It has been a momentous day for open government data. This morning the UK government announced its release of all data on central government spending above £25 000 – totalling around £80bn of the annual £670bn spend. At the launch, which Publish What You Fund attended, Francis Maude said “We are moving from need to know to right to know”, and in today’s Guardian article writes that “over time we want to give more detail on what the money is spent on and also where it is geographically spent. The information we are publishing today is a start, but we want to go further.”
The new data can be found at data.gov.uk. However, there are already a number of applications and visualisations tools that have been built to make the information more accessible and meaningful to the public. Find them on Timetric, on WhereDoesMyMoneyGo, and Information is Beautiful.
The DFID data release needs to be explored, and we look forward to seeing more, but of course from an aid perspective the benefit of more information is only fully realised when it is comparable. We need to be able to compare and map donors such as the World Bank, US agencies and the European Commission to UK aid spending so that decisions about how the money is spent are made in relation to what others are doing.
This release is a great step in greater government accountability. However, to ensure the aid budget is used to best effect donors need to share their information with each other and with recipient countries from one portal. The vehicle currently being developed to deliver this international comparability is the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).