Global Issues

The World Bank’s open data: 7 apps to explore

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Sanjay Pradhan was thrilled when, at age six, a cart full of sweets was wheeled to his family’s doorstep in Bihar, India. The gift, however, was intended as a bribe for his father, who was responsible for building roads in India’s poorest state.

“My father had developed a firm stance against corruption, even though he was harassed and threatened,” says Pradhan in this moving talk from TEDGlobal 2012. “His was a lonely struggle, because Bihar was also India’s most corrupt state, where public officials were enriching themselves rather than serving the poor.”

Years later, Pradhan joined the World Bank, which aims to fight poverty by transferring aid from rich to poor countries. However, he was quickly disillusioned. After working on an effort to disperse development loans through Uganda’s finance ministry, Pradhan visited the country only to find a newly built school with no teachers or books, as well as a just-opened pharmacy without any prescriptions. As Pradhan explains, traditional aid often falls flat because of human corruption. Even when development money is available, it often fails to reach the people who need it most because decisions about how it gets used are made by a small group of elites. Furthermore, there is little accountability, with data on the use of development funds generally kept private.

Pradhan, now the vice president of the World Bank Institute, believes that the spirit of openness is changing international aid. Development institutions are opening up their data and information about their projects. Pradhan is proud that the World Bank is leading this charge, having opened up their vaults to the public in 2010. At the same time, as governments are beginning to be more open with their own budgets and initiatives, developing nations are looking to new models for how to lift their people out of poverty.

To hear more about Pradhan’s ideas for how transparency can change international aid, as well as about his father’s on-going struggle against corruption, watch his talk. Below, check out apps from the World Bank that make understanding their data easy.

The World Bank’s Open Data initiative makes available 850 financial data sets, stats on 11,000 projects, as well as knowledge gleaned from 700 surveys. To make this data more accessible, the World Bank has created several apps that let you access specific data, view them in chart or map form and share your creations over social media. Here’s a look at what’s available:

Happy data excavating.