There is a lot of inequality among countries around the world in terms of wealth, education, income, population and poverty among other things. Many international organizations provide aid and assistance to nations which are lagging behind with an aim to bridge the various gaps; the World Bank, established in 1944, is one such organization. With its mission of “working towards a world free of poverty”, it provides vital financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the globe.

How is the need of a lesser-developed country (LDC) or developing nation assessed by such organizations looking to provide assistance in their growth path? No development programs can be built without concrete statistical data, which is the foundation of the policies and strategies finally developed. According to the World Bank, “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.” (See: What Is The World Bank)

The World Bank in 2010 launched its open data initiative, a concrete step towards making huge resources of reliable data freely available to web users. The mission of the World Bank's Development Data Group is “to provide high-quality national and international statistics to clients within and outside the Bank and to improve the capacity of member countries to produce and use statistical information.”

Data Source, Reliability & Quality

The main source of data comes from the individual member countries' recognized statistical system. Developing countries have dozens of issues to tackle and thus tend to under-invest in national statistical systems, which results in poor quality of data. The World Bank helps in improving the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of the statistical system of different nations as the overall data quality globally depends cumulatively on them.

Investments are made by the World Bank in many data collection and compilation-related activities to raise the overall quality and accuracy of the facts and figures collected and analyzed. This is done by the World Bank in association with other agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), regional development banks and international partners.

The World Bank aims to provide high quality data and services by following certain guidelines:

  • Setting up and follow high standards of professional data
  • Helping nations to improve their respective national statistical systems
  • By being an active member of the statistical community at international levels along with other agencies.
  • Developing tools for better use of the data.

To ensure the highest quality of data, international accepted criteria such as the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) and Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF) are used.


“I believe it’s important to make the data and knowledge of the World Bank available to everyone. Statistics tell the story of people in developing and emerging countries and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty. They are now easily accessible on the Web for all users, and can be used to create new apps for development.” ~ Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank Group President in 2010

(See: Meet The Next World Bank President)

The data that can be accessed includes World Development Indicators (WDI), Africa Development Indicators (ADI), Global Economic Monitor (GEM) and Doing Business Report indicators.

  • The data bank is accessible by individuals, organizations, institutions and groups who can use it to measure and monitor the level of development and progress in various countries. This further facilitates making well-informed decisions as there is accuracy in numbers.
  • It provides a base to plan further projects and initiatives to be taken for global development.
  • The indicators support scholars, journalists, and others in research studies by providing valuable inputs.                                                                                   

Understanding the Data

The World Bank data covers a wide range of topics like Agriculture & Rural Development, Health, Infrastructure, Poverty, Economy & Growth, External Debt, Financial Sector, Trade, Urban Development, Energy & Mining, Private Sector, Climate Change, Education, Social Development and more.

Each topic has many sub topics or indicators. Let’s take an example, within the broader indicator Economy & Growth there are 32-33 sub indicators like GDP Growth (annual %), GDP per capita (current US$), Gross Capital Formation (% of GDP), Gross Savings (% of GDP), etc.

Let’s pick GDP Growth (annual %) out of the many sub indicators. Data for different time periods for various countries is available in tabular, graphical forms. The user can choose just one country of interest or take a few for comparative studies. All this data is downloadable in Excel, XML or CSV and can be accessed by either selecting a country/region/group or topic or indicators. Below is an example of GDP Growth for countries from the letter “I”.

Country Name
























Iran, Islamic Rep.






























Source: World Bank Data 

Bottom Line

There are more than 1,000 easy-to-access World Development Indicators--a great resource for professionals, academia and officials. The best part is that this huge data store is designed in a way which is easy to use, search and download free of cost (with minimal restrictions). The data collection by the World Bank is conducted by recognized international sources and portrays accurate current data and estimates for different regions, countries and the world as a whole. This source helps many organizations to set up their programs more specifically according the needs of countries they are looking to benefit. In addition, even countries can decide on the aid they wish to grant to lesser developed nations based on the World Bank data store.



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