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The World’s Data Bank

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Aleem Walji, practice manager for innovation at the World Bank Institute, speaking about the Banks commitment to open data. His presentation, at today’s Guardian’s Activate summit, explored the rational for the World Bank Data Catalog explained how this now receives more traffic than the organisation’s home page.

In his presentation, he mentions what happened when users interrogated the newly released data:

The other thing that happened is users took our data, and in less than two weeks showed us exactly where our gaps were. Within a couple of weeks of the launch of open data, blind data was created and they said ‘these are the parts of the world where you’re data is not very good and you need to improve’. We immediately recognised the opportunity to work with others to improve that.

Mapping for results

The World Bank’s Mapping for Results Platform “visualizes the location of World Bank projects to better monitor project and impact on people; to enhance transparency and social accountability; and to enable citizens and other stakeholders to provide direct feedback”.

Walji explained:

One of the interesting ways we could explain the poverty issue was to understand who does what, where and what’s going on. There is datasets that often don’t talk to each other. One simple one I hope surprises you is, in almost no country in the developing world can anyone answer the question ‘Who’s working in the healthcare sector in your country and where?’ Almost impossible to answer…So we said what if we took development indicators…and mashed them up to where the projects are. Lets lead by ourselves. So we created Mapping for Results. Lets take all our projects in Africa…put them on a map…then take a country and look at where we work..mash them up..and then check are we where poverty is…

We’re moving towards a Yelp for Development model, where once you get the data on maps it allows the opportunity for people to give feedback on the services themselves.

Apps for Development

Walji went on to discuss Apps for Development – a competition which challenged the public to create innovative software applications to assist in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems:

We asked people “What would you do with our data?”, and what we got was remarkable. People used our data in ways we would have never thought of.

An example was an application that showed based on our climate data and rainfall data, that you could put in any address in the world and you could find out exactly how much rain to expect next year and what crops you could grow.

In summary, he outlined the future for Open data as a collaboration/mashup of citizen data data together with official bank indicators:

Where I get really excited is the opportunity for user generated content from citizens…How can the data we currently don’t get today…is there medicine in the clinic, are the teachers showing up to school, that data mashed up with the data we have, provides an opportunity to make an impact on poverty.

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