sponsored links
TEDGlobal 2012

Sanjay Pradhan: How open data is changing international aid

June 26, 2012

How do we make sure that development and aid money actually goes to the people who most need it? Sanjay Pradhan of the World Bank Institute lays out three guidelines to help relief efforts make the most impact -- while curbing corruption. One key: connecting the players who are working to change broken systems with the data they need.

Sanjay Pradhan - Development Leader
Sanjay Pradhan is vice president of the World Bank Institute, helping leaders in developing countries learn skills for reform, development and good governance. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I grew up in Bihar, India's poorest state,
00:15
and I remember when I was six years old,
00:20
I remember coming home one day to find a cart
00:24
full of the most delicious sweets at our doorstep.
00:27
My brothers and I dug in,
00:33
and that's when my father came home.
00:36
He was livid, and I still remember how we cried
00:40
when that cart with our half-eaten sweets
00:45
was pulled away from us.
00:49
Later, I understood why my father got so upset.
00:52
Those sweets were a bribe
00:57
from a contractor who was trying to get my father
01:00
to award him a government contract.
01:04
My father was responsible for building roads in Bihar,
01:07
and he had developed a firm stance against corruption,
01:12
even though he was harassed and threatened.
01:17
His was a lonely struggle, because Bihar
01:21
was also India's most corrupt state,
01:24
where public officials were enriching themselves,
01:28
[rather] than serving the poor who had no means
01:32
to express their anguish if their children
01:36
had no food or no schooling.
01:40
And I experienced this most viscerally
01:43
when I traveled to remote villages to study poverty.
01:48
And as I went village to village,
01:54
I remember one day, when I was famished and exhausted,
01:58
and I was almost collapsing
02:04
in a scorching heat under a tree,
02:07
and just at that time, one of the poorest men in that village
02:10
invited me into his hut and graciously fed me.
02:16
Only I later realized that what he fed me
02:22
was food for his entire family for two days.
02:26
This profound gift of generosity
02:32
challenged and changed the very purpose of my life.
02:37
I resolved to give back.
02:42
Later, I joined the World Bank, which sought to fight
02:46
such poverty by transferring aid from rich to poor countries.
02:50
My initial work focused on Uganda, where I focused
02:56
on negotiating reforms with the Finance Ministry of Uganda
03:01
so they could access our loans.
03:05
But after we disbursed the loans, I remember
03:08
a trip in Uganda where I found newly built schools
03:11
without textbooks or teachers,
03:16
new health clinics without drugs,
03:18
and the poor once again without any voice or recourse.
03:21
It was Bihar all over again.
03:27
Bihar represents the challenge of development:
03:31
abject poverty surrounded by corruption.
03:35
Globally, 1.3 billion people live on less than
03:39
$1.25 a day, and the work I did in Uganda
03:43
represents the traditional approach to these problems
03:48
that has been practiced since 1944,
03:52
when winners of World War II, 500 founding fathers,
03:57
and one lonely founding mother,
04:02
gathered in New Hampshire, USA,
04:06
to establish the Bretton Woods institutions,
04:08
including the World Bank.
04:11
And that traditional approach to development
04:13
had three key elements. First, transfer of resources
04:16
from rich countries in the North
04:20
to poorer countries in the South,
04:22
accompanied by reform prescriptions.
04:24
Second, the development institutions that channeled
04:27
these transfers were opaque, with little transparency
04:31
of what they financed or what results they achieved.
04:36
And third, the engagement in developing countries
04:39
was with a narrow set of government elites
04:43
with little interaction with the citizens, who are
04:47
the ultimate beneficiaries of development assistance.
04:50
Today, each of these elements is opening up
04:54
due to dramatic changes in the global environment.
04:58
Open knowledge, open aid, open governance,
05:02
and together, they represent three key shifts
05:05
that are transforming development
05:09
and that also hold greater hope for the problems
05:12
I witnessed in Uganda and in Bihar.
05:16
The first key shift is open knowledge.
05:20
You know, developing countries today will not simply
05:23
accept solutions that are handed down to them
05:27
by the U.S., Europe or the World Bank.
05:30
They get their inspiration, their hope,
05:34
their practical know-how,
05:37
from successful emerging economies in the South.
05:39
They want to know how China lifted 500 million people
05:43
out of poverty in 30 years,
05:47
how Mexico's Oportunidades program
05:51
improved schooling and nutrition for millions of children.
05:54
This is the new ecosystem of open-knowledge flows,
05:59
not just traveling North to South, but South to South,
06:04
and even South to North,
06:09
with Mexico's Oportunidades today inspiring New York City.
06:12
And just as these North-to-South transfers are opening up,
06:17
so too are the development institutions
06:21
that channeled these transfers.
06:24
This is the second shift: open aid.
06:27
Recently, the World Bank opened its vault of data
06:30
for public use, releasing 8,000 economic and social indicators
06:34
for 200 countries over 50 years,
06:39
and it launched a global competition to crowdsource
06:43
innovative apps using this data.
06:47
Development institutions today are also opening
06:51
for public scrutiny the projects they finance.
06:54
Take GeoMapping. In this map from Kenya,
06:58
the red dots show where all the schools financed by donors
07:02
are located, and the darker the shade of green,
07:07
the more the number of out-of-school children.
07:11
So this simple mashup reveals that donors
07:14
have not financed any schools in the areas
07:18
with the most out-of-school children,
07:21
provoking new questions. Is development assistance
07:23
targeting those who most need our help?
07:28
In this manner, the World Bank has now GeoMapped
07:32
30,000 project activities in 143 countries,
07:35
and donors are using a common platform
07:40
to map all their projects.
07:43
This is a tremendous leap forward in transparency
07:46
and accountability of aid.
07:51
And this leads me to the third, and in my view,
07:54
the most significant shift in development:
