Opening Up Worlds of Information

December 18, 2013

Tom Perry/World Bank

  • Access to information is the cornerstone for accountability and development effectiveness — improving governance, citizen engagement, and aid coordination.
  • Access to information creates new opportunities to use evidence to find and deliver innovative local solutions that can lift people out of poverty.
  • Access to information strengthens the capacity of governments to use open aid data to integrate aid resources into their national budgets, and to better coordinate donor interventions.

The 2013 World Bank Access to Information Annual Report was released this week, highlighting how the Bank’s Access to Information Policy has provided the framework for the institution to emerge as a global leader in transparency and openness. 

Focused on ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity, the Bank is committed to sharing its data and global knowledge with all stakeholders, including borrowing governments, citizens, donor partners, civil society, academia, media and the private sector.

“Timely data and information are essential to making good decisions,” said Kyle Peters, vice president of Operations Policy and Country Services. “The Bank’s Access to Information Policy is about making information available so people can provide feedback and play a constructive role in shaping the future of their communities.”

Access to information allows stakeholders to use Bank data, to conduct their own analysis, or to collaborate with the Bank in analyzing and studying development issues. This creates new opportunities to find and deliver innovative local solutions.

Bank clients can use open aid data to integrate aid resources into their national budgets, and to better coordinate donor interventions within their borders. These goals are crucial to ensuring that the Bank continues to help clients meet the toughest development challenges.

" We have worked hard to open the World Bank — beginning with our landmark Access to Information Policy, Open Data, Open Knowledge Repository, and much more — sharing our data and extensive information and what we do, how we do it, and our results. "

Jim Yong Kim

President, World Bank Group

Public Access: The Access to Information Policy allows public access to any information in the Bank's possession that is not on a list of exceptions, enabling the Bank to proactively release information to the public. Information can be obtained in person at the Infoshop or through in-country Public Information Services. Each Bank office is an excellent source of information, with each country maintaining a web page with project information and a network of professional staff to help citizens with their requests.

Web Access: The majority of users access information through the Bank website. The public can openly and freely access information on Bank operations, including the Projects and Operations portal, which provides detailed information on more than 11,000 lending projects, and the Documents and Reports database with more than 150,000 documents available. The Bank also makes available to the public development and financial data,  including through Open Data, which allows public access to more than 9,000 development indicators and more than 1,200 survey datasets, and Open Finances, which includes financial data on World Bank Group activities. For users on the go there is even an Infofinder app for iPhone and iPad and a World Bank Group Finances app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. 

Filing an Access to Information Request: The Bank has taken Access to Information Policy implementation seriously. For information that is not available on the Bank’s website, the public may submit an Access to Information request at no cost. In FY 2013 the Bank received approximately 700 new public access requests, 89% of which were completed. The inflow of requests is managed by teams within the Bank according to formal procedures to encourage the prompt processing of requests.  In cases where information falls under an exception, requesters can file an appeal through a formal appeals process.

Governance Framework: “The Bank has continued to reinforce a strong governance framework for the AI Policy,” notes Anne-Marie Leroy, senior vice president and Bank Group general counsel. The policy established two bodies to hear appeals, the Access to Information Committee and the Access to Information Appeals Board. A new chair of the Access to Information Committee was recently appointed Mariam Sherman, Bank director of results, openness and effectiveness. Last fall, the World Bank Group President Bank selected three new experts to serve on the AI Appeals Board.


The Bank will continue to open up its data and knowledge, and will encourage governments to do the same, allowing stakeholders — especially the poor — to fully understand this information, participate in development processes, and hold governments and development providers accountable. Ultimately, the true test of effectiveness is how the Bank uses this evidence to change the lives of over a billion people in extreme poverty.  Being more open about what the Bank does do and what the Bank knows is an important step in building a more prosperous and equitable world.