Will the World Bank go all “Wikipedia”?

The World Bank's Chief Economist for Africa, Shantayanan Devarajan, writes about using mobile phones for monitoring and transparency. It's good to see the World Bank looking seriously at the principles of open development.

He continues:

Each year, the World Bank produces a World Development Report. While there is an extensive consultation process with the draft, the Report is essentially written by a core team of Bank staff. Why not produce the report like Wikipedia, and invite the whole world to write it? As one of my colleagues put it, “Then it will be the World’s Development Report.”

And a fitting symbol of Development 3.0.

via Development 3.0 | End Poverty.

That would be exciting to see. The World Bank has recently opened its data to public use, but Devarajan's idea is several steps beyond that.

Here's a submission for the next step, that might take us a bit closer to Wiki World Development Reports: Open licenses on all World Bank content, scrapping the current restrictions on all past and future World Bank publications. Those restrictions may seem mild (no commercial use and no mention of permissions for derivatives) but they are not compatible with open licenses, meaning they do not support wider collaborative work, and have no place in Development 3.0. It's time to open up.

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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 aidinfo.org 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?

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Open knowledge in development – conversations start

The Open Knowledge Foundation has launched a new mailing list for open knowledge in development. Jonathan Gray writes:

We encourage you to join - whether you’re interested in:

  • visually representing development related open data (a la OKF Advisory Board member Hans Rosling)
  • sharing development information or making it easier to find and re-use (a la Aidinfo or PublishWhatYouFund)
  • sharing practical information for development, e.g. on sanitation or construction (a la Appropedia or Akvo)
  • open textbooks and open resources for education in developing countries
  • or in any other open knowledge thats related to development!

The full post is on their blog: New mailing list for open knowledge in development

Edit: Note the new Appropedia wiki page, Open aid and development.

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Knowledge for development, knowledge as development

Looking at what One Laptop Per Child  is about highlights two aspects to knowledge in development:

  • knowledge as development (OLPC's educational mission)
  • knowledge for development, which they're happy to have included in the "content bundles" loaded onto the XO laptops (based on our conversations with them).

Both aspects of knowledge are essential - and so is collaboration to build this knowledge in an open way.

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