The outbreak of disease is often a latent but hard-hitting global concern, as currently exemplified by the flurry of anxiety swirling around Ebola. Many efforts have sprung up to fight spread of the disease, including the World Bank which has recently committed $400 million to said cause. While the growing human cost of the disease is distressing enough, if Ebola is not contained, the World Bank has estimated an additional economic cost of $32.6 billion to the West Africa region.
To find out, we recently spoke with Clark Freifeld, co-founder of HealthMap.org, a web-based tool that has been in the news for detecting Ebola 9 days before the World Health Organization officially announced it. Started in 2006 at Boston Children's Hospital, HealthMap uses public health, media, and open data sources to provide real-time information and alerts about disease outbreak based on a number of filters, including location.
If you’ve been reading anything related to international development in the last year, you will have seen rich conversations around the the idea of a “data revolution”. What exactly would a data revolution look like? What would its aims be? Is it about data collection, use, analysis, all of the above, or something else entirely?
To answer these and other questions, the United Nations Secretary General recently formed an Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on the “Data revolution for development”. I’m part of this group: we’ve been tasked with making recommendations on how to achieve a data revolution. We have to do it quickly - and we want to get your inputs too!
Country Partnership Strategies are a central element of the World Bank Group’s effort to act in a coordinated way to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. But they can be hard for the average person to navigate—some are three-volume tomes, and others can be dense with technicalities. When we make them inaccessible to the general public, we often forgo a critical opportunity to build broad support for our work.
This year, the Bank Group’s India team decided to take a more innovative approach—one that has the potential to directly engage the public and perhaps even spur others to join us in our cause. In producing the Country Partnership Strategy for India, the team opted not to create a simple PDF for the website. Instead it produced a well-designed book, flush with easy-to-understand graphics and appealing photographs. It also produced a highly interactive web application that visualizes the strategy—and tracks the strategy’s progress towards its goals over time. The tool shows exactly how individual projects along with knowledge and advisory work line up with our twin goals, and what outcomes we expect in each instance.
We are launching a co-creation and crowdsourcing effort on “Open Data Solutions for Rural Development and Inclusive Growth in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.” This is linked to an ideation workshop on September 4 in Hyderabad, which will bring together key stakeholders from these two Indian States, including government officials, development practitioners, health, education, agriculture, retail and other subject matter experts, entrepreneurs, ICT firms, and academic and research institutions.
You can follow the discussions online via Twitter, ask questions and engage with us on (http://www.twitter.com/worldbankict), using the hashtag #data4impact. You can also follow us on our Facebook page.
The workshop will consist of two parts. The first part will focus on knowledge sharing of global and Indian good practices, successful solutions and lessons learned, as well as collecting feedback from participants and discussing priorities for the Open Data initiative in the rural space. There will be presentations by government officials and World Bank experts with examples from around the world, in India and within the two states.
What interventions are needed by governments - and by the World Bank - to stimulate and support the realization of the economic benefits of Open Data for everyone? How do we prioritize what kind of data is needed? These were some of the simmering questions that were posed at last Wednesday's World Bank Live event. A collaborative effort among World Bank global practices and units – Transport and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT), the Development Data Group (DECDG), Open Finances, External and Corporate Relations, and others – this global policy dialogue event served as an opportunity to listen in on leading experts explaining and debating the latest evidence of the economic benefits of Open Data and how it can be applied to advance socioeconomic growth in the developing world.
From the short videoconference presentations we heard from five country officials, we learned that Open Data is already making an impact.
Examples of Open Data's use and impact in India, Russia, Macedonia, Ghana, and Mexico
We first heard from Rajendra Kumar, Joint Secretary (eGov) at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology of India. "Ever since India launched its Open Government Data Platform, we've witnessed more government participation and interest – across ministries and state governments," stated Kumar. He also pointed to an often underappreciated result of open data programs: increased data sharing among government agencies.
"Open Data is a major source for growth in Russia, especially for Internet and IT companies," commented Ekaterina Shapochka, Advisor to the Russian Minister of Open Government. She also added that Open Data could help increase the quality of government services to its citizens.
We often consult various partners – including governments, organizations and other implementers – on Open Data and its critical role in economic development and growth. The World Bank’s team of information and communication technology (ICT) and open data experts help explore the potential for forecasting national and global trends, while also unlocking opportunities for innovation and improved performance. These consultations serve as a crucial starting point in planning, implementation and correction of many government, private sector and civil society initiatives.
Since 2012, the Bank has organized a series of trainings on open data tools and online resources for users in government, economic research institutes, media, civil society, academia and the private sector. More than 3,000 stakeholders have been trained already in 10+ major cities of India. There is need to take this agenda forward especially in the low-income states where exposure to the Bank's resources is lower.
There’s a range of studies that suggest that the potential prize from Open Data could be enormous - including an estimate of $3-5 trillion a year globally from McKinsey Global Institute and an estimate of $13 trillion cumulative over the next 5 years in the G20 countries. There are supporting studies of the value of Open Data to certain sectors in certain countries - for instance $20 billion a year to Agriculture in the US - and of the value of key datasets such as geospatial data. All these support the conclusion that the economic potential is at least significant - although with a range from “significant” to “extremely significant”!
DataBank is a data retrieval, analysis, and visualization tool that allows users to create, save, and share custom charts, tables, and maps. We launched the tool two years ago and have been making improvements based on user feedback ever since. Last year we released a multilingual version of the tool, and today we're pleased to announce a new feature that allows users to query country, series, time, and footnote metadata.
What can DataBank do?
- It enables users to easily create custom queries on data drawn from 52 databases
- It lets users create and customize charts, tables, and maps
- It makes it easy to select, save and share data and visualizations
- It's available on both computers and mobile devices
- DataBank and selected data are available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese
- It now allows users to create custom metadata queries
- Watch the tutorial and read the FAQs to learn more about the basics of DataBank
Open Data could be a “Swiss Army Knife” for modern government - a multi-use tool that can be used to increase transparency and accountability, to improve public services, to enhance government efficiency and to stimulate economic growth, business innovation and job creation.
The economic growth opportunity has certainly caught imaginations around the world. The Economist recently likened Open Data’s commercial potential to ‘a new goldmine.’ The McKinsey Global Institute estimated potential economic benefits of at least $3 trillion a year globally, and a recent study for the Omidyar Network by Lateral Economics suggested that, for G20 economies, Open Data could help increase output by $13 trillion cumulatively over the next five years.
Other studies have suggested figures which are lower but still mouth-watering, especially for economies emerging from recession or facing anaemic growth. These are topics we will discuss at a World Bank-sponsored event on July 23, titled “Can Open Data Boost Economic Growth and Prosperity?”
Over the last decade, ICTs have contributed to globalization, shaped economies, transformed society and changed our history. Companies that didn’t exist in 2003 – including Facebook and Twitter – are now essential components of media strategies and contribute to job creation. Broadband drives economic development across the world, and there are more than seven billion mobile cellular subscriptions.
Despite this meteoric change, we’re not quite there yet. While billions of people are already connected to these systems and opportunities, we need much more collaboration to bring about an information society for everyone.