World Development Report 2021 – Data for Development


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As the new year begins, I am pleased to announce that the World Bank Group’s next World Development Report (WDR) for 2021 will be on Data for Development.

WDR 2021 will be the first WDR report on the role of Data for Development 

This topic comes at a critical time for development. We know that high quality development data is the foundation for meaningful policy-making, effective public service delivery, transparent accountability and increased economic activity through private sector growth. As we enter the final decade in which to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we find ourselves amid revolutionary changes in how we collect, manage, curate, analyze and use data. It’s claimed that more data was created in 2015 and 2016 than in all previous years combined. Fixed internet traffic is expected to double, mobile internet traffic to quadruple between 2017 and 2021. New business models based on the collection and analysis of data have gained increasing economic significance, with data-oriented companies now among the largest globally by market capitalization. Even as these technological advances improve the availability and use of data, data is still scarce where it’s most needed.  

How can these varied data sources help inform development policy and improve the lives of poor people? What policies are needed so that the developing world can capture the economic opportunities offered by the data-driven economy while minimizing associated risks? 

While data issues are being widely debated globally, the contribution of the WDR 2021 will be to address data-related questions from the perspective of low- and middle-income countries.

Current data landscape and the opportunities of integrating public and private data 

Traditionally, development policy has relied on public data collected for specific purposes such as national accounts, household and firm surveys, and data collected through administrative systems such as birth records, pensions, tax records and census. Governments have been central to these efforts, but public data collection methods can be costly. As a result, surveys are performed infrequently, and often lack the granularity necessary to make meaningful inferences about small, sub-populations of interest. 

The recent explosion of data has largely come from private sources, such as mobile phones, electronic transactions, and satellites. Such data is collected cost-effectively, with high frequency, and at fine levels of granularity, typically by private sector actors. 

The WDR will examine how the two types of data can complement and improve each other – with public data offering better coverage of populations of direct interest for development policy, and private data offering greater frequency, timeliness and granularity.

New institutional frameworks to manage a range of regulatory, policy and governance challenges

Alongside the tremendous opportunities offered by integrating both public and private data comes a significant array of policy and governance challenges. Greater access to broadband services and modern data infrastructure is foundational for less developed countries – and their poorest citizens – both to create and make use of such data. 

The sheer variety, volume and sensitivity of digital records raises a host of issues related to the ownership, protection and security of data. And the global reach of digital platform enterprises places data at the center of current debates on anti-trust regulation, posing significant economic policy challenges in areas as diverse as taxation and international trade. Dealing with such a complex agenda will entail a new institutional framework for data governance; both at the national and international levels. 

Over the next year, the WDR will be prepared under my overall supervision with co-directors Robert Cull, Vivien Foster and Dean Jolliffe. Malarvizhi Veerappan will be the report manager.  Robert Cull is a Lead Economist and is the acting Research Manager for Finance and Private Sector Development in the Development Research Group. Vivien Foster is the Chief Economist for the Infrastructure Vice Presidency, which covers the areas of Digital Development, Energy and Extractives, Transport and Infrastructure Finance.  Dean Jolliffe is a Lead Economist in the Development Data Group, co-leads the Global Poverty Measurement Team (PovcalNet), and a member of the Living Standards Measurement Study team. Malarvizhi Veerappan is the Program Manager and Senior Data Scientist and leads the Data management and Services team in the Development Data Group. 

Over the coming months, we will conduct consultations with various stake holder groups. As a first step in the process, we will publish the concept note in a few months. I would encourage you to follow our work, stay engaged and contribute as we make progress towards the publication release in January 2021. 

Are you excited as much as we are? Do you already have ideas to share on how data can serve the development needs of the poor and vulnerable? Leave your comments here, so we can continue our conversation.

Join the Conversation

Bob Currin
February 11, 2020

Hi Pinelopi. Thanks for this article. I found it very interesting. In my company we focus on geo-spatial information and have been mapping population demographics, living conditions and service access, particularly financial access across African countries for many years now. Our main focus is on accessibility models. I look forward to more data becoming available.

