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Democratizing Development Economics

Let’s Talk Development one year on + an invite to readers

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

What kinds of countercyclical policies make the most sense during financial crises? Can going ‘beyond Keynesianism’ by investing in infrastructure restart worldwide demand and help avoid a double dip recession? How can you sort good industrial policy from bad? Is it more important to focus on pragmatic development lessons from other emerging market countries, or should researchers spend most of their time on randomized control trials and experimental approaches to evaluation? These and many other questions were explored during the first year of ‘Let’s Talk Development,’ which we launched on September 28, 2010.

We went live with this blog on that day because it was when World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick delivered a speech on ‘Democratizing Development Economics’ at Georgetown University. This blog aimed to attract commentary and insights on breakthrough solutions to development challenges as well as to transmit some of the newest thinking taking hold in the field of development economics. 

Open Data Is Not Enough

Raka Banerjee's picture

Since its inception, the World Bank’s Open Data initiative has generated considerable excitement and discussion on the possibilities that it holds for democratizing development economics as well as for democratizing the way that development itself is conducted around the world.  Robert Zoellick, in a speech given last year at Georgetown University, expounded on the many benefits resulting directly from open data.  Offering the example of a health care worker in a village, he spoke of her newfound ability to “see which schools have feeding programs . . . access 20 years of data on infant mortality for her country . . . and mobilize the community to demand better or more targeted health programs.”  Beyond this, Zoellick argued that open data means open research, resulting in “more hands and minds to confront theory with evidence on major policy issues.”

The New York Times featured the Bank’s Open Data initiative in an article published earlier this month, in which it referred to the released data as “highly valuable”, saying that “whatever its accuracy or biases, this data essentially defines the economic reality of billions of people and is used in making policies and decisions that have an enormous impact on their lives.”  The far-reaching policymaking consequences of the data are undeniable, but the New York Times touches upon a crucial question that has been overshadowed by the current push for transparency: what about quality? 

Let's Move Beyond Open Data to Open Development

Aleem Walji's picture

The Sunday Business section of the New York Times prominently featured an image of a huge vault overflowing with bits and bytes. It was a story about the Bank’s Open Data initiative and claimed that datasets and information will ultimately become more valuable than Bank lending. It’s a powerful idea and one that sounds similar to the knowledge bank articulated by Jim Wolfensohn nearly ten years ago. But there is an important distinction between the two. This is not about the World Bank as the central repository of knowledge sharing its knowledge and wisdom with clients from the South. Instead, it’s about “democratizing development economics” in that it levels the playing field on knowledge creation and dissemination and opens the development paradigm to participation from researchers and practitioners, software developers and students, from north and south.

Development economics thinks big but also gets practical—postcard from Paris

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

ABCDE 2011, Paris. Photo: OECD
Development is about big systemic changes, complex tradeoffs, political choices and how the fruits of growth are channeled for the greater good. It is also about broadening opportunities – a goal that if neglected can result in frustrated citizens and tumult as we have seen in the North Africa and Middle East.

These were some of the many messages I took away from the ABCDE conference just held in Paris.

Doing Development Economics Differently -- Check out ABCDE 2011

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

It's important to have an international forum where leading thinkers can exchange ideas about how to reduce poverty and how to promote growth in low income countries. I'm delighted that, since its inauguration 22 years ago, the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) has served this purpose by connecting leading thinkers, practitioners, and students. Now more than ever, we need active and constructive debate about job creation, reducing inequality, empowering women, and improving our approaches to human capital formation and training youth. TheDevelopment Economics Vice Presidency that I lead is enthusiastic in its continued support for this forum.

For people to benefit from development and escape poverty, they need to broaden their opportunities. That's why we chose 'Broadening Opportunities for Development' as our overall theme for this year's conference happening from May 30-June 1 in Paris.