This Week: An AidData Update from Co-Exec. Director Brad Parks

(This letter is excerpted from AidData's quarterly newsletter, which was released today. To learn more about AidData's activity over the last few months, read the newsletter here.)

This time last year, I expressed optimism that Big Data could make a big impact on development outcomes. Since then, I'm encouraged by several initiatives AidData has launched that seek to amplify citizen voices in shaping development priorities, monitoring progress and evaluating results.

Project Pulse, a new feature on, invites anyone to weigh in on the performance of projects in order to close the feedback loop about what works and what doesn't. We facilitated a September event with Feedback Labs bringing together over 40 participants from 20 organizations to discuss the impact of citizen feedback on representative governance and democracy. Stay tuned for future events in 2015 on related topics.

AidData Summer Fellows embedded with partner organizations such as UNICEF and the Agency for Transformation in Uganda to test and strengthen feedback mechanisms. One fellow helped conduct a social audit to collect feedback from citizens and improve government transparency in Uganda. Another group of fellows teamed up with UNICEF to test whether district leaders allocate resources more efficiently with or without citizen feedback data. 

Our Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows (TUFF) team is harnessing the power of Big Data to shed light on China's role in Africa. Triangulating vast and unstructured open source information, the team will debut this week a public database of 2,000 Chinese-financed development projects in Africa from 2000-2012, now geocoded to enable users to zero in on the communities of greatest interest to them. An interactive dashboard -- integrating spatial data on poverty, population density, infrastructure, nighttime lights and Chinese development projects -- will enable users to identify patterns, relationships and trends that might otherwise prove difficult to uncover. 

We need your help to improve the accuracy and coverage of this rich data source by identifying errors and omissions, as well as suggesting alternative sources of information. Please send your ideas to us at Also, don't forget to RSVP to our launch event in DC Tomorrow, November 18 where we'll not only launch the dashboard, but also a new AidData working paper on the factors that shape the distribution of Chinese development finance. 

Finally, for those of you tracking the UN's Data Revolution work, our Policy Director's recent post on the subject is a must-read. AidData will be keeping a close eye on how issues of Open Data and Big Data are integrated into the Post-2015 Development Agenda, so stay tuned for future updates. 

Brad Parks, Co-Executive Director

Dr. Brad Parks is AidData's Co-Executive Director based at The College of William and Mary. Taryn Davis will return to This Week in three weeks time.

Tags: AidDatanewsletterChina in Africafeedback labsAidData Summer FellowsASFTUFF