Information Emancipation

Lucy Bernholz at Philanthropy 2173 has declared that “Data are the new platform for change,” after giving a “Disrupting Philanthropy” presentation at the Oxford Internet Institute, where she met with leading internet entrepreneurs, online giving marketplace managers and the UK Ambassador for Philanthropy.

In short, she argued that the simultaneous acceleration of technology (and thus access to data) and social enterprise evolution is no coincidence. These two trends are disrupting philanthropy by enabling other sectors to produce social goods, which were once monopolized by the philanthropic community. Consequently, regulatory structures, tax and corporate privileges regarding how we produce, distribute and finance social goods must be amended accordingly.

Interestingly, she points out, her presentation coincided with a number of events that proved her point—the Skoll World Forum, the merger of Guidestar International and TechSoup Global and the alliance of the Foundation Center and Grantsfire. Earlier this year, the Foundation Center launched Glasspockets, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) launched Aidinfo.

Most surprisingly, as Owen Barder reports, the World Bank has freed their data! Gone are the days when the development enthusiast paid the World Bank to access the World Development Indicators, which are available now at

GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000)

This 180° turnaround stems from the World Bank’s involvement with the IATI, a group of 18 donors working to put detailed aid data online.

Furthermore, Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, announced that the World Bank has partnered with Google to make their data easily searchable, and it even created interfaces—APIs, in tech-speak—which would allow programmers to create mashups. (Ushahidi, for example, is a Google Maps mashup created using the Google Maps API.)

More surprisingly, the World Bank is planning a Global “Apps for Development Competition” in order to encourage developers to “create tools, applications, and mash-ups making it easier for users of development data to make better decisions and better policies to overcome poverty.” Freedom!!!


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