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Official Statistics in a Post-Truth World

Haishan Fu's picture
Photo Credit:  2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Report

I've been thinking about the role of data and digital technology in today's information landscape. New platforms and technologies have democratized access to much of the world’s knowledge, but they’ve also amplified disinformation that affects public discourse. In this context, the official statistics community plays a critical role in bringing credible, evidence-based information to the public.
 
A “post-truth” society is not an inevitable state of affairs that we must accept; it's an unacceptable state of affairs that we must address. To do so, we need reliable data that are trusted by the public. Institutions like national statistical offices must go beyond their traditional data production remit to become a trusted, visible force for reason in people’s lives by building trust, embracing relevance, and communicating better.

Event: 50 Years of Measuring World Economies – Wednesday May 23, 2018 at 4pm EST

Nada Hamadeh's picture
Join us live online or in-person on Wednesday at 4pm for "50 Years of Measuring World Economies" event held at the World Bank James D. Wolfensohn Atrium in Washington, DC.
 
The International Comparison Program (ICP) – the world’s largest global data initiative led by the World Bank under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission – is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Since the initiation of the ICP as a modest research project at the University of Pennsylvania by Irving Kravis, Alan Heston and Robert Summers in 1968, the Program has grown to cover about 200 countries and 20 global, regional and sub-regional agencies.
 

To commemorate this milestone, World Bank Group Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva, 2015 Nobel Laureate in economics Sir Angus Deaton, and Georgetown University Provost Robert M. Groves will come together at an event to discuss the challenges and opportunities for investing in evidence for sustainable development. In addition, Lawrence H. Summers, the 71st Secretary of the US Treasury and son of ICP co-founder Robert Summers, will share a recorded tribute. A video produced by the World Bank for the occasion will showcase the history and impact of the ICP.

Survey specialists and data scientists meet: machine learning to measure a person’s height from a picture.

Michael M. Lokshin's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
A test subject holding a reference image and a silhouette derived from the photo by Tensorflow/DeepLab semantic image segmentation model.

Human body measurements are used to evaluate health trends in various populations. We wanted a simple way to reliably measure someone’s height as part a field interview, using a photo of them holding a reference object. We’ve developed an approach and would highlight two things we learned during the process:

  • With an iteratively refined method, it’s possible to get a measure of someone’s height accurate to 1% from a well-composed image of them holding a calibrated paper printout. We plan to integrate this functionality in to the free World Bank Survey Solutions CAPI tool.

  • We found working with an in-house team of survey specialists and data scientists the best way to tackle this problem. It’s only when we combined our domain knowledge and field experience with our data science skills and a healthy dose of creative problem solving, were we able to develop a working prototype.

Latest from the LSMS: New data from Malawi, measuring soil health & food consumption and expenditure in household surveys

Vini Vaid's picture

 

Message from Gero Carletto (Manager, LSMS)

A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA) in Muscat, Oman, where I joined a panel discussion on how global survey initiatives like the LSMS or Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) can help us measure and monitor many of the SDG indicators. We also discussed how global initiatives like the UN Statistical Commission’s Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys (ISWGHS) can help coordinate these efforts and position the household survey agenda within the global data landscape. Everyone seems to agree that monitoring more than 70 SDG indicators will require high-quality, more frequent, and internationally comparable household surveys. Yet, the narrative on household surveys continues to be lopsided. In my view, this is partly because strengthening traditional data sources like surveys and censuses is seen as outmoded and ineffective when compared with the more glittering promises offered by alternative data sources like Big Data.

At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I believe that it’s important for countries and donors alike to continue investing in household surveys to both validate and add value to new types of data. In many of the countries we work in, leapfrogging to the digital revolution without having gone through an analog evolution may be an ephemeral proposition. This in no way means that we should continue doing things the same way: during the past decade, household surveys have evolved dramatically, increasingly relying on technological innovation and new methods to make survey data cheaper, more accurate, and more policy relevant. Methodological and technological innovation remains at the core of the LSMS’s raison d’être and, together with our partners, we will continue pushing the frontier. Until more robust and fully validated alternatives materialize, household survey critics may want to recall the old saying, “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em!”

Latest from the LSMS: New data from Tanzania and Nigeria, dynamics of wellbeing in Ethiopia & using non-standard units in data collection

Vini Vaid's picture

Message from Gero Carletto (Manager, LSMS)

It has been a busy few months for the LSMS team! Together with several Italian and African institutions, we recently launched the Partnership for Capacity Development in Household Surveys for Welfare Analysis. The initiative cements a long-term collaboration to train trainers from regional training institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to harmonize survey data and promote the adoption of best practices in household surveys across the region (see below for more details). In addition, we have contributed to several international conferences and meetings, such as the Annual Bank Conference on Africa (featured below), where we witnessed the creative use of the data we helped collect and disseminate. Finally, LSMS was part of a documentary on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) called The Crowd & The Cloud. The fourth episode featured our very own Talip Kilic and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, working hand in hand to produce household and farm-level panel data, which have been game changers in informing government policymaking and investment decisions, as well as in advancing the methodological frontier. We look forward to many more exciting quarters as we continue to work with our partners to improve the household survey landscape!

