A year ago we had a post  on launching a new version of the World Bank’s data query system, DataBank , offering over 9,000 indicators with which users can create custom reports with tables, charts, or maps. These live reports can then be saved, shared between users, and embedded as widgets on websites or blogs. A year later, DataBank is multilingual, offering a multilingual interface across the different databases and fully-translated data from the World Development Indicators . We’ve asked one of the founding fathers of DataBank and Open Data’s Lead Information Officer, Reza Farivari, to tell us about the tool and what to expect in the future.
What is DataBank and why is it useful?
It’s the latest version of a data query tool that lets people access data across time, country and indicator to get a subset of data that they are looking for. With databank we
- made it quick and easy for users to get to the data that they’re looking for;
- and we made sure that it works on tablets (a growing trend these days), as well as desktop and laptop computers.
The main feature that was recently added and that makes the tool even more useful to our users throughout the world is its multilingual interface and access to multilingual data.
Which languages is it available in and why those languages?
It’s in Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and English, consistent with the languages on the World Bank data site.
To see a brief preview of databank, view the video below.
Do people that interact with the tool in different languages use the tool in different ways? Do we know anything about how languages translate into data usage?
That’s a little difficult to gauge, but part of the design of the system is to make it in such a way that there’s a common experience across languages with an easy access, intuitive use of the product and compatibility across all environments (tablets, desktops and laptops).
Examining analytics on the indicators users search for and the type of reports people create in other languages is interesting. Some days there may be particular indicators that are especially relevant for a specific region. For example, if there is a large international conference on climate change in Latin America we may see an increased number of reports created and shared in Spanish.
How did DataBank come into existence?
DataBank is the latest generation of a number of data query products developed by our Department stemming from the late ‘80’s and mainframe computers. Just prior to DataBank, we had a tool called “WDI quick query”, which was available by subscription for many years before Open Data and was popular with millions of users globally. With the launch of the Open Data initiative in 2010 we looked at modernizing that tool to make it more useful to our global audiences. We examined it to see how we should change it to meet the demands of a more diverse audience, and to make sure that DataBank meets the guiding priorities and principles of Open Data at the Bank .
What was the inspiration and concepts behind the design of DataBank?
Since we wanted to engage users with our data and encourage collaboration, we had to think from the user perspective about the design. We looked both inside and outside the Bank for ideas, but we were guided by some key principles:
- It had to allow for users to save their data queries. So, a teacher could create a chart or table with data in advance and then showcase it during class;
- It had to be versatile in terms of browsers and devices on which it ran, allowing users to interact with the tool on tablets desktops, and laptops;
- It had to be intuitive in terms of navigation for the user;
- And lastly based on the feedback we got from users of DataBank we knew users wanted to get to the data in as few clicks as possible. They wanted to immediately see data.
At the end of the day we had all these parameters, while at the same time we had to balance user experience with performance.
What are the future plans for DataBank? Will it retain its current shape and form or do you see it changing in the coming years?
The nature of this business is that it will change. Since 2010 this is the third version of DataBank and we know that it will continue to evolve but to what extent will depend on users, the feedback  we get from them, as well as trends in the industry. We’re looking to see in which direction to take it next. One plan is to integrate some additional data visualization tools with DataBank to improve its graphing and mapping capabilities, but what we end up doing at the end of the day is defined by what the users of our tools want. I think as more and more people use the tool, we’ll have a better sense of what additional features it needs and where it may need to be adjusted. We’re looking forward to hearing from users  about their experience with DataBank. So use DataBank, explore our tutorials , ask questions and send us your feedback and views.