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Mexican Developers Make Their Mark at World Bank’s Apps Competition

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WASHINGTON, April 18, 2011 - A Facebook application 'a la Farmville' to protect the environment and a mobile app to educate expecting mothers, both created by Mexican developers, received praise and honorable mentions at the World Bank's Apps for Development competition last week.

Rodrigo Lopez and Claudia Gonzalez' TreePet project and Jorge Martinez's Bebemama secured a place among 15 shortlisted projects selected from a total of 107 entries that received more than 11,000 votes cast online. A panel of expert judges, including technology gurus such as Kannan Pashupathy of Google, Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist, selected the winners. A total of $55,000 was awarded in cash prizes to competition winners.

Contestants were asked to develop applications addressing the most pressing global issues drawing on the World Bank 's data catalog. Rodrigo, environmental engineer, and Claudia, communications expert, created TreePet, a game aiming to educate Facebook users on deforestation and forest degradation.

The game's creators think TreePet can have a positive impact on the environment through simple daily actions.

"Everything begins with a tree," Rodrigo explains. "You plant it, water it, grow it virtually and, when it reaches an advanced stage, you have the opportunity of planting a real tree online via our partnership with the Asociación Reforestamos México (Let Us Reforest Mexico Association)."


Real Impact on Environment

What is innovative about TreePet –they argue- is that it seeks to link the world of virtual games with the reality of development, offering the possibility of collaborating with different organizations on environmental issues.

In order to make it more accessible to the public, statistical data must be transmitted in a less technical fashion, notes Claudia.

"Within the game itself, users start to make more sense of data. Each question in the game is linked to World Bank data, thus bringing this valuable database closer to people in a more playful manner," she argues.

Jorge Martinez was born in Mexico but currently lives in Thailand. His Bebemama application seeks to take advantage of fast-growing mobile penetration in developing countries to provide pre-natal health information to women, offering easy access to the World Bank's statistical database on maternal health.

With Bebemama Jorge hopes that "government and non-government organizations will be able to see how easy it is to distribute statistical data through mobile phones," which in turn should make it easier for people around the world to obtain life saving information on maternal health.

Last year, the World Bank issued a challenge to software developers from across the globe to take on some of the world's most pressing development problems by creating digital apps using the Bank's freely available data.

"The real winner is the public, who will benefit from those applications," said World Bank President Robert Zoellick during the award ceremony at the Bank's Washington DC headquarters.


And the Winner Is...

First prize went to the StatPlanet World Bank (Australia), which allows comparing the development level of countries and regions over a long period of time. The user can choose between more than 3,000 indicators that cover all social, economic and human dimensions of development.

Development Timelines (France) took second place thanks to an application that puts put global development data into historical context, such as war, education and economic ups and downs.

Finally, third place went to the Yourtopia - Development beyond GDP (Germany), with an interactive application that allows users to measure human development according to their own criteria. Winners took altogether US $55,000 in cash prizes.


Open Knowledge and Open Solutions

As part of the Open Data Initiative the World Bank has recently developed its own app – "Mapping for Results" (maps.worldbank.org)—which visualizes the geographic location of programs at the global and regional levels and in 79 of the poorest countries. This interactive platform brings greater transparency and accountability to World Bank operations, strengthening the monitoring of results and enhancing the effectiveness of aid. In addition, the Bank's AidFlows website (www.worldbank.org/aidflows) provides data and visual representations of donor funding and total disbursements to developing countries.

The World Development Indicators database, used extensively by app developers and researchers, and the main source of data for the Open Data website, has been updated and provides access to over 1,200 indicators for 213 countries and territories, in many cases going back to 1960.