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Big Data

Innovations for Development: 2013 Wish List

Maya Brahmam's picture

A recent Poverty Matters blog post in the Guardian noted that mobile technologies and social media are creating cheap ways for citizens to interact with their governments and that development projects are trying to tap into these technologies. It gave a plug to the Bank’s new Open Finances mobile app that lets users find and monitor bank-funded projects near where they live, using mapping and GPS technology.

With the advent of the New Year and given the on-going work in the Bank on the open agenda, here are three things we may accomplish in 2013:

Big data for development: Beyond Transparency

For the development community, the focus on ‘data’ has been very much on open data: making public where aid dollars are being spent. This is no small task, and I welcome the rise of platforms and initiatives such as The World Bank’s Mapping for Results, DFID’s Project Map, aidinfo and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Transparency about aid is very important - it raises public awareness of development work, it enhances accountability among both the givers and receivers of aid, and it can drive out waste, bureaucracy and corruption.Big data can give insight into development challenges, such as nutrition in India. (Credit: Wen-Yan King, Flickr Creative Commons)

But we can do much more with data. Big business already gets this: companies from Tesco to Facebook have been using the data they collect to gain valuable insight on their users and drive efficiency for years. It’s time for governments and the third sector to catch up. In many cases these groups, such as microfinance organisations, local government and community health centres, already collect plenty of data, but don’t make much use of it.