This Week: Effective Crisis Aid and the Future of Citizen Feedback

The recently launched beta version of opengovindonesia.org.

The recently launched beta version of opengovindonesia.org.

As the Ebola virus spreads across West Africa, humanitarian organizations seek to ensure that their resources are efficiently being deployed in order to meet the challenges of this crisis. In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, Administrator Raj Shah announced that USAID would commit an additional $75 million dollars in aid to help combat the virus which has affected over 20,000 individuals thus far. Notably, Shah stressed that while the money is important, it’s the effectiveness of how those aid dollars are used that matters more. At a time when key response entities such as the World Health Organization are facing tighter fiscal constraints, open data and comprehensive monitoring could help aid groups assisting in the humanitarian effort to better coordinate their efforts and allocate funds towards underserved areas.

Development practitioners descended upon the city of San Francisco last week to discuss how to bridge the gap between social change movements and funding sources at the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP 14) Conference. Representatives from the World Bank and other major donors looked for new solutions to remedy persistent problems. Increasing private sector participation and investing in community-led development projects were two prominent themes in discussions of famine prevention and maternal-child health. As SOCAP and others seek to boost investment and participation by a broader set of actors, getting a handle on the total resource envelope of funding for development, including but not limited to aid is ever more important.

A new open data portal went live last week in Asia as the Indonesian government launched Data.id, enabling the public to access over 700 datasets from 24 agencies. Prior to Open Data Indonesia’s debut, the government launched a related effort to open up access to competitive project details between government agencies. Recognizing that open data initiatives will likely have more success if they are demand-driven, Indonesian citizens can propose future datasets they’d like to be published. Indonesia’s efforts mirror recent steps taken by Italy to open their foreign development books to the world through OpenAidItalia.

As the recent efforts in Indonesia highlight steps being taken to give citizens more information with which to hold government officials and programs accountable for results, where do parliaments fit into this process of using open data for more effective development? On September 17th in Washington, DC, AidData and Feedback Labs will host a breakfast discussion with speakers from the World Bank, Oxfam America, USAID, National Democratic Institute and MIT looking at how engaging citizens in dialogue about development investments and results intersects with representative democracy. Come join the conversation and register for the event here.

Chris Katella is a Communications Associate with AidData. Taryn Davis is on vacation this week and will return to This Week in two weeks time.

Tags: opendataIndonesiaDevelopmentItalyeventscitizenfeedbacksan franciscoUSAIDgovernmentaid