Policy Reports


AidData's Policy Analysis Unit produces applied research to help governments, development partners and civil society organizations solve real world problems.

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AidData Policy Report

Beyond the Tyranny of Averages: Development Progress from the Bottom Up

2017-09-28

Samantha Custer, Matthew DiLorenzo, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Jessica Wells

Relying on averages is worsening inequality within countries, as donors miss the mark and aid financing fails to reach the poorest regions.

AidData Policy Report

Beyond the Tyranny of Averages: Development Progress from the Bottom Up

2017-09-28

Samantha Custer, Matthew DiLorenzo, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Jessica Wells

Relying on averages is worsening inequality within countries, as donors miss the mark and aid financing fails to reach the poorest regions.

AidData Policy Report

Beyond the Tyranny of Averages: Development Progress from the Bottom Up

2017-09-28

Samantha Custer, Matthew DiLorenzo, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Jessica Wells

Relying on averages is worsening inequality within countries, as donors miss the mark and aid financing fails to reach the poorest regions.

In spite of rising inequality within countries, policymakers often fall into the trap of evaluating progress from the top-down, rather than the bottom-up. Bilateral aid agencies and multilateral development banks tend to use national-level indicators (e.g., GDP per capita, child mortality rates) to select the countries and sectors where they will work. These national aggregates mask hotspots of deprivation within countries, which appear to be widening.

Over the past five years, AidData and its partners have worked with numerous governments and development partners to help close this evidence gap. With generous financial support from the United States Agency for International Development’s Global Development Lab, they have identified the geographical locations of nearly 70,000 development projects worth approximately $1.23 trillion across the globe. As a result, there is now an abundance of geographically disaggregated data we can use to assess: who is funding what, where, and to what effect at the subnational level?

In the Beyond the Tyranny of Averages report, we draw upon this body of work to shed light on two critical questions:

  1. Targeting — To what extent is the international community channeling resources to the least developed regions within countries?
  2. Effectiveness — Under which conditions does this assistance help local communities reduce spatial inequality –​ the uneven distribution of public services, infrastructure, wealth, and opportunity?

Based on our findings, we present a roadmap for countries and their development partners to fully harness the subnational data revolution to "leave no one behind".

AidData Policy Report

Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers & Users in Three Countries

2017-04-01

Samantha Custer and Tanya Sethi, Eds.

In 2016, we interviewed 200 decision-makers and those that advise them in Honduras, Timor-Leste, and Senegal.

AidData Policy Report

Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers & Users in Three Countries

2017-04-01

Samantha Custer and Tanya Sethi, Eds.

In 2016, we interviewed 200 decision-makers and those that advise them in Honduras, Timor-Leste, and Senegal.

AidData Policy Report

Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers & Users in Three Countries

2017-04-01

Samantha Custer and Tanya Sethi, Eds.

In 2016, we interviewed 200 decision-makers and those that advise them in Honduras, Timor-Leste, and Senegal.

In 2016, researchers from the AidData Center for Development Policy interviewed 200 decision-makers and those that advise them in Honduras, Timor-Leste, and Senegal. Central government officials, development partner representatives based in country, and leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) shared their experiences in producing and using data to target development projects, monitor progress, and evaluate results. The report identifies nine barriers to the use of data and corresponding operating principles for funders and producers to make demand-driven investments in the next generation of development data and statistics.

Spanish

Resumen Ejecutivo

Traduciendo la Transparencia en Acción para el Desarrollo Sustentable en Honduras

Tetun

Sumáriu Ezekutivu

Uzu Dadus nian iha Kultura Orál: Haruka Dadus Dezenvolvimentu Bá Serbisu iha Timor-Leste

French

Note de Synthèse

Exploiter la Révolution des Données pour Alimenter la Stratégie de Développement Émergente du Sénégal

AidData Policy Report

Financing the SDGs in Colombia

2017-03-01

AidData

The brief presents AidData’s pilot methodology for tracking financing to the SDGs and findings on three key sources of data for Colombia.

AidData Policy Report

Financing the SDGs in Colombia

2017-03-01

AidData

The brief presents AidData’s pilot methodology for tracking financing to the SDGs and findings on three key sources of data for Colombia.

AidData Policy Report

Financing the SDGs in Colombia

2017-03-01

AidData

The brief presents AidData’s pilot methodology for tracking financing to the SDGs and findings on three key sources of data for Colombia.

