The World Bank, as part of its Open Data Initiative, had announced in April that it would bring global economic and development data to the web for the world to use. At that point in time, they had laid down a roadmap to make more statistics and indicators open by mid 2010. This is a reality now and the result is a new and improved World Bank data website.
The features that have been rolled out look great. They include:
- More than 1200 indicators including the full World Development indicators set
- Improved web site data browser that allows you to view data by Countries, Topics, Indicators. It also supports 4 languages (English, Spanish, French and Arabic)
- Dynamic Graphing that allows you to view each indicator and dynamically add countries, regions, etc.
- Drop in website widgets that you can use in your sites that display the data from their data sources.
- And best of all: The Drupal module that powers the World Bank data site is available for anyone to use.
Developers form a key part of the World Bank's vision moving forward. A public web API has been released to allow developers to consume the various statistics and indicators. The API is REST-like in nature and does not require a key. It supports argument-based and URL-based styles for invoking the API. The default data format returned is XML but you can opt for JSON too.
For example, both the API invocations below return the same data (fetching countries with an income level specified as Low Income).
Argument Based: http://open.worldbank.org/countries?per_page=10&incomeLevel=LIC
The API can return localized results in 4 languages: English, Spanish, French and Arabic. Check out the entire API documentation site.
In order to spur developer innovation, World Bank has also announced Apps for Development competition. This competition challenges developers to create tools, applications, mashups that use the World Bank data, accessible through their API. The contest details will be announced in October 2010 and you can sign up for updates on the contest, as more details emerge.
Open Data Initiatives are an extremely positive thing and with an organization like the World Bank leading the way in exposing years of data, we are optimistic that the next set of applications created by developers will be solving real world problems and making the world a much better place.