Speeches & Transcripts

Speech by External and Corporate Relations VP Cyril Muller at International Open Data Conference

May 28, 2015

External and Corporate Relations VP Cyril Muller Ottawa, Canada

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, Bonjour. I would like to thank the Government of Canada for sponsoring this third global open data conference. The World Bank is delighted to co-host this conference with Canada and IDRC.

Let me start with numbers: 5, 15, and 40. These are three numbers that illustrate how much the World Bank has changed.

5 years ago, the World Bank became the first International Financial Institution to launch an open data initiative and to adopt an exceptions based Access to Information (AI) policy. The trajectory and promise of openness started with the AI policy. It is while reviewing this policy that we realized that opening information without opening data would be insufficient to impact our development programs.

15 next. Since going open, we’ve seen a 15-fold increase in the use of our data. That’s a one thousand five hundred percent (1,500%) increase in the number of people who’re using data on the state of citizens and countries around the world.

And 40. Together with our partners we’ve worked with over 40 countries to help apply open data at the national, local and sectoral levels.

A lot has changed in the past five years. At the World Bank, the AI policy enabled several open initiatives to emerge, such as Open Finances—which provides detailed financial information on the Bank’s development activities, Open Knowledge Repository—which provides access to our research and knowledge products, and Projects and Operations website—which offers detailed information on over 14,000 projects. All these efforts have made the World Bank more open and transparent.

Five years ago was also the time for open data evangelists. At the 2012 Open Data conference, we talked about the promise of open data and the potential for increased transparency, innovation and efficiency. But now is the time for scientists, activists, entrepreneurs and practitioners.

One of the opportunities is the Open Data for Development (OD4D) partnership. This year we’ve joined forces with the IDRC, Open Knowledge, The Open Data Institute and many others to accelerate the adoption of open data worldwide and to support the individuals and communities that put open data into action.

In January, Burkina Faso, became the first country in Francophone Africa to launch an open data initiative. One of the first tools developed is called “Nos Ecoles, Nos Donneés” or “Our Schools, Our Data”. It lets users access educational data on everything from student demographics to how well different schools are performing.

We’re too comfortable with the idea that “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. The problem is that the definition of broken has changed without us realizing. Sometimes, we forget that the citizen and the consumer are the same person. The expectations we have of technology in our private lives, are the same expectations we have for technology in our civic lives.

And this is what excites me and The World Bank about this community -- we’re not just talking about open data, we’re talking about new ways to build public and private services, and a new way for governments and citizens to engage. Open approaches are critical to the future of development.

So what’s stopping us? For one, we need to push boundaries and our imagination. Governments already spend billions of dollars every year on technology that manages fiscal, administrative and reference data. Why not spend the money on systems and approaches that are open by default?

Second: we need to support more civic entrepreneurs. Be they from government, the private sector or civil society. The U.S. now uses Open Street Map everywhere from supporting humanitarian response in countries like Nepal or Haiti to managing its National Parks.

And third, in spite of all these opportunities, I’m all too aware that you can’t do open data without data to open up. A recent World Bank study found that 77 out of 155 countries don’t even have enough data to measure changes in poverty.

And globally, only 34 countries have good data on something as important—and basic—as the causes of death of their citizens. We need to apply our creativity and energy. Tools like these civil registration and vital statistics or “CRVS” systems are the backbone of a modern digital government. While we’re here to see a revolution in the way data are produced, analyzed and used, let’s also work together to fix the fundamentals while we’re building the future.

To this end, I’d especially like to thank the Government of Canada who has generously invested $200 Million in the Global Financing Facility to Advance Women’s and Children’s Health. By 2030, we hope vital registration systems in countries around the world will record every pregnancy, every birth and every death. And that by counting every life, every life will count.

We’ve made some tremendous progress in the past five years and the World Bank is proud to be an active member of this community. This is a two way street, we are learning and I hope you’ll continue to see us as a partner for bringing open approaches to the most difficult development challenges.

Thanks again to the Government of Canada and the IDRC for hosting this event with us, and thank you to everyone who’s come to together to make this event what I’m sure will be a truly energizing experience.