Building IT for worst-case scenarios

The World Bank overhauls IT so it's better prepared to do business in global hotspots where war, disease and poverty may be among the challenges of everyday life

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The World Bank had been through six IT leaders in as many years when Stephanie von Friedeburg took the role in 2012. A 20-year development and investment veteran of the World Bank Group and an expert in Russian studies, von Friedeburg had previously taken on the unexpected role of CIO at the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group focused on private-sector development. After she spent several years turning around that IT organization, the World Bank’s then-president, Robert Zoellick, tapped her to tackle the organization’s larger IT group.

Six weeks later, Jim Yong Kim became president of the World Bank. He saw technology as critical to his vision of reducing the global poverty rate from 14.5 percent to 3 percent by 2030. The World Bank’s five member organizations offer loans and other financing to developing countries. Better IT systems in 186 country offices in some of the most tumultuous areas on the planet would mean the bank’s 16,000 employees could deliver better development programs to address the world’s most complex problems. Kim “gave us carte blanche to go for it,” says von Friedeburg.

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