In Conversation with Dana Rysankova, World Bank

Dana Rysankova has been at the World Bank for nearly two decades, spearheading multiple projects in Latin American and African countries focused on energy access and distributed renewables.Recently Dana has assumed a new role of the Global Lead for Energy Access.

She provides strategic and operational guidance to the World Bank’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice to scale-up the bank’s energy access interventions. In addition to this role, Dana is coordinating energy access activities at the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), where among other things she is the Program Manager for Lighting Global. Dana also leads a global initiative for applying the Multi-Tier Framework for tracking energy access in the context of the Sustainable Energy for All and SDG7 goals.

What opportunities in expanding universal energy access could better data help unlock?

“In my view, data is absolutely essential if we want to achieve universal access to electricity by the target year, 2030. We need to understand where we are in meeting this target. This is less obvious than it sounds, because sometimes it’s very hard to get the data about electrification rates in the country, so actually when this goal of universal access was established, first under SEforALL and then under SDG7, we at the World Bank have established a knowledge hub where we have started to look into these questions. How do we measure energy access, and how do we measure where we are in terms of targets? This is where the SDG7 global tracking report came into being. Basically a compilation of existing data about electrification rates in a country, that we based on existing household surveys.

“But soon after we found that it wasn’t enough, because the generic household surveys really lack the nuances we need to understand where we are. Because the household surveys just ask the question, do we have electricity at home? We do not know how good that electricity is. Having an electricity connection doesn’t necessarily mean having an electricity service. It’s slightly different if you have a solar lamp to if you have a 24 hour supply via a mini-grid. So this is when we started to collect data about the qualitative aspect of the service through multi-tier framework surveys.

“That’s one level, but then the other is, how do we use data to better target electrification policies, how do we use data to better target investments? We have limited time and limited resources to achieve SDG7 targets, so we need to use data to know what kind of financing is needed, for what kind of countries, or companies. If public resources are needed, how best to target them to accelerate progress. Basically, we need data because we have limited time and limited resources to achieve universal energy access, and we need to maximise the use of resources that we have.”

How do we make better use of existing data available?

“It’s a really important question, because on the one hand we complain about having no data, and on the other hand, there actually is a lot of data, and the question is: Where is the data?

“At one level, obviously the opportunity that we have today that didn’t exist earlier is the technology. A lot of data can be obtained today that was very difficult and costly to do in the past. For example, using satellite imagery we can map where households are, and increasingly it’s possible to map where the power lines are. These were things that would have in the past been done on land. It was very time consuming and costly. So technology is enabling us to get better data.

“The other thing is that there is a lot of data available from different parties in the public domain. For me there is great opportunity to leverage existing data, but we really need to push to get more data into the public domain. One key stakeholder is governments, which are not accustomed to sharing the data that they have, and obviously they have some valid concerns about security and so on. But finding out what data they have that can be made public is really important. Another stakeholder is private sector, and the question is whether more private sector data could be shared in some form.”

What are the challenges to data availability?

“It’s figuring out really what is confidential and what is not, and how we can somehow aggregate the data so that somehow the confidentiality issue is taken care of. It’s overcoming the trust, so someone who works with companies and says, we would like access to your data, and somehow use the non-confidential part of it to get a better understanding of consumers. So sharing data in a way that does not compromise your confidentiality or competitive advantages. It might be that data which governments consider confidential can be made available in a form that takes into account their concerns.

“Another part of it is the discipline for all of us. We, development partners, could also share better our data. But usually it takes a bit of work to clean up the data and make it publicly available, so we have to make an extra effort.

“And also, it’s not just about making data available, it’s about making them user-friendly. More and more data is actually being generated, so it will become that it’s not just about making the data available, but also about how are we able to use them, and how to build linkages across different data sets. So this is why Power for All’s PEAK platform has so much promise.

“The final challenge is that we still need to look into getting more primary data, especially on demand, on consumers, on understanding what consumers want and how do we satisfy their needs? Primary data is still essential, but the cost of collecting the data is still a constraint.”

Why is a specialised data platform like PEAK so important for the data sector?

“We still need better data to better target our interventions in the sector. There are an increasing number of stakeholders that are interested in energy access, and all of them need access to data. We still all have a long way to go to achieve universal access, and as we progress, we have to start nuancing our interventions. We need to be clear what the purpose of intervention is, who is our target group, what market segment we are trying to reach, who else is doing what, how do we advise the governments on what the right policies are etc.? For all that, you need good data.

“But as more and more data is generated, it’s still sort of difficult to access them because we all have different websites, it’s in different places, sometimes it’s not very user-friendly. So having one go-to place where all the data, or at least links to these data, is available, and that somehow explains what is available and how it all links together, it’s huge. It will save a lot of time and a lot of money for everyone.”

How do you anticipate using PEAK in your role at the World Bank?

“I will definitely be there to look for the data that exists, both in terms of the analytical work and the investment projects the World Bank is working on—what exists, what I can get—so that not only is there better data collection, but they can come up with better designs for the projects. I will go there myself, obviously, for the work that I’m doing, for getting a better sense of what data exists, and how we can build on that, but I will also be helping my colleagues to access the data.

“So I think PEAK should be the first go to place where you check what is available both before you do your data collection, but also to use it to, as I have said, better target our interventions.

“I also think the key issue for all of us will be to feed data back into the platform, because I think the main challenge will be to make sure that the data remains updated. Power for All has made enormous efforts to see what is out there, and put it all together, so the challenge for everyone is to make the best use of it and keep providing new data and new information as it becomes available.”

Finally, could you summarise your slightly changed role at the World Bank?

“About two months ago, I assumed a new role at the World Bank: Global Lead for Energy Access. The role is to get better energy access, so to help to guide the World Bank strategically on what we do regarding energy access, as well as to assist the task teams working on energy access in different countries to design interventions that have the biggest chance to succeed.

“Obviously, we can’t do this without good data. To me the data is the starting point. The World Bank is significantly scaling up and diversifying energy access interventions. Just in the last year, we committed $1.4 billion for energy access, of which $600 million just for off-grid and mini grids. The better data we have, the greater impact this funding will bring.

For the other half of my time, I am still involved in Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) activities. The two areas we are focusing on is collecting household data to get better understanding of the energy access situation, and we are looking at the supply side too. For example where we are developing an open-source, open-data least cost electrification tool, that can more intelligently integrate different solutions—grid, mini-grid and off-grid. So in my role I am both using data available but also contributing to the generation of more data.”

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