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Advancing the Data Revolution through Country-Owned Data

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During the World Bank’s Spring Meetings, we launched the Open Aid Map to publish and visualize the sub-national locations of donor-financed projects on an interactive, open source platform. This means we now have access to a common platform that allows us to see who is funding what and where within developing countries.

Aid mapping in itself is not a new concept. The Open Aid Map builds on earlier initiatives such as Mapping for Results, led by the World Bank Institute and AidData, which geo-coded and mapped the locations of Bank-financed projects within countries and visualized this information alongside sub-national development indicators such as poverty and malnutrition. Now, several donors and development organizations are geocoding projects and releasing this information to the public as part of their broader open data initiatives.

The data helps visualize if development projects are aligned with country needs. Additionally, the platform allows users to mash up project data with subnational poverty and human development data to help countries and their partners better understand gaps in public service delivery. This can support planning processes, help simplify donor coordination, and improve engagement with citizens on local development issues that matter to them.

Betty Ngoma from Malawi's Ministry of Finance presents maps visualizing the locations of all donor-financed projects in Malawi.

What is new about the Open Aid Map is its focus on country-owned data. Traditionally, we have relied on donors to report aid information through global data sources such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and more recently the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This information was often captured and published primarily for other donors and taxpayers in developed countries. Now, we are witnessing a shift in the provision of aid information. More developing countries are working together with their development partners to record detailed, project-level data on their country’s aid portfolio using country systems.

The Open Aid Partnership (OAP) takes aid transparency and open data one step further by building the capacity of developing countries to enhance project data from their country systems with geographic information based on IATI reporting standards, and open up and visualize this information for greater accessibility. This way, the Open Aid Map taps into country-owned aid data to provide the developing country perspective on who does what and where at a more local level.

The Data Revolution from the Country Perspective
The Open Aid Map was released by Maxwell M. Mkwezalamba, the Minister of Finance for Malawi during the World Bank “Talking about a Data Revolution” event - one of the five transformational shifts identified as part of the post-2015 development agenda.

The Open Aid Partnership and the launch of its Open Aid Map attempt to broaden the conversation and address the human element of the open data debate. We recognize that in order for the data revolution to be transformational for development, we must support developing countries to become drivers of their own data revolutions in order to capture granular, relevant data that more accurately reflects realities on the ground, as well as release these data in ways that are accessible and meaningful for local citizens.

Malawi's Open Development Data workshop participants gather for a demo on the Malawi Spatial Data Portal.

We also recognize that opening up data and building visualization tools alone are not sufficient to bring about lasting change. This can only happen when people have the motivation and capability to use the data. For this reason, the OAP not only works with country partners to publish and visualize aid data, but also builds capacity among stakeholders to access, understand, use, and engage in development data.

So far the OAP has organized Data Literacy Bootcamps in Bolivia, Malawi and Nepal with over 300 participants from the civil society, media and tech communities. The Bootcamps are intensive hands-on open data workshops that train members of civil society, media and tech communities to extract, clean, and visualize data and craft evidence-based narratives based on the data.

In Malawi, the OAP supported Malawi’s Ministry of Finance to organize an Open Development Data workshop that brought together over 70 members of government and the local donor community to identify ways to integrate open development data into policymaking. During the workshop, participants discussed how to more systematically use development data to support planning, coordination and engagement with the media and civil society.


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