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Transparency

Populism and development policy

Varun Gauri's picture

Populism – the idea that a particular social group speaks for the nation as a whole, and should be first in the line for social benefits – threatens the core values of the post-World War order. It also challenges the World Bank’s own approach to development policy. As the world prepares for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a year-long commemoration, culminating on December 10, 2018, we at the World Bank can use the occasion to reflect on our commitments and uphold them courageously.

Records from WB’s first loan to France digitized for the opening of the World Bank Visitor Center

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture
Steel mill at Montataire. © World Bank
Steel mill at Montataire. © World Bank

On November 15, 2017, the World Bank Group opened the doors to its new Visitor Center located at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. (across the street from the Bank’s Main Complex). The Visitor Center offers not only an extensive display of Bank Group’s history, but also provides an interactive learning experience about the institution’s work and mission.

To celebrate the Visitor Center’s opening and to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World Bank’s first loan – Loan 0001 to France for reconstruction following World War II – the WBG Archives has digitized and publicly released records related to this inaugural loan. Correspondence and memoranda on the negotiation, administration, and repayment of the 1947 loan to France are now accessible on the World Bank’s Projects & Operations website along with other relevant resources and information.

Sharing the future of open access

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture


On October 26, as part of the World Bank’s celebration of the 10th International Open Access week, I moderated a panel discussion on behalf of the Bank and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). Experts shared their experiences, success stories, and identified remaining challenges in advancing Open Access. External participants and Bank Group staff were invited to the event, which was also live-streamed and recorded

Can access to the World Bank archives improve health outcomes?

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture
© Dominic Chavez/World Bank


This blog post is a part of the International Open Access Week blog series

The World Bank is committed to transparency and accountability and welcomes opportunities to explain its work to the widest audience possible. Openness promotes engagement with stakeholders, which in turn, improves the design and implementation of projects and policies, and strengthens development outcomes.

Demystifying appeals under the World Bank’s Access to Information policy

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture
© World Bank


This blog post is a part of the International Open Access Week blog series

Today Frances M. Allen, a Communications Officer in the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy Unit, explains how the appeals process works when a request for information is denied:

The World Bank’s Policy on Access to Information (AI), effective in July 2010, was a pivotal shift in the institution’s approach to making information available to the public. Underlying the policy is the principle that Bank will disclose any information in its possession that is not on a list of exceptions.

Open in order to end extreme poverty: Access to Information as an enabling strategy

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture
© World Bank

In 2009, the World Bank envisioned “open” in exactly the same way you “see” the word . . . an open door . . . and waiting behind the door . . . access to buildings and ideas, people and events.  And in the Bank’s case, access to a plethora of information on projects throughout the world, current ‘of the moment’ information on open projects, outcomes and lessons learned culled from closed projects, small grants that showed impact and improvement, research into cutting edge topics that affect everybody like climate change and displacement, and much more. 
 

Sri Lanka needs critical minds for critical times!

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

Every year, May 3rd is marked around the globe as World Press Freedom Day. This year UNESCO has declared the theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times”. Recently, Sri Lanka joined the ranks of nations that have taken progressive steps in making information available to the public by unveiling its own Right to Information (RTI) law. This is an important first step for the country. Experience from different parts of the world suggests that opening up access to information is an ongoing process that requires patience and perseverance to bring the full benefits of disclosure to a large number of stakeholders including, citizens, private sector and government.

women working on computers 

The World Bank unveiled its own policy on the disclosure of information in 2002. The Bank felt compelled to do so as knowledge sharing is an integral part of its development mission.  Moreover, the Bank needed to share information in order to get a better pulse from its stakeholders on how its services were performing; how it could improve but also to serve an increasing demand for its information and data.  In 2010 this policy was revised through a series of public consultations. Even so, the document is still evolving with constant feedback from our clients and citizens from countries we serve.
 
Opening up the institution has also meant exposing our staff and projects to public scrutiny. When I joined the World Bank in 1995, it was a very different institution; most information was restricted. Our journey from a closed institution to an open one has not been easy. We have learnt that merely implementing a policy is not enough to achieve the real reason for opening up; allow people to review, analyze and make informed judgements based on concrete information and data.  But more importantly we now know better that how staff perceive the increased access and its impact is the biggest challenge and yet also an opportunity.

Toward next-generation performance budgeting

Donald Moynihan's picture
 Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Performance budgeting (PB) has a deep and enduring appeal. What government would not want to allocate resources in a way that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability? However, such aspirations have proven poor predictors of how performance data are actually used.

The potential benefits of identifying and tracking the goals of public spending are undeniable, but have often justified a default adoption of overly complex systems of questionable use. Faith in PB is sustained by a willingness to forget past negative experiences and assume that this time it will be different. Without a significant re-evaluation, PB’s history of disappointment seems likely also to be its future.

Value for money: Costing Open Government reforms

Daniel Nogueira-Budny's picture



How can governments ensure that they get their money’s worth when they embrace open government reforms?
 
Ongoing research suggests that open government reforms—those that promote transparency, participation, and accountability—may lead to better development outcomes if properly implemented by governments. However, governments must navigate the myriad of initiative options as they strive to improve citizens’ quality of life and achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without a rough idea of the potential costs and benefits different reforms might offer, how can governments allocate their resources efficiently?
 
