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Hearing the call for open data.

Sameer Vasta's picture

In his most recent TED talk, open data advocate Hans Rosling blasted the World Bank (and lauded the US government) on data sharing practices. Rosling said that while we at the Bank have some of the best researchers and the best access to data, we're not doing enough to share that data openly, and for free.

I've embedded the video below so you can not only see what he has to say about the Bank, but also hear about some of the great ideas he has about datasets and mindsets.

Of course, it looks like Rosling may have ignored some of our more recent efforts to get our data to the hands of the people: efforts like our recently revamped API, and even the new data section (with great visualizations!) of the new World Bank Climate Change beta site.

But Rosling does have a point: we need to be doing more to share our data in open and usable formats. The question is, how do we do that?

While we've had some interest in our data visualization tools and our API, use of these tools is still low, making it hard to justify spending more resources on data sharing. Sure, there's a hunger for it, but how do we make sure we're feeding the right appetite?

There are a few questions that I have — questions where the answers will probably help me make a stronger case for increased emphasis on open data:

  1. What kind of data is the audience looking for?
  2. What does the audience want to do with this data?
  3. What are the best formats in which to release this data?
  4. What can we do to make it more enticing for people to use — and share — our data?


Mr. Rosling: we hear your call for open data. And while we hope that some of the steps we've already taken are helping address the world's data sharing needs, do know that we're working on sharing even more.

We just need the community's help — not their derision — in answering some questions so that we can make it better.


"We just need the community's help — not their decision — in answering some questions so that we can make it better." I agree with this. People across the world love to comment on issues (or make issues with comments) but often they fail to suggestion solutions and extend full cooperation. There is definite need for reely available common data exchange tools which can be used by everyone across the world. However whereever there is need for a programmer, the data become inaccessible due to high cost of getting it, analysing it and presenting it for decision making. Even today policy makers from large states to small villages lack reliable and consistent knowledge to make, implement and audit development policies. Even multilateral agencies and countries donot have common master codes, data structures and realtime information capturing platforms. Even with internet penetration in almost all countries most of the data reported is 2 to 3 years old.

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