Who will lead the data revolution?

An event called, “Talking About a Data Revolution,” during the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings held in Washington, D.C. Pictured from left to right: Lindsey Coates, vice president at InterAction; Maxwell Mkwezalamba, chief minister of finance of Malawi; Nick Dyer, director general of policy and global programs at the U.K. Department for International Development; Haishan Fu, director of development economics data group at the World Bank; and Gavin Starks, chief executive officer at Open Data Institute. Photo by: Steven Shapiro / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Global development leaders and officials from partner countries say they want a data revolution, but while many institutions have signed memoranda of understanding and agreed to cooperate on a movement to compile “big data,” tensions persist around who can — or should — lead such a movement.

The international community and national governments need to do a better job of producing, using and disseminating data about poverty. That was the message from Thursday’s panel discussion at the World Bank spring meetings focused on efforts by donors and developing nations to plug data gaps around poverty to aid pro-poor policy decisions.

But on the sidelines of the discussion, some attendees wondered what the appropriate role for huge international institutions and national governments should be in building a more comprehensive web of accessible demographic, economic and health data.

Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute, reminded attendees and fellow panelists from the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development and the government of Malawi that while the Internet came into being with little initial awareness by governments of how transformative it would be, the “data revolution” seems to be lifting off with much more official interest and influence.

This article is for Devex Members

For full access to the content of the article sign in or join Devex.

About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.