When you hear the words “top tourist destination,” do sandy beaches and national parks come to mind? Perhaps places with historical significance like the Egyptian pyramids or the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia? When we take a close look at the tourism data, we see that some of the top tourist destinations in the world are in low- and middle-income countries, specifically, in the East Asia and Pacific region.
A recent question from Lorenz Noe caught our eye - how do we choose which indicators to publish in World Development Indicators (WDI), a major part of our Open Data Initiative? It’s a good question, so I thought I’d write a post about that - and we’ll also post something similar in the data help desk.
1. There’s no perfect indicator
Like many things in life, selecting indicators for the WDI is not an exact science. The intention is to provide good coverage of key development issues, but many of the countries that we work with do not have the quantity - or quality - of data that exists in countries like the United States, for example.
Explaining the differences in today’s global society is a topic that clearly captures the interest of many: as I write this blog, the hardback version of Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is second on Amazon’s best-seller list. That’s not bad for a pretty hefty book about economics and the distribution of wealth!
Another publication – the 2014 edition of World Development Indicators (WDI) 2014 – was also released in the last few weeks: it’s not likely to reach the bestseller list on Amazon, but it does also reveal some startling differences in the lives of people around the world, and the challenges they face. Here’s one statistic: a newborn child born in Sierra Leone will be 90 times more likely to die before her fifth birthday than a newborn child born in Luxembourg. And the estimated probabilities of dying before five? In Sierra Leone, in 2012, it was 18%, or just under 1 in 5 – the highest in the world. In Luxembourg, that probability was just 0.2%, or about 1 in 500 – the lowest in the world. Since it really is quite shocking, maybe I should repeat it: almost 1 in 5 children born in Sierra Leone will die before they reach the age of five.
Their offense? Going to school.
This grim story highlights the pressing issue of education in the developing world.
So I thought I’d look at the stats. First: primary completion rate, which is the number of students in the last year of primary compared to the number of children of the correct age for that year – and one of the measures that is used to assess progress to “MDG2” – to achieve universal primary education. As of 2010, the estimate for Nigeria was 76%, higher than the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 69%, but well below the world average of 91%. And Nigerian girls were almost 10 percentage points behind Nigerian boys’ primary completion rate in that year. Interestingly, in 2006, the primary completion rate was as high as 90%, putting Nigeria slightly above the world average. The rate has since declined, possibly due to a steady increase in the size of Nigeria’s youth population, which can put a strain on resources linked to education. About 44% of the population was under 14 years of age in 2012.
In the developing world, one way to reduce maternal mortality is to train professional midwives for both health facility and home deliveries. But what does the bigger picture of maternal mortality look like today?
The global maternal mortality ratio has fallen by 45% between 1990 and 2013, according to new estimates released today. This means that the world went from 380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. While this decline represents substantial progress, the actual rate of decline is insufficient to reach Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5) – a three-quarter reduction in 1990 levels by 2015. To truly reach the target, an annual average reduction of 5.5% would be needed between 1990 and 2015.
Data scientist may be the sexiest job of the current century, and everybody in the world may be crying hoarse over the growing shortage of data scientists, but if you are leading an international development project or an international development agency, chances are you don’t have a data scientist on your team and you likely aren’t looking for one. That’s a problem.
Where can you find the top trading partners for your country? Where can you find the top products exported to and imported from Indonesia? Where can you find just about any type of trade data?
The answers to these questions (and more) are available at our recently revamped World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) site: wits.worldbank.org. In previous versions of the site, users needed to login and query the data themselves. You still can. And many still do to conduct much more detailed and sophisticated research and analysis on trade. But if you want to quickly look up or browse trade statistics like total exports, tariffs applied, top export, and import partners, the data has been pre-calculated and made available as Open Data.
“Thanks to the data I found on WITS, I successfully completed my PhD. Really easy-to-use site and great upgrades.”
– User in India
Something Is Changing
Fifteen years ago, the international community designed the Millennium Development Goals, including that of halving extreme poverty, through a process that mostly took place in New York, behind closed doors. A few years earlier, the World Bank had developed the guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries from Washington, D.C. in a similar fashion.
Fortunately, this approach has changed.
Today, the process of identifying and consulting on the post-2015 development agenda has been opened to the general public including, importantly, those whom the goals are expected to serve. In fact, the United Nations and other partners have undertaken a campaign to reach out directly to citizens for ideas and feedback on the issues most important to them in the post-2015 agenda. Those who are formulating the post-2015 goals will no longer need to assume what the poor and vulnerable want: they will have a firsthand knowledge of what their priorities are.
The World Bank Group has explicitly stated that our new goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity cannot be achieved without institutions, structures, and processes that empower local communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that all groups in society are able to participate in decision-making processes. In other words, these goals will not be within reach without a social contract between a country and its citizens that reduces imbalances in voice, participation and power between different groups, including the poor.
While many may have heard the statistic “Cities are home to 50% of the world’s population”, few realize that it leads directly to a sobering and much less hyped conclusion: we face an urgent need to understand how our cities work.
Cities are now the defining human organizational structure on earth, but what do we know about these creations? Sadly, not enough. Which is why collecting and disseminating high-quality data about cities and how they function is of critical importance.
Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has recently taken a giant step in this direction by making our 2013 data set on over 100 large cities, their greenhouse gas emissions, and their actions on climate change available for free download in CSV files via our website. This effort—made possible by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and our long-term partnership with C40—brings our voluminous data into the public domain for the first time.