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Open Data Is Not Enough

Raka Banerjee's picture

Since its inception, the World Bank’s Open Data initiative has generated considerable excitement and discussion on the possibilities that it holds for democratizing development economics as well as for democratizing the way that development itself is conducted around the world.  Robert Zoellick, in a speech given last year at Georgetown University, expounded on the many benefits resulting directly from open data.  Offering the example of a health care worker in a village, he spoke of her newfound ability to “see which schools have feeding programs . . . access 20 years of data on infant mortality for her country . . . and mobilize the community to demand better or more targeted health programs.”  Beyond this, Zoellick argued that open data means open research, resulting in “more hands and minds to confront theory with evidence on major policy issues.”

The New York Times featured the Bank’s Open Data initiative in an article published earlier this month, in which it referred to the released data as “highly valuable”, saying that “whatever its accuracy or biases, this data essentially defines the economic reality of billions of people and is used in making policies and decisions that have an enormous impact on their lives.”  The far-reaching policymaking consequences of the data are undeniable, but the New York Times touches upon a crucial question that has been overshadowed by the current push for transparency: what about quality? 

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.

Uzbekistan explores a path to growth

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Does a remote double-landlocked Commonwealth of Independent States country have the potential to grow at 8 percent a year for the next 20 years? Call me an optimist, but I have just been to the country and I am convinced it’s true. My lecture to a packed audience in Tashkent on ‘Uzbekistan: New Strategies and Opportunities for Structural Transformation’ was well received. Perhaps they were just being extraordinarily polite hosts, but officials there thought my visit marked a transformation point and at the end of my visit, they said they’d start working on a long-term development vision report together with the World Bank and their think tanks.

The recipe for dynamic growth in a developing country is to tap into latecomer’s advantages by developing industries in accordance with its comparative advantages in a well-functioning market economy with the state playing a facilitating role. In the case of Uzbekistan, the potential of late comer advantages have been enormous in many sectors including the traditional ones, such as carpet, garment and horticulture, and modern ones, such as consumer electronics and cars. I visited a carpet factory in Samarkand. Impressed by the owner’s entrepreneurship and the abundant supply of well-educated, disciplined, wage-competitive workers, I am convinced Uzbekistan can out compete Turkey as the world’s production center of synthetic carpets in the coming years.

Let's Move Beyond Open Data to Open Development

Aleem Walji's picture

The Sunday Business section of the New York Times prominently featured an image of a huge vault overflowing with bits and bytes. It was a story about the Bank’s Open Data initiative and claimed that datasets and information will ultimately become more valuable than Bank lending. It’s a powerful idea and one that sounds similar to the knowledge bank articulated by Jim Wolfensohn nearly ten years ago. But there is an important distinction between the two. This is not about the World Bank as the central repository of knowledge sharing its knowledge and wisdom with clients from the South. Instead, it’s about “democratizing development economics” in that it levels the playing field on knowledge creation and dissemination and opens the development paradigm to participation from researchers and practitioners, software developers and students, from north and south.

In pursuit of Justice, Manufacturing, and Sustainable Growth in Emerging Economies

Swati Mishra's picture

‘Gender Equality’ is a concept that's finally entering the mainstream. It connotes equal rights to education, to vote, to work, to have access to finance, and other basic entitlements for both men and women. Unfortunately, while some equality milestones have been reached, in many cases attainment is a distant goal. Take the case of ‘Justice’. “In many countries of the world the rule of law still rules women out,” says the latest UN Report ‘Progress of the Worlds Women – In Pursuit of Justice’. The report, released today, highlights women’s access to justice systems in almost every country in the world. It focuses on issues such as number of seats held by women in their country’s parliament, laws against domestic violence, and so on. “The Paradox confronted by the report is that despite the recent and rapid expansion of women’s legal entitlements, what is written in the statute books does not always translate into real progress on equality and justice on the ground,” says Claire Provost in a post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. The report also has a wealth of data; see the interactive map here.

Taking Advantage of Russia’s Resource Windfall

Grzegorz W. Kolodko's picture

If the nation which has bestowed to the civilization such giants as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Tolstoy and Bulgakov could manage its economy as splendidly and robustly as its culture, Russia would be doing just great! Unfortunately, it’s not the case. The resource curse is affecting the economy in a negative way and even more seriously than certain counterproductive habits and mental inertia from the old times of statist, centrally planned economy.  

I’m afraid there is not much time left for Russia. If it wants to catch up with the advanced world – and become a true member of the G8 group of developed countries –  it must use wisely for investment in restructuring and diversification of its economy the windfall revenue from exploitation of vast natural resources. Otherwise, the process of deindustrialization without offsetting by the nowadays service sector will continue and this great country – with huge potential for fast, durable, and sustainable development – will miss the chance to become one of the leaders of world economy. This decade will decide the fate of Russia for the whole 21st century. And the time runs fast. 

What Industrial Policy?

Keijiro Otsuka's picture

Recently, economists began proposing the strategy for industrial development in low-income countries.  But there are few explicit recommendations as to what role governments should play in fostering industrialization.  Related question is whether we can draw useful lessons from successful experience of industrial development in East Asia for other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The paper entitled “A Cluster-Based Industrial Development Policy for Low-Income Countries” (Policy Research Working Paper 5703) proposes an industrial policy consisting of four pillars of recommendations based on roughly 20 case studies of industrial clusters in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

How Advanced Economies Can Tackle Their Debt Woes

Vamsee Kanchi's picture

Given the urgent need for policymakers in Europe and other advanced economies to tackle current debt challenges, there is a frantic scramble for suitable policy tools that will help resolve the Greek conundrum. 

One policy tool – a form of debt restructuring known as ‘financial repression’ that focuses on establishing a tighter relationship between government and the financial industry by setting caps on interest rates and regulating cross-border money flows – has largely been overlooked.  The Petersen Insitute’s Carmen Reinhart recently delivered a

How Resilient Were Emerging Economies to the Global Economic Crisis?

Sergio Schmukler's picture

Many economists have argued that emerging economies were “resilient” to the global crisis of 2008-09. However, they are often not very precise about what they mean by resilience. In a recent paper (Didier, Hevia, and Schmukler, 2011), we dig deeper on how emerging countries fared during the global crisis and to what extent they were indeed resilient.

In the paper, we show that while growth in emerging economies did not go to negative terrain during 2009, the collapses in GDP were similar to, or even larger than, those in advanced countries (Figures 1 and 2). The extent of the collapse was linked to that of the recovery – the more countries fell the more they recovered (Figure 3). However, there is significant heterogeneity among emerging economies, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia faring the worst. Low-income countries did relatively better, probably due to their lower degree of trade and financial openness (Figure 4). One piece of good news from the crisis is that merging economies recovered well, growing sooner at an even higher rate than before the crisis. Another innovation in emerging economies is that, as opposed to the past, they were able to use a larger set of policy tools.

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