Baraka soka
February 11, 2020

Data on services, can allocate poorly distributed basic services such as health, education and water supply in less developed countries such as in africa through data collected by customer services

Grace Rasugu
February 11, 2020

Can't agree with you more.Framework on data governance pivotal as there is alot of data collected by both public and pri ate sections but is never disseminated nor accessible for planning and service provision. Year in year out data is captured with no impact.

February 11, 2020

Data has a huge potential and has already started to impact our lives. It can be very handy, especially to assess policies and measure how they perform while real implementation.

Rafael Diez de Medina
February 11, 2020

Very glad to know that the topic of the WDR and eager to know more about it. As you may imagine in the ILO we are equally interested and active in this field as well and it would be great to see commonalities and synergies between the international statistical community. Wish you the best.

Tobias Engelmeier
February 11, 2020

Dear Pinelopi, thank you for sharing this news. I think this is an excellent approach. We would be very happy to be involved in the stakeholder engagement. We (--> are looking at how to use data to make better infrastructure investment decisions. To that end, we will shortly publish a report, which I am happy to share. Also, we have developed a tool called Village Data Analytics where we feed earth observation and on-ground data into algorithms to generate smart maps. Happy to discuss further. Best wishes, Tobias Engelmeier

Nestor S Felix
February 11, 2020

The challenge is making use of the data for whatever purpose related to development. I was all over in Asia working in the development sector the problem is in the utilization. Poor people are listened to, but what they say is hardly used for decision making, etc.

February 11, 2020

Congratulations for this initiative. Knowledge is the driving force that has driven the development of humanity throughout its history, which results from the analysis of information produced by organizing scattered data on different topics. Is the public sector using the available data intensively and effectively for the benefit of its own mission? The answer is no to the extent expected. Currently, despite having large volumes of data, the public administration makes limited use of them for the generation of public value; that is, greater citizen welfare. To take advantage of this valuable input in public management, it will be necessary to organize integrated and inter-operable information systems, so that they have a systemic scope of the subject that they deal with and facilitate the flow of data between the institutions involved. Data only when used and given value, give power to make decisions, to create actions and potential solutions. Otherwise, they don't work. This challenge involves looking not only at traditional sources of primary data (censuses, surveys and records managed by entities for their function), but also at the huge volume of data that travels over the Internet.

To improve the use of available data in government, it is necessary to strengthen the link between information and public policies. This means: i) improving the concept and vision of the value of data for results-based management in political and administrative authorities; ii) strengthen the technical and institutional capacities to systematize and use data in a sustainable way; iii) take advantage of significant national facts to encourage the production and use of data; iv) promote the participation and skills of a critical mass of information users. In this effort, collaboration between public and non-public actors is important.

Gilberto Moncada
Former head of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics of Peru

Vikas Dwivedi
February 11, 2020

I would like to appreciate the team on this much need area of work. In my experience there are two critical issues that need attention: 1) of data governance in the digital era and, 2) the issue of financing for data. These have not received much attention. I hope this publication can help raise these issues and provide some way forward.

Best regards, Vikas

February 11, 2020

having data to solve issues of poverty and vulnerability is good.
however, I will suggest we start this from the countryside, work on the informal sector from where these people, their activities can be captured in the next report. there are number of people who are into agriculture at the countryside and the rest are into small and petty trading but these individuals are not part of calculations of GDP and GNP meanwhile chunk number of people work here and they must be regarded with their activities

February 11, 2020

Dear friends,
Due to tremendous progress of science and technology data handling has become easy but authenticity of collected data is not beyond question. Manipulation of data collected from different survey depends on the ethical and moral values of those persons who are involved in the very system. I rarely find true SWOT analysis even in academic instutution here. Those institutions which could carry out this with moral courage have achievd the excellence. Though much money is spent but correctness of data may not be upto expectation. In developing countries with high population rate collection of data related to mass is very tough. How ever cross examination with other data may indirectly help the process.

