AidData to make trillions of dollars in development assistance compatible with IATI standard


In another month or so, users of the AidData database will be able to run queries on aid activities by donor, sector, and country, as before—but with a new twist. The results will be exportable in the new international aid reporting standard recently finalized by the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

The aid transparency movement has gained rapid momentum in the last year or two, with growing interest from both producers and consumers of aid information. Recent high-profile launches of open data portals and dashboards, such as those of the World Bank and the United States, are evidence of this (Sweden just launched its new Openaid site on Monday).

But mounds of publicly accessible data don’t necessarily mean that the people who need to coordinate activities on the ground, or make decisions about aid allocation, or determine whether aid reached its intended destination, will have the information they need at the right moment. Without a universally-accepted protocol on aid information reporting, aid datasets remain isolated and must be analyzed and repackaged individually.

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) has taken on this challenge by developing a global aid reporting standard, defining the specific pieces of information that should be reported for each aid project and prescribing a universal XML format for this information. In the words of Claudia Elliot of Publish What You Fund, IATI’s efforts mean that “more information will now be better information.”

In February 2011, IATI finalized its standard, and both DfID and the Hewlett Foundation recently published data in the IATI registry. IATI’s sixteen other donor signatories have agreed to do the same by the time of the Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness this coming November.

AidData is now working to enable users to export projects from the AidData database in the XML format prescribed by IATI. The AidData database currently accounts for around $4 trillion in development activities funded by nearly 90 donor agencies between 1945 and 2010 - this feature will therefore instantly make a vast quantity of aid information compatible with the IATI standard. The feature will also make it easier to mash up data on development activities with other types of information (such as development statistics, as in AidData’s prototype web app, Development Loop, created with support from Esri).

Of course, the information in the IATI exports will be incomplete, as it will depend on what information donors have already reported in the datasets that AidData draws from. However, being able to view this information in IATI format will be an important step in allowing donors and aid information users to assess where the gaps are and what is needed to create a more comprehensive picture. It will be interesting to see how users will take advantage of the ability to compare data from dozens of donors with information posted to the IATI Registry and other sources. Stay tuned!