The World Bank, in full the World Bank Group,The World Bank Group comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), established 1944, 185 member countries; the International Development Association (IDA), established 1960, 167 members; the International Finance Corporation (IFC), established 1956, 179 members; the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), established 1988, 172 members; and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), established 1966, 143 members (World Bank 2006). is an international organisation designed to finance projects that enhance the economic development of member states. Together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the bank is often referred to as a Bretton Woods institution, after the place where the conference that led to their establishment took place in 1944. The bank is affiliated with the United Nations (UN) and is a major source of financial assistance to developing countries, both through loans at preferential rates and grants (Shihata 1995: 1-16).
In addition, the World Bank provides technical assistance and policy advice, and supervises the implementation of free-market reforms. In this context, the bank considers high-quality national and international statistics to be important tools for supporting decisions and providing key information to its operational activities. The bank is therefore a major producer of country-level statistics, both for analytical purposes and in order to monitor progress – or lack of progress – in development projects. At the World Bank, statistical work is mainly carried out by the Development Data Group (DECDG) in the Development Economics Vice Presidency.
The World Bank hosts a wide array of online databases and datasets that cover a broad range of development issues. Many of the datasets are produced by researchers associated with the World Bank for specific research projects; some of these are presented elsewhere in the MacroDataGuide (e.g., the Worldwide Governance Indicators and the Database of Political Institutions). This section examines the World Development Indicators (WDI) and the Global Development Finance (GDF) databases, which contains data from the World Bank’s premier annual compilation of data about development. For an overview of other data sources from the World Bank, see the World Bank Data Catalog.
World Development Indicators/Global Development Finance
Excel, CSV, API
Data types and sources
The data in WDI/GDF Online come primarily from official sources: official registers, administrative records and national accounts. Some of the data are based on surveys, e.g. household surveys, national health surveys and labour force surveys.
WDI is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially-recognized international sources. It presents the current, global development data available, and includes national, regional and global estimates. GDF focuses on financial flows, trends in external debt, and other major financial indicators for developing countries. Includes over 200 time series indicators from 1970 to 2009, for most reporting countries.
WDI/GDF is global in scope. However, data availability varies by variable and over time; the availability of data is limited for some countries.
Time coverage and updates
The combined WDI/GDF database covers the period from 1960 to present, though the time scope may be more limited for specific indicators and some countries. Updated annually.
Variables are defined in notes in the online database, and is incorporated in the downloadable version. More general documentation is available from the Methodologies website.
Access conditions and cost
In April 2010 the World Bank Group opened up the WDI database (and several other databases) and offered free access to more than 2,000 financial, business, health, economic and human development statistics that had mostly been available only to paying subscribers. The decision was part of a larger effort to increase access to information at the World Bank. And, for the first time, data was made available in languages other than English, with an initial 330 indicators translated into French, Spanish and Arabic.
WDI/GDF Online is organised hierarchically, and you find indicators by browsing the tree view or the alphabetical list of variables, or by using the search function. The database is easy and intuitive to use. Users can create personalised datasets by specifying countries, variables and time periods. Variables from different themes can be included in the same output. The full WDI/GDF database is also available for direct download in excel or CSV format.
Data can be downloaded in Excel and CSV format. Many indicators are also available to developers and others to create data applications and visualizations through an Application Programming Interface (API).
Comparability and data quality
WDI/GDF Database presents data from all countries within a standardised framework. However, users of the database should be aware that this does not always imply that the data are truly comparable. Most of the data come from the statistical systems of member countries and the quality therefore depends on how well these national systems perform. Especially developing countries face a number of problems in providing reliable statistics, since under-investment in national statistical systems often results in data of poor quality. The World Bank works to improve the statistical infrastructure in developing countries, but for the time being the data quality varies across countries.
Shihata, Ibrahim F.I. 1995. The World Bank in a Changing World: Selected Essays and Lectures. Vol. 2. The Hague-London-Boston: Martinus Nijhoff.