The IATI data well
By Elma Jenkins, Publish What You Fund, and Rolf Kleef, consultant data sharing and online collaboration
In this post we introduce three user-friendly tools that can be used to access International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data and describe their key features. This is the first in a series examining IATI data access tools.
IATI was launched in September 2008 at the Third Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana following discussions that development interventions required improved transparency. IATI provides aid and development organisations with universal data sharing specifications setting out rules and guidance about the information they should publish.
Since 2008 IATI has expanded to over 1500 publishers with a recognition that data alignment can provide benefits for data publishers and users alike. This includes: improving donor coordination; strengthening accountability; and building engagement. Recently, there has been a greater focus on what results aid is achieving, and better transparency can support our understanding of this. So, what kind of data is available and how can it be accessed?
Accessing IATI data is a bit like drawing water from a well where large amounts of data are stored. When you first peer down the well it can be difficult to see the bottom or to gauge how clean the water is. And, how much water you are able to access is very much determined by the size and shape of your bucket.
What’s in the well?
Each publishing organisation can use the IATI Standard to describe the what, where, when, why, how, by whom, and how much information about their activities. The IATI Standard is made up of hundreds of elements, or data points, providing numerical and descriptive data. This data can be published at three different levels:
- At the organisational level users can access data on an organisations’ policy and planning documents, budgets, the countries where they work and which partner organisations they work with.
- Secondly there is the activity level where programmes, possibly consisting of multiple projects, can be further split by countries, regions or specific locations.
- Finally, transactions provide information on the financial flows between organisations both as pledges or commitments in programmes and grants, as well as actual disbursements.
Each organisation publishes their own IATI data and informs the IATI Registry of where their data can be found. IATI data is structured in a plain text format. This provides a way of storing and sharing rich information which can be accessed with different software. Since the IATI Standard is an exchange format to share data from one application to another, you will need a tool to access the data. You need to select your bucket.
What tools are available?
Here are three user-friendly tools you can use to access IATI data and some of their main features:
An IATI maintained tool to search and view individual activities as well as some aggregates across all publishers.
- Analysis ready data output (e.g. converted to one currency)
- Structured web-page viewing
- Location heat-map
- Some aggregates provided across countries, sectors + publishers
- Search for individual projects
- Can view organisation files
- Allows keyword searches
- Good for getting an overview of how publishers’ data is structured
- Good range of filtered searching (e.g. for policy markers and sector codes)
- Some aggregated downloads available
- Only pre-defined and limited aggregated views available across countries, sectors and publishers
- Very limited downloads available (aggregated only, no bulk)
- Not all data is in view, for example, where multiple entries can exist for an element (sectors)
- Each activity is viewed in isolation, therefore the structure of programmes with multiple projects and organisations is not visible
Country Development Finance Data (CDFD)
A community-built tool allowing more accessible and tailored bulk downloading as well as some aggregated visuals.
- Multiple filtered searching with more detailed data splitting (e.g. calendar year / quarters)
- Excel friendly bulk and disaggregated downloads
- Cleans the data so it is analysis ready (detailed methodology here)
- Visual dashboard view
- Limited to a maximum of 20 IATI elements with a focus on financial related data (no performance data available)
- Depending on the filters, large data files can be output
- Only three aggregate views provided in the visual (country, sector, reporting)
- Outputs comma-separated list of implementing organisations where amounts to each organisation are not explicit
The IATI Datastore enables you to search and view activities. However, its main purpose is to make it easier to build other tools that use IATI data by providing a centralised place for all publishers’ data.
- Possible to search for text across all descriptive elements
- Can build more complex queries by applying some search logic e.g ‘And/Or’ and ‘greater/less/equal to’
- Allows download of search results in a variety of formats
- Allows bulk download of large amounts of data
- Search results are presented as a list
- Good understanding of the IATI Standard required to perform advanced queries and work with the results
- Data requires cleaning
Tips for using IATI data
Start by identifying the main elements you need from the IATI data. The D-portal tool is good to get a high-level overview of your area of focus. If your research still requires further data you may need a custom search. When selecting your tool make sure to consider what resources you have to hand, is it just you or a data support team and what kind of storage and analysis software are you using?
There are more tools available which will be highlighted in subsequent blogs. But for now, these three tools provide a user-friendly start to accessing the data in the well. It is good to remember that these tools are only portals providing snap-shots into the large amounts of data which are published daily.
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 OECD, ‘The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action’, 2008 <http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf>