About AidData's Work

AidData is a development research and innovation lab at the College of William & Mary. Our interdisciplinary team of 40 faculty and staff helps international development organizations to more effectively track, target, coordinate, and evaluate their investments. We use precise data and rigorous methods to address the question of ‘who is doing what, where, for whom, and to what effect’. Our work is made possible through partnerships with USAID’s Global Development Lab, the World Bank and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, among others (for a full list click here). It has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and The Economist.

Portfolio Highlights

Geocoded Data

We are currently the world’s largest publisher of sub-nationally geocoded development project data. To date, we have sub-nationally geo-referenced over nearly 140,000 development project locations worth US$870 billion, in partnership with a variety of development finance and aid management institutions in developing countries.


Our Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) methodology sheds light on the international development spending patterns of emerging donors. This methodology has produced a dataset of Chinese development projects in Africa that is the largest of its kind anywhere, tracking more than 2,500 projects and $94 billion.  AidData also works with a distributed network of economists, political scientists, and geographers to conduct peer-reviewed research and policy analysis on the aims and impacts of Chinese development finance.


AidData has hosted trainings for USAID, the State Department’s Young African Leader’s Initiative, and the UAE’s MICAD.

Omnibus Survey

AidData’s 2016 Omnibus Survey will provide information about the performance of more than 100 western and non-western donors in 23 different sectors and 126 countries.


IATI Nepal Data

AidData’s geocoding methodology has also contributed to the adoption of a global reporting standard by the International aid transparency initiative (IATI).  
IATI Standard

View our Data

Data can be accessed through our online dashboard and GIS portal, downloadable research datasets AidData's API.

Total Resource Tracking

AidData tracks nearly 1.5 million foreign assistance projects around the world and is regarded as a global leader in the provision of comprehensive and granular information about these projects. But as traditional, western sources of aid becomes a smaller fraction of financial flows to the developing world, we are increasingly turning to our attention to other types of development investments. To this end, we have developed an innovative open source data collection method – called Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) – that enables the collection of detailed financial, operational, and locational information about development projects from non-western sources. The TUFF methodology has been successfully employed to identify the known universe of Chinese development projects in Africa, and it is now being used to track funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait. We also have pilot projects underway in Liberia and Uganda to establish proof-of-concept that it is possible to track and geo-reference domestic public expenditure, foreign direct investment, and corporate social responsibility activities at the individual project level. 

china.aiddata.org | TUFF Methodology | Apples and Dragon Fruits

Sector and Geographic Coding and Data Production

AidData creates informational value by creating sectorally and spatial precise data on development investments and outcomes. We helped the World Bank institutionalize the practice of publishing precise latitude and longitude coordinates for all investment projects. Describing the impact of his government’s geocoding partnership with AidData, Malawi’s minister of finance indicated that “being able to see in a map all the donor-funded activities...transformed the way we think about development and positively helped our own planning effort.” AidData also has twelve years of sector and sub-sector coding expertise and currently tracks investments against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To support the needs of a wide array of partners, AidData’s labor force of 120 research assistants provides year-round geocoding and sector coding. AidData also implements strict data management and quality assurance standards and provides hosting and repository services.

Activity coding | GeocodingIATI Standard | SDG Widget | Nutrition Expenditure Tracking | Disaster Aid tracking

Geospatial Impact Evaluation and Value-for-Money Analysis

AidData uses spatially-referenced program and outcome data and quasi-experimental methods to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of development interventions. These geospatial impact evaluations (GIE) help to fill the “the missing middle” in evaluation. They are more rigorous than performance evaluations but significantly cheaper and faster than randomized control trials, making it possible for a larger number of development programs to undergo rigorous evaluations. GIEs leverage new econometric techniques, remote sensing technologies, geo-referenced survey and census data, and increasingly affordable access to large-scale computing power. Once a GIE has been conducted, AidData also undertakes geospatial value-for-money (GEO-VfM) analysis by translating estimates of programmatic impact into monetary values and assessing these monetized benefits against total program costs.

Overview of GIEs | USAID GIE Learning Lab | Illustrated Guide to GIEs | WB Value-for-Money portal

Data and Evidence Uptake

Our team runs field experiments and lab-in-the-field experiments to evaluate when and how transparency interventions lead to better decision-making. We also use observational methods – including large-n elite surveys and key informant interviews – to study the barriers to and opportunities for data and evidence uptake by development policymakers and practitioners. AidData also supports members of the AidData Research Consortium (ARC) – a network of 120 scholars from more than 50 universities and think tanks worldwide – who design and implement randomized evaluations of data transparency interventions.

Open Government in the Philippines | Citizen feedback in Uganda | Data Uptake RCTs | Commissioned (ARC) Research

Spatial Data Integration and Hosting

In order to catalyze a new generation of spatially-explicit development research and analysis, AidData has created a Spatial Data Repository that merges together a large collection of subnationally-georeferenced datasets on development investments and outcomes. This repository, housed at our lab and powered by the SciClone High Performance Computing Complex, contains datasets that vary across both time and space. A new online tool will eventually allow users to extract spatially integrated datasets in customizable geographic units.

Spatial Data Repository

Data Visualization & Decision Support Tools

We create innovative and interactive data visualization technologies, dashboards, web-maps, and decision-support tools to help development professionals distill meaning from vast amounts of open data, facilitate donor coordination, and promote aid evidence-informed resource allocation decisions. AidData also produces customized data visualizations upon request, for journalists and media outlets.

Nepal Earthquake Portal | WB Value-for-Money portal

Surveys of In-Country Policymakers and Practitioners

AidData’s sampling frame of 45,000 development policymakers and practitioners in 126 low- and middle- income countries allows us to conduct both large-scale omnibus surveys and targeted snap polls. AidData uses this survey data to create a sustainable feedback loop between in-country decision-makers and development partners, including aid agencies, international organizations, NGOs, and think tanks. In addition to sharing topline survey findings through the publication of flagship reports, AidData conducts customized, deep-dive analysis for institutions that wish to better understand the needs and perspectives of the individuals and institutions whom they seek to assist and influence.

Marketplace of Ideas | Listening to Leaders | Governance Data Alliance

Decision Targeting Efficiency and Portfolio Analysis

AidData conducts portfolio management analysis and targeting efficiency analysis using geospatial mapping to help organizations highlight service gaps, efficiently allocate resources, and target investments in areas of greatest need or opportunity. One example is a pilot program to track all-source financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDGs | No One Left Behind | WB Institutional Development Coding | Commissioned (ARC) Research | Nigeria isochrone analysis | Allocative efficiency analysis in Timor-Leste education sector

Training and Capacity Building

AidData offers customized programs to development organizations that want to learn state-of-the-art tools and techniques for geospatial analysis and impact evaluation. We also advise and assist organizations that want to more effectively manage and use data for a wide variety of purposes -- to plan and budget; design programs for intended beneficiaries; use constituent feedback; and conduct value-for-money analysis.

AidData Summer Fellows | Overview of training activities