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Bono and data beyond 2015: How can the Bank measure up?

Grant Cameron's picture

Bono speaks at the World Bank's #whatwillittake event on November 14th, 2012

Speaking at the World Bank on Wednesday, musician and activist Bono made the call for “open data and transparency” to “turbocharge the fight against poverty.”

When asked what the World Bank could do, he responded: “We need better data.”

When the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set out in 2000, they drew attention to large gaps in the data needed to monitor them. As we think beyond the 2015 MDG deadline, there’s a renewed interest in the quality and availability of data and statistics for guiding policy, monitoring progress, measuring results, and supporting analysis.

What’s the state of national statistics, and how can the Bank “turbocharge” improvements?

Early efforts uncoordinated

Most statistics needed for the MDGs come from country statistical systems. Twelve years ago, key statistics produced by many of these systems were of poor quality or non-existent. Donors’ early efforts to improve countries’ statistical capacity were piecemeal and partial. Aid was almost exclusively bilateral and uncoordinated, and at the time, the Bank’s only large-scale statistical capacity building project was focused on economic statistics in the former Soviet Union.

The results of investing in data

Since 2000, the Bank has invested over $500M into improving statistical systems. We’ve been drawing attention to data gaps and with our support, almost all IDA countries have crafted statistical development plans, many of which are now being implemented.


These efforts have borne fruit. Coverage for sanitation, water, under five mortality, and gender statistics has expanded and the quality of statistics as measured by the Bank’s statistical capacity indicator has improved from its benchmark level of 54 in 1999 to 67 in 2011. Data availability has improved, but you can see above that there’s some way to go.

Data gaps still remain: how do we help fix them?

In spite of this progress, many statistical systems are still week. Gaps in poverty, agriculture and malnutrition statistics and spotty vital registration systems require particular attention. For the Bank to effectively help countries improve their data, there are 4 things we need to do:

  1. Better integrate investment in statistical capacity building into more of our operational work.
  2. Increase the number of available experts in statistical capacity building.
  3. Have sustained support from the Bank’s board and senior management.
  4. Ensure data produced by country systems is more open and accessible.


Meeting these challenges would provide many benefits: More and better statistics will be available to monitor development goals post 2015 and facilitate the mobilization of needed resources; Evidence-based management at the Bank will improve; and there will be increases in national capacity for evidence-based development to guide policies, decision making, and monitor development progress.

For further details, see this month's "MDGs and Beyond" newsletter [PDF].


Submitted by Amparo on
Great post, Grant. Super summary of the 4 key areas for action. You may want to clarify that by "completion" you mean completion of primary schooling.

Submitted by Nii Moi Thompson on
Well, I'm glad (and somewhat relieved) that at least someone is talking statistics in the Post-2015 debate. I've been disturbed by its complete omission in discussions so far. The MDGs were global targets and even though the framework provided room for countries to domesticate them to suit their national development agenda, many didn't perhaps because they weren't even aware of such options. But right below domestication is localisation, which seems to have been completely forgotten even by those who domesticated the indicators and goals. Yet localisation in all its forms holds the key to our ability to measure progress, either now or beyond 2015. With efforts at domestication should come efforts at genetating better ADMINISTRATIVE STRATISTICS. This in turn requires certain institutional reforms, such as the capacity of local (and also central) governments to develop and manage effective M+E system. The absence of this capacity remains a void in the current MDGs discourse and will persist into 2015 and beyond if it is not givern prominence. All the talk about food security and inequality and poverty will continue to amount to little or nothing unless countries have the ability to make policies and to monitor and evaluate their implementation effectively; this is critical to ensuring sustainability, especially with poverty in all its forms, where the status of people (especially the vulnerable) changes with the rise and fall of their economic fortunes. I hope the Bank pushes strongly - very strongly - for M+E systems/localisation to be an integral part of the ongoing discuss. It is critical.

Thanks for your post and for your encouragement to put the "data gap" issue front and center in the post-2015 MDG discussion. I agree with your comments re: improving administrative statistics. More needs to be done to leverage the utility of these data sets. One way the Bank is helping is by providing tools and guidelines to data producers, to foster documentation, dissemination and preservation of microdata according to international standards and best practices. These tools were initially developed for household surveys, but can be applied more broadly. Learn more at Grant

Submitted by Misha Belkindas on
Grant is is a good summary of the developments. I am glad to see that not only policy makers and economists who should worry about data but also musicians and activists join the ranks of data priechers. If the world will listen more to the song about data needs so be it as long as the initiatives to improve statistical system is supported at the highest policy level. cheers

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