Scenes from a Dive - what’s big data got to do with fighting poverty and fraud?


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World Bank Data Dive 2013

Photo Credit: Neil Fantom

A more detailed recap will follow soon but here’s a very quick hats off to the about 150 data scientists, civic hackers, visual analytics savants, poverty specialists, and fraud/anti-corruption experts that made the Big Data Exploration at Washington DC over the weekend such an eye-opener.We invite you to explore the work that the volunteers did (these are rough documents and will likely change as you read them so it's okay to hold off if you would rather wait for a ‘final’ consolidated  document). The projects that the volunteers worked on include: 


Here are some visualizations that some project teams built. A few photos from the event are here (thanks @neilfantom). More coming soon (and yes, videos too!). Thanks @francisgagnon for the first blog about the event. The event hashtag was #data4good (follow @datakind and @WBopenfinances for more updates on Twitter).

For those that missed the announcements earlier, the goal of the dive was fairly straightforward - explore practical and tangible ways to demonstrate that open/big data can help improve poverty measurement, and separately, improve how organizations such as the Bank tackle fraud and anti-corruption in projects. Ambitious ideas but leavened by a very action-first approach - it seemed to have worked out okay.

Our thanks to the volunteers, to the ambassadors from DataKind who organized this event with us, and to the World Bank experts who helped shape the project. Special thanks also to our partners at UNDP, UNDB, QCRI, and Global Pulse for their generous ‘data philanthropy’ during the event and for showing up and sharing your expertise with the participants. Thanks also to all the ‘speakers’ - Bertrand Badre, the new CFO of the World Bank Group and Chuck McDonough, VP and Controller, World Bank kicked off the event Friday, along with Patrick Meier (QCRI), Anoush Tatevossian (Global Pulse), Dafina Gercheva (UNDP), Wolfgang Fengler, Neil Fantom, Nobuo Yoshida, and Simon Robertson. Jane Campbell, Steven Zimmerman, and Peter Lanjaow were our ‘closers’. Thank you.

And Jake Porway and Julia Bezgacheva, of course. As also Giulio Quaggiotto, one of the moving forces behind the project.

A final shout out to the entire World Bank Finances team that organized the event, along with DataKind.

For those interested in the work that preceded the event, here go a few links --

Can big data help deliver better operational results
What happens when big data theory meets practice
Would you give up your personal data for development


Prasanna Lal Das

Lead Knowledge Management Officer, Trade & Competitiveness

March 19, 2013

Thanks for the shout-out Prasanna! I have written a follow-up post about the data visualizations and I included some well-deserved thanks a congratulations to the organizing committee.

Patrick Durusau
March 20, 2013

Prasanna, Sounds like a very productive meeting!

I have posted a suggestion about another source of "big data" to fight fraud at:

While reading your report, it occurred to me that banks already collect the transfer information about funds from World Bank funding, from the arrival of the funds to their disbursement.

Why not require recipients to allow read access to account records for the accounts there World Bank funds are deposited and the same requirement for any entity that is paid from those accounts?

The data is already being collected and acceptance of World Bank funds and payment from such funds is entirely voluntary.

There would be lots of remaining data mining issues but that would be a start towards greater accountability.

Hope you are having a great day!


Jose Janeiro
March 23, 2013

Dear Patrick,
Thank you for your feedback.
There are several aspects that need to be taken into account here. The first is the way the bank processes a significant percentage of its disbursements: through advances of funds for implementation of projects into designated accounts where funds are often pooled with either other donors/financiers and/or client's own resources. From these accounts payments are made not only for World Bank financed projects but also, for example, for budget execution and for projects financed by other entities. With the increasing use of country systems this is becoming more and more common. Other disbursement methods included direct payments to contractors, consultants and suppliers' own bank accounts, which, obviously, makes it more difficult.
While the Bank and clients favor greater transparency namely through the publication of project financial statements and "open data", bank accounts are a sensitive matter, in particular for the reasons stated above.