The World Bank has launched an online open financial data portal in a bid to disseminate information on the projects it has been funding.
The portal provides an online platform through which information regarding loans, credits, grants and financial intermediary funds advanced by the international lender is made available.
The Web site provides a summary of all member countries’ financial obligations to the institution through data sets that allow filtering, analysis, creating visualisations and sharing through social media.
The project comes barely six months after the government launched the Kenya Open Data Initiative that makes key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal. This means that details on loans, grants and credits secured by the government are no longer a secret.
“We are committed to transparency in development, and we want to make the Bank’s financial information more re-useable, accessible and useful to citizens, civil society and journalists,” said Mr Prasanna Lal Das, the World Bank Finances Programme Lead, when he officially launched the portal at iHub in Nairobi last Thursday.
The World Bank open data project was unveiled in July last year and Kenya becomes the first African country for the World Bank to commission the Open Financial Data portal.
The country scored another first in July last year by being the pioneer sub-Saharan African state to launch an open data website.
Open data is a concept that propagates information should be freely available to everyone for use and can be republished without restrictions on copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
Currently, the portal has 125 data sets that cover all the present and former members of the World Bank which comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).
The portal is updated monthly and the information can be viewed and saved in multiple formats such as Portable Document Format (PDF), spread sheets (xls/xlsx), Really Simple Syndication (RSS), Resource Description Framework (RDF) – web feed formats and comma-separated values (CSV) – text and numbers.
Under the data set titled Financial Intermediary Funds (FIFs) – multilateral financing arrangements for which the World Bank provides trustee services that include committing and transferring funds to projects, the portal shows that Kenya received $38,443,645 through the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria initiative in the last quarter of 2011.
To make the portal accessible to a majority of people, the Bretton Woods institution has developed the World Bank Finances mobile phone application in October 2011 that is available for download free of charge to iPhone and iPad users.
Hand citizens information
The Bank is working to launch a similar Android application as well as a fully functional mobile Web version of the site by June this year.
The latest data from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) shows that there are 26.4 million mobile subscribers – representing 68.1 per cent of the population. The total number of Internet subscriptions stands at 14.3 million. Mobile Internet subscriptions account for 89.9 per cent of the total Internet users.
“We are weighing the possibility of using SMS to increase data penetration. A majority of Kenyans do not have access to Internet-enabled phones,” said Mr Prasanna Lal Das. He called on mobile developers to help the multilateral lender come up with on mobile solutions that will hand every citizen financial information.
Project administrators said that a Swahili version of the portal will be ready in the next six months, to exploit the status of the language as the lingua franca in Eastern Africa.
This is the first time the Washington-based lender has moved to shed off its secretive opaque image, by opening up its loans and grants files that were hitherto unavailable in the public domain.
The lender is responding to an increasingly critical and informed global community, thanks to the growth in Internet penetration.
The site provides a summary graphic presentation comprising total approved disbursed and undisbursed amounts in US dollars together with borrower’s obligation – outstanding and overdue amounts of all active developmental credits and grants as at the date indicated.
The site is integrated with social media applications like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to provide a forum for discussions and feedback on the data provided.