Wall Street may not be interested in funding e-commerce technology research and development at the moment, but The World Bank Group is.
At the World Banks annual meeting last summer in Prague, the Czech Republic, the international lending giants members were treated to a demonstration of a prototype collaborative commerce Web site that might actually change the world. The site, which has since been spun off as a stand-alone nonprofit organization, is called Global Development Gateway and can be found at Developmentgateway.org. The site is organized by topics, projects and communities, and includes an increasing number of country gateways.
The site was designed to be a global knowledge-sharing tool for participants in both developing and developed countries. It was built by ArsDigita, using the Cambridge, Mass., companys open source ArsDigita Community System software.
The first objective, says Gerhard Pohl, head of business development at Developmentgateway.org, was to create a directory of all the World Bank projects on the planet.
If you visit the site and click on projects, for example, youll see a comprehensive database that tells you that there are 177,187 ongoing World Bank-funded projects. To develop the global database, the nonprofit group had to create a universal language for translating development projects. That language is called International Development Markup Language, and is based on eXtensible Markup Language.
"You have to have that [a universal language] to even start a community of interest," Pohl says.
The second objective — and what the organization is working on now — is to create collaborative tools so member countries and nongovernmental agencies can build their own online forums. They can do so because Developmentgateway.org is based on open source code.
The great thing about using open source code, Pohl says, is that it can be shared in its entirety with the Web sites country partners and organization partners for free. That means the site is not only a knowledge-sharing location, its also a place to share cutting-edge technology and to create a development community that can share future solutions.
The next step for the dot-org is to encourage business-to-business marketplaces in a number of countries. Developmentgateway.org is giving $50,000 start-up grants to teams worldwide, and so far has funded B2B efforts in 20 countries, including China and Russia.
"I think we are now getting some traction," Pohl says.