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Can Everyone be a Think Tank?

Aleem Walji's picture
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

David Eaves, Open Data Blogger and Activist from Canada, boldly claimed that the World Bank's Open Data Policy allows many more people to use our data, rigorously study and analyze it, and draw their own conclusions about what it means. That was just not possible before now.  

It reminds me of what the laptop, digital camera, and mobile phone did for journalists and film makers. Technology fundamentally leveled the playing the field and democratized access to content. Suddenly, many more people could participate in journalism and create their own videos (24 hours of video is uploaded into YouTube every 60 seconds). Is that what the World Bank's Open Data policy can unleash? I love the possibility.

Today is a good day to be a Technologist

Today is a good day to be a Technologist at the World Bank.

It was seven months ago that I left a career job in the heart of the Silicon Valley on a promise that perhaps it was time to do our little part at the World Bank to engage the Software Technology community in the conversation on Development.

Openness in the Service of Development, Results, and Poverty Reduction

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Transforming the World Bank from a mid-20th century organization to an agile, 21st century entity motivated by a drive for ‘Open Development’ requires user-friendly shared data sites, a willingness to be held to high standards of transparency and accountability, a move toward telling results stories in compelling ways, and a ceding of ground from proud in-house research to ‘Democratizing Development Economics’.
All of the above requires both showmanship and visionary leadership, not something the staid World Bank is usually known for.

The 2010 Annual Meetings may be a tipping point where a giant bureaucracy shakes off a bit of the weight of its own rules and constraints and actually displays some agility, and, dare I say, a bit of color and plumage. Indeed, what delegates streaming to our Washington headquarters for this year’s Annual Meetings see may actually hit some of them like a jolt of development caffeine. 

This year, there is a “jumbotron” television screen facing Pennsylvania Avenue outside the Bank’s Main Complex greeting passersby and staff alike with compelling short films of results achieved by IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest. Entering the building’s sleek glass, metal, and stone atrium, visitors and staff see a new path of big, brightly colored circles highlighting IDA facts, spanning the entire Atrium floor, saying things like:

Wholesaling Research for Development

Martin Ravallion's picture

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” K’ung Fu-tzu (Confucius) , circa 500 BC.

   Photo: istockphoto.com
The World Bank’s analytic work can lack transparency to users—not least for those who would be affected most by the policies derived from that work. Civil society groups often suspect that the Bank dresses up advocacy as analytics. This perception stems in no small measure from the large entry costs users face in replicating and understanding the analysis. 

This concern about how we do research at the Bank—and elsewhere—can be thought of as the outcome of a traditional “retailing model.” That means researchers investigate a specific issue over a period of time and produce a research product—a paper or volume—on their findings. This is then disseminated to the public, including other researchers and policy makers. 

Much has changed since this retailing model first emerged. Dramatic changes in information technology have expanded the use of data, which makes more openness in research feasible.

It is time, then, to think about a new “wholesaling model,” under which the emphasis switches to producing the tools for others to do the research and providing open access to those tools.

Wolfram Data Summit 2010: The Future Is Now

Amy Adkins Harris's picture

I spent the day at Wolfram Data Summit 2010, where repository managers and experts from all over the world have convened in Washington to discuss the rewards -- and challenges -- of a new data frontier.

A series of speakers shared fascinating insights on the power of data, including examples of how data is at the forefront of new and exciting developments in the fields of medicine, health care, science, lexicography, media and more.

New Open Data Initiative Emphasizes Importance of Education Stats and Better Visualization of Data

Christine Horansky's picture

In conjunction with the new Access to Information policy, the World Bank recently launched the Open Data Initiative, freeing up development data for use to stakeholders worldwide. The new website at data.worldbank.org underlines the importance of data collection and utilization for better tracking trends in global development. Education statistics are prominently featured on the new site and serve as major indicators for two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (#2 universal primary education and #3 gender equality.) 
 

Have Librarians Missed the Bus?

Dilinika Peiris's picture
Photo Courtesy of Sri Lanka Library Association (SLLA)

As the Sri Lanka Library Association celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, it’s time for us to reflect on the contributions of the Library and Information professionals to the development of Sri Lanka. At the same time, given the explosion in the sheer amount and sources of information now available especially through the internet, I found myself asking; do librarians have a role in the digital world? How are they adapting to this change? And are organizations and policymakers still making effective use of their knowledge and expertise while making decisions?

A recent Sunday Island piece captures the challenges and exciting opportunities that Librarians face in Sri Lanka today; I agree with them that with the expansion of information and sources, professional assistance is vital to identify trusted and accurate information. As a result, we should more actively recognize and involve Library and Information professionals as partners in policy consultations and working groups.

Open Data, Open Knowledge

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Two brilliant speakers visited the World Bank last Friday: Beth Noveck, the United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government and Head of President Obama's Open Government Initiative and Hans Rosling, Swedish Professor of International Health and famous for his bubble graphics of complex development statistics. They commented on the World Bank's recent Open Data initiative that brought 17 data sets with more than 2,000 indicators from World Bank data sources online and into the public domain.

Key takeaways from the Aid Info Challenge

Livia Barton's picture

We recently hosted the Aid Information Challenge in cooperation with Development Gateway. This event brought together over 100 participants to work on visualizing aid information and data. The morning started with inspiring talks by Aleem Walji of the World Bank’s Innovation department and our keynote speaker, Clay Johnson, Director of Sunlight Labs.

Below is a clip from Clay's keynote where he explains that "the next step for this field is not just to open the data, but to put it into context for people...not just so that the World Bank can make better decisions in Uganda and we can save some children, but also so that we can get people in the long run to make better decisions, personal decisions."


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