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March 2014

The time is right for an open data fund

Prasanna Lal Das's picture

Nobody cares about open data. And they shouldn’t. What people care about are jobs, clean air, safety and security, education, health, and the like. And for open data to be relevant and meaningful, it must contribute to what people care about and need.

We wrote a few weeks ago that the private sector is increasingly using open data in ways that are not only commercially viable but also produce measurable social impact. What is missing is financing that can help catalyze the growth of data fueled businesses in emerging economies. We are developing a fund that will address this precise need.

The context
Companies such as Climate Corporation, Opower, Brightscope, Panjiva, Zillow, Digital Data Divide and many others have shown that it’s possible to be disruptive (in established sectors such as agriculture, health and education), innovative (across the data spectrum - from collection to storage to analytics to dissemination), profitable, and socially impactful at the same time (see Climate Corporation’s Ines Kapphan, Metabiota’s Ash Casselman, and the GovLabs@NYU’s Joel Gurin talk about how how open data based companies are tackling complex, sophisticated development problems in high-impact business sectors – their path breaking work is clear evidence of the growing maturity of the industry).

Sri Lanka - Resplendent Island, Raring to Deliver

Parth Shri Tewari's picture


Sri Lanka conjures up different images in the minds of different people: lush green tropical canopies, steaming cups of aromatic tea, and hardworking fishermen in their dinghy boats.

For me, the country also packs enormous promise for growth and development. There is not the slightest doubt that Sri Lanka will have to come clean and deal with the aftermath of its prolonged civil war. However, at a fundamental level, there is a sense of hunger in its people to rebuild their lives and their country. The new-found peace that engulfs the population is cherished by most, and is part of dinner conversations especially with foreigners like me.




Sri Lanka already holds a strong position in certain agricultural and industrial exports, like tea or uncut diamonds. Combine this with its strategic location – situated at the crossroads of major shipping routes connecting South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East – and you have a potent combination, a promise waiting to be fulfilled.

I recently spoke at an event organized by the country’s top business newspaper, the Daily Financial Times, in partnership with the well-regarded Colombo University MBA Alumni Association. The focus of the forum was the country’s emerging six-hub strategy – Maritime, Commercial, Knowledge, Aviation, Energy and Tourism: the cornerstone of its further economic development.

The euphoria leading up to the event was palpable. The ceremonial drums and lighting of the auspicious lamp to evoke good omen created the perfect ambience. I was nervous, not because of stage fright, but because I was about to present a contrarian viewpoint to private-sector and public-sector experts, while sharing the stage with the Minister of Economic Development and the Governor of the Sri Lanka’s Central Bank. Even though my arguments were well-thought-through and fact-based, it was going to be a delicate dance, as I was about to communicate some tough arguments against the implementation of the full-blown six-hub strategy.

The politics of service delivery

Bryn Welham's picture

Routes of accountabilityThe WDR 2004 report certainly puts politics centre stage. Ten years on, the picture remains the same: where there’s any form of accountability relationship, there is some form of politics. A key insight of the WDR 2004 report was the trio of accountability relationships for service delivery and demand for improvement involving citizens, service providers and the government.

A Working Future for Turkey’s Women?

Martin Raiser's picture

Building hospital gurneys at the Tautmann factory in Turkey A couple of weeks ago, just after International Women’s Day, we had a coffee hour in the World Bank’s Ankara office to watch short videos of five women that have recently started up their own business and transformed their lives and that of their families (stay tuned for the release of these films, currently being edited). Their stories were uplifting, but the discussion quickly turned to the dismal field of statistics. Commentators stressed that female labor force participation in Turkey remains at only half of the OECD level, that Turkey loses around 25 percent of its potential GDP because of this, and lamented that social norms and mixed political messages on the role of women in society were preventing greater progress towards gender equality.

Better Disease Surveillance is part of the Great Lakes Peace Dividend

Kavita Watsa's picture



Beside the great Lake Kivu, beneath the shadow of an enormous volcano, the Rwanda-DRC border divides the neighboring cities of Gisenyi and Goma. As the day begins, the predominant impression is one of movement, as people walk in either direction through the customs checkpoint, carrying giant bunches of green banana, stacks of nesting plastic chairs, anything that is tradable. They form an unbroken stream of humanity crossing to and fro, the tall border signboards towering overhead.

Detroit’s future city framework offers lessons on resilience

Chisako Fukuda's picture

There is a positive vibe around Detroit today, as the city transforms itself under the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework, a blueprint that will guide decision making and actions to realize a shared vision. In many ways, Detroit embodies the problems of cities around the world – post-industrial decline, deterioration of services, lack of economic opportunities. What can we learn from Detroit’s experience to become more resilient? Dan Kinkead, Director of Projects for the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, shares his insights on moving a legacy city into the future.

You’ve emphasized the importance of participatory planning in developing a framework for Detroit’s future. Why?

Collier–Sandefur Debate on Migration – What is the Question Please?

Christian Eigen-Zucchi's picture

Paul Collier and Justin Sandefur are discussing migration with recent postings on the popular From Poverty to Power blog hosted by Duncan Green of OXFAM.  But, can we please first agree on the question?

Collier’s blog-post starts with the question of how emigration affects people in countries of origin, and goes on to emphasize that the pertinent issue is “whether poor countries would be better off with somewhat faster, or somewhat slower emigration than they have currently.” His answer, in a nutshell, is that it depends: on the country of origin (“in small countries that are falling further behind … brain drain predominates” when there is further skilled migration) and the emigrant (students – good, unskilled – fine, skilled worker – may already be excessive). To this, one could also add that it depends on the host country (and the scope for migrants realizing their potential there) and the circumstances of the migration (voluntary or forced).

Use, transparency and reuse – how the transport sector in Mexico is being transformed by open data

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: Español

Follow the author on Twitter: @shomik_raj

On a recent trip to Mexico City, I had the pleasure of participating in three events that really brought home the transformative power of the open data and open source eco-system that is becoming an ever more important element of our work in transport.

First I joined the Secretary of Mobility for Mexico City to inaugurate an open data-based system for alerting public transport users in this city of 8 million of any disruptions to the city’s multimodal transport system consisting of an extensive metro system, a suburban rail line, 5 lines of the Metrobus Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT), an electric trolley system, as well as a substantial publicly operated bus system.  The alert system was built using open-source software on an open standardized data set of schedules supported by the Bank last year (read more about that initiative led by my colleague Catalina Ochoa).  Not only does this service deliver value for Mexico City commuters immediately, but it also allows any other city that has its data organized in a similar standard GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) format (over a 1,000 cities do) to use the same code developed for Mexico City off GitHub, a web registry.  Moreover, the open standardized formats let developers in Mexico City or elsewhere build apps that use this information. The market for these applications is potentially global, spurring innovation for user-oriented applications in public transport: there are already many hundreds of GTFS based applications.

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