07:57
open governance. Governments today are opening up
08:00
just as citizens are demanding voice and accountability.
08:04
From the Arab Spring to the Anna Hazare movement in India,
08:08
using mobile phones and social media
08:12
not just for political accountability
08:15
but also for development accountability.
08:18
Are governments delivering services to the citizens?
08:22
So for instance, several governments in Africa
08:26
and Eastern Europe are opening their budgets to the public.
08:30
But, you know, there is a big difference between a budget
08:35
that's public and a budget that's accessible.
08:39
This is a public budget. (Laughter)
08:43
And as you can see, it's not really accessible
08:48
or understandable to an ordinary citizen
08:51
that is trying to understand how the government is spending its resources.
08:54
To tackle this problem, governments are using new tools
08:59
to visualize the budget so it's more understandable
09:03
to the public.
09:07
In this map from Moldova, the green color shows
09:09
those districts that have low spending on schools
09:13
but good educational outcomes,
09:18
and the red color shows the opposite.
09:20
Tools like this help turn a shelf full of inscrutable documents
09:23
into a publicly understandable visual,
09:30
and what's exciting is that with this openness,
09:33
there are today new opportunities for citizens
09:37
to give feedback and engage with government.
09:41
So in the Philippines today, parents and students
09:45
can give real-time feedback on a website,
09:49
Checkmyschool.org, or using SMS, whether teachers
09:53
and textbooks are showing up in school,
09:58
the same problems I witnessed in Uganda and in Bihar.
10:01
And the government is responsive. So for instance,
10:06
when it was reported on this website that 800 students
10:08
were at risk because school repairs had stalled
10:13
due to corruption, the Department of Education
10:17
in the Philippines took swift action.
10:20
And you know what's exciting is that this innovation
10:23
is now spreading South to South, from the Philippines
10:26
to Indonesia, Kenya, Moldova and beyond.
10:31
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, even an impoverished
10:35
community was able to use these tools
10:40
to voice its aspirations.
10:43
This is what the map of Tandale looked like
10:46
in August, 2011. But within a few weeks,
10:49
university students were able to use mobile phones
10:53
and an open-source platform to dramatically map
10:58
the entire community infrastructure.
11:02
And what is very exciting is that citizens were then
11:06
able to give feedback as to which health or water points
11:10
were not working, aggregated
11:15
in the red bubbles that you see,
11:18
which together provides a graphic visual
11:21
of the collective voices of the poor.
11:25
Today, even Bihar is turning around and opening up
11:30
under a committed leadership that is making government
11:36
transparent, accessible and responsive to the poor.
11:38
But, you know, in many parts of the world,
11:44
governments are not interested in opening up
11:47
or in serving the poor, and it is a real challenge
11:50
for those who want to change the system.
11:55
These are the lonely warriors
12:00
like my father and many, many others,
12:03
and a key frontier of development work
12:07
is to help these lonely warriors join hands
12:10
so they can together overcome the odds.
12:15
So for instance, today, in Ghana, courageous reformers
12:18
from civil society, Parliament and government,
12:23
have forged a coalition for transparent contracts
12:26
in the oil sector, and, galvanized by this,
12:31
reformers in Parliament are now investigating dubious contracts.
12:35
These examples give new hope, new possibility
12:40
to the problems I witnessed in Uganda
12:45
or that my father confronted in Bihar.
12:48
Two years ago, on April 8th, 2010, I called my father.
12:53
It was very late at night, and at age 80,
13:00
he was typing a 70-page public interest litigation
13:06
against corruption in a road project.
13:11
Though he was no lawyer, he argued the case in court
13:14
himself the next day. He won the ruling,
13:19
but later that very evening,
13:23
he fell, and he died.
13:25
He fought till the end, increasingly passionate
13:30
that to combat corruption and poverty,
13:35
not only did government officials need to be honest,
13:39
but citizens needed to join together
13:43
to make their voices heard.
13:46
These became the two bookends of his life,
13:49
and the journey he traveled in between
13:54
mirrored the changing development landscape.
13:56
Today, I'm inspired by these changes, and I'm excited
14:01
that at the World Bank, we are embracing
14:06
these new directions, a significant departure
14:09
from my work in Uganda 20 years ago.
14:12
We need to radically open up development
14:16
so knowledge flows in multiple directions,
14:20
inspiring practitioners, so aid becomes transparent,
14:22
accountable and effective, so governments open up
14:27
and citizens are engaged and empowered
14:31
with reformers in government.
14:35
We need to accelerate these shifts.
14:37
If we do, we will find that the collective voices
14:40
of the poor will be heard in Bihar,
14:45
in Uganda, and beyond.
14:50
We will find that textbooks and teachers
14:52
will show up in schools for their children.
14:56
We will find that these children, too,
14:59
have a real chance of breaking their way out of poverty.
15:03
Thank you. (Applause)
15:09
(Applause)
15:12
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

sponsored links

Sanjay Pradhan - Development Leader
Sanjay Pradhan is vice president of the World Bank Institute, helping leaders in developing countries learn skills for reform, development and good governance.

Why you should listen

The World Bank Institute is the part of the World Bank that focuses on "capacity" -- the piece of polite jargon that masks a big question: How do countries learn? And in a state with a history of corruption, failure and debt, how can leaders -- both public and private-sector -- gain the ability to grow, build, govern? The WBI teaches those skills, focusing on the key force behind real change: building teams and coalitions.

Sanjay Pradhan joined the WBI in 2008, and has worked since then to refine its strategy into three interconnected plans: Open Knowledge, Collaborative Governance, and Innovative Solutions. He is an advocate of transparency and openness as development tools.

sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.