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World Bank Helps Bangladesh Modernize Safety Net Programs

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Today, the government of Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank to improve the equity, efficiency and transparency of its major safety net programs.

The $245 million additional financing to the Safety Net Systems for the Poorest Project will help improve beneficiary targeting, information management, and benefit payment of the country’s five large safety net programs. These are: the Employment Generation Program for the Poorest, Work for Money, Test Relief, Vulnerable Group Feeding, and Gratuitous Relief. Implemented by the Department of Disaster Management, these programs collectively reach over 9 million poor and vulnerable households.

In FY 2017, Bangladesh spent around $3.5 billion on social protection, which was about 1.4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. To ensure effective use of public resources, the World Bank is supporting the country to build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programs.

An integrated social protection service delivery system will help ensure equity, build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest population. At the same time, it will reduce administrative efforts, costs and errors,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “Efficient and transparent delivery of social assistance to the right households at the right time will help Bangladesh reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.

Currently, only the Employment Generation Program for the Poorest Program is administered with a management information system. The program also pilots digital payment of benefits to the target beneficiaries. The financing will help digitization of the other safety net programs as well as scale up digital payments using various technologies.

The financing will also help the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) to complete the country’s first universal poverty registry – the National Household Database. The database will be integrated with information systems of various ministries and agencies to use for beneficiary selection purposes. For this, BBS has already completed data collection in Barisal, Rangpur and part of Mymensingh divisions. This month, BBS will start data collection in Dhaka and Chittagong divisions.

The government of Bangladesh is committed to strengthen its safety net management and oversight capabilities by developing an integrated social protection service delivery system, in line with recommendations of the National Social Security Strategy 2015,” said Kazi Shofiqul Azam, Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “The additional financing is a critical milestone in this process.

Kazi Shofiqul Azam and Qimiao Fan signed the agreement on behalf of the government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, respectively, at the Economic Relations Division. With this additional financing, World Bank support to the project now stands at $745 million. The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm. The credits are interest-free and repayable in 38 years, including a 6-year grace period, and carry a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed close to $27 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

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UNIDO at Hannover Messe 2018

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) again had a strong presence at the annual Hannover Messe, the world’s leading industrial trade fair which attracts over 6,500 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors. UNIDO has participated in the Hannover Messe every year since 2015 to provide a platform where institutions and industrial enterprises from its Member States can promote themselves at this important international trade setting.

Fulfilling one of its core functions of convening stakeholders and brokering partnerships for knowledge transfer, networking and industrial cooperation, this year UNIDO organized a variety of events.

At the UNIDO stand in the Global Business Markets Section, the UNIDO Director General LI Yong welcomed co-exhibitors representing UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Offices in Germany, Korea and Nigeria, as well as those representing Subcontracting and Partnership Exchange centres in Cameroon, Colombia, Iran and Mozambique.

Li stressed that “participation in international events such as Hannover Messe serves as an opportunity for the organization to actively promote its work in the field of international trade, investment promotion and technology development and highlight UNIDO’s role in helping its Member States to implement the Sustainable Development Goals that form part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’’.

During the morning of 25 April, UNIDO together with the United Arab Emirates organized promotional events on the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) around the theme, ‘Finding innovative solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals: Role of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies’. These included a panel discussion and TEDx-style talks on ways manufacturing firms, governments, academia, and non-governmental organizations can collaborate to harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); and elevator-style pitches by three start-ups from developing countries presenting their renewable energy innovations.

At a gala dinner later the same day, Director General LI participated in the launch of the Initiative for Global Prosperity (IGP), which has evolved within the framework of the GMIS. The IGP aims to inspire innovators worldwide to design technological solutions to pressing global development issues, using existing knowledge on robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and automation.

On the margins of the Hannover Messe, Director General Li met with Jochen Köckler, member of the Managing Board of Deutsche Messe, to reiterate their commitment to work together to support Member States on trade and investment promotion, Industry 4.0 and technology transfer for developing countries.

