesting reports and studies available to answer this question. However, I thought it might be useful to pose this question to some of its users.

For this, I used the Mechanical Turk (MT) platform, created by Amazon. MT is, as Amazon pithily explains, “artificial artificial intelligence.” It has hundreds of thousands of workers distributed globally who respond to small tasks, such as image categorization or surveys, and are paid once their work is accepted by the requestor. MT is technically classified as a ‘microwork’ platform; it takes a larger task, dividing it up among an anonymous and distributed workforce via the Internet, and aggregating results.

Who better to ask a question on how the Internet has changed one’s life than those who use the Internet as a source of income? And this is what I did.

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Can urban innovation ecosystems be developed with little broadband infrastructure?

We are witnesses the surge of tech startup ecosystems in cities globally.  This is happening in both developed and developing countries.  In my previous blog post I showed this trend and the studies that confirm it. Among the questions we are looking for in our research to map urban innovation ecosystems is whether there is a minimum set of requirements for these ecosystems to emerge.  A minimum set of infrastructure or skills of the population, for instance.  What we are encountering is that, although you need a minimum level of infrastructure, e.g., there must be at least some broadband connectivity and mobile phone networks, this level is much lower than many people expect.  A city does not need to have 4G mobile broadband or fiber optic fixed broadband widespread.  It is enough to have broadband connection in some key points (particularly hubs and collaboration spaces) and basic mobile phone coverage and use, e.g., 2G mobile phone service.  A similar conclusion is applicable to the skill level of the population.   The results of the study of New York tech ecosystem shows that almost half of the employment created by the ecosystem do not require bachelor’s degree.  In this blog post I present the case of Nairobi and the tech start up ecosystems emerging in Africa and how these ecosystems can not only surge, but compete internationally despite having limited broadband connectivity (both mobile and fixed).  This is also part of the paper I am working out and the research we are doing on urban innovation ecosystems.


Map of Accelerators and Collaboration Spaces in Nairobi. Source: Manske, Julia. 2014. Innovations Out of Africa. The Emergence, Challenges and Potential of the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem.

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2014 edition of the Social Institutions and Gender Index: tackling the root causes of gender inequality is possible and is key to counteracting the negative domino effects of inequality throughout a woman’s life, says the OECD Development Centre

2014 edition of the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI): tackling the root causes of gender inequality is possible and is key to counteracting the negative domino effects of inequality throughout a woman’s life, says the OECD Development Centre
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Categorizing the collaboration and community promotion spaces that make urban innovation ecosystems tick

A variety of collaboration spaces are spreading across urban innovation ecosystems. This makes sense intuitively, because collaboration spaces create and — in some cases — manage and sustain the communities that make the ecosystem exist and grow.


Collaboration space in Barcelona, Spain.
​Photo: Victor Mulas

I believe that collaboration spaces are, in fact, one of the key elements to create and grow urban innovation ecosystems in cities. Our current research in mapping urban innovation is starting to provide results that seem to validate this hypothesis. We are seeing that collaboration spaces that create and manage communities are critical nodes of city urban innovation ecosystems.

We will share more results about this analysis in future blogs but given the relevance of these spaces, I summarized what I believe are the most relevant categories of collaboration spaces. This list, which I prepared for a paper I am working on, is not prescriptive and it is not closed by any means. To the contrary, it just presents a starting point and I welcome comments to expand and refine these categories.

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Makers and education, part one: how are disruptive technologies affecting the way we educate?

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Girls learning how to design and make a toy with a laser cutter, which increases
interest in STEM career options. Photo: Saori Imaizumi/World Bank Group

Affordable, accessible technologies can democratize opportunities for EVERYONE to become innovators and inventors. Countries can take advantage of this opportunity to create new jobs, new industry and skilled workers to achieve further economic growth and increase competitiveness. Also, preparing citizens with problem solving skills and entrepreneurial mindsets helps solve various social problems in the country in an innovative manner.

In a 2013 report entitled “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” the McKinsey Global Institute identified 12 potentially economically disruptive technologies, including mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and advanced materials.


Team-based learning through
technologies. Photo: Saori
​Imaizumi/World Bank Group

​I touched upon how these disruptive technologies and low-cost technologies affect the pedagogy of skills development and education, as well as their implications for international development in my previous blogs (New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills and What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?) and a feature story (Communities of “Makers” Tackle Local Problems).

Elaborating on these posts, I will explore the topic on “how can kids, youth and adults prepare in response to rapid technological changes” from the pedagogy and institutional model perspectives. My analysis is derived from the lively discussion that I recently attended on “Exploring 3D Printing for Development,” organized by IREX and my work at the World Bank.

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Patents for humanity: Special edition of Technology and Innovation

How universities and government are reaching the next billion people

The current special issue of Technology and Innovation, is devoted to patents that benefit people around the world who live with limited resources, in challenging environments, and are in need of better access to basic needs and improved standards of living, health and infrastructure.

The issue includes original articles from winners of the 2013 USPTO Patents for Humanity Awards, aimed at rewarding innovators for deploying patented technologies to address humanitarian needs. Winners featured in the issue include SIGN Fracture Care International, the University of California, Berkeley and Nokero International Ltd.

Other institutions represented include the University of South Florida (USF); University of Toronto; Institute for Regulatory Science; University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and Technopolis Group Austria on behalf of the European Patent Office. Read more

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