2015: Bringing us closer to smarter, more data-driven development policy

(This letter is excerpted from AidData's quarterly newsletter, which will be released tomorrow.  To stay current with AidData updates, subscribe to our newsletter here.)

Building on the exciting milestones and lessons of 2014, AidData is barreling full speed into 2015 with renewed focus and commitment.  Not long ago, we made a big bet that geospatial tools, data and analysis would fundamentally improve the way scarce development resources are allocated and evaluated.  I am encouraged by the progress that we witnessed in 2014.

Last year, in partnership with AidData and USAID, the Ministry of Planning in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Chancellery of Foreign Affairs in Honduras geo-enabled their Aid Management Platforms and built their internal capacity for geospatial analysis.  Early adopters like the Government of Nepal also inspired Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, and others to make geospatial data collection a priority.  In addition, AidData geo-enabled its china.aiddata.org platform, which now contains nearly 2,000 geolocated Chinese-funded development projects and other geospatial data layers on poverty, conflict, population density and nighttime lights.

We are also beginning to see an increase in the uptake of geospatial data.  Moving beyond eye-catching maps that communicate the “who, what and where” of aid, many of AidData’s partners are integrating geospatial data and analysis into their operational decisions and efforts to measure programmatic impact.  AidData is working with the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, KFW and USAID to integrate geospatial data into their systems, processes and analytical products.  We hope to see other institutions join this small but expanding community of practice in 2015.

Last year marked a period of unprecedented growth at AidData, with 50+ colleagues working in nearly a dozen locations globally.  As we adjust to the expanded scale and scope of our work, and listen and learn from all of you, we have identified several internal priorities for 2015.  A top priority is to redouble our commitment to the data made available through AidData.org.  This year, we will strengthen our data management systems, accelerate the production and publication of curated research releases, improve our coding efficiency and publish our geocoded AMP data to the IATI Registry.  We will also pilot tools that enable more sophisticated geospatial analysis, implement several geospatial impact evaluations, roll out a new data science curriculum and bridge the policy-research gap in areas that are central to our mission, similar to the September event we hosted with Feedback Labs.

I am hopeful that 2015 will bring us all closer to a world in which data drives smarter policy decisions and spurs new and constructive dialogue among otherwise siloed groups.


Nancy McGuire Choi is AidData's Co-Executive Director based in Washington, DC. Taryn Davis and Project Pulse will return to This Week next Monday.

Tags: open datadevelopment policyUSAIDbest betChina in AfricaNepalAMPHondurasDRCAfDBKFWgeospatialiaticitizen feedback