Although the World Bank collaborates with international agencies that work with external debt and debt-related statistics (the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others), the World Bank has the international mandate to collect external debt data, and we maintain comprehensive external debt information.
What sparks a revolution? And what helps keep the transformational power of a revolution alive? When Jim Yong Kim became World Bank Group president less than two years ago, he stated that one of his first priorities was to position the World Bank Group as a “solutions bank.” Most recently, during his speech last Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Kim discussed the Bank’s efforts to invest in effective infrastructure, including data systems and social movements to empower the poor.
These three words – solutions, data and the poor – from my perspective, point to this: the data revolution needs to be transformational and we must act now. Unless we fully embrace this data revolution as a bold, timely opportunity to engage citizens, identify successful case studies, leverage global partnerships and technology, strive to learn from the private sector and truly aim to be innovative, we just may miss out on keeping this revolution alive. And while it is good news that the UN High Level Panel Report on the post-2015 development agenda confirms that the data revolution is high on the political agenda, we must also gather evidence and vigorously commit to an inclusive plan to meet this goal.
After a slightly disappointing ‘wonkwar’ on migration, let’s try a less adversarial format for another big development issue: Transparency and Accountability. I have an instinctive suspicion of anything that sounds like a magic bullet, a cost-free solution, or motherhood and apple pie in general. So the current surge in interest on open data and transparency has me grumbling and sniffing the air. Are politicians just grabbing it as a cheap announcement in austere times? Does it contain some kind of implicit right wing assumptions (an individualist homo economicus maximising market efficiency through open data)? And is there any evidence that transparency actually has much impact on the lives of poor people (after all, the proponents of transparency and results-based agendas are often the same organizations, so I hope they are practicing what they preach….)
I put these fears to three transparency gurus, and here are their fascinating responses, striking in their quality and level of, well, openness. It’s a long read, but I hope you’ll agree, a worthwhile one. Think we’ll just stick with comments on this one – doesn’t feel like a vote would be useful (but let me know if you think otherwise)
Four years ago the World Bank Group opened its data to the public hoping innovators would find new ways to use the data. At the same time, a growing number of governments were also opening up their data – to be more accountable, and to spur economic activity around the data. Today, the open data entrepreneur has emerged. About 500 companies that use open data in their business have sprung up in the United States alone, and similar businesses are cropping up all over the world, even in countries with limited data — let alone open data.
So far, this open data-fueled sector is still small, but it promises to take the delivery of useful information to a new level as it grows. In the United States, businesses are using utilities data to promote energy efficiency, education data to help find the best schools, and health data to allow people to check symptoms and make doctor appointments, to name a few examples. A 2013 study by McKinsey & Co. estimates open data could help generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value for the global economy.
But can open data entrepreneurs help tackle global challenges and make a difference in developing countries, including in the poorest and most fragile countries? A recent World Bank event explored that question, bringing in one of the private sector pioneers in the use of open data, The Climate Corporation, along with Metabiota, a for-profit firm tracking emerging diseases in developing countries, and Joel Gurin, author of Open Data Now and the lead on a New York University-based project, Open Data 500.
- open data
Corporations do them monthly.
Presidents and Prime Ministers check them daily.
Surveys and polls. They drive decision making across all sorts of organizations, corporations, governments and even palaces. Polls inform a range of strategies, whether related to how countries build support for reform, to how organizations move the needle on behavior change (think smoking, HIV, and drunk driving), to how companies choose the colors of a box of cereal and decide on the jingo that is intended to sell that cereal (crafted specifically to never leave your memory)!
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On a recent trip to Mexico City, I had the pleasure of participating in three events that really brought home the transformative power of the open data and open source eco-system that is becoming an ever more important element of our work in transport.
First I joined the Secretary of Mobility for Mexico City to inaugurate an open data-based system for alerting public transport users in this city of 8 million of any disruptions to the city’s multimodal transport system consisting of an extensive metro system, a suburban rail line, 5 lines of the Metrobus Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT), an electric trolley system, as well as a substantial publicly operated bus system. The alert system was built using open-source software on an open standardized data set of schedules supported by the Bank last year (read more about that initiative led by my colleague Catalina Ochoa). Not only does this service deliver value for Mexico City commuters immediately, but it also allows any other city that has its data organized in a similar standard GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) format (over a 1,000 cities do) to use the same code developed for Mexico City off GitHub, a web registry. Moreover, the open standardized formats let developers in Mexico City or elsewhere build apps that use this information. The market for these applications is potentially global, spurring innovation for user-oriented applications in public transport: there are already many hundreds of GTFS based applications.
Dong Yang is a first-year Ph.D. student at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He majors in public administration. Dong got in touch with us to share his experience using World Bank Data as part of his research.
William Shakespeare once wrote, “There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.” Similarly, different people have different understandings of database services. Some people believe it is a type of personalized service, some believe it’s a value-added service, while others believe it’s a solutions-driven service. For us students, database services are vital to our research.
As a form of knowledge service, databases should be adapted to the changing needs of users, supporting both knowledge consumption and knowledge creation. A good database helps not only to convert “data” into “outcomes,” but also achieve the goal of pooling wisdom and creating knowledge by enhancing a user’s creativity with its rich resources and services. In my view, the World Bank’s Open Data has truly fulfilled these functions.
Open data is creating opportunities for governments to work more efficiently and effectively, for citizens to engage with government and take a more active role in communities, for activists to support their advocacy efforts with facts, for entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market, and for the bulk of us to be able to make everyday decisions.
On the entrepreneurial side, the World Bank's Open Finances team has been exploring the commercial value of open data, and looking for opportunities to support entrepreneurs. These goals are achievable thanks to governments who have fostered innovation around public data by taking the step to open it. What happens when governments haven't yet opened public data? Is it possible for entrepreneurs to take advantage of open data where it does not exist?
WASHINGTON, DC – Since the turn of the century, the international development community has rallied behind the Millennium Development Goals, which set specific targets in eight key areas, including poverty, child mortality, and disease, to be achieved by 2015. In formulating the post-2015 development agenda, measuring the MDGs’ successes – and identifying where progress has lagged – is critically important. And that demands more and better data.
To be sure, international institutions and many developing countries have invested significantly in improving data collection to track better their performance against MDG targets. In 2003, only four countries had two data points for 16 or more of the 22 principal MDG indicators; by last year, that figure had soared to 118 countries.
But development data remain a scarce resource in the developing world. Given their value in measuring – and propelling – social and economic progress, this shortage must be addressed urgently. A catalyst is needed to expand the production and use of development data. With this in mind, the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda is right to call for a global “data revolution.”
A new World Bank report, Gender at Work, emphasizes the need for multidimensional assessments of gender equality in the world of work. A fuller picture of the problem lends to more comprehensive policy solutions.
It is tempting to use a single indicator as the gauge of a country’s standing on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. None is more alluring than labor force participation. It is consistently available and provided yearly for the vast majority of countries—currently 183 out of 214 on the Gender Data Portal. This is an exception in the universe of economic gender indicators, which are often patchy, irregular, and unreliable. However, this leaves an incomplete and even misguided impression of how countries fare.