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Banking on the World Bank’s Knowledge

Even though the World Bank has worked hard over the past quarter-century to establish itself as a “Knowledge Bank” that disseminates the lessons of development, the demand for more and better information continues to grow. In particular, there are three areas in which client countries could use more guidance.

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid a cascade of intertwined challenges, including public-health emergencies, climate change, and violent conflict, that threaten to reverse decades of hard-won development progress, the World Bank has introduced an Evolution Roadmap to boost efforts to reduce poverty and inequality. Crucially, the unified and scaled response called for by Bank President Ajay Banga includes leveraging knowledge to help countries make more informed and effective decisions.

While best known for its financial services, the World Bank has a long history of researching and disseminating the lessons of development. In 1996, then-President James D. Wolfensohn, recognizing the potential of the information-technology revolution, urged the institution to function as a “Knowledge Bank.” He emphasized that the World Bank’s relationships with governments and international organizations would allow it to play a leading role in new global partnerships for creating and sharing knowledge. So long as it invested in the necessary systems, the Bank would be able to make more and better information available to its client countries.

Since then, the World Bank has offered both financial support and knowledge services, including technical assistance, training, capacity-building, policy advice, and data analysis. In fact, many clients consider these services – which capitalize on the Bank’s vast experience, sectoral expertise, and wide array of data sources – to be as valuable as the financial assistance provided by the institution, if not more so.