Spanish Language Version: Financiación de los ODS en Colombia

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires mobilizing resources from a variety of sources, including international partners, domestic budgets, foundations and philanthropy, as well as the private sector. Knowing where this money is going is key to helping policymakers make smarter choices and steer resources to priority areas. However, data on development financing rarely incorporate all of these sources. 

To gain a clearer picture of SDG funding, AidData is launching a cutting-edge pilot in Colombia that will track, integrate, visualize and disseminate all-source financing for the SDGs, allowing decision makers to view progress on financing sustainable development from multiple angles. 

As a proof of concept, the brief presents AidData’s methodology for tracking financing to the SDGs and findings on three key sources of data for Colombia: 

  1. Traditional and emerging donor data
  2. Data from Colombia’s Aid Information Management System (AIMS), and
  3. Colombia’s National Budget data. 

For each data source, information is provided on historical levels of funding for the SDGs, which SDGs received the most funding, and how top donors allocated funds by SDG. Also featured are spotlights on education (Goal 4) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9) for a deeper dive into these areas of particular interest to Colombia.

Finally, the brief introduces a pilot index developed by AidData that identifies pockets of social vulnerability at the subnational level in Colombia. This Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) is then overlaid with geocoded aid information to examine if aid projects and dollars are being concentrated in the most vulnerable areas.

AidData Policy Report

In the Eye of the Beholder: When is governance data "good enough"?

2016-12-01

Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Samantha Custer

Over 500 leaders shared their firsthand experiences in advancing reforms in their countries and the role of governance data.

AidData Policy Report

In the Eye of the Beholder: When is governance data "good enough"?

2016-12-01

Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Samantha Custer

Over 500 leaders shared their firsthand experiences in advancing reforms in their countries and the role of governance data.

AidData Policy Report

In the Eye of the Beholder: When is governance data "good enough"?

2016-12-01

Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, Samantha Custer

Over 500 leaders shared their firsthand experiences in advancing reforms in their countries and the role of governance data.

This report presents new evidence from a 2016 Governance Data Alliance (GDA) Snap Poll of public, private, and civil society leaders in 126 low- and middle-income countries to answer four critical questions:

  • Delivery Channels: How do these leaders find or source governance data?
  • Use: How is governance data used and for what purpose(s)?
  • Influence: Which governance data do leaders find most useful – and why?
  • Barriers: What are the most prevalent obstacles to the use of governance data?

Over 500 leaders shared their firsthand experiences in advancing reforms in their countries and the role of governance data in that process. Snap poll participants evaluated 29 governance data sources produced by a wide variety of multilateral organizations, bilateral agencies, and civil society groups.

Based upon their responses, we present four key takeaways.
  1. Broad-based communications still have sway, though the delivery channels leaders use to find governance data varies by where they work
  2. Governance data is predominantly used to conduct research and analysis; however, specific use cases appear to be shaped by different organizational mandates
  3. Most survey participants found governance data to be salient and helpful in their work, but this data is reportedly most useful when it is also perceived to be relevant and credible
  4. Governance data that fails to take into account the local context is seen as irrelevant and lacks credibility when it is not transparent in methods and assumptions.

AidData Policy Report

Danish Development Cooperation from a Partner Perspective

2016-09-01

Bradley Parks, Samantha Custer, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, and Rebecca Latourell

Long-term partnerships and focussed investments amplify Denmark’s influence and improve favourability in the eyes of key counterparts.

AidData Policy Report

Danish Development Cooperation from a Partner Perspective

2016-09-01

Bradley Parks, Samantha Custer, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, and Rebecca Latourell

Long-term partnerships and focussed investments amplify Denmark’s influence and improve favourability in the eyes of key counterparts.

AidData Policy Report

Danish Development Cooperation from a Partner Perspective

2016-09-01

Bradley Parks, Samantha Custer, Takaaki Masaki, Tanya Sethi, and Rebecca Latourell

Long-term partnerships and focussed investments amplify Denmark’s influence and improve favourability in the eyes of key counterparts.

To assess Denmark’s performance from a partner country perspective, the study uses contributions from public, private, and civil society sector leaders in 40 low- and middle-income countries that participated in the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey. Participants provided first-hand insights into their experiences working with a variety of development partners and feedback on three aspects of performance: influence in setting the policy priorities, usefulness of advice in informing policy decisions, and helpfulness in reform implementation (i.e., translating ideas into action). The study finds that long-term partnerships and focussed investments amplify Denmark’s influence and improve favourability in the eyes of key counterparts. Furthermore, Denmark’s current practice of frequently communicating with in-country stakeholders was identified as particularly fruitful.

