Innovation for development in Africa: Focus on the public sector

23 May 2017 by Marc Lepage, UNDP Africa regional innovation expert

Innovation in the public sector often occurs as a pressing need arises for a solution that would deliver improved services with tighter budgets, to citizens with increasingly higher expectations. Photo: UNDP Burundi
Over the years there have been many definitions of innovation, which unfortunately left the concept rather belabored. The reality is that it is a journey that governments and public sectors need to undertake – with the aim to change the lives of citizens. For us at UNDP, it is summed up by three principles: 1) No innovation happens in isolation. Innovation exists within a particular context, and is usually prompted and driven by a the ‘need to do better’. 2) Innovation is not high-tech. Innovation is 5% technology and 95% imagination. At a practical level, it is about analysing pressure points and thinking about creative ways of dealing with that. 3) Steal with pride (and learn). In many instances, what constitutes the best knowledge would not be in our immediate or usual environment. It is highly advantageous to venture outside our comfort zone and explore partnerships for improved performance. Innovation in the public sector is not very different from other sectors. It often occurs as a pressing need arises for a solution that would deliver improved services with tighter budgets, to citizens with increasingly higher expectations. … Read more

Do more than make some noise…

28 Feb 2017 by Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director, HIV, Health and Development Group, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

UNDP is working with governments, civil society, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination, which often prevent people from seeking testing and treatment. UNDP photo
The theme of this year’s Zero Discrimination Day is make some noise. Raising our voices in solidarity for compassion, diversity, equality, inclusion and tolerance is core to our common humanity. Today we renew our commitment to achieving a world free of stigma and discrimination and a world where no one is left behind. History has taught us that noise can be a powerful tool. Today we pay tribute to the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Intersex) community, people living with HIV and their friends, lovers, family members and allies who courageously mobilized to push past the chronic indifference and fear that characterized the early days of AIDS. Their tenacious advocacy means that today we have 18.2 million people on life-saving treatment and communities continue to hold governments to account, claiming their rights to participation, non-discrimination, information, access to treatment and new prevention technologies like pre-exposure prophylaxis. The global AIDS response has also taught us that noise alone is not enough. Without the elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination wherever it may be found – in families, communities, workplaces or health care settings - we will not succeed in ending the suffering caused by this epidemic. … Read more

How a2i is using empathy to foster innovation in Bangladesh

21 Feb 2017 by Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser, Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh and Nick Beresford, Country Director, UNDP Cambodia

a2i (short for access to information) helps government officials analyze and redesign workflows within and between ministries. It has established over 5,000 Digital Centres providing internet access throughout the country.
In the last eight years, Bangladesh has established a new development paradigm through its approach to socio-economic development which is high growth yet inclusive, self-reliant yet collaborative, and respectful of heritage yet ambitious in its use of new technologies. The country has moved up to low middle income status but, more importantly by human development indicators it has achieved a level of development commonly predicted for twice its per capita income. The Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 agenda – the country’s launch pad for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – is a long-term vision of poverty reduction and human development anchored in govpreneurship (entrepreneurship by the government) and hopes to empower Bangladeshis to co-create solutions to development challenges. Within this, a2i Public Service Innovation Lab+ was established by the Prime Minister’s Office with support from UNDP in 2007 to ensure easy, affordable and reliable access to quality public services which harnesses (but is not limited to) the power of digital. Bangladesh has significant advantages when it comes to harnessing new technologies, particularly as around 50 percent of the population is under the age of 24. Many of these youths have or will have jobs in industries that didn’t exist 20 years ago. They might be app developers, cloud computing experts, block chain specialists or big data analysts. … Read more

Why should you care about public procurement reform?

15 Dec 2016 by Doyeun Kim, Communications Focal Point, UN Development Business

Public procurement accounts for more than 30 percent of GDP in developing countries and 10 percent to 15 percent in developed countries, according to the International Trade Centre. Photo: UNDP
Public procurement reforms have been rolling out since the 1990s in Africa. Targeting better efficiency – but also more accountability and integrity – in the management of public resources, these reforms can shape procurement into a powerful agent for development. In the past year, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Somalia, Malawi and Zimbabwe have benefited from projects financed by the World Bank and the African Development Bank in which procurement reforms were part and parcel of larger public sector management goals. Internal efforts, as well as assistance from international development agencies, are focusing on professionalizing and building capacity in national procurement systems. These efforts are consistent with the goals of good governance and prevention of corruption in the use of public funds, and they are also increasingly being linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, because public procurement can be used as a tool for achieving and sharing prosperity. What is public procurement? Public procurement, or the purchase of goods, works or services by public institutions, accounts for more than 30 percent of GDP in developing countries and 10 percent to 15 percent in developed countries, according to the International Trade Centre. It also accounts for a large percentage of government expenditures, in some countries covering more than half of government spending. Its economic significance is evident. … Read more

