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The World Bank Finances App: Open Data Online and Off

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 14 2013

Greeting card courtesy of Sam Lee

The World Bank values transparency. They have an entire website dedicated to making their financial data open and available to the public. Stores of raw datasets for anyone to “slice and dice, visualize, and share with others.” The quantity of data can be overwhelming, however, so for the mobile app version of their open finances website, they simplified the data available on the website for easier mobile consumption.

“It’s not designed for hardcore analysis or hardcore sharing or downloads. For that, we refer people to our website,” Sam Lee, open data specialist for World Bank Open Finances, told IJNet.

The mobile app offers an approximation of the data available on the website, but it is much more easily accessible. For example, a phone doesn't even have to be connected to the Internet to access the data stored in the app, so it will literally work in the middle of nowhere (provided your phone still has a charge).

Lee told techPresident over the phone that they chose the data sets for the mobile app by asking which streams of information made the most sense in juxtaposition. They also asked the public what kind of financial information they thought would be most beneficial, and as a result of that conversation added contract information to the app.

In addition to contracts, the mobile app includes information on donors and project locations. The app can be searched by country, and by beneficiary countries and donor countries. The most interesting function, says Lee, is the ability to search for projects "Near Me," or by latitude and longitude coordinates. The search will show nearby projects, with additional information on relevant donors or contracts.

The initial version of the app was launched in 2011, and a second version came out in December of 2012. The later version could be accessed in six new languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

The Bank noted there was a high demand for the information in Indonesia, so when they released the most recent version in May they added two more languages, Bahasa and Hindi, bringing the total number of languages to nine.

Visualizations that utilize the World Bank's financial data can be shared on Twitter with the hashtag #WBFinances, and recent projects can be found on the World Bank's social stream. The mobile app is available on both Android and iOS.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.