Improving the Impact of Development Assistance Starts With Geography
Where are World Bank projects located and are they making a tangible difference in the lives of developing country communities?
An expanded version of the Mapping for Results (M4R) platform was launched during the 2011 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings to better enable donors, governments and citizens in answering these pressing questions.
Figure 1: World Bank financed activities in Nepal with poverty map.
Overlaying indicators on poverty, education and health with geographic locations of World Bank financed projects, the M4R platform helps policy makers and civil society groups visualize the distribution of projects, identify beneficiaries and monitor results on development outcomes. Building upon the initial foundation laid in October 2010, the new M4R platform expands the number of countries mapped from 79 to 144, including more than 30,000 locations related to active World Bank-financed projects.
Improving the Impact of Development Assistance Starts With Geography
What kinds of countercyclical policies make the most sense during financial crises? Can going ‘beyond Keynesianism’ by investing in infrastructure restart worldwide demand and help avoid a double dip recession? How can you sort good industrial policy from bad? Is it more important to focus on pragmatic development lessons from other emerging market countries, or should researchers spend most of their time on randomized control trials and experimental approaches to evaluation? These and many other questions were explored during the first year of ‘Let’s Talk Development,’ which we launched on September 28, 2010.
We went live with this blog on that day because it was when World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick delivered a speech on ‘Democratizing Development Economics’ at Georgetown University. This blog aimed to attract commentary and insights on breakthrough solutions to development challenges as well as to transmit some of the newest thinking taking hold in the field of development economics.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“The Praekelt Foundation, a South African organization that runs several mobile-based programs in South Africa, recently produced a catchy video infographic of mobile statistics for Africa. Looking at accessibility, growth, and usage, the video gives a good look at how mobiles have taken off in in the continent of Africa.
The video covers a lot of facts about mobiles, from a breakdown of the rapid growth of mobile phones compared to other forms of media (like radio and television) to the huge drop in price points (the first mobile phone cost US $3995 in 1973 compared to roughly US $15 for certain models today).” READ MORE
Want to watch the expansion of schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past three decades? Or chart the difference in growth of educational attainment between South Korea and Mexico? Maybe you just want to easily compare with one click whether a bar or line graph better communicates your data. Now you can! EdStats, the World Bank's free database for global education statistics, has launched EdStats StatPlanet -- an exciting new data visualization and mapping dashboard for exploring country, regional and global performance on 19 key education indicators through interactive, animated world maps, charts and tables.
Is open data useful only to developers and researchers? Can 'average' users use open data to answer questions they have?
One of the (undeserved!) knocks against open data is the presumption that its core audience is technical and that the only people who can truly take advantage of open data are developers who can tap into APIs to build applications that then make sense of open data for lay audiences (unless the audience happens to be researchers in which case they probably have the necessary tools and the forbearance to troll through vast amounts of raw material). Viewed through this prism, open data is only effective via infomediaries.
World Bank Finances quietly went live on July 13 (read the announcement on the World Bank's open data site) and word has been gradually filtering out over Twitter (primarily), Facebook, and the odd online post. Much of the response so far has been positive, and people seem excited about the fact that the Bank has published, in open data format, so much information about the Bank’s investments, assets it manages on behalf of global funds, and the Bank’s own financial statements. We are also delighted to note that people have begun to take advantage of the interactive tools available on the site and are already slicing and dicing data, visualizing it, and sharing it online. The World Bank Finances mobile app comes out in a few weeks and we hope that other developers will take advantage of the API on the website to build their own apps.
On July 8th 2011, President Mwai Kibaki launched the Kenyan Open Data Initiative, making key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal. The 2009 census, national and regional expenditure, and information on key public services are some of the first datasets to be released. Tools and applications have already been built to take this data and make it more useful than it originally was.
This is, so far, the story of open government data in many other countries; what's special about Kenya?
Since its inception, the World Bank’s Open Data initiative has generated considerable excitement and discussion on the possibilities that it holds for democratizing development economics as well as for democratizing the way that development itself is conducted around the world. Robert Zoellick, in a speech given last year at Georgetown University, expounded on the many benefits resulting directly from open data. Offering the example of a health care worker in a village, he spoke of her newfound ability to “see which schools have feeding programs . . . access 20 years of data on infant mortality for her country . . . and mobilize the community to demand better or more targeted health programs.” Beyond this, Zoellick argued that open data means open research, resulting in “more hands and minds to confront theory with evidence on major policy issues.”
The New York Times featured the Bank’s Open Data initiative in an article published earlier this month, in which it referred to the released data as “highly valuable”, saying that “whatever its accuracy or biases, this data essentially defines the economic reality of billions of people and is used in making policies and decisions that have an enormous impact on their lives.” The far-reaching policymaking consequences of the data are undeniable, but the New York Times touches upon a crucial question that has been overshadowed by the current push for transparency: what about quality?
The Sunday Business section of the New York Times prominently featured an image of a huge vault overflowing with bits and bytes. It was a story about the Bank’s Open Data initiative and claimed that datasets and information will ultimately become more valuable than Bank lending. It’s a powerful idea and one that sounds similar to the knowledge bank articulated by Jim Wolfensohn nearly ten years ago. But there is an important distinction between the two. This is not about the World Bank as the central repository of knowledge sharing its knowledge and wisdom with clients from the South. Instead, it’s about “democratizing development economics” in that it levels the playing field on knowledge creation and dissemination and opens the development paradigm to participation from researchers and practitioners, software developers and students, from north and south.
July 1, 2011—The World Bank today marks the one-year anniversary of its Access to Information (AI) policy. The landmark policy increases transparency, accessibility and accountability of the Bank’s operations and programs.
Bank management and external stakeholders agree that implementation has gone well.