The WDI provides a valuable statistical picture of the world and how far we've come in advancing development," said Justin Yifu Lin, the World Bank’s Chief Economist and the Senior Vice President for Development Economics. “Making this comprehensive data free for all is a dream come true.
More importantly though, this comes with the launch of the freely available online database and public API to 1,000+ indicators. There used to be a big fee for this data. I can't speak for the API, but the website is well-designed. It has profile pages for each country, links to download the indicators in Excel and XML, and hey, are those graphs implemented in HTML5? I spy
Here's the profile page for Tanzania.
All in all, it's very well done. It reminds me of an Everyblock for the world. I wouldn't be surprised if some inspiration came from there. It'll be exciting to see what comes out of phase 2 of the project and what developers do with the now easily-accessible data.
Update: World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick speaks about the Bank's new open data initiative (below).