The World Bank’s data  will now be available in French, Spanish and Arabic! This is huge. It is going to empower local researchers, academics, grad students and civil society in a whole new way. It changes the game for measuring government performance and pushing for openness.
Dr. Abdelkhalek Touhami , an open data advocate in Morocco and researcher, was interviewed for his reactions to the World Bank’s announcement .
Here are the main points he made (summarized by me):
- Access to data is difficult in some countries, and even when one has access to data, there are often questions about its integrity and quality. When it is released by governments, data is often small in scope (only one country, or part of the country, or partial sets of data, etc ). Having a large scope of data (especially the ability to compare data across many countries) is essential for researchers and CSOs working with the governments. Now with World Bank’s Open Data initiative, good quality data will be available to everyone -- and for the first time in Arabic.
- Access to data in Arabic, Spanish and French will encourage transparency, engagement and more research at the local level. Up until now, many people ended up abandoning their research because of the language barrier, since most data was available only in English.
- So this initiative will level the playing field between the international researchers who have access to data and local researchers who do not. Now funding will not be a barrier to research anymore -- local research institutes or NGOs often do not have the money to buy data, let alone to translate it.
Thanks to the professor for spelling this out for us. For a view from one of the World Bank's leading researchers, see this post from Richard Fix .
In my experience, translation often gets passed over as routine and is constantly cut from projects "to save money" (while vastly lowering impact). In the age of the internet, translation is fundamental. I am beginning to believe that a new age of innovative, easier, more affordable translation has arrived and that, carried on the wings of the Web, it will be a transformative factor in the decade ahead.
If we want to give local academics and civil society the tools to contribute constructively to social and economic policy debate, we need to translate this data into many more languages. But this is a fantastic break-thorough.