More than data


The World Bank is opening its data, putting a large part of that data under an open license. It has even announced an Apps for development challenge, with prizes, to use this data to “create innovative software applications that move us a step closer toward solving some of the world’s most pressing problems”. These are great steps toward openness, and have come more quickly than I expected. Kudos to them, and to groups such as and the Open Knowledge Foundation that have been pushing for this.

But this is only part of the story. As Tobias Denskus writes:

but if we really want to democratise the development discourse we should also publish, say, the minutes of Bank board meetings and other relevant internal documents to understand how ideas and statistics are translated into ‘reality’ through powerful interlocutors like the Bank and its staff.  – Why publishing aid data does not equal ‘democratizing development’

It’s crucial that we share not only data, but aid and development knowledge. Publications like The World Bank Participation Sourcebook should be open licensed. The same goes for the many arms of the UN.

Is anyone at these institutions listening seriously to this request?

3 thoughts on “More than data

  1. That’s correct, Jose. However none of these publications are under an open license, in every case that I’ve looked at. An open license is the underlying legal principle that allows Wikipedia and Appropedia to work – it says that you can take a work and use it for any purpose, provided you attribute the work. Some open license also say that you must share any modifications under the same conditions. If the license specifies that it cannot be modified or used for commercial purposes, it is no longer regarded as an “open license”, or “free license” as some prefer to call it.

    I neglected to link or explain the term open license in the blog post, so I apologize for the confusion. The copyright statements for WB documents that I’ve looked at make it clear that I cannot use this information in Appropedia, under our license. I.e. we cannot leverage for use as we create resources for (among others) NGOs, aid agencies and development professionals .

    In contrast, I can freely use work from the US federal government (e.g departments of agriculture and energy which have much useful info). We can now use many documents from the Australian government. That is as it should be – taxpayer money paid for this work, so it is fitting that it can be used by the public.

  2. There are many myths circulating upon app development and normal individuals such as you and I may win if we were fit to put off our dreads and roll up our sleeves and get both feet and legs wet. Equally as bad or worst is not having no thought as to where to begin or the schemes to use.

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