Today we’re launching a new tool that uncovers huge swathes of previously incomprehensible aid and development information. IATI Decipher, for the first time, visualises strategic and budget documents in the IATI Registry. This valuable data – encompassing over 22,300 strategic documents and $2.6 trillion of global donor budgets – was only previously accessible to those able to read xml code.

What is IATI Decipher?

IATI Decipher unlocks the data contained within the IATI organisation file (orgfile). It enables users to access documents in the following areas:

  • Donor budgets by fiscal year
  • Donor budgets by sector by fiscal year
  • Donor budgets by recipient country by fiscal year
  • Donor budgets for a recipient country by sector
  • Links to donor documents, such as country strategies

 

We believe this is a breakthrough in making aid data truly usable, and is the first deliverable from our new strategy, launched at the start of October. The three-year strategy is built around three core commitments:

  1. Demonstrate how data can be used effectively to create real change;
  2. Ensure more and different types of donors are transparent; and
  3. Redouble our efforts to help make the data they provide as useable as possible for key actors in aid-recipient countries.

As well as making aid and development data more usable for actors in aid recipient countries IATI Decipher will enable publishers to see and improve how organisational-level information is shared.

We committed, as part of our US Foreign Assistance Project, to develop a simple browser extension to enable users to quickly visualise all of an organisation’s strategic data on the IATI Registry web pages.

A screenshot of IATI Decipher

The tool has been produced thanks to the hard work of Our Aid Information Advisor, Andy Lulham (AKA: @andylolz), who designed, developed and is now launching IATI Decipher.

Once installed, this lightweight browser extension automatically translates the raw IATI XML on the Registry into graphs and charts and also makes the strategic documents searchable.

 

How do you use IATI Decipher?

First, install the plugin in either Google Chrome or Firefox. It’ll take less than a minute.

You’ll notice that a handy button (featuring the stylised IATI “i” logo) appears in the top right of the browser bar. Click this and a drop down menu appears. You can search for individual IATI publishers – for example USAID — regardless of what webpage you are on at the time. Click their name and you’ll be taken to a webpage where you can access the publisher’s data. To see the raw XML data you can click download, however with IATI Decipher installed you can now click the big red button to visualise the data.

This will give you access to a new interface, where you will have the opportunity to explore past, present and future total, regional and country budgets, disaggregated by budget line or country (where the publisher provides this information). Expenditure can be analysed in the same fashion.

Documents including global and country strategies, policies and evaluations are made available through a searchable library function.

There is nowhere else you can access this information this easily.

What’s next?

Some publisher’s org file data is either out of date, incorrectly disaggregated, or is fundamentally lacking key information. To some extent this is understandable considering how difficult it has been to access this information in the past. However, now that the data is accessible we expect publishers to be reflecting on what it is sharing and making the necessary amendments!

To this end, we’ll be keeping an eye on how organisations are doing in their efforts to update their org file information and will gently nudge those who still have work to do.

We’ll also be thinking about a long term sustainable home for IATI Decipher – a tool which could be integrated into existing data visualisation tools if we want the broadest range of data users to be able to access it.

In the meantime we’ll also start analysing this treasure trove of data as part of our ongoing research and advocacy programmes. We’ll be back in touch in a few months to let you know to what extent IATI Decipher has enabled data quality and usability improvements.

And of course we’ll be disseminating IATI Decipher far and wide to ensure as many actors as possible can access the data they need. Do help us to spread the word!