AidData Policy Report

From Pork to Performance: Open Government and Program Performance Tracking in the Philippines

2016-07-01

Samantha Custer, Hanif Rahemtulla, Kai Kaiser

New evidence on the prospects and limits of technology-enabled transparency to improve governance worldwide.

AidData Policy Report

From Pork to Performance: Open Government and Program Performance Tracking in the Philippines

2016-07-01

Samantha Custer, Hanif Rahemtulla, Kai Kaiser

New evidence on the prospects and limits of technology-enabled transparency to improve governance worldwide.

AidData Policy Report

From Pork to Performance: Open Government and Program Performance Tracking in the Philippines

2016-07-01

Samantha Custer, Hanif Rahemtulla, Kai Kaiser

New evidence on the prospects and limits of technology-enabled transparency to improve governance worldwide.

In June of 2016, The World Bank and AidData published From Pork to Performance, a study on the political economy of open data for service delivery in the Philippines.

From Pork to Performance illuminates the politics of how public resources are spent and the difficulty of the “last mile” of service delivery. This study examines the extent to which technology and transparency can disrupt this low accountability status quo through turning information into collective action to improve government performance by strengthening the accountability relationships between politicians, service providers and citizens.

Here are ten key takeaways from the report.

1. Service delivery is an important barometer of government performance and public trust.

When governments fail to deliver basic public services (e.g., roads, schools), citizens experience the pain points in immediate tangible ways, from disconnected roads to absentee teachers. For most citizens, these micro-transactions at the last mile of service delivery – on the road and in the classroom – are the most powerful impressions they have of their government’s performance.

2. Poor information creates friction and perverse incentives that favor pork over performance.

If citizens, officials, and oversight agencies can’t track the national budget, they remain in the dark as to how well upstream public resources translate into downstream access to services they consume daily. Money gets “lost” to corruption and inefficiency, basic services become private goods, and the public is left with few opportunities to reward or sanction politicians for results.

3. This study examines whether technology and transparency can produce better results.

The World Bank Group partnered with government reform champions in the Philippines to design a series of digital accountability platforms to disclose information on the whole service delivery chain in a given sector – from upstream budgets to downstream implementation. The study features examples from five sectors (e.g., education, reconstruction, roads, municipal development, and tax collection). The platforms give citizens, politicians and front-line providers the tools they need to track public expenditures and seek to turn open data into collective action to improve government performance.

4. Translating technology into “digital dividends” requires getting the fundamentals right.

The study assesses the results of five open government initiatives using an assessment rubric based upon four C’s: content, channel, choice, and consequences. The performance information disclosed must be timely and salient to end users (content); easy to access and use (channel); accompanied by credible outlets for people to take action (choice); and this collective action must be sufficient to change how policies are designed or programs delivered (consequences).

5. The success of technology platforms is interlinked with the broader politics of reform.

We find that digital platforms are just the “tip of the iceberg”. If the data the government releases is obsolete or irrelevant, people won’t pay attention. If the technology channel to get information to end-users is inaccessible, people won’t use the data. If there aren’t obvious ways for people to give feedback, lobby, or vote based upon the information, they won’t take action. Finally, if the agencies financing and implementing government programs are unwilling to heed the data and respond to feedback, services won’t improve.

6. High-level leadership and inter-agency coordination are essential to track the entire service delivery life cycle.

Coordination constraints – such as manual integration of data across multiple, disconnected systems – create roadblocks even on a “digital highway”. Governments need to put in place clear institutional structures to facilitate inter-agency coordination to: (1) comply with disclosure standards, (2) report performance data in a timely fashion, and (3) harmonize information management systems for seamless expenditure tracking.

7. Integrate digital accountability platforms within broader reform efforts, rather than as stand-alone initiatives.

Platforms that are well integrated with sector-specific or cross-cutting international commitments have been more successful in galvanizing lasting political commitment, dedicated resources, and buy-in across agencies and levels of government. Prioritize those sectors where digital technologies can complement reform efforts already underway.

