Using World Bank Data, Developers from 36 Countries Harness Technology to Improve People’s Lives
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2011 – An app that allows users to visualize development indicators using powerful charts and maps, a web-based tool to measure the impact of global events on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, and an interactive app that lets users make their own comparisons of countries’ performance, were announced today as the top winners of the World Bank’s first-ever “Apps for Development” competition.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said, “One of the reasons we threw open the doors to our data was that we recognized we don’t have a monopoly on innovation. These apps clearly demonstrate how the software development community can harness technology to analyze and tackle some of the world's long-standing problems. It’s fantastic to see the creative approaches each of the finalists took, and it’s also great to see that the submissions came from six continents.”
Last year, the World Bank issued a challenge to software developers from across the globe to take on some of the world’s most pressing development problems by creating digital apps using the Bank’s freely available data. The response was overwhelming, with 107 entries from 36 countries across six continents, and nearly a third from Africa.
A panel of expert judges, including technology gurus such as Kannan Pashupathy of Google, Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist, selected the winners. A total of $55,000 was awarded in cash prizes to competition winners.
The three winning apps all feature unique approaches to pressing development challenges:
- First Prize Winner - StatPlanet World Bank (Australia): With this powerful app, you can visualize and compare country and regional performance over time. The user can select from among the 3000+ indicators covering virtually every dimension of economic, social, and human development, and can select the manner in which the data is displayed. This app allows anyone an easy interface to these indicators - even without Internet connectivity - via a desktop version of the app.
- Second Prize Winner - Development Timelines (France): Development Timelines lets you put global development data into historical context and better understand how events such as war, education reforms, or economic booms and busts, affect progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
- Third Prize Winner - Yourtopia - Development beyond GDP (Germany): This interactive app allows you to sum up human development according to your own criteria and, through a short quiz, choose how important different dimensions of development are to you. You can then participate in constructing a multiple-dimension index of human development.
Aleem Walji, Manager, Innovation Practice at the World Bank Institute, said, “This competition has brought software developers into the development conversation. We see enormous potential in crowdsourcing solutions to persistent development problems, and we are especially excited when our data can be used as raw material to spark creativity and innovation.”
The winners also included a Popular Choice Award, determined by online voting by the public, which went to WORLD (Macedonia), an app that selects data at random to generate concise statements about progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, the Large Organization Recognition Award was given to International Project Funding: US Foundations and the World Bank (USA), an app that shows funding for agriculture, fishing, and forestry projects from the World Bank and US foundations, as well as the percentage of land cover in each country that is occupied by forests or cropland. Honorable Mentions were given to World Bank Widget (Finland), Get a Life! GAME (Netherlands), Know Your World (USA), Bebemama mobile app - Empowering mothers (Thailand), TreePet (Mexico), Economic Data Finder (UK), Indicators Lab (India), FACTCHA: Stop Spam, Advocate for the MDGs! (Kenya), MDG Chart Generator (Jamaica), and MDG Maps (Uganda).
Open Data, Open Knowledge and Open Solutions
The Apps for Development Competition was launched in September 2010 by World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick as part of the Bank’s Open Data Initiative, an effort that unlocks the institution’s world-class knowledge and development data for researchers, activists, students, and development practitioners across the globe. The initiative is rapidly expanding, in line with the huge demand for development data and information.
As part of the Open Data Initiative the World Bank has recently developed its own app – “Mapping for Results" — which visualizes the geographic location of programs at the global and regional levels and in 79 of the poorest countries. This interactive platform brings greater transparency and accountability to World Bank operations, strengthening the monitoring of results and enhancing the effectiveness of aid. In addition, the Bank’s AidFlows website provides data and visual representations of donor funding and total disbursements to developing countries.
The World Development Indicators database, used extensively by app developers and researchers, and the main source of data for the Open Data website, has been updated and provides access to over 1,200 indicators for 213 countries and territories, in many cases going back to 1960. And the companion 2011 print edition of World Development Indicators has been released, with more than double the number of estimates of poverty incidence using countries’ own national poverty lines and over 60 new estimates of poverty incidence using the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Reaching out to an ever-widening audience, the World Bank’s Open Data website with a growing number of datasets now totaling 7,000 indicators, is now accessible in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish.
The World Bank has also expanded its offering of data and tools. A fully searchable catalog of more than 330 microdata sets, produced by the International Household Survey Network and the work of many countries to make their data more accessible, provides access to results from household and other surveys. Researchers can find surveys in developing countries by searching the questionnaires that were used and then accessing and analyzing the data to find solutions to development problems.
“These data represent the work of dedicated statisticians in every country in the world. Now the citizens of those countries have the opportunity to use their data and create new tools, new products and new solutions with them,” said Shaida Badiee, Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group and an Apps for Development juror.