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FEATURE STORY

From Disc to The Cloud : Opening up Online Resources for Development

June 30, 2014

Vietnamese students believe that free access to the rich data from the World Bank's online repository helps them live better and reduce risks in life.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The majority of library users in Vietnam consider the Internet as the main source for information on economic and social development issues.
  • In April 2010, the World Bank Group opened up its wealth of online development data to the public for free.
  • Broader access to the data allows policy makers, researchers, journalists and citizens to make informed decisions and develop new solutions.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - More than 10 years ago, Le Thanh Nhan, then a student at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City, often had to rush to the school library to borrow the latest CD-ROMs that contained updated data from the World Bank. He sometimes had to wait for days  to  get that highly in demand resource. Currently a lecturer in the same university, Nhan now finds the World Bank database easier to access and use.

“Now everything is available on the Internet, which is very fast and convenient,” said Nhan.

Nhan and his students no longer have to wait in the line to get the CD-ROMs because in April 2010, the World Bank Group began freeing up access to more than 2,000 statistics that previously carried a subscription fee. The statistics cover many development topics that go back some 50 years. Today, over 7,000 indicators are available to the public.

Transparency, accountability, and participation are all at the forefront of the World Bank’s citizen-centered development approach called Open Development. The key components behind the initiative are Open Data and Knowledge, Open Operations and Tools, as well as Open Solutions.

“World Bank’s data are objective, transparent, reliable and up-to-date,”
Nhan said.

Meeting the growing and ever-changing demand for knowledge

The number of Internet users in Vietnam has increased very fast. In 2014, Internet  penetration is almost 40%, according to a 2014 report by We Are Social, a company that provides consultancy and research in digital marketing. A survey of 500 frequent visitors to eight public and university libraries across Vietnam shows that more than 80% of them consider the Internet as the main source for information on economic and social development issues.

“In the digital age, users are less likely to go to physical libraries,” said Vu Thi Nha, librarian at the World Bank office in Vietnam. “The Bank’s online knowledge products help users access a rich variety of information anytime, anywhere, at no cost, from their computers, laptops and mobile devices with an Internet connection.”

“Before, we went to libraries because they were the only source of information. But now we can access information on the Internet easily,” said Huynh Cong Bang, a doctor at My Duc Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. He began using the World Bank online resource in 2011 as a student at the University of Health and Pharmacy in Can Tho. The Bank’s reports on Vietnam’s health policy provided valuable inputs for his graduate thesis. They  also helped him make informed decisions for his career development.

“I’ve introduced this source of information to more than 30 friends,” Bang added.

Open Quotes

World Bank’s data are objective, transparent, reliable and up-to-date. Close Quotes

Le Thanh Nhan
Lecturer, University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City

Supporting Vietnam’s socio-economic development

Broader access to data also allows policy makers, researchers, journalists and civil society track the impact of policies, develop new solutions, and measure improvements more accurately.

Vu Thi Huong Giang, a journalist at Tuoi tre Newspaper, one of the most popular newspapers in Vietnam, started using the World Bank website years ago.

“I frequently collect and process data on economic and social development in Vietnam in a global context. The World Bank data is very important for me, especially since statistics on Vietnam’s development issues are quite limited,” said Giang.

Another long-time user of the Bank’s website since 2002, Ton That Son Phong, Director at the Livestock Competitiveness and Food Safety Project, said that data pulled from the site has helped him a lot in his work.

“Documents about Bank-supported projects in various countries and the country partnership strategy helped me generate many ideas in preparing and implementing projects,” Phong said. “New Bank guidance on project implementation, and progress reports on Bank-supported projects in Vietnam and other countries helped me assess and compare the progress of my project,” he added.