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Open and Free Access to World Bank Research & Publications

By Wayan Vota on May 9, 2012

Wow! The World Bank is really taking Open Data seriously now. They’ve just Creative Common’ed all their publications in a new Open Knowledge Repository:


In support of the new Open Access Policy, the World Bank is adopting a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) copyright license for content published by the Bank, the most accommodating of all licenses offered by Creative Commons. It allows anyone to distribute, reuse, and build upon the Bank’s published work, even commercially, as long as the Bank is given credit for the original creation. The CC BY license helps the Bank to maximize its impact while simultaneously protecting the Bank’s reputation and the integrity of its content.

While much of the Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products have been available for free on the institution’s web site, and on other channels, the new Open Access policy marks a significant shift in how Bank content is disseminated and shared. For the first time, the Bank will have an aggregated portal to research and knowledge products, where the metadata is curated, the content is discoverable and easily downloaded, and third parties are free to use, reuse, and build on it.

You may not realize how momentous a shift this is. Once upon a time, the World Bank didn’t realize much data, and then only sold its publications and often they were not cheap. But now under its on-going Open Development Agenda, the Open Knowledge Repository builds on two earlier initiatives, the Open Data Initiative and the Access to Information Policy. As Richard Poynder explains:

Introduced in April 2010, the Open Data Initiative ended the Bank’s practice of selling its World Development Indicators data, when it made its more than 7,000 development indicators — along with more than 60 other datasets — freely available on its web site.

The Access to Information Policy, introduced in July 2010, transformed the way in which the Bank makes it data available to the public, and saw the release of more than 17,000 historical documents from its archives.

Now with the Open Knowledge Repository, the World Bank is transforming yet again how it shares it knowledge with the world. May it soon be complimented by imitation across the international development community.


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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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4 Comments to “Open and Free Access to World Bank Research & Publications”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great for the Bank and for the development community. Is the ITU by any chance aware of this open data initiative and movement?

  2. Tim Denny says:

    I really wish more international organizations would follow suit… The next big one to work on is academic publications – especially peer reviewed journals. It is a horrible shame to to know that so much world knowledge is locked up only accessible to those who can pay.


  3. tmorizio says:

    There was an interesting piece related to this topic in The Economist a few weeks ago: http://www.economist.com/node/21552574 – “Open sesame: When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge”. Here’s hoping more institutions and academic journals start following this example. Otherwise, perhaps open-access mandates would encourage them to do more.

  4. rwagasana gerard says:

    This is a little revolution. bravo to the WB.