Both of these institutions focus on almost like the public sector of a given country. Then we have the International Finance Corporation, which focuses on the private sector of a given country to help meet its goals, mobilizing private sector investment and provides technical advice. Then we have two other institutions that provide a different kind of financial support for these. Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency provides political risk insurance for private investors in foreign countries. So they come forward not worried about political risks and their money not being utilized well. Then we have the International Center for Settling Investment Disputes, which focus on settling disputes between countries. So these five institutions of the World Bank Group work towards two common goals, as we all know, which is to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity. So that goes with the background of the World Bank Group itself. So fundamentally what is that we do?
We are trying to help developing countries escape poverty and share prosperity. So how do we do that? We are not a profit making company. We do not sell products and services. We cannot compete in the private markets in that sense. So how do we operate? We mobilize money from various sources. We have many financial resources that come for help. One is our member countries subscribe for capital for voting rights. We borrow money through bonds from the capital markets at low interest rate, owing to a triple AAA credit rating that we have, and we also have donor contribution. So we mobilize financial resources from multiple channels and put them to use to help our developing countries that are in need of our financial assistance and technical advice and services. So this is what the World Bank Group does.
Now, how does it operate? Very critical and essential to the World Bank Group success are a couple of things. This information, which is the raw form of, as we call this data, the knowledge, and our workforce. Our workforce is nomadic. It’s a global workforce, always on the move. Reaching out to countries and going out to places that usually are not the most exciting for a regular person. With all of this, technology plays a very big role, not only for us but also our clients. We do help many of the developing countries in using technology to help their own internal processes and innovations. For example, we do help countries establish procurement systems as a grant and a technical advice. Then we are providing a loan to construct a bridge. Because it’s very important for us to ensure that the money is being spent efficiently and we’re able to trace the results. We’re able to control, we’re able to supervise the investment, and some of the developing countries may not be able to do that by themselves, so we help them.
And the other way we also help those, our IT colleagues do work with our operational staff and provide a lot of solutions that work on low bandwidth, low infrastructure because we are working with countries where infrastructure cannot be taken for granted. I remember back in early 2000s where in countries like Africa or India, text messages are the only best possible and accessible technology. So we have to help them come up with solutions that can work on low bandwidth infrastructure as well. While advanced countries like the United States and Europe may have a lot of modern technologies in place, innovating in a place where technology and infrastructure are not at its best actually increases the challenges for an organization like the World Bank Group in helping countries do that. So technology and innovation is part and parcel of what we try to do in helping various client countries in terms of agriculture, in terms of irrigation systems, wherever, whatever sector we work on, technology plays a role and we try to see how best to help utilize that.
Laurel: So considering that kind of breadth of client that you do have, what does the World Bank Group’s own IT modernization journey look like right now?
Vijay: So again, going back to the roots of the World Bank Group and how we operate and why we even exist. Yes, we are operating in an ever growing complex environment with a global workforce and we’re constantly operating under many constraints that come from within the organization and outside. So why do I say that? World Bank is constantly under a pressure to do more with less, as we call it. So we need to mobilize more finance, lot of finance, and continue to help the developing countries where the needs are constantly increasing. So in an ever-changing environment, by complexity, risk, and security threats with a global workforce, and the World Bank being under pressure to do more with less, we look to capitalize on technology to meet our mission and goals. So our business and IT go hand in hand to help deliver the World Bank Group’s mission.
So, what are we focusing on as IT modernization journey? Before I talk about what exactly we are doing, let me talk about what we’re aiming towards. We’re aiming towards enabling business to be more agile, be able to respond to the changing needs around us in a constrained environment quicker, help our staff be more productive, and collaborate from wherever they’re working from across the globe. And security and risk and data are key elements. Not to mention the continuous need for business intelligence and quick decision making. So with that said, our IT modernization journey is focusing on multiple streams. Data using modern technology, modernizing the platforms and modernizing the way our clients and our internal users can consume data is a critical aspect. It’s one element of data modernization where we’re moving our systems and data platforms to the cloud to be more accessible, more secure, and faster from low network parts of the world.
Then we are also focusing on systems that are our systems of record, like our human resources, our financial resource planning systems, our treasury and risk systems where we continuously have to make sure we hold a triple AAA credit rating, we are transparent, we are accountable, and we are able to trace every single dollar that comes in and goes out. So another segment of IT modernization is focusing on financial systems. Then we have project portfolio management systems where some other systems that help our external staff, when they say external staff that are always operating in the front lines. Modernizing operational systems to help them. And modernizing systems that are related to our back office. So we focus on IT modernization based on the business we are helping, and each of them will have a different flavor of modernization techniques and technology that need to come into play. But common to all of this is going to be agility, risk management, productivity, and quicker decision making.