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The rise of open data driven businesses in emerging markets

Alla Morrison's picture


Mapping traffic flows using real time data.

Key findings --

  • Many new data companies have emerged around the world in the last few years. Of these companies, the majority use some form of government data.
  • There are a large number of data companies in sectors with high social impact and tremendous development opportunities.
  • An actionable pipeline of data-driven companies exists in Latin America and in Asia. The most desired type of financing is equity, followed by quasi-equity in the amounts ranging from $100,000 to $5 million, with averages of between $2 and $3 million depending on the region. The total estimated need for financing may exceed $400 million.
The economic value of open data is no longer a hypothesis
How can one make money with open data which is akin to air – free and open to everyone? Should the World Bank Group be in the catalyzer role for a sector that is just emerging?  And if so, what set of interventions would be the most effective? Can promoting open data-driven businesses contribute to the World Bank Group’s twin goals of fighting poverty and boosting shared prosperity?

These questions have been top of the mind since the World Bank Open Finances team convened a group of open data entrepreneurs from across Latin America to share their business models, success stories and challenges at the Open Data Business Models workshop in Uruguay in June 2013. We were in Uruguay to find out whether open data could lead to the creation of sustainable new businesses and jobs. To do so, we tested a couple of hypotheses: open data has economic value, beyond the benefits of increased transparency and accountability; and open data companies with sustainable business models already exist in emerging economies.

The Data Revolution is Here: How is Open Data Changing the Private Sector?

Prasanna Lal Das's picture

Earlier this year, Mohammed Faruk Ahmed was one of 37,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers forced to flee the conflict in Libya.

Forsaking his job and only source of income, he returned home empty handed. Watch this video to know how returnee migrants like Ahmed, now have a chance to rebuild their life, thanks to a World Bank-sponsored initiative to repatriate and support Bangladeshi migrants from Libya.

Scenes from the DC big data dive - the final report

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
Control room at a power station in Ghana. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst / World Bank)

Much work remains to be done to ensure reliable electricity access for Africa's citizens. A number of complications are making it difficult to achieve this UN Sustainable Development Goal. Yet access rates are expanding in many nations, and technology and design improvements offer opportunities to make rapid leaps forward. 

Of the 1.1 billion people on Earth without access to electricity, about half live in Africa. And while the World Bank’s Global Tracking Framework shows progress is being made to deliver electricity to those without, most of it is taking place in Asia. In Africa, it’s a different story.

Understanding the Demand for Open Financial Data

Samuel Lee's picture

Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo © Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust

If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend taking a look at the TED website. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It organizes conferences where people from different fields and walks of life, scientists, engineers, and politicians, can present their ideas and projects.

The talks are filmed and made available for free on their website, which now contains a vast collection of brilliant presentations and speeches, always informative and at times downright jaw-dropping (in fact, “jaw dropping” is one of the categories you can use to scan through the presentations.)

The presentation that recently caught my attention is one by Cary Fowler, about the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture. Dr Fowler is Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose mission is to conserve Earth’s agricultural biodiversity. Jointly funded in 2004 by FAO and Biodiversity International the Trust worked with the Norwegian Government and the Nordic Gene bank to create the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, also dubbed by the media “the Doomsday vault,” which was officially opened on February 26, 2008.

Scenes from a Dive - what’s big data got to do with fighting poverty and fraud?

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
A paddy farmer with his umbrella on a rainy day in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank
Farmer in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank)

If God appeared in the dream of a paddy farmer in India’s West Bengal and said, “You have made me happy with your hard work, make any three wishes and they will be granted,” the farmer will say “I want rain, rain, rain.”

That thought kept playing over and over in my mind, after interacting with farmers in the paddy fields of the Siliguri and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal. Located in India’s northeast, the area is famous for its scenic beauty, tea plantations and paddy fields. While the region’s fertile soil makes it ideal for a variety of crops, it is almost entirely dependent on rainfall for irrigation, like anywhere else in the world.

To reduce their dependence on the monsoons, India’s farmers have taken 12 million electricity connections and 9 million diesel pump sets with which they pump up groundwater for irrigation.

Although agriculture’s share of India’s economy is declining—it contributes to less than 15% of India’s GDP—it still employs 50% of the country’s workforce. Not surprisingly, perhaps, up to 20% of all the electricity used in India is for agriculture, mostly for irrigation. In some states, this can account for as much as 30-50% of all the electricity used in the state.

There are many states where power for agricultural purposes is highly subsidized, and this, combined with an unreliable supply of electricity, often causes farmers to leave their pumps on all the time. This wastes both electricity and water, with too much energy being used and too much groundwater being extracted, often way more water than needed. 

Since more than half of India’s cultivated land is yet to be irrigated, a business-as-usual scenario will lead to a huge rise in India’s energy needs for agriculture alone.

But there is an alternative—solar energy.

With decreasing solar modules prices (70% in the last 4 years), solar pumps are fast becoming a viable financial solution for irrigation.

However, there are several questions about the use of solar pumps that need to be answered:

Won’t solar pumps only make farmers more lax about using energy resources and wasting groundwater?

Why DC is the place to be this weekend if you are interested in big data for development

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
to teach, or not to teach, basic ICT literacy?
to teach, or not to teach, basic ICT literacy?

In most cases, in most places -- at least in most so-called 'developing countries' -- the use of computers and other ICTs in schools is in practice focused largely on the development of what is commonly referred to or understood as 'ICT or computer literacy'. In fact, in many low and even middle income countries, professed needs to develop 'market-relevant' things like keyboarding skills, a basic understanding of how to navigate computer GUIs and operating systems and a general facility with standard office applications inform some of the primary justifications for the roll-out of computers in schools.

In some such places (case #1), once you have become 'proficient' in using (e.g.) a word processor, the promotion of the development of 'ICT-related skills' stops. (You are now 'computer literate': Time to move along!)

In other places (case #2), there is no shortage of lofty rhetoric around the need to develop '21st century skills' through the use (in part) of ICTs, but if you look at how the equipment is actually being utilized, the reality of ICT use in case #2 is not terribly different in practice than what one sees in the first case.

That said, some people think that way basic ICT literacy is being promoted within many 'digital divide' initiatives in the education sector may over time actually impede progress toward the development of higher order ICT-related skills. This points to a phenomenon associated with the so-called 'Second Digital Divide' (related EduTech blog post), which (in the words of the OECD) "separates those with the competencies and skills to benefit from computer use from those without". For such people, a focus on developing only basic ICT literacy,

Would you give up your personal data for development?

Prasanna Lal Das's picture

I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/World BankIn the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible.  Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive. 

The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.

For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?

In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.


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