Managing the refuse of the refused

03 Feb 2016 by Alper K. Doğan, Chief Technical Consultant of Mitigating the Impact of Syrian Crises on Southeast Anatolia Region Project - UNDP

waste management in TurkeyLooking at current waste management practices in the town of Elbeyli, Turkey. Photo: Alpert K. Doğan
Imagine yourself as the mayor of a small border province in Southeastern Anatolia five years ago. It is a big day for you. After years of petitions, meetings, and a heavy financial burden you are about to open a sanitary landfill site to serve your community for at least 25 years. You and your team are proud to make a lasting contribution both to the community and environment. You are reading about the events in neighboring Syria but hopeful that the conflict will end soon. Your heart is with them, as you think maybe of the distant relatives of yours living in Aleppo. Then refugees begin to arrive. First in a trickle, then a flow. Camps are erected, and you do your best to fulfill basic needs and cooperate with relevant government offices. You feel a little bit tired, but satisfied knowing that you’re helping out a neighbour in need. … Read more

Protecting and ensuring space for civil society

14 Sep 2015 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, New York

 For an individual to fully belong to and be recognized in society they must have the most basic legal documentation to which they are entitled by law. Sri Lankans register for birth certificates and National Identiy Cards (NIC) at a mobile legal aid clinic. Photo: UNDP in Sri Lanka
This year’s theme for the International Day of Democracy, “Making Space for Civil Society”, is extremely timely. Reports by many civil society organisations and networks – many of which are echoed in the recently released State of Civil Society Report 2015 by CIVICUS – point to the worrying number of at least 96 countries where serious threats to civic freedoms were reported in 2014. The scale and the depth of these threats is of great concern. I agree with UNDP’s Civil Society Advisory Committee, whose “first and foremost concern is the shrinking legal, policy and participatory space for civil society activists and organizations, in an increasing number of countries across regions and political regimes.” While it was once true that countries in crisis and post-conflict periods are the ones where civil societies have been most at risk, we now see similar threats spreading across a range of development contexts. … Read more

Youth: not simply human beings, but human becomings

26 Aug 2015 by Jon Hall, Policy specialist, Human Development Report Office

youth in ZambiaZambian youth at a UNDP consultation. Investment in youth and their input is crucial to long-term and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Zambia
It is important to remember that considering development from a youth perspective is not always straightforward. Even defining exactly when someone should be considered “young” can be tricky and varies between reports. Listening to the views of young people will almost certainly require an investment of time and money, so development policies that are formulated with the input of young people will cost more to develop. But those policies will almost certainly work better and last longer, as today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders. … Read more

A look behind the protective gear reveals the faces of Ebola

08 Jul 2015 by Anthony Headley, Communication Specialist, UNDP in Guinea

ebolaPhoto posters of Ebola workers from the Inside Out project are showcased on the UNDP Common House in Conakry, Guinea. Photo: Anthony Headley/UNDP Guinea
Forécariah is a grueling 3.5 hour drive out of Guinea’s capital, Conakry. Although the road is only 100 kilometers, it is bustling with life. Between the potholes, the markets take over the two-lane highway’s flat surface. You could furnish your apartment just sitting in one of these notorious traffic jams in Guinea! The excitement of the road mirrored what I was feeling about my mission once I arrived in Forécariah. Sitting in the traffic, I thought about my destination, not knowing what to expect and anticipating their reactions. I had chosen to take the portraits of the people who work in Ebola treatment centers. To show the faces of those everyone has seen, but who have mostly appeared in their astronaut-looking suits, under their personal protective equipment. … Read more

How can we achieve universal access to water and sanitation?

10 Apr 2015 by Jean-Philippe Bayon, Expert/Coordinator, UNDP-Global Water Solidarity

 Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Bannu, Pakistan gain access to water through a UNDP-supported project. Photo: UNDP/Pakistan
Water is essential for local development, particularly for sectors such as health, agriculture, economic development, education and environment. But too often potential donors work in silo without taking into account the heritage of existing projects or understanding the available expertise on the ground. … Read more

Will Cinderella be at the 2015 Development Ball?

19 Dec 2014 by Max Everest-Phillips, Director, UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence

woman and child in Darfur clinicA mother and child visit a doctor at Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur. Public service officials must be given a voice if the post-2015 agenda is to be realized. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID
It’s that season again.  Artificially orchestrated good cheer generating excessive consumption followed by a bad headache – and that’s just fiscal policy.  Then at New Year widespread indulgence in resolutions that won’t be kept. It is enough to make anyone a bit gloomy. But, as ever, missing from the dance floor will be the least understood and most under-appreciated people in the whole development enterprise – those dedicated public officials who actually do most of the work.  These unacknowledged heroes who delivered the MDGs, and who will be the rock-bed for implementing the SDGs in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, are  struggling every day to deal with contradictory political instructions and irreconcilable directives, to ‘do more with less’. The morale of public officials almost everywhere around the world has been in decline for thirty years. Derided for decades for lacking the private sector dynamism, these same officials are being told to ensure that public institutions be inclusive, participatory, and accountable; that laws and institutions protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; that everyone be free from fear and violence, without discrimination; that democratic, free, safe, and peaceful societies provide access to fair justice systems, combat corruption and curb illicit financial flows, and the … Read more