opendata_iatiTo inform the U.S. Government’s aid transparency agenda, USAID conducted three aid transparency country pilot studies in 2014 in Zambia, Ghana, and Bangladesh. The country pilots assessed the demand for and relevance of information that the U.S. Government is making available, as well as the current capacity to use it. It was based on interviews with a sample of government, civil society, media, academia and private sector representatives.

The final report provides some interesting findings and recommendations.

It shows that:

  • there is a general lack of awareness of the relevance of aid transparency and of the existence of the vast amount of information already made available in the IATI standard
  • donor representatives are not aware of the existing information demands in their host-countries; they regard the “public back home” as the primary group that would be interested in receiving information on donor activities
  • there is real demand for aid information locally; citizens are interested in aid information as it relates to their own lives or communities, or as it relates to cases of suspected misuse of funds in large projects
  • there is need for more detailed information about project activities, including sub-national geographic location of projects, project descriptions activity details as well as project goals, strategies and results including evaluation results and details on how much money was spent and for what purpose
  • for some stakeholders like CSOs in the capital cities, online information is sufficient; the vast majority of citizens in the three countries visited would access aid information only through offline channels of communication like radio, newspapers and billboards.
  • very few are familiar with using online data sources; to improve access to information, it is important to build capacity in data literacy among intermediary organizations like media, CSOs and government agencies.
  • there appears to be a very low level of demand for IATI data in partner countries; an increased awareness of existing data sources and capacity building is necessary to translate existing information needs in partner countries to actual data demands.

It recommends that USG agencies:

  • inform partners and their own staff of existing data and information sources, the relevance of aid transparency and its potential benefits.
  • continue their efforts to implement the IATI standard and focus on five priority data needs: (1) sub-national geographic location, (2) project documents, (3) results, (4) OECD-DAC sector codes and (5) off-budget data.
  • use existing offline communication channels like leaflets, posters and billboards to meet the information needs identified in the study. The USG should focus capacity building efforts on data literacy and ensure that is navigable for less-experienced data-portal users.
  • actively promote the use of data by partner country governments, CSOs, media and programmers. In addition, the USG should reach out to specific user groups to help improve data quality, create relevant tools and add value to the use of IATI data.