Robots, tycoons and development cooperation

    Raj Kumar, president of Devex. Photo by: Devex

    At Devex, we report daily on the latest news and trends in global development. But rarely do we get the opportunity to look far into the future, to take the risk of predicting what might be coming not just one year but several years hence. I am thrilled to get the opportunity to do that this Monday at Georgetown University, where I will be delivering a presentation titled “Global Development 3.0.”

    There are still seats available and I don’t want to give it all away in this column for those of you who decide to attend in person, but let me offer this as a starting point: Development is going through a dramatic transformation.

    As I’ll explain in my remarks, the old order dominated by a few giant government-funded aid agencies will fall away in favor of a much more dynamic and competitive global marketplace. The ability for good ideas to attract funds from a variety of sources has already begun to spawn a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship in development. And there’s much more of that to come.

    New sources of funding are not the whole story. We are entering an era in development where results will matter more than ever before, in large part because they will become more measurable and more people will be paying attention. The many links in the long chain between an aid agency in Brussels and beneficiaries in Kigali will begin to break down. Increasingly, the near-middle class and even some of the poor will be connected to global markets via smartphones. Community health workers and agriculture extension officers will carry a world of expertise with them in the form of a tablet computer. Finding out if a project or initiative worked will become almost a question of just directly asking those it was meant to benefit.

    Looking years out at the development landscape, not all is rosy. But as the United States, Europe and Japan — long the world’s major sources of development aid and influence — face down budget crises and slowing economies, there is much reason to be optimistic about the coming global development paradigm. I plan to examine how everything from smartphones to tycoons to robots will make for a dramatically different time for those of us who call the development community home. And while it’s always risky to predict the future, I look forward to considering what might be around the bend with a panel of leaders who are themselves part of the biggest changes we’re seeing in development today.

    I hope you’ll join us, and share your thoughts on global development 3.0 next week in Washington and in the meantime, online by placing a comment below.

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    About the author

    • Raj Kumar

      Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community. He is the author of the book "The Business of Changing the World," a go-to primer on the ideas, people, and technology disrupting the aid industry.