Economic Development and Livelihoods


Economic Development and Livelihoods

Dr. Lee Schwartz, Geographer for the United States Department of State
Dr. Lee Schwartz, Geographer for the United States Department of State

June 27, 2012 – In order to promote human security, open access to appropriate information is essential. This is the core message that came out of the meeting held at the World Bank on June 27, 2012. The aim was to build voluntary partnerships around human geography data and mapping, with a specific focus on economic development and livelihoods. As Dr. Lee Schwartz, Geographer for the United States Department of State, explained, human geography data “help explain and understand why people do what they do where they do it”, although do not necessarily have to predict behavior.

The creation of partnerships around human geography will lead to collaboration across several critical areas such as: communication, demographics, education, climate, economy, ethnicity, groups (civil, political and ideological), medical/health, religion, transportation, land use, language and significant events. Moreover, the collection of data elements would be essential for emergency responders in preparation for a disaster but also in order to enable good governance.

The Event was organized by the World-Wide Human Geography Data Working Group with the support of the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA). The World-Wide Human Geography Data Working Group, beside the abovementioned partnership objective, has the aim to facilitate sharing among human geography data and mapping communities, promote methodologies to build data sets at scales appropriate to end users.

The key note speaker for the Event was Sumir Lal, Manager for Operational Communication in the External Affairs Vice Presidency of the World Bank and leader of the Open Development Agenda from across the World Bank including the World Bank Open Data initiative. Mr. Lal   explained how sharing data and promoting transparency are key steps to enable accountability, engage others and build relationships, promote efficiency and innovation. The World Bank Access to information policy allows all information in the Bank’s possession to be available to the public, except those on a small list of exceptions.

The event was divided in four panels, each one of them focusing on different topics.

The first panel topic was “Data and mapping for development effectiveness” and included a speech by Bjorn Soren Gigler on the role of the Open Aid Partnership and how open data on aid flows and public service delivery is crucial in order to improve aid transparency, enhance results and empower citizens and CSOs to provide direct feedback on project outcomes. Mr. Gigler explained the Mapping for Results project and how maps were created for numerous countries, project locations were mapped in order to have a quick graphic overview of how the Bank is doing in terms of reaching its development objectives.

Other panelists supported the idea that mapping is a great tool to monitor aid flows and to achieve better results. Stephen Davenport, of Development Gateway (DG), explained how the methodology DG uses for aid projects was adapted in order to incorporate lessons learned through the work of the WB Mapping for Results. The same conclusion was reached by Jake Garcia, of the Foundation Center, who stressed the need of creating more complete pictures of development projects around the world and enabling collaboration between donor institutions. The idea of sharing information, maps and data, should be applied not only to Bank projects, but also to all other projects in developing countries, carried out by NGOs, as Laia Grino (InterAction) mentioned in her presentation.

The second panel focused on, ”Economic development planning”, and specifically on how developing the capacity of local populations can help increase data accuracy and project sustainability. Among the speakers were: Peter Ndunda, Green Belt Movement, Dave Hinkle, IRD, USAID Afghanistan Infrastructure, Bryan Pijanowski, Purdue, Remote Sensing for Food Security and Bob Tetrault, USDA, Civilian Response Corps. All of the speakers focused their presentations on the role of communities and how their understanding of local environment facilitates the discussion and consensus building on priority development goals. Moreover, partnership is seen as a tool to build base data, especially in difficult environments.

The third panel, on “Open Data, Mapping, and Analysis for Sustainable Development” focused on the use of data organization and mapping methods to address economic challenges and complex regional questions such as political and legal changes, tribal disputes, climate change, urbanization, etc. Once again, the World Bank policy on access to its projects, results, and knowledge was addressed by Tariq Khokhar part of the Open Data Initiative team.

The fourth and last panel on “Participatory Mapping for Community Livelihood” introduced the discussion on how the use of crowdsourcing can improve information availability and validation in data-poor locations. Kaushal Jhalla, consultant in the Innovation and Governance Team at the World Bank Insitute, explained how local geography is relevant in the development of communities. Knowing what is happening at the local level is necessary in order to help better the communities, and developing a system that would allow the community members to give feedback on how the projects are being implemented is a key step for development progress.

Once again, sharing data, geospatial information and feedbacks are seen as the future for monitoring World Bank financed projects, as well as other international organizations projects.

Daniel Sui, Professor at the Ohio State University, and last panelist on Crowdsourcing and Geographic Knowledge, explained how volunteered geographic information (VGI) are relevant for the production of geographic knowledge, even though often geographic information is usually the least available where it is most needed. He finally reconnected once again to the concept of open data for open development by stating that sharing data does not only means having a precise location, but also means how to use the information and how to share them in a quicker way.

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