Bridging The Gap Between Technology and International Development - Role of Stephen Davenport
Jul 01, 2020 11:54
As countries such as the United States, China, South Korea, Canada, and Japan are thriving, countries including Malawi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and many others are struggling with unstable economies, coping with natural disasters, and experiencing difficult living conditions. The world of today demands that developed countries assist the territories or countries of the third world. Existing world powers must extend their help to these countries in the form of foreign aid. The monetary assistance helps these struggling nations address problems and improve the conditions for its citizens.
Unfortunately, many nations fail to effectively manage these resources, which leads to challenges between the government and its constituents. Technical assistance provided by development professionals plays a crucial role in eliminating poverty in developing countries. From global health, financial management, and government infrastructure, these professionals are instrumental in building the capacity of developing country governments to implement better programs.
Stephen R Davenport IV, the Global Lead for Open Government and Citizen Engagement at the World Bank Group, is an international development professional who assists third world nations to establish stability. His focus is on the open government and transparency. He spent most of his childhood years in Haiti with his father. Haiti was his ' home away from home.'
COMING FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE HARSH REALITIES OF LIFE
Stephen R Davenport IV was born on April 22nd, 1971, to Episcopalian Reverend Stephen R Davenport III and Marilyn Burdorf in Murray, Kentucky. While all his friends were enjoying their summer break from school, Stephen would accompany his father to Haiti to help him with the development work building cisterns, schools for St. Etienne's Episcopal Church. He also accompanied his father in search of wells for drinking water in the mountain town of Buteau.
It was during this time he came face-to-face with a harsh reality. He pondered upon how the people living in developed countries take all those luxuries for granted. The citizens of developed countries do not even realize the degree of luxury they enjoy. By observing the lifestyle of people living in small and rural areas of Haiti, he realized that privileged people like himself take their luxuries for granted. He said, "I remember helping find new wells for drinking water…. As a 12-year-old, that experience was completely different from the life I was accustomed to. The things we take for granted in the U.S are a big deal in a country like Haiti, where the people have very little in the way of infrastructure…" Since then, his passion for helping those in need grew, and he was determined to be more involved.
COMBINING INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT WITH TECHNOLOGY
When Stephen was 11 years old, he, along with his family, relocated to Washington D.C from Kentucky. He attended St. Patrick's Episcopal Day School, where his father was the assistant rector. He then went to St. Stephens & St. Agnes School. From his early childhood years until his high school graduation, Stephen accompanied his father on his missions in Haiti. For college, he went to Washington and Lee University to complete his Bachelor of Science. After his graduation, Stephan stepped into the world of technology. Stephen started his career at KPMG in the United States in 1995, where he spent two years. The next company Mr. Davenport worked with was Computer Associates, where he also worked for two years. During his time at this company, he developed software for IBM in Brazil.
After spending five years in the technology sector, he decided to complete a Master's in International Business Administration from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. That same year, Stephen Davenport joined the IT department of the World Bank Group as a system engineer. His passion for helping the world deepened, and he realized that he could use his IT skills and develop smart solutions that could help in the international development sector. In the year 2002, he left the World Bank and became a part of a non-profit organization, Development Gateway. The year 2002 marked the start of his career in international development.
He started with the creation of the Aid Management Program (AMP) (link), which he completed by working in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (link). It was one of the first-ever technological solutions for the aid management international development sector. The program helped governments of the developing countries better manage the foreign aid they received from various donors. The purpose of the system was to help governments and development partners gather, access, and monitor information on development activities, to increase aid effectiveness. The system is now implemented in more than thirty countries.
AN ATTEMPT TO IMPROVE THE WAY GOVERNMENTS MANAGE FOREIGN AID
When in 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit the country of Haiti, Stephen was devastated after seeing the mass destruction it caused. The earthquake did not just destroy Haiti, but it had a significant impact on Stephen's mindset. As a result, he took the opportunity to implement smart tech tools to assist countries in better management and tracking of foreign aid.
After his promotion to Director, the first project he worked on was AidData (link). It was a collaborative project which offers the users a better chance to research how sustainable development investments are targeted, monitored, and evaluated. The team used rigorous methods, cutting-edge tools, and granular data to assist both policymakers and practitioners through collaboration with the research lab at William & Mary's Global Research Institute. Another project he worked on was Feedback Labs (link). It is a non-profit organization that has its focus on making feedback loops the norm in development, aid, philanthropy, and non-profits.
One of Stephen's most significant innovations was the OpenGov Hub (link), which had a thematic focus on open government, and unlike other Co-working spaces, or Hubs, was free from operational or financial struggles. As a nesting ground for Open Government reformers, the space allows a much stronger and concrete collaboration of experts. The system supports an open approach, 'OpenGov Hub aspires to be the day-to-day home to a range of people and organizations working on the open government agenda while also serving as a community gathering point for open government learning and networking activities in the Washington area.'
Stephen Davenport is actively working to improve the way international development is implemented with a focus on global transparency, accountability, results, citizen engagement, open government, open data, and open development agendas. The efforts of Mr. Davenport has led to notable open government reforms in Kenya, Argentina, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mongolia, and Kenya.
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