Apps for Development

Short description

The “Apps for Development” initiative from the World Bank is not really transformative, but there is such a lack of initiatives that support app development for poverty reduction. Those that exist are mainly fundraising apps and simple information, so anyone that tries to do more is worth to highlight.

Unfortunately the World Bank did not really encourage innovation, instead they did what many big institutions want to do today: Ask entrepreneurs to do something with the data the institution has collected.

Even if the World Bank limited the app development by requesting that their own data should be used they actually wrote that applications submitted to the Competition should address at least one of the following objectives:
1. Raise awareness of at least one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or
2. Contribute to progress toward meeting one of the MDGs by 2015.

Not sure what happened during the process, but the developers that won was almost all about presenting data. Only one of the winner apps felt really interesting and that was “Bebemama mobile app - Empowering mothers” by Jorge-Martinez-Navarrete from Bangkok. Read more about his app here.

More about apps for development here.

The best with the app/supporting initiative

+ Finally someone that make the clear link between app development and poverty reduction.

The weak parts of the app/supporting initiative

- Focus on making “fun” illustration of already existing World Bank data. No clear focus on actual poverty reduction or innovative ways to actually reduce poverty regardless of data used.

What could accelerate this app/supporting initiative into a world changer?

> Basically anything that would allow app developers to focus on how mobile applications can be used to help reduce poverty, not focus on informing about poverty using World Bank data. The World Bank could help by helping to develop methodologies that allow app developers to measure their contribution to poverty reduction.


How direct is the delivery of the result the app tries to achieve
  • Direct
  • Indirect
  • Inspirational
  • Long shot


The delivery from this initiative is both direct, by inspiring people to think about app development in the context of poverty, and a long-shot as the actual delivery is unclear.

Transformative approach

How transformative is it
  • A new world
  • A major shift
  • A bit of a shake-up
  • A gentle rocking


Not at all, but the World Bank should be acknowledged for taking the lead in moving poverty reduction into the area of app development.

How much does it encourage collaborations

How much are new networks supported
  • Strong support for global networks?
  • Currently encourages new forms of collaboration
  • Provides interesting opportunities in the future
  • Restricted to a small (expert) group


Not really it was a traditional competition and open discussions are not really what the World Bank is famous for.

What synergies can be delivered

How well does it also solve other problems/generate solutions
  • It solves everything
  • Several important challenges
  • Some important challenges
  • Only one challenge


The data that the World Bank provides can hopefully become more known and used, but not really any significant synergies.

Nine billion contribution

How global is it? Is it helping/will it help everyone on the planet
  • Instant global equality
  • Almost global
  • Getting (incrementally) global
  • Not applicable


The World Bank is meant to focus on the poor, but as they do not include a focus on over-consumption and the problems with a single-minded focus on GDP they don’t really address the nine billion challenge in a comprehensive way.

Building on current trends

How well does it use current trends
  • The app is setting new trends by itself
  • Building on multiple trends
  • Effectively building on one trend
  • Not really building on any major trend


As many institutions they are exploring ways to make better use of their data.


How fast can it deliver
  • It's already happening
  • In the coming weeks
  • In a year or so
  • In a distant future (hopefully)


Unclear, but let’s keep our fingers crossed as we need rapid results in the poverty area.


Does it support transformative transparency
  • Brave new transparency
  • Transparency that is innovative (never seen before)
  • Increased transparency, but nothing innovative
  • No increase in transparency


The World Bank data is not as transparent as they should be and there are many old theories/ideologies behind much of the World banks operations so it is hard to see them taking the lead in the area of transparency. But some interesting initiatives are taking place within the World Bank and the Open Data initiative is one of the most interesting.

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