The World Bank: Apps for Development
In October 2010, the World Bank invited the founder of BOALT, Adam Boalt, to be one of five speakers including Tim O’Reilly when they made their data publicly available to the world. The launch of the Open Data Initiative was a big step for the World Bank since they have always been under scrutiny, and our agency was honored to be part of this historic event. This particular initiative launched with an array of data sets, including the World Development Indicators, Africa Development Indicators, and Millennium Development Goal Indicators.
Adam’s presentation was unlike most presenters’, who were using the GDP as a benchmark comparable against their findings. He provided practical viewpoints on how data could be used to help people. For example, he talked about his award for the Apps for Democracy submission D.C. Historic Tours and how it played a critical role in jumpstarting the open data initiative. He also spoke about a group of technology enthusiasts who got together after the contest and worked together on building an iPhone application that lets you know how safe you are by using recent crime data, helping tourists find their way safely around the city.
The most interesting part of the talk described how Adam got together with some M.I.T. students and helped them crowd source enough people to walk the Gulf Coast using high altitude balloons and kites to survey the damage caused by the B.P. oil spill. The imagery created was 10 thousand times higher resolution than NASA’s satellite imagery. This concept could be used globally to create data sets with a Creative Commons license that could then be studied further to assess the damage of natural disasters.