Libya’s Digital Strategy
Libya is a country in North Africa. One of the largest countries in Africa, Libya has many deserts and is rich in culture and natural resources. There is a greater requirement for a digital lifestyle in today’s culture. The expanding digitalization in Libya is now undergoing exploitation effectively for the country’s benefit. Beginning on February 15, 2022, in New York, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Libya will concentrate on a new digital strategy to help communities and countries use digital technology as a tool to help combat and expand economic opportunity, promote diversity and reduce inequality. UNDP intends to keep up with the constantly evolving digital landscape and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with its daring new Digital Strategy 2022–2025.

Implementation

According to UNDP Libya, the strategy provides a three-pronged strategy for how UNDP would help countries profit from digital technology. First, UNDP will integrate digital into its work, experiment with new methods and technologies, scale up effective solutions and use foresight to comprehend potential futures in order to amplify development outcomes. Second, it will ensure that everyone is included in digital technology by making building more “inclusive digital ecosystems.” Third, UNDP will keep evolving and setting the bar high in order to satisfy present and foreseeable technical needs. To promote cooperation around the ethical and sustainable use of technology, UNDP will also interact with business entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, students and policymakers.

The Reason the Digital Strategy is Necessary

Libya has grappled with the problem of conflict since April 2019. Unfortunately, this has negatively affected Libya’s services such as electricity. According to a Human Rights Watch article, “The United Nations-recognized and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has been embroiled in an armed conflict with the rival Interim Government based in eastern Libya.” As a result, violence impeded the delivery of essential services, including power and health care. Armed groups on all sides persisted in carrying out illegal killings and indiscriminate shelling that killed civilians and destroyed crucial infrastructure.

In addition, when Libya’s provisional unity government formed in March 2021, internet freedom declined significantly. The population became less able to have access to the internet. The population grew adamant about better living conditions and less corruption in 2020 and as a result, local authorities throttled cell service. Libya has endured technological issues and the plan will guide UNDP’s efforts to address the new issues that the new digital environment brought on. There is also a large digital gap that UNDP is trying to diminish. There is a digital gap of about 2.9 billion people in developing countries and this consists mainly of women and children. Digital technology has the potential to amplify biases and further inequities if it is not used responsibly.

A Promising Future

Libya’s digital strategy has a strong potential for success. It will help Libya to benefit from a more digitized economy. According to UNDP Libya, “the strategy complements the U.N.’s global efforts to expand access to affordable broadband and enhance the digital capacity of key groups including women and people with disabilities – ultimately creating new opportunities like jobs while boosting human development.” Libya’s Digital Strategy is helping lessen the burden on the less fortunate by ensuring that everyone has access to digital futures, which can improve job opportunities and education.

– Frema Mensah
Photo: Flickr

Digital Economy
Many consider Laos one of the poorest countries in its surrounding region. However, its economy has significantly improved in the last 20 years, slowly connecting to the rest of the world digitally, especially as businesses were forced to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Laos has made progress to develop a digital economy, it is still lagging behind as accessibility, quality and affordability are currently issues for its citizens. Thankfully, the Lao Ministry of Technologies and Communications has recognized the need for Laos to develop digitally. In fact, several sectors of the Lao Government are partnering with USAID to allow businesses to access the SMART UP e-learning platform to help enhance their digital literacy.

The Larger Issue

Laos’ lag in digitalization results in a lack of transparency, increased procedural hurdles for investors, high costs for business and lacking public-service delivery for the government. Laos ranks 154 of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report as well as 117 of 132 in The World Intellectual Property Organizations 2021 Global Innovation Index. Around 80% of the country works for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in which an estimated 100,000 operate informally due to “time, fees and paperwork associated with registering.”

Much of this is due to the Lao PDR’s processes being inefficient, having higher costs and disincentivizing businesses to be part of the formal economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 78% of children in urban centers and 87.5% of children in rural areas could not access schooling. Around 48.9% of the population remained offline at the beginning of 2020. With 37.6% of the current population in urban areas and 64.2% in rural areas, Laos needs to increase its digitalization for its own development and to catch up with the rest of the world.

Efforts to Create a Digital Economy

The Lao Minister of Technologies and Communications Boveingkham Vongdara has acknowledged Laos’ need to accelerate and move into digital transformation with sustainable development. He claims the ministry is “promoting local language and creation of digital contents by developing fonts and keyboards that support the Lao language for computers and mobile devices.”

