Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Poverty

canonball diver from the 1930s

Join our data dive on Open Data Day!

This Friday, 22 February, we’re meeting in Vienna for a data dive, together with the World Bank (thanks to the Centre for Public Administration Research and the Open Knowledge Foundation – Austrian Chapter!). Poverty analysis experts along with Andrey Ivanov from UNDP and Prasanna Lal Das from the World Bank will be looking at how open data can be used in poverty reduction efforts. The data dive is the first in a series of projects, events, and competitions to unearth key questions, explore data sources (both open and big data) and take a fresh look at old problems – for the benefit of those working on development projects (a.k.a. the big data exploration). 

Prasanna Lal Das sat with us to discuss the idea behind the challenge and plans for future data dives.

What is the potential of big data for the work of organizations like the World Bank?

PLD: We have already seen open/big data producing good results with the transparency agenda. However, the question that dogs us is: Can open data work produce results beyond transparency?

There has been a general explosion of data in the world. Does the fact that the Bank opened a lot of its data mean that it can deliver better development results? Or that it can be smarter about how it works and assigns its resources? Or that it can create new services for and with its partners?

Big data seems to have the potential to deliver such results – there are quite a few successful examples in the private sector in particular.

What was the idea behind the big data exploration and what are the expectations for this initiative?

PLD: The concept sprang from results we saw in the private sector coupled with the fact that we recognize that we don’t necessarily have the most cutting edge skills in this (still unproven) space. Talking to partners, it quickly became clear that they saw the same potential, but also shared the same constraints that we did.

A challenge, through which we could address questions that many agencies share, seems to be a good way to potentially hear from the brightest minds in this area, and connect multi-disciplinary teams who may be able to bring a new perspective to some of the questions we are currently grappling with.

The big data exploration is jointly organized by the UN Global Pulse, QCRI, UNDP and the World Bank. Our goal is to rethink data for better development results and jointly conduct a series of projects, challenges, and competitions to unearth key questions, explore data sources (both open and big data) and take a fresh look at old problems – for the benefit of those working on development projects. We’re kicking off this initiative with the challenge.

When it comes to expectations however, we understand that this is an experiment, and as such, it can bring unexpected results.

What kind of World Bank data can people attending the event in Vienna expect to have access to?

PLD: Much of the data will be what is already publicly available (though some participants at the dives may not be familiar with them).

We will also have the possibility of diving into some new data at the event – in keeping with leading organizations like Global Pulse, Qatar Computing Research Institute, UN Development Business, and others who have also made some really exciting new data available.

Check this list to get an idea of what data is available. And come prepared to talk about data you wish you had access to – we are using these dives as an impetus for conversations with owners of ‘closed’ data.

How are you planning to use the results of the data dive in Vienna? Will participants be able to interact with the World Bank moving forward?

PLD: Our primary goal is to build the foundation for the challenge and get a better understanding of what sort of specific question(s) we should ask.

Additionally, we hope that we will come out with some combination of the following:

  • An early idea of how to measure the responses to questions that we choose for the competition
  • What options, beyond competitions, make sense to answer such questions?
  • Who are the ‘non-traditional’ expert groups we should engage with to answer such questions?
  • An understanding of the range and quality of the relevant data universe (what data is available, what new data may be relevant – what more should we be looking at, what is the quality of this data, and what data is not easily accessible).

However, we don’t want to anticipate the outcomes of the data dive at Vienna too much – a lot will depend on who comes and the direction participants want to take.

We hope that participants in Vienna can stay connected throughout the other events that we’ll have as part of our Data Challenge.

We will soon share details of an upcoming event in Washington D.C. We are not yet sure if that event will have a remote component to it – and it will be fantastic if this group could participate in the actual competition.

  • For people who love to experiment, you don’t get much better than an event like this. PLD is right about not anticipating the outcomes too much. I can’t wait to see what direction(s) the participants take.