New Publications

World Development Report 2021: Data for Better Lives

Today’s unprecedented growth of data and their ubiquity in our lives are signs that the data revolution is transforming the world. And yet much of the value of data remains untapped. Data collected for one purpose have the potential to generate economic and social value in applications far beyond those originally anticipated. But many barriers stand in the way, ranging from misaligned incentives and incompatible data systems to a fundamental lack of trust. World Development Report 2021: Data for Better Lives explores the tremendous potential of the changing data landscape to improve the lives of poor people, while also acknowledging its potential to open back doors that can harm individuals, businesses, and societies. To address this tension between the helpful and harmful potential of data, this Report calls for a new social contract that enables the use and reuse of data to create economic and social value, ensures equitable access to that value, and fosters trust that data will not be misused in harmful ways. This Report begins by assessing how better use and reuse of data can enhance the design of public policies, programs, and service delivery, as well as improve market efficiency and job creation through private sector growth. Because better data governance is key to realizing this value, the Report then looks at how infrastructure policy, data regulation, economic policies, and institutional capabilities enable the sharing of data for their economic and social benefits, while safeguarding against harmful outcomes. The Report concludes by pulling together the pieces and offering an aspirational vision of an integrated national data system that would deliver on the promise of producing high-quality data and making them accessible in a way that promotes their safe use and reuse. By examining these opportunities and challenges, the Report shows how data can benefit the lives of all people, but particularly poor people in low- and middle-income countries.