SOCIAL IMPACT

what we did

Partnership

Project

UNICEF

Location

Global

Completion

2018-2020

Increasing the Transparency of International Aid

Ensuring usability and desirability of publishing international aid data

Visualizing International Aid Data

The portal is aimed at providing government departments, parliamentarians and civil society organizations in developing countries with information that can help with the planning and monitoring of development activities.

There are various ways to search and view IATI data on d-portal. Depending on what information you are looking for, you can filter data by:

  • Recipient country
  • Publisher
  • Sector group
  • Sector
  • Activity status
  • Year range

Iterative data collection process

We collected data for the 2020 Aid Transparency Index from December 2019 to April 2020. There are a number of stages in the data collection and assessment process. We first collect data from the IATI Registry using our bespoke Aid Transparency Tracker software. This runs automated tests on the data to assess the coverage and quality of data published for each indicator. If we can’t find data on the IATI Registry for a donor or for a specific indicator, we carry out a manual survey to see if the information is available in another format.

We then carry out manual sampling of the IATI data. We take a random sample from a donor’s activities and review the quality of the data or documents that we find to assess whether they meet our indicator criteria. If the data does not meet our quality standards, the points for that indicator are lost. This is the only existing systematic manual check of IATI data quality and is a key part of the Index’s data quality assessment. It is also labor intensive. Across the donors and indicators in the Index, and including both rounds of data collection, we manually reviewed over 20,000 documents and data points. The Index assessment is an iterative process that invites participation from the donors under review, so they can provide additional information and evidence. We also score the donors twice—once at the start of the process, and again at the end. We provide feedback during the process so donors can make changes and improvements to their data during the assessment. We have found that this process is a strong driver for improved transparency among the major aid donors we assess

Improvements

The 2020 Aid Transparency Index shows significant improvement in donors’ overall transparency compared to 2018. Eleven donors moved into the ‘very good’ category, an increase of four from 2018. The number in ‘good’ increased by two, to 15. This means that over half of the 47 donors that we assessed are now in the ‘good’ or ‘very good’ categories. This shift towards greater transparency consisted of many donors making incremental improvements in their aid transparency and of individual donors making wholesale changes to their publication practices, leading to significant jumps in their scores. The improvement in scores reflects that donors are publishing increasingly more, better-quality data in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard. All of the donors, except those in the ‘very poor’ category, published IATI data about their activities and policies, meaning their information is open, timely, comparable, and centralised, meeting the international standard for aid transparency. We also saw donors improving the completeness of their IATI data, with 21 of the donors publishing against at least one additional indicator as compared to their 2018 performance, and nine donors starting to publish data against at least five more of the indicators. The Index continues to drive behaviour towards greater transparency and openness among aid donors. An important element of this is the Index data collection process itself, during which Publish What You Fund engages directly with donors and provides feedback on how they can improve their data, approaches, and policies. The average score based on the first set of collected data was 54.4, which increased to 63.4 in the final data collection round four months later.

Building trust in the data through engagement

Unicef believes that the next frontier in the aid transparency movement is engagement with stakeholders and governments in partner countries. Using data to engage directly with development partners can help to build trust between donors, governments, and communities. This can also be a way to construct feedback loops to continuously improve and build trust in the aid data.

Recommendations

• Donors should share comprehensive data about the results and impact of their projects.

• Donors should publish project budget documents, project procurement information (contracts and tenders), and sub-national locations.

• Regional development banks should publish their private sector portfolios.

• DFIs should publish financial and performance data about their private sector portfolios.

• Donors remaining in the ‘fair’ category should prioritize transparency—all donors need to pull their weight.

• Donors should engage directly with stakeholders in partner countries to raise awareness about the available data, build trust, and establish feedback loops for continuous improvement.

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"I have found in life, there is a select group of people with the special ability to listen intently and hear what we sometimes can't ourselves, and provide insightful, valuable, and caring advice. The team at Impact Gym have the unique ability to apply this quality/skill to elicit business requirements for technical products. Impact Gym helped the Local Aid Coordination Secretariat envisage creative ways to manage aid effectively with visually compelling and technology-infused solutions."
UNICEF

Our approach

As economists continue to explore non-traditional models of development, it is more crucial than ever to assess the impact of interventions, evaluate the return on investment/aid to each, and promote south-south cooperation. To that end, Impact Gym worked with international development agencies on developing a portal that increases transparency. The team started with one region focusing on program-level information that Monitoring and Evaluation personnel already publish and fill information gaps from recipients on donors that weren't publishing high-level data. Developing the technology, while complex, is straightforward. The process of data collection, on the other hand, presents challenges that increase risk.
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01

The Challenge

Stakeholders shared several challenges, including: Fear of written commitments of pledged funds; Confusion about responsibility of data for cross-sectoral projects involving more than one government institution; Inconsistent data, for example, by grouping donor negotiations, funds released, and funds received; Irregular updating of data as a result of donors having different starts to the fiscal year and varying funding rounds; and, An overall lack of collaboration between multiple donors
02

The Outcome

An application with data stratification and tiered access capabilities, equipping recipient government counter-parts with budget plans and project-level data.
03

The Impact

Increased transparency on aid and ultimately recipient involvement in budget allocation will provide more effective long term solutions.
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