Australian entry wins World Bank apps competition

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A software platform developed by a research officer at the University of Melbourne has been named winner of the World Bank's first-ever "Apps for Development" competition.

The first-prize winning app, "StatPlanet World Bank", bested a field of 107 entries from 36 countries in the competition that called for digital apps using the World Bank's freely available data.

StatPlanet (www.statplanet.org) enables users to "visualize and compare country and regional performance over time," the World Bank said in its announcement of the winners Friday in Washington D.C.

"The user can select from among the [more than 3,000] indicators covering virtually every dimension of economic, social, and human development, and can select the manner in which the data is displayed," the World Bank said.

Describing it as a "powerful app," the bank said StatPlanet allows users an "easy interface" to the indicators even without Internet connectivity via a desktop version.

In the StatPlanet website, its creator Frank van Cappelle says the award-winning app was developed "entirely using" the Adobe Flash software, explaining that Flash is supported on Windows, Mac OS, Linux and Solaris.

"The Flash plugin is required to run the web version, but the desktop version requires no additional software to be installed and runs directly without installation. The application is very light-weight (only 400 kb for the web version and 4 mb for the desktop version), so the download is manageable on slower connections," van Cappelle says.

Other winners named in the World Bank app competition are: "Development Timelines" (devtimelines.appspot.com) of France which got the second prize, and "Yourtopia - Development beyond GDP" (www.yourtopia.net) of Germany for the third prize.

"Development Timelines" lets users put global development data into historical context and better understand how events such as war, education reforms, or economic booms and busts, affect progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, the World Bank said.

On the other hand, "Development  beyond GDP" allows users to sum up human development according to his own criteria and, through a short quiz, choose how important different dimensions of development are to him.

When the Apps for Development competition was launched last year, World Bank Group president Robert B. Zoellick described it as part of the bank's Open Data Initiative, an effort that "unlocks the institution's world-class knowledge and development data for researchers, activists, students, and development practitioners across the globe."

The initiative, Mr Zoellick said, is "rapidly expanding, in line with the huge demand for development data and information."

Commenting on the contest's outcome, Aleem Walji, manager of the World Bank Institute's Innovation Practice said "the competition has brought software developers into the development conversation."

"We see enormous potential in crowdsourcing solutions to persistent development problems, and we are especially excited when our data can be used as raw material to spark creativity and innovation," he said.