June 9 is International Archives Day, and I would like to mark this day by reflecting on the contribution of the World Bank Group Archives to the “memory” of the development community. As such, I am talking with Giovanni Zanalda, director of the Duke University Center for International Studies/Global Areas. Giovanni is a faculty member in the Departments of Economics and History at Duke and specializes in financial history, history of development, and emerging markets. He has been a user of the WBG Archives in different phases of his career and with different focuses, and we have asked him to share his user perspective.
An active player in the transparency space, the World Bank just released its fifth Access to Information (AI) Annual Report. The report presents the evolution and progress of the Policy on Access to Information (the Policy) since it was launched on July 1, 2010, provides a variety of statistics, and highlights a range of transparency activities carried out in fiscal 2015. Since 2010, the Bank has pushed the frontiers to disclose more information and twice revised the Policy to keep abreast of evolving public demand—in 2013 to clarify declassification of certain Board transcripts, and in 2015 to align the treatment of the documents and records of the Board of Governors with the treatment of those of the Executive Directors. The following are select highlights from the past five years.
Enhanced information access. The Policy has provided the public with access to a broad range of historical and current information on operations, research, corporate matters, and Board decisions. The Bank has also received and responded to more than 3,000 access to information requests. The number of requests declined from 700 in 2010 to 474 in 2015, due to the Bank’s proactive and systematic efforts to disclose information online. The main entry points to the Bank’s wealth of information are the Projects and Operations portal, which provides detailed information on lending operations, and the Documents and Reports repository, which contains more than 200,000 documents that are freely accessible to the public. Further, the Archives Holdings website offers a growing collection of digitized records dating to the 1940s.
Governance structure and appeals. The Policy has established two robust bodies to manage the appeals process—the AI Committee and the external AI Appeals Board. A new chair of the AI Committee was appointed last fall, Stefan Koeberle, Bank director of strategy, results and risk. In 2015, the membership of the AI Appeals Board was renewed with the selection of a new member and the re-appointment of two previous members. The number of appeals submitted to these bodies has been low, possibly indicating that proactive disclosure and the system for responding to requests are working well. The appeals mechanism ensures that the Bank implements the Policy effectively.
This is a guest post from Shaida Badiee and Eric Swanson, co-founders of the NGO Open Data Watch, which works on a variety of initiatives at the intersection of Open Data and Official Statistics.
Although "open data" has been a popular rallying cry and many countries, states, even cities, have announced open data initiatives, open access to the important data produced by national statistical agencies remains, at best, limited.
To get a baseline measurement, Open Data Watch conducted in depth assessments of the statistics commonly produced by national statistical systems in 125 mostly low- and middle-income countries. Called the Open Data Inventory (ODIN), results are now available online at http://odin.opendatawatch.com. Global results are shown in Figure 1. In 2015 ODIN found only 10 national statistical offices (NSOs) that satisfied more than 50 percent of the criteria for data coverage and openness. Mexico, at 68 percent was the highest scoring country followed by Mongolia, Moldova, and Rwanda. Uzbekistan at 3 percent was the lowest.
An interactive table of all country scores is available here:
- Debt statistics products, coverage, and methodologies
- External debt trends of 2015
- International debt statistics-related activities and summaries
The World Bank collects annual external debt statistics through the World Bank Debt Reporting System (DRS) and publishes it annually in the International Debt Statistics (IDS) publication. This annual data is complemented by our quarterly external and public debt statistics captured through the Quarterly External Debt Statistics (QEDS) database and the Public Sector Debt (PSD) database. To help illustrate this interconnection, we've created the below graphic.
We've just launched a new, pilot global subnational population database featuring time series population estimates for 75 countries at the first-level administrative divisions (provinces, states, or regions). The database has time series data that spans 15 years (2000-2014), with total population numbers for each area and the shares relative to total national population estimates.
What's new about this?
The common data source of population estimates for most countries is a census, often conducted every 10 years or so. Many countries publish annual estimates between census years, but few publish similar population estimates for subnational regions. This database aims to provide intercensal estimates using a standard methodology.
Despite global commitments to and increasing enthusiasm for open data, little is actually known about its use and impact. What kinds of social and economic transformation has open data brought about, and what is its future potential? How—and under what circumstances—has it been most effective? How have open data practitioners mitigated risks and maximized social good?
Even as proponents of open data extol its virtues, the field continues to suffer from a paucity of empirical evidence. This limits our understanding of open data and its impact.
Over the last few months, The GovLab (@thegovlab), in collaboration with Omidyar Network (@OmidyarNetwork), has worked to address these shortcomings by developing 19 detailed open data case studies from around the world. The case studies have been selected for their sectoral and geographic representativeness. They are built in part from secondary sources (“desk research”), and also from more than 60 first-hand interviews with important players and key stakeholders. In a related collaboration with Omidyar Network, Becky Hogge (@barefoot_techie), an independent researcher, has developed an additional six open data case studies, all focused on the United Kingdom. Together, these case studies, seek to provide a more nuanced understanding of the various processes and factors underlying the demand, supply, release, use and impact of open data.
After receiving and integrating comments from dozens of peer reviewers through a unique open process, we are delighted to share an initial batch of 10 case studies, as well three of Hogge’s UK-based stories. These are being made available at a new custom-built repository, Open Data’s Impact, that will eventually house all the case studies, key findings across the studies, and additional resources related to the impact of open data. All this information will be stored in machine-readable HTML and PDF format, and will be searchable by area of impact, sector and region.
With electricity, children can study at night, women can walk home more safely on well-lit streets, and businesses can stay open well past dusk.
However, Governments and electric utilities around the world are mobilizing vast sums of money to close the access gap, especially in rural areas that are home to those lacking electricity.
So, how can we determine and identify who has electricity and who doesn’t? What if we had the technology and tools to help us see lights from space every night, for every village, in every country? We could then closely monitor progress on the ground. We could even plan and optimize policies and interventions in a different manner.
The newly released 2016 edition of the International Debt Statistics (IDS) shows a rapid rise in sovereign bond issuance in some Sub-Saharan African countries. This includes those countries that have benefited from Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) debt relief programs.
The chart above shows that sovereign bond issuance in certain Sub-Saharan African countries has risen substantially over the past 4 years. At the end of 2011, bond issuance totaled $1 billion and by the end of 2014, it amounted to $6.2 billion. Steady global market conditions and the potential for higher returns for investors have helped pave the way for more access to international markets, where the average return for these bond issuances is about 6.6%, with an average maturity of 10 years.
For these Sub-Saharan African countries, the proceeds from these sovereign bonds are used to benchmark for future government and corporate bond markets issues, to manage the public debt portfolio, and for infrastructure financing.
Results of the west African country’s presidential election were openly available in real time, fostering confidence in the fairness of the result
Democratic elections in transitional states are never straightforward. With limited experience to draw on, finite resources and a lack of transparency, it’s not uncommon for rumours, tensions and civil unrest to overshadow the process and undermine faith in the results.
But by midday on Monday 30 November – the day after Burkina Faso’s presidential election – citizens had a reliable early indication of who would be their first elected head of state since the overthrow of strongman Blaise Compaoré last year.
The difference was clear. For the first time, the results of the count were made openly available in real time. The official election website showed live results by district for each presidential candidate, and which candidate was leading in each province.
Trust is vital at all times during an election process. But one of the most sensitive time periods, especially in transition states, is between the time of polls closing and the time the final results are announced. In other recent elections on the continent, there have been delays of up to four days, creating an environment ripe for the spread of rumours and suspicion.