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.

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  • Anup Choudhary commented on Nov 24 2012

    Lonely warriors & winds of change in Bihar!

    Thanks to Mr. Sanjay for the inspirational talk, very nostalgic too as coming from Bihar, I can relate with the experience of ‘opening up the development’ as shared during the TED talk. Indeed, chronically backward Indian state of Bihar is undergoing ‘de-envelopment’- a transformation with sweeping departure from business-as-usual approach. And key drivers are open knowledge and governance as shared by Mr.Sanjay. Right to information Act-2005 is slowly but firmly changing the governance landscape of Bihar as well as India by empowering common citizen to demand and enforce accessible and accountable bureaucracy and Government. These changes reflect life time passion & commitment of ‘lonely warriors’ as said by Mr Sanjay. The spirit and momentum provided by these lonely warriors is made by well-known personalities like Anna Hazare but more notably by numerous anonymous torch bearers like late father of Mr Sanjay. Armed with constitutional rights and unrestrained knowledge flow of social media, people are coming together and raising their voices for political and developmental accountability from Government. Part of the credit goes to the strategies, practises & advisory support provided by humanitarian organisations like World Bank as well as committed leadership fostering citizen responsive governance. I wish to share an experience of mine when I was part of a UN team in Bihar technically facilitating state Government in geo-mapping key socio-economic indicators. Our initiative was reciprocated with astonishing support of Government and we were able to assist the state Government in publishing a ‘Planning Atlas’ for entire state for the first time using cutting edge GIS technology. This helped the Government to identify indicator based disparities within the state and hence devise informed strategies and policies. I hope & have firm belief that this journey of engagement and empowerment of the ‘last in the line’ will continue, not only in Bihar but throughout the world where blot of poverty and powerlessness persists. Thanks again for the talk.

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