The Department of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion, Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Lao ICT Commerce association partnered with USAID to launch the SMART UP e-learning platform to help SMEs enhance their digital skills. SMART UP has eight modules that aim to help provide skills to businesses to enhance and promote themselves. It should help with digital literacy to help businesses become agile in the current economic environment, as well as to respond to digital development challenges so SMEs can survive as well as create new opportunities. With SMART UP helping SMEs and entrepreneurs, it will also create more jobs and opportunities for Lao citizens.

Within the first month of the launch, 373 users registered to use the SMART UP platform including 109 for Basic Accounting for SMEs, 63 in Digital Marketing for SMEs, 43 for Introduction to Data Analysis for SMEs, 35 in Full Stack Development, 34 in Multimedia for SMEs and 34 for Introduction to Digitalization. As a result, many small business owners have had a stronger foundation of knowledge in a quickly changing business environment.

Looking Ahead

While the COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges, it also presented opportunities for the Lao PDR to participate in the digital age and develop a digital economy. With its government recognizing the necessity for a digital economy and platforms such as SMART UP allowing citizens to become more digitally literate, Laos will elevate itself and create more opportunities for economic growth.

– Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Digital Gap in Latin America
As the World Economic Forum has noted, the COVID-19 “pandemic has exposed a deep digital divide” across the world. An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study from 2020 indicated that the digital gap in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) equated to “three in 10 people” who do not have access to the internet. The pandemic highlights the importance of the internet and digital technology in keeping businesses and people connected by allowing for continuous contactless services and transactions. The LAC region has made great strides in improving internet access and has developed creative ways to ensure that marginalized and low-income communities can access the internet.

Factors Influencing the Digital Gap in Latin America and the Caribbean

Many factors influence digital accessibility, including income levels and location. The internet gap between low and high-income households equates to roughly 40%. About 67% of urban households have internet connections in comparison to 23% of rural households. Evidently, the digital divide is deep, but the LAC region has committed to closing this digital gap.

4 Ways the LAC Region is Closing the Digital Gap

  1. Caribbean Digital Transformation Project. In June 2020, the World Bank approved a $94 million project to implement “an inclusive digital economy” in four Eastern Caribbean nations. The project’s goal is to “increase access to digital services, technologies and skills by governments, businesses and individuals.”
  2. Increasing Free Internet Access. Peru, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have introduced laws to increase free internet access. This includes providing “tablets to teachers and students” and developing more “free WiFi hotspots in public spaces.” These Latin American countries are also expanding “zero-rated services,” meaning that “certain government, health and education sites” do not count as data usage for users. In the past, the world typically viewed internet access and smart devices as luxuries, but this mindset is starting to change as more countries realize that digital inclusion is vital for social and economic development.
  3. Internet as an Essential Public Service. In July 2021, Colombia passed a law defining “the internet [as] an essential public service.” Colombian President Iván Duque explained that the importance of the internet for the nation is “comparable to that of water, electricity and gas.” With this law in place, telecommunication companies must “guarantee customers internet service and provide minimum browsing and free text packages during health and other emergencies.” Chile and Argentina passed similar decrees during the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws are a start in closing the digital gap in Latin America and the Caribbean and could be bolstered by lowering the cost of the internet in low-income countries.
  4. Public Service Kiosks. The digital divide between rural and urban households in the LAC region is especially wide. The Colombian government has set up Vive Digital, “a collection of kiosks” situated in rural communities across the country. The kiosks give people a connection to the internet and increase the accessibility of “e-learning and e-training services” in addition to “online public services.”

Societal Benefits of Addressing the Digital Gap in the LAC Region

Closing the digital divide in Latin America and the Caribbean is critical to improving educational, health and economic opportunities in the region. The World Bank has played an instrumental role in ensuring connectivity in countries such as Haiti and Colombia. In Haiti, the World Bank is assisting with the broadband connectivity needs of roughly “1,300 public institutions.” In Colombia, the World Bank is assisting the Colombian government with advancing  policy and regulations in order to “expand broadband access.”

