Unleashing Data for Development

Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Measure Impact, poverty, World

There are three things about data that you need to know about data: 1) It is beautiful; 2) There is a hidden story within each combination; and 3) It needs to be set free.

Last year, the World Bank released it’s prized possession of data – one that tells the stories of economic, socio and political realities around the world. This is a push to “democratize development data” and embrace its open information policy. It’s absolutely incredible what has been done with the data and I wanted to highlight some of the initiatives that have been born out of this:

1) http://data.worldbank.org/

This is the main Knowledge Bank where you can information from poverty rates to the average life expectancy of a country. Data is sorted by topic, countries, indicators, sectors and the World Bank even made a neat feature of key development indicators around the world. It covers over 200 counties and in some cases, dates back as far as 50 years.

The data is updated regularly and as you can see from the screenshot below, you can even find information on the newest country in the world – South Sudan! The site includes the Bank’s widely-used and extremely useful datasets: the 2010 World Development Indicators (WDI), Africa Development Indicators (ADI), Global Economic Monitor (GEM) and Global Development Finance.

2) Apps for Development

With the launch of the the above resource, the World Bank organized an Apps for Development Competition – bringing together the best ideas from developers and data to create useful software applications that is related to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The competition was a tremendous success and the Bank received apps from 36 countries: 30 of the 107 final submissions from Africa. You can check out the winners from this competition here.

A side spinoff from this competition was also an International Day Hackathon on Dec 4th last year where developers write applications using open data to support and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s governments. My favorite application is the San Francisco Crimespotting – an interactive map of crimes in San Francisco and a tool for understanding crime in cities. Helping keep people safe with open data. Amazing!

3) Mapping for Results

This Platform provides detailed information about the World Bank’s work in poverty alleviation and development around the world. It provides access to interactive maps that highlights locations of the bank’s projects around the world and involved releasing data provided by governments and other entities.

4) Data on the Go!

The World Bank is bringing accessibility of data to a whole new level by providing information on an iPhone app. They have six apps ( 4 published and 2 in the pipelines) that are being developed and the interface and usability for the data is just incredible. My personal favorite is the classic Datafinder – an app that lets you access 50 years of WB data on global economic indicators that can easily be shared in presentations, research and projects. Two more apps are being released in August 2011 – The World Bank at a Glance and the World Bank’s Finances.

Data is truly beautiful and with the world’s development data at your fingertips, we can use, analyze and even criticize.. but the only thing we shouldn’t do is ignore it. The video below is an example at how magical data can be. 4 minutes – 200 countries, 200 years by world renown economist – Hans Rosling.


Jocelyn is constantly on the hunt for new innovative platforms as an intersection point for business models and markets at the base of the pyramid to contribute to social or economic progress. An impa­tient opti­mist, Jocelyn believes that through com­pas­sion, inno­va­tion and edu­ca­tion, we can be the change in the world.

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