The FINANCIAL — The World Bank’s new ‘World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends’ was launched on February 17 at the Kazakh-Britain Technical University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Discussion of the report helps catalyze a shared vision for digital transformation among Central and South Asia government leaders, experts, and practitioners.
A discussion panel brought together world-renowned experts in public policy and technology, academics and development practitioners from Central and South Asia to share views on how to rapidly and sustainably deliver ‘digital dividends’ to everyone, including those at the bottom of the income distribution, according to the World Bank.
“The new World Development Report ‘Digital Dividends’ argues that as digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world, the digital dividends – the broader development benefits from using these technologies – have lagged behind. Digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery, but how can we work to ensure these benefits are fairly distributed?” says Zahid Hasnain, Senior Public Sector Specialist, co-author of the World Development Report 2016.
For digital technologies to benefit everyone requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access. But greater digital adoption will not be enough. To get the most out of the digital revolution, the World Development Report suggests that countries also work on the “analog complements” – by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by ensuring that institutions are accountable.
The landlocked countries in Central and South Asia have experienced important advances in improving their mobile telecommunications infrastructure. However, access to high speed Internet is still limited and costly for individuals and businesses, mostly because much of global Internet traffic bypasses this region.
At present, countries across Central and South Asia together with the World Bank are initiating several projects that will help accelerate the pace of development in the region.
The Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan Governments together with the World Bank ICT Team are developing a Digital CASA project, which aims to implement a regional cross-border approach to improve broadband internet connectivity in the landlocked countries of Central Asia and parts of South Asia by catalyzing the private sector investment in infrastructure, and modernizing relevant policies and regulatory frameworks so as to use synergy between telecom, energy, and transport infrastructure. At the regional level, the Project aims to connect the countries to a higher capacity pan-regional and intercontinental infrastructure, thus enabling the facilitation of the cross-border cooperation and the opportunity to act as the Europe-to-Asia transit hub for international connectivity. At the national level, the project will bring reliable and affordable Internet services to the citizens, link small and medium enterprises and workers to the global digital economy, and foster innovations in public services.
In Kazakhstan, the Government is envisioning a new transformational development program “Digital Kazakhstan 2020”, with expected technical support from the World Bank as well as assistance in mobilizing private investments and exploring opportunities of joining the Digital CASA project.
The World Development Report (WDR) is a flagship publication of the World Bank, and has been produced annually since 1979. Each year it focuses on a contemporary topic of interest to the broader development community—this year’s Report aims to expand our understanding of the impact of digital technologies on the lives of poor people in developing countries. The WDR 2016 (http://www.worldbank.org/wdr2016) documents many profound and transformational effects of digital technologies that are boosting growth, expanding opportunities and improving services.