Oct 14

Visualising aid – Sweden’s Open Aid project

Catarina Nilsson presents a practical application of open data in development.

The Swedish government through the ministry for foreign affairs in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) launched the website www.openaid.se in 2011. The idea was to make the whole chain of events in a development aid contribution available to the public, with transparency as a leading principle.
In line with the increased use of open data www.openaid.se was recently developed and updated. The new site is built as an open source site, which makes it possible for anyone to fetch data and use the software.

openaid.se display of aid to Uganda 2013

openaid.se display of aid to Uganda 2013

The data is available through an API (Application Programming Interface) that enables anyone to construct a query. Sida chose to develop its system in a way that allows anyone to visualise chosen data in an own way.
But which data? A fancy visualisation is never better than the data it is based on. The data used in Open Aid comes from Sida’s systems, so however openly they are shown it still builds on that the agency has its statistics and financial systems in order.

All data is packed in the so called IATI standard, making it somewhat comparable in an international setting. The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), launched as a collaborative initiative at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra 2008 and has become an international standard in aid transparency.
The IATI standard as used on Open Aid has its problems though, for example are substantial sectors of aid not technically classified as such not yet possible to identify. For example research support or ICT.

Further reading:
About Open Aid www.openaid.se
About IATI www.aidtransparency.net

Oct 14

Real Virtualities

Abigail Leffler considers the use of open data in academia

Do you like cartoons? If you do, you may enjoy this eight and a half-minute long one by Piled higher and Deeper (PhD) advocating for the use of open data in academia.

The authors submit that ‘tax payers are already paying for knowledge to be distributed broadly’ (Shockey and Eisen: 2012). Research and peer-reviewed papers in the public domain benefit not only students and researchers in both developed and less developed countries (for the latter, open data is precious as it may be the only resource at hand), but authors as well, as it helps them gain more visibility in their field.

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