World Bank unveils new data visualization tool

A glimpse of World Bank’s new data tool that lets users track real-time progress toward the financial institution’s key targets.

The World Bank has launched a new website that allows users to track progress toward 12 of the institution’s key targets, including process simplification, citizen engagement and knowledge sharing with clients.

The targets are part of President Jim Kim’s ambitious reform process, which kicked into high gear this July with the launch of several “global practices” and will face perhaps its most public review to date next month in Washington, D.C., during the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

Arriving at the targets — which also address revenue growth, fragile states, energy and environment — “was not a trivial process,” Kim told a small circle of reporters Monday. The process has helped employees at the bank discuss how to measure progress toward achieving the new twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

The World Bank chief suggested that the next step will be to turn the real-time tracking tool into an information platform for the way the financial institution does business every day. How that may affect bank employees, partners, contractors and clients, however, remains to be seen.

Among the targets, Kim worries most about topics related to process simplification and providing universal access to financial services by 2020.

“On simplification, we’re not moving as quickly as I’d like,” he said, referring to the complex set of procedures that influence the speed of project approval and funding disbursement.

A work in progress

The new data visualization tool was developed by the bank’s presidential delivery unit, whose existence illustrates Kim’s focus on results, several World Bank staff members stressed Monday.

“It’s the truth. It’s what we got,” Melanie Walker, senior adviser to the president and director of the PDU, said about the new website. The data is largely based on the bank’s corporate scorecard, which is now published twice per year.

Aligning data collection and display standards across institutions is still a work in progress, Walker said. The tool remains an ongoing development and more data will be made available as focus areas change.

Kim has already said the World Bank board of directors is on board with his aspirations of creating a “knowledge bank.”

“I think there’s a clear perception that we have to invest more in data,” he said. As an example, the World Bank chief said employees of the financial institution helped the United Nations create a tool to track the response to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.

“We weren’t keeping up on what types of services were available,” Kim said. But he also asked, “What difference would it have made to have more data” on issues related to population, health care and foreign aid?

Do you agree with the World Bank’s 12 performance targets? Which ones would you add? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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    Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.