The annual World Development Report (WDR) is a flagship publication of the World Bank. The 2021 WDR report is in the process of being drafted and is titled “Data for Better Lives”. The Bank has shared the concept note for the Report for comments. As per the concept note, the World Development Report 2021 will look into role of data for development, current data landscape and the opportunities of integrating public and private data and new institutional frameworks to manage a range of regulatory, policy and governance challenges in this context. 49 Indian civil Society organizations wrote to the Bank rejecting the concept note and the intent behind the concept note in which data is identified and presented as a commodity. The concept note is deeply problematic at many levels: it disregards the rights of people over their data and is based on flawed assumptions that have no basis in reality.
The Concept Note, Data for Better Lives outlines a framework that enables corporations and the state to profit and advance their particular interests under the guise of public interest, poverty reduction and bettering the lives of people. Data that is built from information about the everyday lives of people will become one of the new engines for economic growth. The document is neither rooted in experiences of communities nor based on any evidence.It’s unfortunate that the approach of this concept note is limited to business for private companies for which certain power needs to be given to the state and paternalism to the poor. The more significant issues of state coercion, protection of people’s rights over their data and information is in the peripheral in this document.