Shayan Khan
February 11, 2020

This sounds very exciting. I can speak for the province of Sindh, Pakistan where people now possess mobile phones in large numbers due to their affordability and better market access. This is bound to serve as a great advantage for data gathering initiatives, especially in areas where social mobility has seen an upward trend but has not been studied. Block chain technology is also promising greater insights for financial systems in such areas.

Audu Liman
February 11, 2020

The availability of cellular data provides a huge opportunity to both reduce cost of data collection and ensure unbiased and reliable data is collected. Legal frameworks will be needed to assure respondents of privacy. The availability of no cost data entry by cell
Phone users will drive response rates up but also ensure timely data is available. Here in Nigeria, the American University is using cellular data to track best market pricing for beneficiary farmers. Other data needs can ride on this platform and we shall explore them as we proceed. This WBG initiative is long overdue and will certainly provide ideas and innovations on the use of data for development.

Kai N. Moiwa
February 11, 2020

These articles are important especially in our present circumstances,the third world like Sierra Leone.thank you and please keep it up.i shall be grateful for further information.

Anthony Ho
February 11, 2020

The topic is very important for the world development in the digital connected world. I will be willing to make contribution to the publication in some way.

Atem de Kuek
February 11, 2020

Very timely to know. I run a consulting firm the Innovation for Impact Solutions Ltd, IIS Consulting Ltd) in South Sudan which collects development data on various subjects including conflict, gender, child marriage, poverty among others.

Ishaq Yusuf
February 11, 2020

I strongly believe in the power of data to help improve the SDG goals especially the rural communities in Nigeria where poverty is common.

Wilbert Kanengoni
February 11, 2020

It is complete, accurate and relevant data which can reliably be used in the formulation of sound and implementable development policies. In most developing countries especially in sub Saharan Africa, it is difficult to collect sufficient , quality data given that the economies are made largely of the informal sector where records are not properly kept. The other challenge is that some people do not disclose the required information fully and honestly if they are not aware how the information is going to be used.

February 11, 2020

I think data will change most the policy making procedures but in an indirect way. We know that in many developing foreign financial assistance is an important source of transformation in policy making and implementation. We also know that the decision makers, mainly politicians, are simply vote driven. Focus more on infrastructure investments or things that are more "visible'.

With the enforcement of more and healthy data, the evidence based policy making will be more visible in decision making. Although this will be more visible in international funds, I think in the longer term there will be an established understanding and even the local officers such as bureaucrats will have stronger hands in directing the international and national funds to more productive areas

I look forward to read the report.

Nestor S Felix
February 11, 2020

Reading this I get the impression data collection from public and private sources will not reach the ground.

February 11, 2020

private data sources facilitates and enhance service provision and enables demand driven service provision; it also helps geographic targeting, and tailored interventions..

February 11, 2020

Hello Penelopi, how are you?

I am Tiago from Brazil. I am very interested in this issue and I am going to do a Master in Economics. The research will be in development. Initially, I would focus in Credit expansion to poor people. But as I work with data analysis and your post made think about it, I would like to know more about the World Bank's work. I have been reading some materials and accessing data available in the WB website. Do you have some tips for me to deep my knologedment in this area?

Who knows if would be possible to complement some research from your team in my research.

This post and other topics from WB inspire me!



Chloe Sydney
February 11, 2020

An important and timely report, to which the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) looks forward to contributing. We will keep an eye out for your concept note! In the meantime, do check out last year's Global Report on Internal Displacement, and this year's edition expected in May. Best of luck with the initial consultations!

Kaspar Kundert
February 11, 2020

I'd like to stay engaged and contribute where possible as you progress towards the report. My key interest is making IT and data more sustainable, finding ways to encourage African Governments to move from CAPEX to OPEX.

