June 9 is International Archives Day, and I would like to mark this day by reflecting on the contribution of the World Bank Group Archives to the “memory” of the development community. As such, I am talking with Giovanni Zanalda, director of the Duke University Center for International Studies/Global Areas. Giovanni is a faculty member in the Departments of Economics and History at Duke and specializes in financial history, history of development, and emerging markets. He has been a user of the WBG Archives in different phases of his career and with different focuses, and we have asked him to share his user perspective.
How do you think the challenges faced by the World Bank’s urban transport teams have changed since the sector emerged in the 1970s? Did they become more or less complex? And what factors influenced the sector’s evolution? Recent research by Slobodan Mitric on the early years of the Bank’s urban transport sector gave Bank staff a unique opportunity to glimpse into the past, find some answers to these questions, and uncover the knowledge hidden in the historical records of the World Bank Group Archives.
Mitric, who has spent his entire professional life working on the subject of transport in cities and retired from the Bank in 2003 as a lead urban transport specialist, presented the findings of his research in the Archives at a panel discussion on the “World Bank’s Engagement with Transport in Cities: The Early Years 1972-1982” last month. The panel was organized by the World Bank Group Archives jointly with the History, Urban & Water, and Transportation Thematic Groups of the 1818 Society.
In my last post on the Bank’s Open Archives program , I wrote about how the Archives of the World Bank Group (WBG) is striving to make information easily accessible to the public, and maximizing the impact of the WBG’s open initiatives. By enabling access to the oldest and only multiregional development archives, we reveal the experience of generations of development practitioners and their counterparts to help inform the decisions of today's development community.
Until recently, archives users — including academics, development partners, and other researchers — had to travel miles, sometimes even across continents, to be able to access records kept in the World Bank Group Archives. But now, users will no longer have to be in Washington, D.C. to look at declassified materials.
In April 2015, as part of its commitment to transparency and openness, the World Bank Group launched its Archives Holdings website. This is a state-of-the-art platform, which maximizes the public’s online access to a vast amount of original primary source material in the custody of the Archives.
Created using the Access to Memory open source software, the website facilitates a faster, more efficient, and personalized online service delivery model. The software serves as a catalog that provides basic information about the resources of the Archives, and it is equipped with user-friendly finding aids compliant with the International Standard for Archival Description. The website delivers an increasing quantity of digitized records from the early 1940s onward, making them available for the first time to public users who cannot come to the Archives reading room in Washington, D.C.
A new phase of openness began five years ago on July 1, 2010, when the World Bank launched its Policy on Access to Information, which provides access to any information in the Bank’s possession that is not on a list of exceptions. The policy has served as a catalyst and has created an ecosystem of transparency initiatives to make World Bank information and data available to the public. In the years since 2010, the Bank has applied the principles underpinning Access to Information to accompanying initiatives such as Open Data, the Open Knowledge Repository, Open Finances, and Open Contracting, among others. The spectrum of transparency and innovation even extends beyond these initiatives to include the World Bank’s vision on Open Government.
Open approaches are paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with global citizens who can – and do – utilize the information and data to engage with and better their communities.
This summer I was invited to speak at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh, Scotland on Open Development. As you might know, TED features "Ideas Worth Spreading" and this year's global conference focused on "Radical Openness." This was an opportunity to highlight how the traditional development paradigm is opening up in dramatic ways that allows us to achieve stronger development results.
Today, many of us the world over are working to open up aid, increase transparency, empower citizens, and connect country practitioners to innovative solutions globally -- all of which moves us towards our goal of eradicating poverty. As per TED practice, this is interwoven with the evolution of my own thinking and experience as a development practitioner, since I was a student in India. I want to invite you to share your own innovations in Open Development.
I have some good and some not so good news about aid. First, the good news. The aid landscape has seen three important changes during the last decade that have had a transformative, positive effect on the very nature of aid.
One of these changes has been the increased focus on the quality of aid—especially on the results being achieved on the ground. The World Bank and IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest, have placed a premium on having a real impact in the work we support, and the results show.