BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 27 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:882 The World Bank is the one way that the rich countries of the world have of channelling money to the poor countries, and it offers the prospect at least of providing cheaper funds in a manner independent from national government self interest. Its website is one of the most extensive I have yet reviewed, containing great stacks of information about the political and economic situation in each country. The site is well designed—I suspect that its staff use it every day—and has a text only version for the information poor—those using dodgy analogue lines in sub-Saharan Africa or the network at University College London on a Monday lunchtime.

Much of the content is available, not as generic HTML files, but in proprietary formats like Microsoft Word and Excel. Although this is a pragmatic short term solution for corporate communication, there are several reasons to deprecate this sort of behaviour for the web: it is not an open standard (like HTML), you have to buy the latest version of the Microsoft product to read it, and sharing Word files can transmit macro viruses, which are generally pretty harmless but can be a pain.

Organisations like the World Bank are founded on assumptions that people who “subsist” are “poor” and in need of “development.” The great strength of the web is that such conventional views can be sidestepped with the click of a mouse. For critiques of the inappropriate development (remember the Pergau Dam?) try

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