A Lesson from Nepal’s Data Revolution: Getting Aid Information to the Right People

“We read [about aid] in the newspaper, but we want to see what is really happening,” explained Dr. Sagar Sharma, Kathmandu University Associate Dean of the School of the Arts, at an Open Data Working Group in Kathmandu, Nepal earlier this year. In other words – how can citizens understand what foreign aid is doing in Nepal? As the World Bank hosts a series of events in Washington DC this week on open budgeting, citizen feedback and the data revolution, we reflect on how local actors can effectively engage with development information – especially geo-referenced aid data – in their own communities.

Kathmandu University’s School of Arts co-hosted an open data event with AidData in February that showcased geocoded aid information available from the Government of Nepal’s public Aid Management Platform. Twenty-five representatives from government, donors, academia and civil society organizations participated in an animated discussion of how to use and improve this geo-referenced data created by AidData and Nepal’s Ministry of Finance in order to catalyze open dialogue about development investments and results across the country.

Dustin Homer presetns at the Data Working Group in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Mr. Indra Sharan KC from USAID-Nepal discussed the ways in which his agency uses GIS and geocoded aid information to inform USAID planning processes, demonstrating how good aid data can drive better donor-level decisions. Dr. Sharma then moved the conversation to a big-picture discussion on the demand for aid information in Nepal. These remarks led to an active group discussion on getting aid information to the right people.

While government representatives listened, civil society voices converged on two key points: (1) the need for a better mechanism for gathering citizen feedback about aid projects in Nepal, and (2) the need to make information especially accessible to on-the-ground project implementers and other civil society representatives. Attendees agreed that aid information, while critical for high-level government and donor decision-making, also has significant, yet unrealized, value for the people who are most directly affected by development projects; namely, project implementers and everyday citizens.

The main take-away question: what can donors, government, civil society, and academics do to get aid information to more of the people who can use it? Which combination of tools, policies and programs can help everyday people engage with data? A conversation around this has started in Nepal; we hope it continues in Washington DC this week.

Dustin Homer is a Project Manager with AidData based at Development Gateway.


Tags: open dataNepalKathmanduKathmandu Universitydata revolutioncitizen feedbackWorld Bank