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?
CGD Policy Blogs
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.
The ability to make payments on a mobile phone has transformed peoples’ lives, especially in developing countries. But what lies ahead for mobile money and its applications for financial inclusion? That may depend on who is using it.
The participation of women in the Nigerian tech sector is low. In a survey of tech firms conducted by the ONE Campaign and the Center for Global Development, only about 30 percent were owned by women, mostly concentrated in e-commerce and enterprise solutions. Of women-owned firms, the median share of ownership is 20 percent. Tech firms do not employ many women either—31 firms in our sample employ no women at all. The median value is two female employees per firm.
A new survey of Nigerian tech firms from CGD and the ONE Campaign brings new data on the challenges and opportunities for the tech sector.
Despite a broad recognition that increased access to financial services can bring significant benefits to the poor, catalyzing economic development, financial inclusion in emerging markets and developing economies continues to lag far behind expectations.
Information and communication technologies have been rewiring the global economy for more than a quarter of a century. However more is known about tangible goods than about the growing intangible flows between nations. Multinationals have long allocated their financial transactions, leases, and intellectual property across economies based on a number of considerations, including to reduce their tax payments. These internal transfers are quite opaque. And two newer phenomena related to the digitalisation of economic activity are making it particularly difficult to analyse the modern global economy: contract manufacturing and cloud computing.