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Why are we blind to human progress and development? Harvard’s Steven Pinker has an explanation.

Dani Clark's picture

Harvard’s Steven Pinker paints a hopeful picture with data. He believes a humanitarian revolution has been underway for generations. “Our species has a history of violence,” the renowned psychologist and writer said at the World Bank, but humankind is less violent than it ever has been. We are living through the most peaceful era in history. Taking from his 2011 bestselling book, “The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” Pinker clicked through graph after graph to prove it.

State-sanctioned slavery? Abolished everywhere. Capital punishment? Almost abolished everywhere. For the most part, no more dueling, blood sports, judicial torture, debtors’ prisons or witch-hunting. And here’s an interesting data tidbit: A person in England has 1/50th the chance of being murdered today compared with the Middle Ages.

“Open in Action” at the World Bank

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture


The 9th annual Open Access Week kicks off this week and this year’s theme of “Open in Action” brings the information community together to celebrate the achievements of accessibility and openness.

The World Bank has initiated and contributed to many activities in support of Open Access over the years including:

• June 1997 - Launch of Documents and Reports (D&R). Previously known as World Development Sources (WDS), D&R contains more than 240,000 publicly available World Bank documents and enables the sharing of the institution's extensive knowledge base and operational documents.

April 2010 – Launch of the Open Data Initiative, making World Bank flagship databases and hundreds of other datasets freely available to the public.

July 2010 – Launch of Access to Information Policy (AI), a landmark shift regarding how and which information the World Bank makes available to the public. By setting the default classification to one of maximum disclosure (with a limited set of exceptions), tens of thousands of previously undisclosed information – including projects under preparation and implementation, analytic and advisory activities, and Board proceedings – are now available to the public through D & R. And there is an App for that too (the World Bank InfoFinder)!

August 2011 – Launch of Open Finances, presenting publicly-accessible data related to the Bank’s financials available in a social, interactive, visually compelling, and machine-readable format.

April 2012 – Launch of the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR), the Bank’s official Open Access repository that contains Bank publications since 2000. Prior publications are available to the public through D&R.

July 2012 – Launch of the Open Access Policy. The policy mandates Bank's publications and their associated research data to be made freely available, with no restrictions on use and reuse. It governs works published or funded by the Bank and works written by Bank staff and published externally.

July 2012 – Adoption of Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license allowing the public to freely share and adapt Bank publications with proper attribution to the Bank.

December 2013 – Adoption of the newly-created CC BY 3.0 IGO license for use by intergovernmental organizations to share research, data, and educational materials they produce.

Where do the world’s talents immigrate to?

Bassam Sebti's picture


"We’re the nation that just had six of our scientists and researchers win Nobel Prizes—and every one of them was an immigrant," U.S. President Barack Obama recently said after the Nobel Prize winners were announced.
 
The Internet was abuzz about it, and how could it not be?
 
The announcement couldn’t come at a better time. Not only are US Nobel laureates immigrants, but also the country has been identified as one of four where the world’s high-skilled immigrants are increasingly living, according to a new World Bank research article. The other three countries are the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

The data revolution continues with the latest World Bank Innovation challenge

Marianne Fay's picture
Also available in: 中文

On September 22, 2016, we launched the World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge – a global call for big data solutions for climate resilience and sustainable development.

As the world grows more connected--through mobile phones, social media, internet, satellites, ground sensors and machines—governments and economies need better ways to harness these data flows for insights toward targeted policies and actions that boost climate resilience, especially amongst the most vulnerable. To make this data more useful for development, we need more data innovations and innovative public-private arrangements for data collaboration.

The World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge invites innovators across the world to reimagine climate resilience through big data solutions that address the nexus areas of food security and nutrition, and forests and watersheds – high priority areas of the World Bank’s Climate and Forest Action Plans and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Giving voice to the poor: Adding a human touch to poverty data in South Sudan

Utz Pape's picture
Also available in: Español | Français

We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human. –Hannah Arendt

We all know that measuring poverty is critical to monitor progress and to tailor effective policy response. But what the numbers mask is the pain and suffering that people go through to make ends meet. Let’s take the case of South Sudan. The country has had a very tumultuous time, witnessing more than its share of a few crises between 2015 and 2016. The collapse of a fragile peace accord led to a renewed military confrontation while simultaneously international oil prices dropped, depriving South Sudan of its main source of foreign exchange. This triggered a severe fiscal and economic crisis, leading to sky rocketing prices as documented in our real time market price dashboard. Securing livelihoods has become more and more difficult with 66 percent of the population now living in poverty, a new peak.

The 66 percent number certainly summarizes the country’s poverty level, which is unquestionably useful for comparisons and analyses to inform policies and programs. However, what the number doesn’t reveal is the struggle that families go through daily. To capture this aspect and give a humane feel to an abstract poverty number, we have started collecting short video testimonials from people living in South Sudan as part of the High Frequency Survey:

Big data innovation – moving from ideas to implementation

Trevor Monroe's picture

If you want to do something fast, do something that has already been done. If you want to hardwire a data innovation into World Bank Operations, be prepared to involve others in a process of learning by doing.  – Holly Krambeck, Senior Transport Specialist, WBG



As the world grows more connected, data flows from a multitude of sources. Mobile networks, social media, satellites, grounds sensors, and machine-to-machine transactions are being used along with traditional data--like household surveys--to improve insights and actions toward global goals.
 
At the World Bank, a cadre of pioneering economists and sector specialists are putting big data in action. Big data sources are being harnessed to lead innovations like:

  • satellites to track rural electrification, to monitor crop yields and to predict poverty;
  • taxi GPS data to monitor traffic flows and congestion
  • mobile phone data for insights into human mobility and behavior, as well as infrastructure and socio-economic conditions 

Celebrating a steep poverty drop in Bangladesh

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Español

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim celebrated Bangladesh’s dramatic progress fighting poverty on End Poverty Day, October 17, at a special event in the heart of Dhaka.

 © Dominic Chavez/World BankMore than 20 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty in Bangladesh in the last two decades. By 2010, the extreme poverty rate fell to 18.5 percent, down from 33.7 percent in 2000.
 
Speaking in the Bangla language, the prime minister said Bangladesh’s journey has never been smooth, but strong leadership and the resilience of the population have helped it become a lower middle income country and a model for others to imitate.

Advancing women’s land and resource rights

Renée Giovarelli's picture
Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Development practitioners know secure land rights for women are important for the well-being of rural families, whether a woman is head of her household or lives in a household headed by a man. We know the research shows that women’s land rights are associated with family improvements, such as:
  • Increases in food expenditures
  • Children less likely to be severely underweight
  • Improvements in child educational achievements
  • Increases in share of expenditures devoted to healthcare
 

Change your Facebook profile picture and help raise awareness to end poverty

Zubedah Robinson's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year’s theme is Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms. This is not only the United Nations’ Global Goal #1, but it’s also one of the World Bank’s two main goals.
 
Working to end poverty can be an everyday practice. And we have dedicated our work to helping nations invest in both people and infrastructure to achieve this goal. To support our mission to end poverty by 2030, we launched the #ItsPossible social media campaign to inspire hope that it is indeed possible to end extreme poverty – if we all work together. 

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