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Top 5 questions about World Bank Open Data 2013

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A year ago we wrote a post on the top 5 questions about World Bank Open Data based on thousands of email and phone queries we received from data users each week. Since then we’ve launched our user support forum and interactive help desk, which makes it easier for our data experts and support specialists to see what users have to say about the data and answer questions faster. It also gives us better data on the type of questions the users are asking. So, we’ve prepared another top 5 – this time discussing themes that the users are interested in.

1. High frequency data (quarterly, monthly, daily)

Most social and economic data are collected and reported annually or less often. Some economic and financial data are updated monthly or quarterly, and some are reported daily (for example, Global Economic Monitor (GEM) data and the World Bank Projects & Operations are updated daily). You can see the frequency of updates for each database listed in the World Bank data catalog as part of the details provided for each catalog entry.

If the data series you are interested in originated from one of our data partners, you should consult that organization's web site to see if they have quarterly or monthly data. For example, quarterly GDP data can be found in the IMF’s International Financial Statistics database.

2. GDP, GNI and GNP – where to find them and what’s the difference

First off, we usually get asked why we don’t have Gross National Product (GNP) figures. Well, we do! The World Bank uses terminology in line with the 1993 System of National Accounts and refers to GNP as "Gross national income" or GNI. GNI measures the total domestic and foreign value added claimed by residents, and comprises Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plus net receipts of primary income (compensation of employees and property income) from nonresident sources.

We even have short-term projections for GNI and GDP available in our “At a Glance Tables” on the country profile pages. The World Bank Development Prospects Group also publishes short-term growth rate projections for many developing countries available at


3. Private sector data (privatization, credit to private sector, IFC)

The complete list of indicators on the private sector and trade are found on our Private Sector topic page on In short, there are a number of databases that focus on private sector development, like the World Bank Group's Private Participation in Infrastructure Project database, Enterprise Surveys, and Doing Business Indicators. We also work in partnership with other institutions that collect and publish private sector data, including the International Monetary Fund's Balance of Payments database and International Financial Statistics, the UN Commission on Trade and Development, the World Trade Organization, and various other sources.

Recently, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) released eight data sets with IFC’s financial commitments and projects, making them available through the World Bank Group’s Open Finances website.

4. Debt data (external, quarterly, interest rates)

Information on the World Bank's lending rates, loan charges and current financial products can be found on the World Bank Finances site as part of the IBRD Statement of Loans. Apart from information on IBRD and IDA lending, the World Bank annually compiles International Debt Statistics – a database that showcases financial flows, trends in external debt, and other major financial indicators for 128 developing economies.

For more frequent data covering a number of developing and high income countries, you can access the Quarterly External Debt Statistics (QEDS) database, jointly developed by the World Bank and the IMF. It provides quarterly debt data for developing and developed economies, disaggregated by debtor type, maturity, and borrowing. The Quarterly External Debt Statistics (QEDS) database is in fact split into two parts: “Quarterly External Debt Statistics/ SDDS” (for mostly high income countries that subscribe to the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standard) or “Quarterly External Debt Statistics/ GDDS” ( for countries that participate in the IMF's General Data Dissemination System), both accessible through the World Bank data catalog.

Another resource for high frequency debt data is the Quarterly Public Sector Debt (QPSD) database, jointly developed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which brings together detailed public sector debt data of selected developing /emerging market countries.


5. Accessing, downloading and reusing World Bank Open data

Tariq does a great job explaining in detail the top 5 ways for accessing World Bank Data. Still confused? You can also read about accessing the indicators contained in the World Development Indicators publication online and see how to navigate our DataBank platform.

Kudos, and more…

What do all those questions mean to us? They give direction to our work and tell us what we can do better. They show us that we can have better metadata and documentation. And most of all, they tell us how you are using the data.

Now that you’ve seen the top questions and know the answers, help us understand better how you use our data and what we can do to improve. Use our knowledge base, send in your queries, and let us know your ideas on the user forum!

P.S. : You can also tell us how we’re doing - send our client services and communications team “kudos” after you receive a response from the data helpdesk if you think we are doing a good job.


Maryna Taran

Development Data Consultant

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