8. Design platforms with a clear view of the performance challenge to be solved and iterate with users to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

To deepen uptake, prioritize rapid iteration with end users to ensure that platforms are releasing the right information, at the right time, and in the right format so that citizens, officials, and oversight agencies can turn publicly available data into actionable insights.

9. Find ways that open government can align incentives to make politics work for development.

Getting digital accountability platforms to “click” requires a constellation of actors who view greater transparency as being in their interest. Next-generation open government initiatives need to reframe the value-add of transparency as serving, rather than threatening, the interests of these stakeholders to break through gridlock.

10. Broaden the support base for digital accountability platforms inside and outside of government to have staying power.

Mobilize the public to help improve official data on service delivery and they may be more interested in acting upon it. Demonstrate the value of platform data as a management tool for civil servants to more easily plan, implement, and evaluate flagship government programs.

AidData Policy Report

Governance Data: Who Uses It and Why?

2016-03-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

This report evaluates the use of governance data among policymakers and practitioners in 126 low- and middle- income countries.

AidData Policy Report

Governance Data: Who Uses It and Why?

2016-03-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

This report evaluates the use of governance data among policymakers and practitioners in 126 low- and middle- income countries.

AidData Policy Report

Governance Data: Who Uses It and Why?

2016-03-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

This report evaluates the use of governance data among policymakers and practitioners in 126 low- and middle- income countries.

This report evaluates the use of governance data among policymakers and practitioners in 126 low- and middle- income countries. Research institutions, multilateral development banks, bilateral aid agencies, and civil society groups increasingly produce governance data to identify strong and weaker performers, inform resource allocation decisions, and support domestic reform champions in countries around the world. However, governance data producers know relatively little about who actually uses their diagnostic and advisory tools and why. The objective of this report is to help close this knowledge gap.

AidData Policy Report

Listening to Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer and Why?

2015-10-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

We draw upon the firsthand experiences and observations of nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners in 126 countries.

AidData Policy Report

Listening to Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer and Why?

2015-10-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

We draw upon the firsthand experiences and observations of nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners in 126 countries.

AidData Policy Report

Listening to Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer and Why?

2015-10-01

Samantha Custer, Zachary Rice, Takaaki Masaki, Rebecca Latourell, Bradley Parks

We draw upon the firsthand experiences and observations of nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners in 126 countries.

Measuring whether, when, how, and why individual development partners have influenced reform efforts in low- and middle-income countries is a challenge that has confounded scholars, practitioners, and policymakers for many decades. In a new report launched in October 2015, AidData draws upon the firsthand experiences and observations of nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners in 126 countries to answer these critical questions. The Listening to Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer and Why? report examines the interactions that decision-makers in low and middle-income countries have with these development partnerships, pulling from their invaluable insights into the most pressing problems they face, their top policy priorities, and thoughts on how aid agencies and other external actors can partner with them most effectively. Listening to Leaders is the second report leveraging data from AidData’s 2014 Reform Efforts Survey. The second wave of the global omnibus survey was fielded in 2016.

AidData Policy Report

The Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change: Who do developing world leaders listen to and why?

2015-04-01

Bradley Parks, Zachary Rice, Samantha Custer

The influence of external assessments of government performance on the policymaking process in low- and middle-income countries.

AidData Policy Report

The Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change: Who do developing world leaders listen to and why?

2015-04-01

Bradley Parks, Zachary Rice, Samantha Custer

The influence of external assessments of government performance on the policymaking process in low- and middle-income countries.

AidData Policy Report

The Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change: Who do developing world leaders listen to and why?

2015-04-01

Bradley Parks, Zachary Rice, Samantha Custer

The influence of external assessments of government performance on the policymaking process in low- and middle-income countries.

Despite considerable time, money and effort expended by donors, international organizations, and NGOs to influence policy change in low and middle income countries, there is a lack of understanding about how they can most effectively influence reform efforts on the ground. In this report, AidData draws upon the firsthand experiences and observations of nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners in 126 countries to answer these critical questions. The Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change report examines the influence of over 100 external assessments of government performance — from cross-country benchmarking exercises and watchlists to country-specific diagnostics and conditional aid programs — on the policymaking process of low and middle income countries. Participants in the survey identified the specific sources of external analysis and advice that were used by key government decision-makers between 2004 and 2013, and why. Survey respondents also provided detailed information about reform processes within their own countries, such who has advocated for reform in different sectors and who actively obstructed reform efforts.