Making World Bank Open Data Usable: An Important Next Step 2012-06-02


"“... the World Bank is staking its claim as a leader in the realm of transparent, accessible data. From July 1, 2012, all published data from Bank-funded projects for international development and poverty reduction will officially be made available to the public via the centralized and searchable Open Knowledge Repository (OKR). With Creative Commons licensing that lets anyone reuse and redistribute the data as long as they credit the Bank, says the organization, ‘millions more will be able to contribute to development progress. Now, anyone in the world can easily access and build upon World Bank knowledge — not just academics or those working at the bank.’ In theory, this should be true; in practice, how useable will this trove of knowledge be for development workers on the ground? ... Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, applauded the Bank’s choice of adopting Creative Commons licenses, saying he was ‘delighted to see a major institution like the World Bank push the boundaries and not just make their work free of charge, but also free for use and reuse.’ Tobias Denskus (@aidnography), an international development and social media researcher and blogger, fully agrees, but adds that simply making the data available represents a narrow understanding of the word ‘pioneer’. ‘Open data means Excel spreadsheets and statistics. It’s quantitative. We need the numbers, but we also need qualitative approaches to interpret the data.’ On the other hand, Tariq Khokhar (@tkb), currently Open Data Evangelist for the World Bank, has previously argued that open data, quantitative though it may be, can influence forces as subjective even as political agendas. Responding to Denskus’ call for more critical discussion around open aid, Khokhar explained that the transparency of open data is ‘self-disciplining’. That is, knowing that the data will be made public encourages better use of aid funds... [Khokhar] cites a study by Jörg Faust of the German Development Institute supporting this claim: the results showed that ‘more than half the variation between donors in how well they allocate aid can be explained by how transparent they are.’ Denskus remains concerned that most of the information coming out of World Bank reports is so specialized that, while great for researchers and PhDs, it will remain out of reach of most other development players. ‘We’ll probably see journalists at the Guardian or the New York Times teaming up with researchers who know the data and, after six months, they may find that, of 365 projects in Uganda, say, there’s something wrong with 59 of them. But it’s naïve, maybe, to say that local organizations could analyze all of this data themselves, feed it into the local media, and use it to put pressure on the local government.’ In various blog posts on the subject of open aid, Denskus hastens to add that he supports the World Bank’s move toward open data. But he warns against contenting ourselves with this initial step... Tariq Khokhar also feels that ‘aid transparency is necessary but not sufficient for making aid more effective.’ Tobias Denskus suggests that a donor organization willing to upgrade the status of blogging could result in a public record of a project as it is happening. This would be a useful, real-time form of transparent communication to accompany the traditional 30-page report published at the conclusion of the program. All the same, Denskus acknowledges that some development projects are not well adapted to high levels of transparency. When the World Bank makes a $100 million-infrastructure loan to an African country, for instance, ‘these projects have a lot of fault lines,’ a lot of places where something can go wrong. Tracking the details of all of them is ‘not a level of transparency that any EU country has! It would be demanding something of developing countries that we couldn’t do ourselves. You have to be careful not to put demands on already overstretched countries...’ As Tariq Khokhar has said, open data is just a tool. The next stage needs to be about finding ways to apply the information in a practical way and “supporting the institutions and individuals who want to use it.” Tobias Denskus suggests that, one day, an independent monitoring foundation could work with local anthropologists, statisticians, and social media experts to put the data in context and make it come alive...”" Posted by abernard to oa.okr oa.debates oa.world_bank oa.crowd oa.formats oa.usability oa.studies oa.policies oa.funders oa.lay oa.mandates oa.libre oa.licensing oa.copyright oa.comment oa.repositories on Sat Jun 02 2012


From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.licensing oa.comment oa.mandates oa.copyright oa.crowd oa.formats oa.funders oa.lay oa.studies oa.world_bank oa.debates oa.okr oa.usability oa.repositories oa.libre oa.policies

Date tagged:

06/02/2012, 15:31

Date published:

06/02/2012, 11:31