OpenAid Italia: Should We Expect More?
Last month, the Italian Foreign Ministry launched OpenAid Italia, making Italian official development assistance information publicly available online. The initiative is part of Italy’s commitment to development cooperation as a signatory of the Busan Partnership. In 2011, during the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, over 3,000 delegates from around the world agreed on the importance of accessible data that are comprehensible and forward-looking. In the Busan agreement, the open data deadline is set for 2015, but this goal is also being incorporated into the post-2015 framework. Italy’s enactment of the open data portal is on track to meet the deadline, but is it enough?
The platform provides sector and recipient information on overseas development assistance given since 2004. Users are able to interpret the data using intuitive and easy to use visualization tools. For instance, you can quickly determine that Tunisia (78 million €) and Pakistan (60 million €) were the top two recipients of aid for the last recorded year, 2012. The absence of 2013 and 2014 data has prompted calls for more detailed, recent and comparable data. Nonetheless, this is an important milestone for the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to making its data more “comprehensible, effective and transparent,” and in the future it plans to include charitable flows, private flows, and other official flows, as well as a photo gallery.
The OpenAid Italia dashboard at http://openaid.esteri.it/en/ allows users to search for information on Italian foreign assistance by year and recipient country
Why does this matter?
Italy has been moving toward greater budget transparency at home and abroad, enacting asset disclosure reforms for government officials and supporting the European Union’s open data platform of development investments and results.
Seeking to influence the international development agenda, Italy is prioritizing an “investment in peace, security and stability” in its national discourse. This commitment is further evidenced by the Italian parliament’s decision to increase the country’s official development assistance by 22% in 2013 and 1% in 2014. Italy also recently reformed its development cooperation law to create a new agency of cooperation and development.
AidData.org displays aid information for Italy from 1994-2011
In the midst of all these changes, the portal is a crucial step in the direction of open data and more transparent development investments. It is important to note that better availability of data does not automatically equate to better decision-making. As OpenAid Italia and other new aid data resources become available, will they also be useful?
Is it enough?
According to the the 2014 Busan Progress Report, the average aid provider publishes data that is “6-9 months old, once a year” and fills out only “50% of the common standard data fields.” In terms of timely reporting on aid, the United Kingdom and Netherlands are two leading examples of countries that update their data on a monthly basis. Conversely, the Quality of Aid Diamond, developed by Center for Global Development ranks Italy as lagging behind western European countries.
The Center for Global Development's Quality of Aid Diamond (Italy is marked in dark blue)
OpenAid Italia and other reform efforts are important steps forward in improving the transparency of Italy’s data on foreign aid. But in the future, Italy should also focus on addressing the timeliness, comprehensiveness and granularity of its aid-reporting to ensure that its transparent data is indeed usable and useful for various civil society, donor and government actors.
Haset Solomon is an AidData research assistant and recent graduate ('14) of the College of William and Mary.