Multiple stakeholders are collaborating to answer this question. The Research Consortium on the Impact of Open Government commissioned a study to determine the financial costs associated with particular open government initiatives.  

Open data, closed algorithms, and the Black Box of Education

Michael Trucano's picture
hey, what's going on in there?
hey, what's going on in there?
Education is a ‘black box’ -- or so a prevailing view among many education policymakers and researchers goes.

For all of the recent explosion in data related to learning -- as a result of standardized tests, etc. -- remarkably little is known at scale about what exactly happens in classrooms around the world, and outside of them, when it comes to learning, and what the impact of this has.

This isn't to say that we know nothing, of course:

The World Bank (to cite an example from within my own institution) has been using standardized classroom observation techniques to help document what is happening in many classrooms around the world (see, for example, reports based on modified Stallings Method classroom observations across Latin America which seek to identify how much time is actually spent on instruction during school hours; in many cases, the resulting data generated are rather appalling).

Common sense holds various tenets dear when it comes to education, and to learning; many educators profess to know intuitively what works, based on their individual (and hard won) experience, even in the absence of rigorously gathered, statistically significant 'hard' data; the impact of various socioeconomic factors is increasingly acknowledged (even if many policymakers remain impervious to them); and cognitive neuroscience is providing many interesting insights.

But in many important ways, education policymaking and processes of teaching and learning are constrained by the fact that we don't have sufficient, useful, actionable data about what is actually happening with learners at a large scale across an education system -- and what impact this might have. Without data, as Andreas Schleicher likes to say, you are just another person with an opinion. (Of course, with data you might be a person with an ill-considered or poorly argued opinion, but that’s another issue.)
 
side observation: Echoing many teachers (but, in contrast to teaching professionals, usually with little or no formal teaching experience themselves), I find that many parents and politicians also profess to know intuitively ‘what works’ when it comes to teaching. When it comes to education, most everyone is an ‘expert’, because, well, after all, everyone was at one time a student. While not seeking to denigrate the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, or downplay the value of common sense, I do find it interesting that many leaders profess to have ready prescriptions at hand for what ‘ails education’ in ways that differ markedly from the ways in which they approach making decisions when it comes to healthcare policy, for example, or finance – even though they themselves have also been patients and make spending decisions in their daily lives.

One of the great attractions of educational technologies for many people is their potential to help open up and peer inside this so-called black box. For example:
  • When teachers talk in front of a class, there are only imperfect records of what transpired (teacher and student notes, memories of participants, what's left on the blackboard -- until that's erased). When lectures are recorded, on the other hand, there is a data trail that can be examined and potentially mined for related insights.
  • When students are asked to read in their paper textbook, there is no record of whether the book was actually opened, let along whether or not to the correct page, how long a page was viewed, etc. Not so when using e-readers or reading on the web.
  • Facts, figures and questions scribbled on the blackboard disappear once the class bell rings; when this information is entered into, say,  Blackboard TM (or any other digital learning management system, for that matter), they can potentially live on forever. 
And because these data are, at their essence, just a collection of ones and zeroes, it is easy to share them quickly and widely using the various connected technology devices we increasingly have at our disposal.
 
A few years ago I worked on a large project where a government was planning to introduce lots of new technologies into classrooms across its education system. Policymakers were not primarily seeking to do this in order to ‘transform teaching and learning’ (although of course the project was marketed this way), but rather so that they could better understand what was actually happening in classrooms. If students were scoring poorly on their national end-of-year assessments, policymakers were wondering: Is this because the quality of instruction was insufficient? Because the learning materials used were inadequate? Or might it be because the teachers never got to that part of the syllabus, and so students were being assessed on things they hadn’t been taught? If technology use was mandated, at least they might get some sense about what material was being covered in schools – and what wasn’t. Or so the thinking went ....

Yes, such digital trails are admittedly incomplete, and can obscure as much as they illuminate, especially if the limitations of such data are poorly understood and data are investigated and analyzed incompletely, poorly, or with bias (or malicious intent). They also carry with them all sorts of very important and thorny considerations related to privacy, security, intellectual property and many other issues.

That said, used well, the addition of additional data points holds out the tantalizing promise of potentially new and/or deeper insights than has been currently possible within 'analogue' classrooms.

But there is another 'black box of education' worth considering.

In many countries, there have been serious and expansive efforts underway to compel governments make available more ‘open data’ about what is happening in their societies, and to utilize more ‘open educational resources’ for learning – including in schools. Many international donor and aid agencies support related efforts in key ways. The World Bank is a big promoter of many of these so-called ‘open data’ initiatives, for example. UNESCO has long been a big proponent of ‘open education resources’ (OERs). To some degree, pretty much all international donor agencies are involved in such activities in some way.

There is no doubt that increased ‘openness’ of various sorts can help make many processes and decisions in the education sector more transparent, as well as have other benefits (by allowing the re-use and ‘re-mixing’ of OERs, teachers and students can themselves help create new teaching and learning materials; civil society groups and private firms can utilize open data to help build new products and services; etc.).

That said:
  • What happens when governments promote the use of open education data and open education resources but, at the same time, refuse to make openly available the algorithms (formulas) that are utilized to draw insights from, and make key decisions based on, these open data and resources?
     
  • Are we in danger of opening up one black box, only to place another, more inscrutable back box inside of it?

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