In the last few years, the World Bank has expanded use of big data in more than 150 development projects globally, spanning a wide range of sectors and geographies. Solutions have ranged from using big data to monitor, evaluate, and improve projects—in energy, transport, and agriculture—to poverty diagnostics and understanding how well urban residents are connected to jobs. But, as Haishan Fu, Director of the Development Data Group at the World Bank, has said, “we are just beginning to realize the potential of the data revolution.”
These pilots have taught us that moving from discovery, to incubation, to scale requires a more coordinated and systematic approach. At the World Bank, we found it important to go beyond internal dialogue and assessments. We wanted to listen to and understand the perspectives of our partners in the development and data ecosystems—on current gaps, opportunities, as well as on the role(s) the World Bank should play in order to foster collective action.