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Revolutionizing Data Collection: From “Big Data” to “All Data”

Nobuo Yoshida's picture

The limited availability of data on poverty and inequality poses major challenges to the monitoring of the World Bank Group’s twin goals – ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. According to a recently completed study, for nearly one hundred countries at most two poverty estimates are available over the past decade.Worse still, for around half of them there was either one or no poverty estimate available.* Increasing the frequency of data on poverty is critical to effectively monitoring the Bank’s twin goals.
 
Against this background, the science of “Big Data” is often looked to as providing a potential solution. A famous example of this science is “Google Flu Trends (GFT)”, which uses search outcomes of Google to predict flu outbreaks. This technology has proven extremely quick to produce predictions and is also very cost-effective. The rapidly increasing volumes of raw data and the accompanying  improvement of computer science have enabled us to fill other kinds of data gaps in ways that we could not even have dreamt of  in the past.

Parsing the challenges of measuring poverty and shared prosperity

Peter Lanjouw's picture

The data and processes needed to measure global poverty and gauge improvements in the prosperity of the bottom 40% of people in each country present complex challenges and provoke considerable debate amongst poverty experts.  

From the comparability of household surveys and their use in policy design to the utility of purchasing power parity data as a unifying standard for measuring the poor, the devil in global poverty analysis is in the details. It’s also vital to understand the World Bank’s recently adopted twin goals in a broader context, to see how they fit into a broader array of monitorable indicators that each come with their own specific features and insights. We must also listen to client governments and outside partners when they prefer to go beyond income to look at multidimensional social welfare functions.

Worth the wait in Zanzibar

Raka Banerjee's picture

My experiences with field work thus far have been nothing if not adventurous. I seem to attract broken glass – a rock the size of a small coconut crashing through my 3rd floor window in Zanzibar, for instance, or the windows of my taxi being broken with baseball bats by an armed mob in Mali. Just the other day, my boss and I came within inches of dying in a fiery plane crash – we were on our way back to the main island of Zanzibar from Pemba island in a tiny 12-seater Soviet-era plane, and were just about to land in a strong crosswind when the engine on my side failed.  We managed to land, somehow, and taxied to a stop right there on the runway to wait for a vehicle (ironically, it ended up being an ambulance) to take us to the terminal.

Counting Women: Heavy-hitters can help make it happen

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

With a data revolution upon us and as we strive to keep up in this new age of participation, what counts matters and is acted upon. If advertisers can mine our online behavior, how we use our phones and where we spend to influence our consumer choices, then surely we can design smart social programs based on gender-disaggregated data that will narrow the gaps between men and women in social and economic life, right? These and other questions were posed at an event today on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap."

What was inspiring was that two heavy-hitters – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – spoke eloquently about the power of data to maximize results and shape policies, whether in terms of higher productivity on farms in Africa, better social safety net programs in Peru, or more effective peace and reconciliation initiatives in post conflict countries.

Democratising development drop by drop

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

Can a new set of brains bring a new set of solutions to water problems? Water is at the heart of some of the world's most pressing development challenges. For example:

  1. human development: diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.
  2. energy security: hydropower is the only renewable energy source currently deployed at scale
  3. food security: agriculture will face increasingly powerful demands to allocate water to urban, industrial and environmental services.
  4. urban development: droughts and floods will grow more intense and frequent in cities.

Coping with information overload—with an iPad

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Life before the web was neatly compartmentalized. Research was produced by researchers who wrote articles for academic journals; news was written up by professional journalists who wrote for newspapers and talked on news broadcasts on the TV and the radio; policy was made by politicians and policymakers behind closed doors in smoke-filled ministries in capital cities; and entertainment was crafted by professionals and delivered in theaters, cinemas and on the TV.

News at 11: The Millennium Development Goals

Eric Swanson's picture

Secretary General Ban-ki Moon released the 11th annual report on Millennium Development Goals last Friday at the high level meeting of the Economic and Social Council in Geneva (MDG 2011). Issuing an annual report on progress toward the MDGs was a commitment made by his predecessor, Kofi Annan.

Why Civil Registration matters in the countdown to the Millennium Development Goals

Sulekha Patel's picture

With just four years to the target date of 2015, progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been slow. Measuring progress has been hampered by the lack of quality and timely data; this is especially true when measuring progress toward goals that rely on civil registration for their information, such as Goal 4 on reducing child mortality. Available data in the new edition of World Development Indicators show that of the 144 countries for which data are available, more than 100 countries remain off-track to reach the MDG 4 by 2015.  

World Bank Atlas and me: 1988 and now

Neil Fantom's picture

It’s 1988. I’ve just started my career as a statistician in the British Civil Service. One of my first tasks: find data to compare the major aid donors of the world: how much they give, and the size of their economies.

Today, it seems an almost trivial task. There are plenty of good on-line resources and tools, like the OECD’s aid statistics website, the new AidFlows tool, and the Bank’s own data website.

But twenty three years ago there isn’t a computer on every desk. There is no internet, no World Wide Web. So no email, no instant messages, no Google. Communication is by letter (in quintuplicate, I should add), fax, phone – and more than an occasional telex. And getting hold of some data means spending a few happy hours in the statistical annex of the departmental library, digging out the latest statistical publications.

Rising food prices, governance, and other stories this week

Swati Mishra's picture

Rising food prices have once again grabbed everyone’s attention. Prices for some basic foods are nearing the 2008 food crisis levels. In the post ‘Soaring Food Crisis’, Paul Krugman analyzes the data from USDA World supply and demand estimates, and blames the current price spikes on global harvest failures. However, the main question still remains unanswered – is another food crisis afoot? Answers to this and some other concerns are addressed in the latest World Bank Flash and also in the World Food Program’s ‘Rising Food Prices: 10 Questions Answered’ piece.

Should 16 year old Africans vote? Why not… Africa has the youngest and fastest growing population in the worldwhere more than 20% are between the ages of 15- 24, argues Calestous Juma in an insightful post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. Speaking of Africa, in an interesting post, ‘Do informed citizens hold governments accountable? It depends…’ (Governance for Development blog), Stuti Khemani from the World Bank’s Research Group examines the impact of radio access on government accountability in Benin.

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