Image from the 2016 Aid Transparency Index
On April 13, 2016, Publish What You Fund (PWYF) launched the 2016 Aid Transparency Index (ATI), a broadly recognized measure of donors’ aid transparency. We were pleased to see that for the second consecutive year the World Bank (IDA) is in the top (“very good”) category— this year as number 6 on the list, with a score of 86. So, we are among the only 10 donors that, according to PWYF, have lived up to the Busan commitment on aid transparency.
Of course, we are proud of our standing. At the same time, it is worth noting that the ATI to a very high degree measures the publication of machine-readable data in compliance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard, while other aspects of transparency have hardly any weight in the index.
Transparency is a priority for the World Bank. Since the launch of our Access to Information Policy in 2010 we have not looked back; the just-released World Bank Group Access to Information Annual Report and 5-Year Retrospective makes this clear. The World Bank joined IATI when it was launched in 2008, and we published our first IATI data in 2011, but publication of IATI data is just a small part of our efforts to be an open institution. Detailed information on Bank supported projects, including procurement data, is available from the projects and operations database; we were among the first to map projects; details on financial transactions are available at the portal for open financial data; and the open data platform gives access to thousands of development indicators.
Nevertheless, the launch of the 2016 ATI is an occasion to reflect a bit on the future of IATI. The IATI project is important because engaging the entire development community in publishing information in a single format has a huge potential to create a global source of easy-to-use comparable data on development cooperation.
According to PWYF, the 46 countries and institutions on the 2016 ATI represent 98 percent of global official development assistance (ODA), and the top 10 represent 25 percent. This implies that for roughly 75 percent of global ODA, either no data are available in the IATI format, or IATI data need to be improved. A critical mass of data is needed for IATI data to be really useful; obviously, the global community is not quite there yet.
On the other side of the coin, after six years of focusing on the publication of IATI data, only a few countries and organizations actually compile published IATI data from different sources and use them for their own purposes.
If IATI is to be a lasting success, there is a dilemma to solve—and it is now urgent. If providers do not publish data of adequate quality, countries and civil society cannot use them efficiently. However, if no one is using the data that are published, why continue using resources to improve and publish them?
Other members of IATI share our concern. As part of a revitalization effort, IATI has just changed its governance structure with a view to being better able to address this and other challenges. We hope the changes will make aid data more useful and aid more transparent.