As prepared for delivery
World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey
July 2012, Washington D.C.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
· It is my pleasure to see you all here at the World Bank - I’m glad to be surrounded by the leading thinkers and doers in a subject that is particularly close to my heart – open data.
· And as you’ve just heard from President Jim Yong Kim, robust and open data is critical to our mission.
· This is the largest ever open data gathering at the World Bank, bringing together a community that we really didn't know much about, just two years ago. We've come a long way in a short time, to what I hope we now are – your friends, partners and collaborators.
· But while we’ve come a long way, there’s still far more to be done.
· We need strong concerted action at all levels to deliver on the promise of open data for development - not only to improve accountability, transparency, and effectiveness, but also to increase people’s participation and ability to work together to devise innovative solutions to today’s development challenges.
· My background is a little unusual at the World Bank. I came to the World Bank from the world of journalism. As a journalist I’ve seen first-hand the power of free information, the importance of accountability, and citizen-participation. I’ve also seen that when governments and institutions try to restrict information they not only short-change their citizens but they can make poor public policy choices. This is no less the case in development.
· Over the years we have learned that development cannot be imposed by fiat from above or from outside. We’ve learned that there is no one-size-fits-all panacea. We’ve learned that the ivory tower or the research institute doesn’t have a monopoly on development ideas. What we are now coming to learn is that a heady combination of data, citizen participation and new technology can open the door to finding development solutions in ways that just a generation ago seemed impossible.
· “Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” was a famous British plea to the Americans in World War 2. “Give us the data and we will finish the job," could be the cry of citizens today in the war on poverty.
The World Bank: Open About What We Know, and Open About What We Do
· So data matters. And Open Data matters more. With Open Data we can set in train a powerful chain-reaction of change and empowerment. With Open Data we can democratize development, drawing practioners, communities, policymakers and citizens into the search for development solutions. With Open Data we can incentivize the filling of data gaps, and the production of apps to make the data fully usable. With Open Data we can keep a check on corruption, and public policy abuses, building in citizen oversight, feedback loops and mid-course corrections.
So what does this mean for the World Bank?
· Through Open Data we have handed over the keys to the World Bank’s data vault. We are approaching the task in two ways; being open about what we know, and being open about what we do.
· What does that mean in practice? We’ve released over 8,000 development indicators and more than 60 different collections of datasets from across the Bank going back over 20 years, through a central data catalogue.
· It means new portals and databases of climate change, jobs, gender and poverty- related data. And operational data on more than 11,000 lending projects in over 100 countries.
· We've combined this with an Access to Information Policy, modeled on the US and Indian Freedom of Information Acts with an independent panel for appeals of decisions, and last year 14,000 documents and reports posted on our site.
· Our data is freely available for commercial and non-commercial use alike, and with our new Open Access Policy, we’ve created an Open Knowledge Repository for our research and knowledge products under the most liberal Creative Commons Attribution license. I believe the Bank is the first major international organization to embrace Open Access and Creative Commons licensing for its research products.
· I’d also like to think we’re just as open about what we don’t know. One of the first apps a developer created when we started our Open Data Initiative in April 2010 is called “Blind Data”- it shows the gaps in coverage of our various development data. We have to be honest about those gaps. Showing them clearly, creates an incentive to fill them.
· We’re committed to being just as open about what we do. In the last year, we’ve launched new sites for our projects, operations and finances. A look at worldbank.org/projects or finances.worldbank.org – you can see what we’re doing where; alongside details of our lending activities, procurement information and crucially, the results we’re seeing.
· Importantly, and Steven will be pleased to hear, we provide access to all this data through Application Programming Interfaces - APIs - and in international standard data formats like the one used by the International Aid Transparency Initiative, IATI, so that our data is fully usable by others, and they can come up with applications we’ve never thought of.
Engaging with others
· Back in December, researchers at AidData wanted to know how levels of violence in different regions of Afghanistan affected the success of World Bank projects there. They took our geo-coded project data and data on project performance from our Independent Evaluation Group, and then mapped it against sub-national violence data from the Long War journal. Their surprising results challenged our conventional wisdom.
· This kind of analysis would be even more useful if all aid donors released data in standard, comparable data formats like IATI.
· And that’s exactly what the Open Aid Partnership has helped demonstrate in Malawi. Malawi is leading the first Open Aid pilot, and in co-operation with AidData, has geo-coded aid activities of 27 different donors working across the country. For the first time a map visualizes all local aid flows in Malawi.
· Pilots are set for 13 other countries– a move that offers tremendous scope for the international aid community to not only see where aid is flowing - and just as importantly not flowing - but plug the gaps and give new depth to the concept of harmonizing aid.