The demand for good-quality statistical data continues to increase. Timely and reliable statistics are key inputs to the broad development strategy. Improvements in the quality and quantity of data on all aspects of development are essential if we are to achieve the goal of a world without poverty.
Good data are needed to set baselines, identify effective public and private actions, set goals and targets, monitor progress and evaluate impacts. They are also an essential tool of good government, providing means for people to assess what governments do and helping them to participate directly in the development process.
At the World Bank, the Development Data Group coordinates statistical and data work and maintains a number of macro, financial and sector databases. Working closely with the Bank’s regions and Global Practices, the group is guided by professional standards in the collection, compilation and dissemination of data to ensure that all data users can have confidence in the quality and integrity of the data produced.
Much of the data comes from the statistical systems of member countries, and the quality of global data depends on how well these national systems perform. The World Bank works to help developing countries improve the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of national statistical systems. Without better and more comprehensive national data, it is impossible to develop effective policies, monitor the implementation of poverty reduction strategies, or monitor progress towards global goals.
Measurement of Development Progress
World Bank databases are essential tools for supporting critical management decisions and providing key statistical information for Bank operational activities. The application of internationally accepted standards and norms results in a consistent, reliable source of information.
Global Statistical Strategy
To be of use, statistics must be both reliable and relevant. They need to be compiled correctly, following standard practices and methodology. They must also meet the needs of users and answer the questions posed by policymakers.
Developing countries face a number of problems in providing statistics that meet these criteria. They often find themselves caught in a vicious cycle—under-investment in national statistical systems constrains activities and results in data of poor quality, which policymakers are unwilling to rely on. This lack of demand for the data leads to fewer resources being made available for their production and quality control. The World Bank is committed to helping developing countries break out of this cycle. Our work includes investments in statistical activities, creating and implementing standards and frameworks for data collection, analysis and dissemination, strengthening the international statistical system, and compiling global data sets.
There is also much to be done in raising awareness of the value of statistics among governments, decision makers and other users. As advocates for statistics, we work in close partnership with developing countries and our partners in the international community.
A priority of the World Bank’s efforts to improve the statistical infrastructure of developing countries is the preparation of national strategies for the development of statistics as recommended in the Marrakech Action Plan for Statistics. These country-driven plans look at the needs of the whole statistical system and provide the basis for coordinated and prioritized donor assistance. Other components of the World Bank’s statistical capacity building program include:
- Improving Statistical Capacity
- Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building
- International Comparison Program
The International System
The World Bank works closely with the international statistical community including the agencies of the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the regional development banks, and donors by:
- Participating in the UN Statistical Commission and other statistical forums to develop appropriate frameworks, guidance and standards of good practice for statistics
- Building consensus and defining internationally agreed indicators, such as the indicators for the Millennium Development Goals
- Establishing data exchange processes and methods
- Assembling, analyzing and disseminating data online and in print
In addition to compiling international data sets, which are generally based on data generated by national statistical systems, the World Bank supports a number of programs to collect transnational data. These are data that can only be collected by a globally coordinated program. They include:
Training and Client Services
Providing training courses on new and regular data practices and tools is an important element of the Bank’s data business. These courses are free of charge and attended by Bank staff and some participants from visiting client countries.
The “customer support” for the growing number of users of data and data tools includes responding to large volumes of queries and requests from inside and outside the Bank; increasing the accessibility and availability of data knowledge; providing technical and knowledge support to internal and external clients; and responding to client needs for the presentation and understanding of the data.
The World Bank produces an array of data publications in various formats (print and electronic) that cover a wide range of development issues. These publications reflect the scope of the data work and the wide range of user interests. They also make the data more available and accessible, especially through the use of maps, charts and graphs.\u2028
For general information about data, publications and time-series, contact the World Bank Development Data Group:
Phone: (202) 473-7824 or +1 (800) 590-1906