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Development

From Discovery to Scale: Leveraging big data to improve development outcomes

Michael M. Lokshin's picture

In the last few years, the World Bank has expanded use of big data in more than 150 development projects globally, spanning a wide range of sectors and geographies. Solutions have ranged from using big data to monitor, evaluate, and improve projects—in energy, transport, and agriculture—to poverty diagnostics and understanding how well urban residents are connected to jobs. But, as Haishan Fu, Director of the Development Data Group at the World Bank, has said, “we are just beginning to realize the potential of the data revolution.”

These pilots have taught us that moving from discovery, to incubation, to scale requires a more coordinated and systematic approach. At the World Bank, we found it important to go beyond internal dialogue and assessments. We wanted to listen to and understand the perspectives of our partners in the development and data ecosystems—on current gaps, opportunities, as well as on the role(s) the World Bank should play in order to foster collective action.

Five years of investments in open data

Tim Herzog's picture
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This year marks the fifth anniversary of the World Bank’s efforts to help countries launch their own open data initiatives, and harness the power of open data to benefit their citizens. A new report provides insights into how open data is benefitting countries, what strategies are working well, what could be improved.

The report provides the most comprehensive snapshot of Bank-funded open data activities to date. In the last five years, the Bank has provided technical assistance and funding for open data activities in over 50 countries, conservatively estimated at more than $50 million from a variety of sources. In many cases Bank funding has leveraged support from other partners or co-sponsorship by countries and other institutions. Within the Bank, the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) has been the most significant source of funding for open data. The TFSCB has financed over 20 projects in 16 countries, as well as 6 grants for regional and global activities.

Supporting over 45 countries with national and sector-specific open data

Support for open data has taken a variety of forms. To date, 45 Open Data Readiness Assessments (ODRAs) have been completed at national and sub-national levels, which have helped raise awareness and catalyze public and private efforts to advance open data within countries. There are now sector-specific ODRA tools for business, energy, and transport. The Bank has invested in a range of open data learning and knowledge products, including data literacy courses and the Open Data Toolkit, and collaborated with its global partners to support academic research, a series of regional conferences, and open data implementation. The report also found that these initial efforts have catalyzed longer-term project investments, i.e., IBRD loans and IDA credits, with open data implementation components in at least 14 countries.