Supporting data for development: applications open for a new innovation fund

Haishan Fu's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español
Image credit: The Crowd and The Cloud


I’m pleased to announce that applications are now open for the second round of a new data innovation fund which was announced last month at the UN’s High Level Political Forum.

The fund will invest up to $2.5 million in Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development - ideas to improve the production, management and use of data in poor countries. This year the fund’s thematic areas are “Leave No One Behind” and the environment.

Details on eligibility, criteria and how to apply are here: bit.ly/wb-gpsdd-innovationfund-2017

The initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. DFID is the largest contributor to the TFSCB.

Supporting statistics for development

Here in the World Bank’s Development Data group, we’re looking forward to working with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) again following a successful pilot round of innovation funding last year. But you might be asking - why is the World Bank’s Data team helping to run a data innovation fund?

Between 2 Geeks: Episode 6 - Collecting data with surveys is easy, right?

Raka Banerjee's picture

According to the latest estimates, 33.5% of people in Ethiopia live under $1.90 a day. But how do we know that? Where do this number come from?

Well, it comes from household surveys! To learn more about what it takes to collect these data, we talk to Diane Steele, who’s the Household Survey Coordinator of the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) program here at the World Bank. The LSMS program works with countries to help them collect high-quality household survey data, and also to improve the methods used to collect it.

In this episode, Diane tells us about what it takes to put together a household survey. Among other things, you’ve got to design a questionnaire - but how do you make sure that you’re asking the right questions? And you need to design a sample - but how do you know how large of a sample you need in order for the survey to be nationally representative? And you need to train your interviewers properly - but how do you know that they’ve understood the process clearly?

In a world where 77 countries still don’t have the data that they need to measure and track poverty, it’s all the more important to keep improving the way that we collect surveys, so that we’re confident that we’re getting good data that countries can use to create better policies for their citizens. That’s why the World Bank committed to work with the world’s poorest countries to ensure that they collect household surveys every 3 years, so that we’re all better equipped with the information we need to fight poverty and improve people’s lives.

Aside from all that, you can also tune in to hear me ask Tariq about whether he's the head of his household, how many hours he worked last week, and whether or not he's living under an asbestos roof.

This episode of Between 2 Geeks is hosted by Tariq Khokhar & Raka Banerjee, and produced by Richard Miron. You can chat with us on twitter with the hashtag #Between2Geeks, listen to new episodes on the World Bank Soundcloud Channel and subscribe to “World Bank’s Podcasts” in your podcast app or on iTunes.

Between 2 Geeks: Episode 4 - What can you measure with cellphone metadata?

Andrew Whitby's picture

Globally, there are over 98 mobile subscriptions per 100 people, so the chances are, you have a cell phone. Now look at your recent calls, both sent and received: Who do you call most often? Who calls you the most? Do you send, or receive more calls? All this is cell phone metadata: not the content of the calls, but ancillary information, the “who, where and when”.

It’s information that can reveal a lot about you. Your cellphone carrier already uses it to bill you, and may also be using it to target marketing or special offers at you. And with appropriate privacy protections, it can offer researchers a similar opportunity. In this week’s episode of Between 2 Geeks we ask how cellphone metadata (“call detail records”) can help researchers understand entire societies.

Every data point has a human story

Raka Banerjee's picture


Good data leads to good policy, which means better lives for people around the world. But where does data come from? And what’s really going on behind the scenes to arrive at these all-important numbers? A new PBS documentary called The Crowd and the Cloud brings data to life by showing us the real lives behind the data points and the hard work that it takes to turn a human story into a statistic.

Hosted by former NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and written and produced by Geoff Haines-Stiles (Senior Producer of COSMOS with Carl Sagan), The Crowd and the Cloud is a four-part documentary that examines the rapidly growing field of citizen data science, showing how regular citizens are increasingly able to gather and share valuable data on the environment, public health, climate change, and economic development.

Episode 4: Citizens4Earth follows Talip Kilic from the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study program as he travels to far-flung rural communities in central and southwestern Uganda, along with the survey teams for the Uganda National Panel Survey (UNPS). In the episode, James Muwonge (Director of Socioeconomic Surveys at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics) explains why household surveys like the UNPS are so important for investment decisions and policy-making, particularly in developing countries like Uganda.

A new commitment to household surveys at the World Bank

Household surveys are crucial for monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Bank’s twin goals of ending global extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. However, we still face significant challenges around the world in terms of data availability - among the 155 countries for which the World Bank monitors poverty data, half lacked sufficient data for measuring poverty between 2002 and 2011. In response, the World Bank has committed itself to reversing this dismal state of affairs: in October 2015, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that the Bank would support the 78 poorest countries in conducting an LSMS-type household survey every 3 years.

Between 2 Geeks: Episode 3 – Getting an education on education

Raka Banerjee's picture

Education is one of the strongest tools that we have to reduce poverty, improve health outcomes, increase gender equality, and promote peace and stability. For every year that people are educated, their earnings increase by 10%. However, there are still 121 million children who are not attending primary and secondary school around the world, and approximately 250 million children can’t read or write.

What can countries do to change this situation, and what can successful countries teach others about how to get things right in the classroom?

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