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ADB to Help Improve Water Governance, Develop Regional Urban Investment Plan for Mongolia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide two technical assistance (TA) grants totaling $2.5 million to help the Government of Mongolia strengthen water governance at the river basin level and prepare a development investment program for aimag and soum centers in the country.

The agreements were signed by Batkhuu Idesh, Director General of the Development Financing Department of the Ministry of Finance, and Yolanda Fernandez Lommen, ADB Country Director for Mongolia, at a ceremony in Ulaanbaatar. First Secretary Hiroshi Fukasawa from the Embassy of Japan in Mongolia witnessed the event. Representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development also participated.

“Mongolia’s future development rests heavily on how it manages its resources and achieve sustainable development driven by a multisector economy and ecological balance,” said Ms. Fernandez Lommen. “Both projects are aligned with ADB’s Country Partnership Strategy for Mongolia, which supports the government’s efforts to foster inclusive growth, improve people’s access to services, and strengthen environmental sustainability.”

The $1 million water governance TA grant aims to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of investments in the water sector and infrastructure in the country to provide socioeconomic benefits. The project will assess the current status of water governance standards, provide policy recommendations for legislative and institutional reforms, and develop and update management plans for river basins. It will strengthen and build capacity among government agencies, and assess the potential scaleup and replication of water security approaches for river basins.

The regional development TA grant for the aimag and soum centers is worth $1.5 million. It will help the government develop an investment program to improve basic urban services and promote the local economy in selected aimag capitals and soum centers. The program will focus on regional urban clusters that have the potential to build a more resilient and diversified economy to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth. The TA will support the preparation of the investment program, such as the formulation of economic and urban development strategies, feasibility studies, and measures that will enhance aid effectiveness and project readiness.

The two projects are funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction. Over the past 19 years, the fund has supported projects in Mongolia in poverty alleviation, community development, improving livelihoods, and safeguarding the environment.

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Data USA adds more than 7,300 profiles of higher education institutions to visualization platform

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Data USA has released new data visualization profiles summarizing the costs, demographics, debt, acceptance rates, financial aid, and endowments of more than 7,300 universities and higher education institutions in the US. The visualizations make available data from the US Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS).

Data USA is a free, open data platform created in collaboration between Deloitte, MIT, and Datawheel. Data USA integrates, visualizes, and distributes data from multiple public sources and has grown in its first two years to more than 300,000 monthly users, becoming one of the main sources for Americans to access public data.

“The new university profiles will allow students, parents, and school counselors, to understand the cost, demographics, and career opportunities of thousands of US universities,” said César Hidalgo, director of MIT’s Collective Learning group and a co-founder of Datawheel.

“Whether you are a student or parent, researcher, journalist, employer, or curious citizen, these new data visualizations offer greater insights into the composition of colleges and universities around the country and the integral role they play in the overall job market,” said Matt Gentile, principal, Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP, and one of the Data USA project lead sponsors. “With the vast amounts of open government data, we’re closing the gap in making that data useful, understandable, and actionable.”

“IPEDS data is extensive, but to most individuals who are not thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of the formats involved, translating the raw data into useable information is a daunting task,” said Jeff Bradfield, National Practice Leader for Higher Education, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “With this new interface, the data is now more accessible to people inside and outside the higher education community.”

The new higher education profiles provide a robust amount of data visualizations, including:

  • Admissions and financial aid
  • Majors, time to complete degrees, and jobs of graduates
  • Diversity of student and faculty populations
  • Staffing, expenses, and operations

Additionally, the individual institution profiles that also include automatically generated comparison data from peer institutions.

Data USA is the most comprehensive visualization engine for shared US government data to date, aggregating and visualizing publicly available data from multiple sources including the Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, the Census, and Department of Education, among others.

Data USA is freely available and users can browse the data and gain insights using filters or target their view using search tools. The code is open source, and the platform is scalable, allowing for new data to be added. Application developers can build on the Data USA platform using the API and integrate additional data for custom use.

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