Wind turbines for Mongolian nomads

A visit to the World Bank's Google Maps mashup is an exercise in obscure development project serendipity

Topics: Globalization, How the World Works,

What exactly is it about a Google Maps mashup that makes it addictive?

I found myself asking this question after playing around with a new offering from the World Bank that integrates various World Bank project databases with a Google Maps interface. What happens if you click on Togo? Or Mongolia? One must know!

The answer is an odd mix of data, World Bank public relations, and drier-than-sawdust reports about thousands of World Bank-funded development projects scattered across the globe. So, for example, you can discover that the literacy rate in Gabon as of 2004 was 84 percent while average life expectancy was 53.8 years, or you could learn that in July the World Bank launched a series of workshops in public financial management in Iraq. Or you could find yourself just three clicks away from an 11-page paper describing the ins and outs of a renewable energy rural electrification project in Mongolia.

Wind turbines for nomads. I had no idea.

Give the World Bank credit for geek-cred. The Bank already has its own YouTube channel and its own Web 2.0 content aggregator. A Google Maps mashup was the obvious next step.



You can find all the above-referenced information the old-fashioned way on the World Bank’s Web site, but not easily. Organizing the data spatially via as simple an interface as Google Maps makes a remarkable difference in accessibility. If at some point in the future I find myself wanting to know what the World Bank is up to in Tonga I will have no hesitation in calling up The World Bank. Mapped. In the meantime, purely as a serendipity generator, the mashup is neat. And of course, makes me yearn for more — let’s get all the data, that everyone has, plugged in!

But my favorite part is the disclaimer:

This map is powered by Google Maps. Country borders or names do not necessarily reflect the World Bank Group’s official position.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>