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World BAnk Atlas

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.