TECHNOLOGY

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT – ROLE OF STEPHEN DAVENPORT

While on one hand, countries such as the United States, China, South Korea, Canada, and Japan are thriving. On the other hand, countries including Malawi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and many others are struggling with unstable economies, coping with natural disasters, and experiencing worst living conditions. However, the world of today demands developed countries assist the territories or countries deemed to be “the third world:. The world powers extend their help to these countries in the form of foreign aid. The monetary assistance helps struggling nations address their problems and improve the conditions for the citizens. However, many nations fail to effectively use the help or manage it, which leads to many more problems between the government and its citizens. It is where the development professionals come in and help the struggling nations gain a firm ground in the world. These individuals play a crucial role in eliminating poverty in developing countries. From global health to financial and government infrastructures, these professionals work to improve the living conditions of the people.

Stephen Rintoul Davenport IV, the Global Lead for Open Government and Citizen Engagement at the World Bank Group, is an international development professional who wants to help third world nations and territories gain stability. His focus is on the open government and international government transparency approach. He spent most of his childhood years in Haiti with his father, who was a minister there. Stephen used to call Haiti his ‘home away from home.’

Coming Face-to-Face to Harsh Realities of Life

Stephen Rintoul Davenport IV was born on April 22nd, 1971 (Earth Day) to Episcopalian Reverend Stephen R Davenport III and Marilyn Burdorf in Murray, Kentucky. His father, Episcopalian Reverend Stephen R Davenport III, was a minister in Haiti as did his son. While all his friends were enjoying their summer break from school, young Stephen used to accompany his father to Haiti and helped support an Episopalian Church. Building cisterns and schools for St. Etienne’s Church, and finding wells for drinking water in the mountain town of, Buteau.

It was during this time he came face-to-face to a harsh reality. He pondered how the people living in developed countries take all their luxuries for granted. The citizens of first world countries do not even realize the high degree of luxury they enjoy. By observing the lifestyle of the people living in small and rural parts 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 the world only grew, and he was determined to make things better for the underprivileged countries and territories.

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. He went to Washington and Lee University to complete his Bachelor of Science. After his graduation, he stepped into the world of technology. The young Stephen started his career at KPMG in the United States in 1995, where he spent two years. The next company he 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. In the 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), which he completed by working in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It was a first-ever technological solution for the international development sector. It was his attempt to help governments of the third world countries better manage the foreign aid they received from all around the globe. 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

In 2010, when an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit Haiti, he was devastated after seeing the mass destruction it caused to the country. The earthquake did not just destroy Haiti, but it had a major impact on Stephen’s mind. In the same year, he was promoted to Senior Director, and he seized the opportunity to create smart tools to assist countries in better managmente and tracking of foreign aid.

After his promotion, the first project he worked on was AidData (www.aiddata.org). It was a collaborative project which offers the users a better chance to improve 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 by establishing a research lab at William & Mary’s Global Research Institute. Another project he founded was called Feedback Labs (www.feedbacklabs.org). It is a non-profit organization that has its focus on making feedback loops the norm in development, aid, philanthropy, and non-profits. The foundation of this non-profit organization was to empower people to drive the policies and programs from which they benefit.

One of his most noteworthy projects was the establishment of the OpenGov Hub (www.opengovhub.org), which had a thematic focus on open government, and unlike other Co-working spaces, or Hubs, was free from operational or financial struggles. This space allows a much stronger and concrete collaboration of experts. The environment supports the open approach to government, ‘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.

Mr. Davenport is actively working in improving the way international development professionals work with his focus on global transparency, accountability, results, citizen engagement, open government, open data, and open development agendas. The efforts of Mr.Davenport have led to notable open government reforms in Kenya, Argentina, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mongolia, and Kenya.


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