Kaspar Kundert
Senior Advisor for GIS and Geodata4Africa
Kigali, Rwanda

Claude Ndabananiye
February 06, 2020

This is a timely publication. Looking forward to interesting topics and insights. Will you be accepting external contributions?

Rachel Sibande
February 11, 2020

I lead the data for development work at DIAL. We have some interesting country models on D4D that may be useful to chat about as you develop the WDR.

Dorothee Hillrichs
February 06, 2020

Dear Pinelopi Goldberg and World Development Report Team,

I am excited to read about the topic for the World Development Report 2021. I am a PhD candidate in economics at Tilburg University and a chapter of my dissertation addresses the topic. Together with my co-author, I develop a methodology to infer within-country inequality from trade data. Typically, inequality data is based on surveys. These are costly and therefore in particular in developing countries infrequently conducted. Trade data, however, is with regular frequency collected and, importantly, in a way that allows inequality data derived from trade data to be comparable across countries. Our method relies on the concept of Engel curves, relating import of products from specific origin countries to per capita income and inequality. We estimate for a large number of product-exporter pairs the specific link between imports and inequality on a subsample of countries, for which Gini data is available. We then invert the link and predict inequality for all countries from disproportionate imports of product-exporter pairs associated with high inequality in the importer country. We find a strong correlation of our estimated inequality data with official Gini data. You can find the detailed methodology here:

Should you be interested to learn more about our method and results, do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,
Dorothee Hillrichs

February 06, 2020

As part of the DFID Funded SGSPS Project in Bangladesh we have designed, developed, piloted and successfully rolled out an MIS Integrated G2P Payment System that eliminates intermediaries as well as leakages including double dipping and ghost beneficiaries and promote financial inclusion by offering cash transfers at the doorsteps of the poor and vulnerable in a real time no cost basis. The system has been fully adopted by the Bangladesh Government for all its safety net programmes and accordingly a Repository of millions of beneficiaries of cash transfers including their National Ids and Payment Choices have been stored for validation of payments between different programmes. This has been generating big data and can be used for a variety of purposes including research and identification of choices at the demand side. Happy to provide further information on the G2P Payment System and its Unique Repository of Beneficiaries.

Shafinah Rahim
February 06, 2020

This is a fantastic work, given the lack of updates from countries, including Malaysia.

Will stay tuned with the progress.

Vikas Dwivedi
February 11, 2020

Dear Pinelopi and team,
Thank you! this is very timely and much needed work. I would like to propose that the team should look at 'data governance in the digital era' as a topic. With growing use of digital tools for data collection and management, the issue of data governance, which includes issues around ownership, custodian, access, privacy and confidentiality become key. I will be very much happy to share my experience and contribute if needed.
Best regards, Vikas

abdul Baquee Muhammad
March 06, 2020

very excited to see this report next January. I hope your report covers some items such as (1) political barrier towards releasing data that does not please the people in power, and how that might affect the development agenda (2) how innovative technology can help in measuring the impact and effectiveness of developmental interventions (3) don't be biased towards 'data FOR dev', but also openly discuss the issue of 'data AGAINST dev', and the harmful side of ubiquitous data and issues related to privacy and ethics

Minori Terada
March 06, 2020

Dear Pinelopi and the WDR Team, thank you very much for sharing the timely and excellent topic of the WDR 2021, i.e., Data for Development. The proposed attempt to examine how the public and private data can complement and improve each other is particularly fascinating. This instantly reminded me of a recent WB publication, Nepal Development Update in 2019 where the first completed National Economic Census 2018 by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal is referred as a historical landmark, (…). Indeed, Census2018 revealed that the number of establishments in Nepal engaging wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles accounts for more than 50% of the total number of establishments. This fact indicates the huge potentials female entrepreneurs such as founders of Aeloi Technologies promoting those industries through IT ( have, for quality growth in Nepal. I appreciate WDRs since they always provide good frameworks to address complex issues. Wish you all the best for the concept note. Looking forward to forthcoming updates.