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China and other emerging donors are fundamentally changing the development finance landscape; however, many of these actors do not participate in existing global reporting systems, such as the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. AidData employs a range of different methodologies and technologies to fill these critical information gaps and help those who seek to understand the nature, distribution, and effects of development finance from these influential actors.
Launched in April 2013, AidData’s Chinese development finance dataset tracks activities related to 1,673 projects in 50 countries totaling $73 billion in aid between 2000 and 2011. This comprehensive source of project-level information on official development finance from China to Africa is available through AidData’s online platform, enabling users to produce visualizations, contribute project information and give feedback to improve accuracy.
Official Development Assistance (ODA) from non-DAC donors estimates vary widely from $11 billion to $41.7 billion. Relying on ODA estimates alone is misleading because most development finance from non-DAC donors is not included in ODA. AidData is actively designing and testing new methodologies to capture diverse forms of development finance activities undertaken by 38 non-DAC donors. AidData works to collect and publish the data of south-south cooperation activities by contacting non-DAC reporting bilateral and multilateral organizations directly, combining tracking under-reported financial flows methodology with OECD exports, and using web scraping technologies and hard-copy reports to fill these information gaps.
AidData has designed a new methodology to collect a more complete picture of the development finance activities of non-DAC donors. The methodology, coined Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows (TUFF), integrates information from those in the private and civil society sectors, media and academia to capture project-level documentation of development activities. Initially created to study Chinese aid to Africa, AidData is now applying the TUFF methodology to better understand the activities of other non-DAC and DAC development partners.
1. Global Standards Reporting: For non-DAC development agencies that already store and organize project- or activity-level information in an internal database, we work with these institutions to standardize their data and align with global reporting standards. AidData has a ten year track record of “cross-walking” the databases and information repositories of individual development agencies to global reporting standards and databases.
2. Standardizing Data: Making For non-DAC development agencies that possess project- or activity-level information not yet stored in a single data repository, we help them digitize, standardize, and publish project-level information contained in long- form project documents, online web pages, or similar formats. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology and various webscraping tools, AidData digitizes, catalogues, and publishes donor information previously locked in physical project documents and annual reports or in stand-alone websites. In total, AidData has standardized and published data using these methods for over 30 donors, including South Africa, India, and many other non-DAC donors.
3. API and Technical Service Delivery: We build intuitive application programming interfaces (APIs) to help non-DAC development agencies export their data in ways that are accessible, useful, and consistent with international standards. AidData’s highly-trained team of information technology experts help development finance institutions publish their existing project-level data through an API, enabling this data to be easily searched and exported to the user’s requirements.
4. Train the Trainers: We offer training and capacity building opportunities to help non-DAC development agency personnel to more effectively capture, report, publish, visualize, and analyze project-level data. AidData staff can conduct a “needs assessment” for a development agency to assess existing systems and make recommendations for how data collection, categorization, and reporting can be made compatible with global standards. To strengthen institutional capacity to build and maintain standardized reporting systems, AidData can either host development finance personnel for a rotation at our offices in Washington D.C. or Williamsburg, Virginia. Training modules include: (a) data management and quality assurance; (b) sustainable reporting systems and international best practices; and (c) geocoding and geospatial analysis of aid.
5. Geo-locate Activity Locations: We work in close partnership with development agencies to pinpoint the precise physical locations of development cooperation projects – a process called subnational geocoding – and make this geographic information useful for in-country targeting and coordination efforts. Geocoded investment data is the basic building block for mapping the spatial distribution and impact of aid. Maps and analytic dashboards overlay project data with socio-economic indicators, such as poverty and malnutrition rates, visualizing where funds are going at a subnational level compared to areas of greatest need and opportunity.