On a brisk February morning in 2010, a small group of my World Bank colleagues, a few AidData partners, and I were in brainstorming mode. Our topic of discussion: how we could make a meaningful, measurable difference in making our development projects more open, transparent, and effective.
One idea lit us all up: putting development on a map. We envisioned an open platform that citizens around the world could use to look up local development projects and provide direct feedback. We were inspired by “open evangelists” like Beth Novek, Hans Rosling and Viveck Kundra.
Testing of the citizen feedback platform with local community members in rural Cochabamba, Bolivia
However, there was one challenge: how could we help make the World Bank’s data and numerous data sets fully open, free, shareable, and easily accessible to anyone? At the time, the large majority of these data sets were proprietary, and those who had access to key data sets were a relatively limited number of technical specialists.
In addressing this issue, we were fortunate. We worked closely as a small, creative, and highly committed team of innovators from different parts of the Bank to gradually open up the Bank’s data. To be honest, no one on our small team of incubators could have predicted that we would be able to scale up our early innovations so rapidly and that they would result in such important changes in the Bank’s approach to data and openness.