  • Health Benefits: The digital gap in Latin America and the Caribbean has serious implications for health, particularly given the increased reliance on telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, which drew attention to this issue. The adoption of digital health initiatives better serves rural residents without easy access to a health care facility. In Colombia, approved telecare health services rose by 192% between January 2020 and September 2020.
  • Economic Benefits: Digital inclusion will allow rural and underserved regions to take advantage of economic growth opportunities. The Digital Economy in Latin America and the Caribbean project found that the prevalence of “business websites increased by 800% in Colombia and Mexico” between April and May 2020. During the pandemic, the region has seen an increase in the number of people and businesses using digital technology for teleworking, shopping and e-commerce.
  • Education Benefits: As a result of the pandemic, countless children in Latin America have missed out on education opportunities due to school closures and a lack of internet connectivity. Existing initiatives, such as the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) partnership with Sesame Workshop, seek to ensure a continuation of early education through educational content broadcasts via television.

The Future of Digital Technology

Many LAC nations are experiencing a boom in internet adoption and access as organizations and governments take the necessary steps to close the digital divide in the region. The COVID-19 pandemic not only reveals the educational and health gaps that exist in the LAC region but also presents an opportunity to transform health care and education systems and build infrastructure in order to dissolve barriers to growth and development.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

Geospatial Mapping
Without the help of development agencies, peacekeepers may always have to participate in the never-ending cycle of peacekeeping. With 50% of the world’s poor projected to live in counties where violence casts its constant shadow, peacekeeping efforts can only stand to scale, but at what cost, and to what end? Fortunately, technological advancements, such as geospatial mapping, can allow peacekeepers to help expand options for development agencies that danger constantly repels.

Accessibility to Hostile Territory

Lack of security defines development agencies’ diminishing hopes of lasting presence, demanding the perpetual presence of peacekeepers. Development projects thus deal with constant mission suspensions, limits on the number of authorized personnel and the inability to conduct crucial work. A review of relief operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria have recorded a multitude of resources in safer areas that are not in need due to reluctance to transgress into “red zones.”

Access limitations are not a characteristic of peacekeeping efforts for obvious reasons. Without development agencies in the arena of conflict, peacekeepers merely provide greater tolerance for conflict since development is not within their capacity, serving to encourage scaling conflict which exposes more poor people to violence.

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision Initiative (GEMS)

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision initiative (GEMS) facilitates for government agencies the ability to use tech innovations such as KoBoToolbox, an open-source data collection software that the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative developed, to amass data and analysis in states defined, at least in part, by conflict to improve monitoring and evaluation. Government representatives and partner organizations receive training to develop and mete out a platform for data collection that usually takes place during field visits and undergoes acquisition with the assistance of mobile devices and can cover any topic relevant to the goals of a project. Such a process helps developers monitor a project’s progress while maintaining safety.

How Geospatial Mapping Tools for Peacekeepers Works

Geospatial mapping tools for peacekeepers serve the relevant function of sharing categorized data regarding violence and insecurity to apprise development experts. These sorts of data collection efforts include identifying the number, type and intensity of violent occurrences in conflicted areas where peacekeepers often work.

Security maps in conjunction with poverty can provide development agencies the ability to develop access strategies for projects that specialize in the delivery of commodities to the poor who are in conflict. Because security administration is a public service, data that peacekeepers amass can help governments measure the degree of necessity regarding providing accountable and effective security services. Allowing peacekeepers of the U.N. the capability of strengthening their data-gathering capabilities aid the U.N. in determining its efficacy regarding deployments.

U.N. peacekeepers have made progress regarding the protection of civilians policy (POC) in recent years. Notwithstanding, peacekeepers will linger in a state of perpetual peacekeeping if systems that can monitor and evaluate progress fail to undergo initiation. These maps, which initiatives like GEMS are implementing, provide an advantage for peacemaking and development efforts.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Rawpixel

GoodDollar
GoodDollar is both the name of an Israeli cryptocurrency and a not-for-profit company launched in 2020. Cryptocurrency is an immaterial system of money that has secure coding. Additionally, people can exchange it virtually and governments do not control it. Yoni Assia is the mind behind the GoodDollar project and coin (G$), the virtual currency that intends to democratize the economy by working to promote universal basic income and reduce inequality. Universal basic income (UBI) is “a periodic cash allowance given to all citizens… to provide them with a standard of living above the poverty line.” Here is some information about how GoodDollar promotes universal basic income (UBI).

GoodDollar’s Mission

According to Forbes, 80% of the population owns only 6% of the world’s wealth, while the remaining 20% owns the rest. Against this unfair backdrop, GoodDollar is a potential game-changer through how it promotes universal basic income.

