2017 development predictions: how did we do?

21 December 2017

There might have been a few less hair-raising shocks than in 2016, but 2017 still proved to be an interesting and, in some ways, unexpected year.

At the start of the year we compiled a list of predictions for the development sector – so which were right and which missed the mark?

Emergency aid is broken. Insurance will help us fix it.

As predicted by Theodore Talbot and Owen Barder, 2017 has seen numerous initiatives merging insurance and aid. 

The cost of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was an estimated $2.8billion, and it took three months for aid money to start flowing to the areas affected. DFID estimates that if money had begun to reach the hardest hit areas sooner the cost of the intervention would have been just $5million, not to mention the countless lives that would have been saved. 

The Centre for Global Disaster Protection, unveiled by the UK government in July, aims to use the wealth and expertise of the City of London to strengthen financial systems and build insurance markets in poorer countries. The project sees a move towards a model of resilience, rather than the “react to disaster when it strikes” method.

In August the World Bank launched its first “pandemic bond”, providing more than $500million of coverage against pandemics in the next 5 years. Investors in the bond act like insurance companies, paying out if an event triggers the release of the bond. The amount paid out will depend on the size, number of countries affected, and growth rate of the pandemic. Proving incredibly popular, the bond transaction was oversubscribed by 200%.

2017 also saw the creation of the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, a partnership made up of governments, insurance industry specialists, international organisations and civil society. It’s estimated that the total cost of disasters for 77 of the poorest countries is $29billion - a third of the world’s total ODA. The Partnership aims to build upon and scale up disaster risk finance and insurance solutions, allowing developing countries to gain access to faster, more reliable funding, improving their resilience and disaster response.

This prediction is starting to become reality, but 2018 may see the first big test for whether these partnerships and projects are really the resilience solution that we’ve been waiting for.

Cybersecurity and data security become mainstream concerns

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport released a report [PDF] in August highlighting charities’ lack of awareness around cybersecurity. With the charity operating environment already under scrutiny, the risk to charity reputations from hacks or data leaks is high. Alan Sugar saw the value in cybersecurity when he invested in cybersecurity recruitment expert James White during this year’s The Apprentice final, so why are charities still so far behind?

On the other hand, an Institute of Fundraising report in September [PDF] suggested that three quarters of charities are preparing for the incoming GDPR changes. This is a positive step towards charities becoming more aware of the potentially damaging nature of both data storage, and the data itself.

Though still in the early stages, charities are beginning to look at how blockchain can improve their financial management. Blockchain can make supply chains more transparent, make transferring funds easier, and has even been utilised in a refugee camp, helping the World Food Programme account for purchases made by refugees.

Unconditional Basic Income becomes a leading policy idea

The idea behind Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is that everyone should receive a regular, modest payment from the government, regardless of their situation. Supported by an unlikely tribe of groups including trade unionists, the libertarian right and the Silicon Valley tech scene, the movement says that UBI is necessary if people are to survive the modern economy where artificial intelligence is on the rise and robotics are set to replace traditional blue-collar jobs.

Finland’s pilot scheme will see 2000 of its citizens given £473 every month for two years. Though unemployed at the start of the scheme, recipients don’t have to show that they are seeking employment, prove that they need the money, or give it up if they find a job. They can spend the money on anything they like. Though the scheme has only been in place since the start of the year, recipients have already stated that their stress is decreased, they have greater incentives to find a job, and they are able to pursue their own businesses. 

A number of other pilots have also been carried out by governments, such as in Ontario, and NGOs, but there is still a lack of widespread uptake of the scheme. Sonia Sodha suggests that perhaps “robots will steal all our jobs” will follow the pattern of other classic takes such as “the wheels will steal our jobs”. But we can’t ignore that the future of work is changing, and that has potential ramifications on traditional workers in both the developing and the developed world.

So this prediction has proven to be half-right – the idea is becoming more popular but there is a long way to go before it is widely accepted, and even further before it becomes a reality. 

Discuss responding to emergencies, blockchain and development, the future of livelihoods and much more at the Bond Conference, 26-27 February.

About the author

Beatrice Waddingham

Beatrice Waddingham is the futures and effectiveness assistant.