I am interning at Development Gateway with 5 other LBJ students. We are geocoding all the foreign aid that has come to Malawi, as part of a partnership between the AidData program, CCAPS , and the Government of Malawi. This is the first year we are mapping all donor aid to a single country. Last year, a separate group of interns did the opposite and geocoded aid from one donor to multiple countries: World Bank-funded aid to African and Latin American countries. What makes our work interesting is the information we are learning about the aid projects taking place in Malawi, from governance reforms to infrastructure development to even cultural preservation. I’ve been coding aid targeted at improving democratic governance in Malawi. This includes support for anti-corruption programs, electoral reforms, central and local government capacity building, and awareness and education programs in human rights and democracy. Effective and legitimate institutions combined with an active and educated citizenry are vital components for sustainable economic growth and political stability. These projects are helping Malawi to fill in its governance gaps. Advances in democratic governance are often intangible so it will be interesting to see how the donors define and measure progress in these projects.
All in all, I have been enjoying my internship and living in DC. Our office is in the same building as the headquarters of the Organization of American States, so it feels like we’re stepping into another country when we enter the building because of the many nationalities working here. The World Bank is next door to us and, most days, our team goes over there to have lunch. The IMF is also catty -corner to our building. Our proximity to these international institutions provides us many opportunities to take part in some really interesting programs. In fact, the World Bank is currently hosting Innovation Days 2011, where the Bank offers three days of programs that showcases its innovative projects taking place all over the world. I just came from an interesting session entitled Green Energy in Asia where a panel discussed several Bank projects including a joint World Bank-Government of China Renewable Energy Development Program that provided photovoltaic cells to remote regions of China, a World Bank financed hydropower dam in northern Vietnam, and geothermal energy program in Indonesia. Indonesia has great geothermal resources but a lot is currently not utilized or are underutilized due to lack of know-how and expertise and lack of finance. The Bank is seeking to work with the Indonesian government to expand its geothermal capabilities and help it move from a carbon-intensive development strategy to a greener strategy. Programs like Innovation Days at the World Bank are make me excited and happy to be living and working in DC this summer. Stay tuned for my next update!