The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is a global initiative to improve the transparency of development and humanitarian resources and their results to address poverty and crises. Tracking the response to Covid-19 is no exception. Whether you’re required to publish IATI data by your donor or not, doing so is important, as we have learned from previous crises like the Ebola epidemic.
Over ten years since its founding, IATI provides the world with an impressive and unprecedented view of where development and humanitarian resources are spent and what they are achieving. Even so, many organizations small and large do not voluntarily publish their data, and many publish only the bare minimum as required by their donors. Under the best of circumstances, this is a shame, but in the midst of a pandemic, it vastly underestimates the scale and scope of our collective response efforts.
Data on a crisis, for a crisis
Organizations face many challenges when deciding how (or whether to) publish IATI data: hesitancy to open up internal data, privacy and security concerns, lack of technical clarity with the IATI data standard and available tools. We take these challenges seriously at DevResults, which is why we have advocated for more attention and investment in open data, done our utmost to guard our users’ data security and privacy, and worked hard to reduce the technical burden of publishing IATI data.
The new guidance from IATI — developed in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service (FTS), and the Humanitarian Data Exchange — spells out three simple additions to standard IATI activity files to ensure that data on Covid-19 is discoverable by users:
- Add “COVID-19” somewhere in the activity title
- Mark relevant Covid-19 response activities and transactions as ‘humanitarian’
- Link to the Humanitarian Response Plan and GLobal unique disaster IDEntifier (GLIDE) codes pertaining to Covid-19
DevResults enables you to set and forget these items, automatically ensuring the required data appears in all subsequent activity files that are generated.
But to what end?
Why should organizations take the time to publish details on their programming using some arcane data standard to an anonymous audience? Where does this data go, and who uses it?
Perhaps it would be useful to see how this data is utilized and displayed downstream:
- Development Portal (D-Portal), helps users explore IATI data to find out who is doing what, where, and to what effect. A simple search for ‘Covid-19’ reveals that several institutions are already publishing their outbreak response efforts.
- Donor dashboards showcase IATI data from activities they fund, such as DFID’s DevTracker, or even data from across the development cooperation landscape, such as USAID’s new Beyond USG tool on the Foreign Aid Explorer.
- UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Services (FTS) aims to present a complete picture of all international humanitarian funding flows. Organizations can report data to FTS using their IATI files to avoid duplicate efforts. The FTS summary of the Covid-19 Humanitarian Response Plan shows data on funding linked to the appeal.
- Aid Management Platforms (AMPs) are a communication tool that enables donors and recipient governments to open and share aid data to enhance collaboration and information sharing. Many AMPs utilize IATI data, and some have public dashboards, such as Madagascar and Senegal.
- Researchers use IATI data to track and study responses to crises such as Ebola or Covid-19 to determine what was achieved, if pledges were fulfilled, and whether trust and accountability were created in the process.
...and this is just a taste of what’s out there!
The economics of data
IATI and other open data platforms can be thought of as public goods, and as such they suffer from free-riding; the private cost (to your organization) of publishing open data exceeds the private benefit you derive from the published data. As actors in the business of creating public goods — in healthcare, governance, crisis response, public services, and more — we should be willing to bear these costs for the collective benefit of all, not to mention our own adaptive management and learning.
Our driving mission at DevResults is to reduce the costs — in time, in effort, in funds, and in technical knowledge — to act in the public interest. If ever you’ve considered opening up your programming data or publishing IATI data, now’s the time!
How we can help
DevResults is committed to providing our platform for organizations managing the Covid-19 response and will rapidly deploy a fully-functional DevResults site available within 24 hours. For more information on our platform and the work we are supporting around the world, please contact us at email@example.com.