The term "big data" is much in the news lately – alternatingly touted as the next silver bullet potentially containing answers to myriad questions on natural and human dynamics, and dismissed by others as hype. We are only beginning to discover what value exists in the vast quantities of information we have today, and how we are now capable of generating, storing, and analyzing this information. But how can we begin to extract that value? More importantly, how can we begin to apply it to improving the human condition by promoting development and reducing poverty?
That is precisely the question that motivated the World Bank Group and Second Muse to collaborate on the recently released report Big Data in Action for Development. Interviews with big data practitioners around the world and an extensive review of literature on the topic led us to some surprising answers.
(Source: FRED Economic Data)
A recent World Bank Group feature story broke down country by country the potential regional consequences. And according to the Bank Group’s Global Economic Prospects report, the decline in oil prices will dampen growth prospects for oil-exporting countries.
There are various factors that can be used to assess the impact of falling oil prices on countries. One such factor is trade. Countries exporting mostly fuel products will lose export revenue as oil prices drop. The chart below shows the top 15 countries that exported fuel in 2012. You can visualize the data for other years and products using the World Integrated Trade Solution’s (WITS) product analysis visualization tool.
A revolution starts with an idea, but to become real, it has to move quickly to a practical proposition about getting stuff done. And getting things done needs money. If the ideas generated last year, in the report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group and elsewhere, about how to improve data production and use are to become real, then they will need investments. It’s time to start thinking about where the money to fund the data revolution might come from, and how it might be spent.
Getting funding for investment in data won’t be easy. As hard-pressed statistical offices around the world know to their cost, it’s tough to persuade governments to put money into counting things instead of, say, teaching children or paying pensions. But unless the current excitement about data turn into concrete commitments, it will all fade away once the next big thing comes along, leaving little in the way of lasting change.
Last August, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) to make concrete recommendations on bringing about a Data Revolution in sustainable development. In response, the IEAG delivered its report, and among other items, recommends, “a new funding stream to support the Data Revolution for sustainable development should be endorsed at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development,” in Addis Ababa in July 2015.Three Issues Papers for Consultation
To support this request and to stimulate conversation, the World Bank Group has drafted issues papers that focus on three priority areas:
The papers aim to flesh out the specific development needs, as well as financing characteristics needed to support each area. A fuller understanding of these characteristics will determine what kind of financing mechanism(s) or instrument(s) could be developed to support the Data Revolution.
The World Bank Group’s International Debt Statistics (IDS) 2015 was released today. The Bank’s flagship debt data publication features 2013 data on external debt stocks and flows, as well as other major financial indicators on the 124 developing countries that report to the World Bank’s Group’s Debt Reporting System.
The major news from this year’s IDS is that net external debt flows to developing countries rose 28% in 2013, driven by a sharp 50% increase in short-term debt inflows. Additionally, foreign direct investment in emerging economies proved to be steady and resilient, bringing net capital flows (debt and equity) to $1.2 trillion.
For more detailed analysis and trends on debt statistics, take a look at IDS's debt portal featuring online tables. Here are a few highlights I thought I'd share.
When a country’s statistical capacity improves and policy makers use accurate statistics to inform their decisions, this results in better development policy design and outcomes. In this regard, the Statistical Capacity Indicator (SCI) serves as an essential monitoring and tracking tool, as well as helps National Statistics Offices (NSOs) worldwide to address a country’s gaps in their capabilities to collect, produce, and use data.
The Statistical Capacity Indicator’s Global Reach
Since 2004, the SCI continues to assess the capacity of a developing country’s ability to adhere to international statistical standards and methods, whether or not its activities are in line with internationally recommend periodicity, and whether the data are available in a timely fashion.
To this end, there are 25 indicators that annually monitor and “grade” a country’s statistical capacity progress and thus form the basis for the overall SCI score calculation.
While NSOs are the main users of the SCI score, the World Bank Group, international development agencies, and donor countries also refer to the SCI score for their own evaluation and monitoring purposes.
Open data for economic growth continues to create buzz in all circles. We wrote about it ourselves on this blog site earlier in the year. You can barely utter the phrase without somebody mentioning the McKinsey report and the $3 trillion open data market. The Economist gave the subject credibility with its talk about a 'new goldmine.' Omidyar published a report a few months ago that made $13 trillion the new $3 trillion. The wonderful folks at New York University's GovLab launched the OpenData500 to much fanfare. The World Bank Group got into the act with this study. The Shakespeare report was among the first to bring attention to open data's many possibilities. Furthermore, governments worldwide now routinely seem to insert economic growth in their policy recommendations about open data – and the list is long and growing.
Geographic distribution of companies we surveyed. Here is the complete list.
We hope to publish a detailed report shortly but here meanwhile are a few of the regional findings in greater detail.
What makes the Open India site unique?
This web app takes a new and different approach in presenting the WBG's partnership strategy and current projects, by doing so in a transparent, interactive, and easy-to-use web platform. It features data visualizations that connect the main engagement areas ̶ Economic Integration, Spatial Transformation, and Social Inclusion ̶ with the underlying challenges that are being addressed through the WBG's operations and knowledge products in India. An essential component of the new Open India web app is sectoral data that quantifies India's development challenges. For example, the range of India's infrastructure and transportation gaps is presented as a data visualization below.
Source: Open India