The New Internationalist has long been a critic of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and rightly so. A wide range of IMF and World Bank activities in the past have had dubious benefits, and in some cases have worsened rather than improved the situation for the world’s most vulnerable people. Governance has been a particular concern, with Boards of the institutions dominated by directors from rich nations.
But change has been afoot at the Bank for some time, and a more open approach has slowly emerged, particularly with regard to the data sets that the World Bank has collected since its formation in 1944. It’s a tremendously important development, because the data that is selected – and the way in which it is presented – can promote vastly different approaches to development.
The big news was when the World Bank opened up three APIs (Application Programming Interfaces): one for time series data, one for World Bank projects and one for World Bank financial data. Don’t glaze over, because the ramifications are significant for all of us, from climate change activists, right down to the village level where they are enabling political action for better access to services. To understand the implications, I highly recommend you watch Sanjay Pradhan’s excellent and inspiring TED video. On the TED page you’ll also find links to a range of Apps for Apple and Android that make it a snap to gather data and to create charts to illustrate the data; such a boon for activists, researchers, journalists, academics and teachers alike.
Earlier this year the World Bank announced the finalists in their Apps For Climate competition, which generated a large number of entries. The Bank has a special website section dedicated to App developers and another that provides an Open Government toolkit.