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Denis Robitaille, Global Chief Information Officer of the World Bank Group

2/26/18

By Peter High, published on Forbes

Denis Robitaille has does not consider himself a technologist despite being the Global Chief Information Officer of the World Bank Group. He came to IT after a career in Operations at the Bank. When he ascended to his current role, first as acting CIO in November 2016 and then as the permanent CIO in June of 2017, he had profound understanding of how the World Bank operated.

He sees a profound connection between technology and the Bank’s mission to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of populations in every country. He also believes that Blockchain and artificial intelligence will have enormous impacts on the people who the World Bank serves. We cover all of the above and much more in this conversation.

Peter High: You are the second ever Global CIO of the World Bank. While you are not a technologist, you have tremendous operational experience and have done the “actual work” of the World Bank. The Bank’s mission is to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of populations in every country. What role does technology play in accomplishing these big goals?

Denis Robitaille: Technology is part of our daily life, and I think we are at the beginning of a big transformation in IT. The role of emerging technologies for development is important. There is a big movement at the World Bank Group to explore how disruptive emerging technologies can help development.

Consider the impact of narrow artificial intelligence [AI]. The technology can do tremendous good but can also do tremendous harm. Some estimates say automation and robotics could eliminate up to 50 percent of jobs. This is scary. If we want to eliminate poverty, we need to create jobs, not eliminate jobs.

We are looking at how we can use technology in a positive way. The entire organization is mobilized behind this goal. For us in ITS, our focus is to support internal clients and operations and to partner with different parts of the World Bank Group to make sure that we can leverage emerging technology.

High: Yours is an organization that has also been going through a cloud transformation. Can you talk about the work going into building a more sustainable technology stack to support the work of the World Bank?

Robitaille: We are a little bit behind, but our objectives are the same. We have a large scale of legacy applications. Last year, we prepared a new three-year strategy. Part of this strategy is to bring some agility and move to the cloud.

We used to be a traditional IT shop of waterfall, and now I am introducing agile and DevOps combined. We want to enable our lines of business and deliver faster for our clients. When we look at our strategies and solutions for the business, we want to triage faster and deliver more flexibly.

To read the full interview, please visit Forbes

 

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