Yoni Assia believes that “too many underprivileged people are locked out of opportunities that could take them out of poverty, including access to capital markets and digital work opportunities. Therefore, the GoodDollar project aims to alleviate that by fostering financial inclusion and empowerment around the world.” The creator of GoodDollar is also the founder of eToro, a social trading company and platform, which is responsible for investing $1 million in the new cryptocurrency.

How GoodDollar Works

GoodDollar can benefit anyone who signs up and creates an account (a wallet). For that, people need to record a short video to ensure that they are real humans, not bots, and they can complete the entire sign-up process in less than 5 minutes. There are two groups of users, claimers and supporters. Claimers are people who benefit from free digital cash (G$) without the need to invest any amount, being allowed to claim it every day and use it to pay for goods, services and exchange it with friends. Up to now, 255,000 claimants have received G$180 million, totaling more than $20,000. Supporters are both companies or regular people that believe in the UBI cause and fund a mechanism that generates interest (the DeFi — decentralized finance, protocol).

Interest generates in a blockchain, a kind of extremely safe digital information record system, and becomes the reserve of G$ coins to that undergoes distribution among claimers and supporters. The supporters benefit not only from the interest generated by their initial staked amount, but also the interest generated on top of the previous interest rate. Currently, only small businesses accept G$ coins, and they are not very valuable. However, as more people join the GoodDollar movement, its value will rise.

Hope for GoodDollar’s Growth

“Inequality plagues the world. Let’s solve for it in our future,” is a statement on GoodDollar’s website. The company is still in its early stages, but getting ready to release version 2.0 of the GoodDollar protocol. In the first year of the second version, it plans to distribute around $47,000 worth of G$. AI Multiple’s review on GoodDollar points out that, to grow and make a real difference in its users’ lives, GoodDollar needs to have more supporters and a G$ reserve that grows “faster than the number of claimers.”

The more people use this cryptocurrency, the more valuable it will become. If “a public figure sheds a light on it via their social media platforms or accepts it as a payment method for a business product or service, that could boost its popularity.”

A Promising Future

The Forbes article discusses how basic income distribution could help to reduce the financial inequality that the pandemic exacerbated, and the GoodDollar team has been working hard to make it a reality someday. While the future of the project depends on a combination of factors, blockchain solutions like GoodDollar are undeniably promising and revolutionary economic models.

Tal Oron, GoodDollar project director, hopes that within a few years, “GoodDollar [will distribute] $2 a day per person, and, together, as a global community, without government support, raise hundreds of millions of people above the poverty line.” The way that GoodDollar promotes universal basic income will only benefit people globally.

– Iasmine Oliveira
Photo: Flickr

Data Center in LoméIn July 2021, the African country of Togo took another step in its efforts of digital transformation and economic progress as it opened Togo’s first data center in the capital city of Lomé. The construction of the data center in Lomé began three years ago and was funded by a loan from the World Bank and the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Project. The facility is part of the government’s plan for economic development and digital advancement. As Togo attempts to cement itself as a West African hub, Togo has risen about 50 spots in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report in the last couple of years.

Poverty and Economic Development in Togo

Togo has made strides in growth leading up to 2020, but even pre-pandemic, past poverty levels were still high. More than half of the population has been living under the poverty line for years prior to the pandemic, according to the World Bank. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation have lent the government a hand in improving conditions for its people by putting resources into the financial, energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors, which played a major role in Togo’s jump from 137th to 97th place in the Doing Business 2020 report.

Digital Transformation of Togo’s Economy

With investments into Togo’s digital economy and infrastructure, the country plans to grow in its wholesale broadband market and cheapen service costs for its people. The government aims for a complete structural reformation of the Togolese economy. In the hopes of job creation and modernization of key institutions, Togo’s data center was constructed as a part of the long-term investment into digital technology.

Hawa Cissé Wagué, the World Bank resident representative for Togo, tells the World Bank that the pandemic has displayed the necessity of increasing Togo’s digital infrastructure in order to improve services and economic productivity. So far, Togo’s data center and its development have mildly restored its reputation and its future looks bright as foreign investment ramps up with a number of prominent banks in the region choosing to operate and do business within Togo.

Impact of the Data Center in Lomé

The secure, quality and reliable nature of the advanced technology makes the investment into the data center significant in the long run for the Togolese economy. The locally stationed data center will directly impact the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities within the facility itself but it will also have a ripple effect and extend throughout the country, according to government plans. Distributed data centers offer lower transaction costs as well as convenience when it comes to digital regulations. The centers also come with lower geopolitical risks and are safer for data storage.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr