Tracking Chinese Development Finance to Africa Initiative: What To Expect in 2014

Last week, we released a new version of AidData’s Tracking Chinese Development Finance in Africa dataset, along with a new methodology and insights from a five-month ground-truthing study in Uganda and South Africa, all available at china.aiddata.org. These additions are a part of our continued effort to re-imagine how diverse audiences access, contribute, and interact with our data. In 2014, we will continue innovating.

The last nine months have been busy. As China and many other emerging donors do not publish detailed information about their overseas development activities, we fine-tuned the Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows (TUFF) methodology to triangulate project information from news reports, African government databases and ministry websites, NGO field reports, scholarly case studies, and other sources. We improved the scope, granularity and quality of the underlying data by adding 114 new projects, revising and updating 131 existing projects, and integrating multimedia features so that users can upload their own photos, video and information to individual project pages.

The multimedia feature on the website allows users to upload photos and video to individual project pages, like this image from a Doctor Visit for the Blind project in Zimbabwe. 

In partnership with Humanity United, we will launch several new features and functionalities to the china.aiddata.org site in the coming year in order to improve the usability and usefulness of the data. Among other improvements, we will subnationally geo-reference all of the projects in the database and release a new visual analytic tool that makes it easier to investigate potential relationships between Chinese development finance, socio-economic outcomes, and various forms of conflict.

Comprehensively mapping the spatial distribution of Chinese development finance activities will open up new opportunities to answer pressing development research questions. With this geocoded data, we will now be able to investigate whether Chinese infrastructure projects influence state building efforts and how Chinese-sponsored hospitals and health clinics impact local service delivery outcomes. At the inaugural convening of the AidData Research Consortium in January, we learned that there is tremendous demand for these more granular data among geographers, economists, political scientists, conservation biologists, and data scientists.

By geocoding each project in the database, users of the site who are based in Africa will be able to more easily identify and provide feedback on Chinese projects in their own cities, towns, and villages.  Our hope is that the addition of a strong geospatial component to the china.aiddata.org site will provide a more user-friendly and intuitive gateway to the data. We hope this will catalyze contributions from individuals and organizations with on-the-ground knowledge of these projects.

In the interest of continuing to improve the quality of the data, AidData has also adopted a new protocol for the integration and curation of crowdsourced content into its TUFF methodology. This upgrade will allow AidData staff to more effectively rely upon users who flag questionable data, suggest new projects, confirm or update the status of existing projects, and upload relevant documents and source materials.

We invite researchers, journalists, civil society leaders, development practitioners, and others to put china.aiddata.org to use and to join this effort to leverage the wisdom of the crowd.  We will place particular emphasis in 2014 on soliciting and integrating user-contributed data from local stakeholders in four priority countries – Sudan, South Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We welcome contributions from any user who is knowledgeable about any of the projects featured on china.aiddata.org.

Althea Lyness is a Special Assistant to AidData’s Co-Executive Director at the College of William & Mary. Brad Parks is AidData's Co-Executive Director based at the College of William & Mary.

Tags: TUFFChina in AfricaTracking Chinese Development Finance to Africa InitiativeTUFF MethodologyHumanity UnitedAidData Research ConsortiumDRCSudanSouth SudanLiberia