AidData and USAID’s Global Development Lab: What to look for in Y4
Former USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah has argued that “open data has the potential to not only improve transparency and coordination, but also dramatically accelerate progress in [international] development.” Indeed, the growing open data movement has potential to improve development practice by enabling development practitioners to make better data-driven decisions to allocate limited resources to achieve maximum impact.
However, it is clear that after several years of an increasingly large movement to supply open data, this activity alone will be insufficient. To achieve a goal of accelerating development we need to change the way development professionals do business and mainstream data-driven decision-making into everyday operations. As discussed in our recent blog post, AidData has begun to see early adopters prove the concept by incorporating geocoded aid information into aid allocation, coordination, and evaluation decisions. However, data-driven decision-making has not yet reached scale and there remain significant barriers to overcome.
One such barrier is a lack of rigorous evidence regarding the specific characteristics of the impediments to open data use. Another barrier is lack of rigorous evidence on the most efficient interventions to enable development organizations to overcome those impediments. In the coming year AidData is launching a new research program to define the barriers to data uptake, and produce scientific evidence on which interventions effectively promote data uptake among development actors.
AidData hopes to contribute to this critical evidence gap in the development community by undertaking qualitative analysis deep-dives in three target countries which, paired with a 2016 survey module on development data demand and use (drawing upon an first of its kind survey of over 55,000 senior development policymakers and practitioners from 126 low- and middle-income countries), will enable us to identify key barriers to data uptake and design data uptake interventions to overcome these obstacles.
We will experimentally evaluate these interventions in three target countries to produce rigorous evidence on the impact of a range of data uptake activities on promoting use of geocoded aid information by development practitioners. These activities will inform AidData’s efforts foster use of sub-national data, research, and tools by development practitioners to improve aid allocation, coordination, and evaluation decisions, and will provide key lessons learned to the broader open data movement. By pursuing an ambitious data uptake learning agenda over the coming year, we hope to gain a better understanding of how to most effectively amplify the impacts of our work.
Over the next year, the AidData Center will build upon processes for geocoded data collection and release that will ensure the sustainability of our data investments through the end of the HESN award and beyond. We will improve the usability of our data products by merging data sets with covariate data on key development outcomes, as well as conducting geospatial impact evaluations and supporting other rigorous, ongoing subnational research and analysis around allocation and effectiveness of development projects. AidData will develop tools to produce automated data quality assessments to help users understand the best uses of different data sets and will develop a process to update our in-country geocoded data releases to ensure that users have access to the most up-to-date aid information. Finally, we will undertake targeted outreach and dissemination campaigns to ensure that our information products are in the hands of the right policy-makers, researchers, and citizens, who can use them for effective aid allocation, coordination, and evaluation.
Check back on the First Tranche for updates on our work in 2016 as we continue to promote the uptake of geospatial data for development.
Ashley Napier is a Junior Program Manager based at the College of William and Mary. Alena Stern and David Trichler assisted with this article.