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Supporting data for development: applications open for a new innovation fund

Image credit: The Crowd and The Cloud

I’m pleased to announce that applications are now open for the second round of a new data innovation fund which was announced last month at the UN’s High Level Political Forum.

The fund will invest up to $2.5 million in Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development - ideas to improve the production, management and use of data in poor countries. This year the fund’s thematic areas are “Leave No One Behind” and the environment.

Details on eligibility, criteria and how to apply are here:

The initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. DFID is the largest contributor to the TFSCB.

Supporting statistics for development

Here in the World Bank’s Development Data group, we’re looking forward to working with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) again following a successful pilot round of innovation funding last year. But you might be asking - why is the World Bank’s Data team helping to run a data innovation fund?

We’re best known outside the organization for producing databases like World Development Indicators or running the Bank’s Open Data Initiative but that’s only half our story. We not only analyze, visualize and publish data - we work with countries to help them better produce and manage it.

We provide advice. For example, earlier this year, our economic statistics team visited Nepal to assist the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in compiling their national accounts data - a key part of publishing accurate GDP figures. The team included economists, statisticians and national accounts experts who were able to assess the CBS’s current data, methodologies and organizational setup and set out a program to improve them.

We provide tools. In survey work, we recently marked a milestone - in the last 4 years, governments, civil society and the private sector in 94 countries have used the Survey Solutions platform our team develops for carrying out more than 5 million interviews in about 500 national surveys. From conflict-affected South Sudan to remote areas of Pakistan and Niger, the system has been used for a range of surveys from large and complex multi-topic household and agricultural surveys to  labor force, enterprise, and price surveys among others.

We provide financing. Since its establishment in 1999, the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity building we manage has supported more than 200 projects in every region of the world. It’s one of many financial instruments the Bank has to support data work in countries, and as part of President Jim Yong Kim’s 2015 commitment to improve the state of poverty data in the world’s poorest countries, the TFSCB has supported close to 40 countries with funding and technical assistance to improve their household surveys.

Why an innovation fund for data?

From the examples above, you can see we’re involved in a range of statistical capacity work,  and it’s often about ensuring core data are produced in a timely manner, to a good standard.

Open Data Watch identified some $330M worth of aid funding went into statistics work worldwide in 2016. But this figure is about half of what the GPSDD’s resource mobilization working group estimates is needed to produce just the main SDG indicators.

Not only is there a shortfall in funding for data - there’s also limited funding for innovation and experimentation in how data can be produced, managed and used. That’s where this innovation fund comes in. We’re looking for both innovations in technology and innovations in approach that will make an ongoing difference to a country’s statistical system.

Many governments, companies, researchers and citizen groups are experimenting, innovating and adapting to the new world of data. But many others are excluded because of a lack of resources, knowledge, capacity or opportunity. This is especially a concern in poorer countries - this innovation fund targets priority issues in the countries that most need support. We very much look forward to seeing your ideas and proposals.

Further information about the data innovation fund

Press release from GPSDD: 
Link to online application system:​ 
Please direct any questions to


Haishan Fu

Chief Statistician of the World Bank and Director of the Development Data Group

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