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 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 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. display of aid to Uganda 2013 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
About IATI

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1 comment

  1. Rasvita Sidagyte

    It’s a great initiative and hopefully will have its echoes within other major aid provider. However, it need to be work on a little bit more from the technical part of the site. If you don’t know Swedish its rather hard to completely understand, even though there is an English version, it is not well functioning, and after ´search´ the results pops-up in Swedish.
    There is a somehow similar attempt from the European Commission, well in terms of increasing transparency and accountability, not making it an open source, to provide aid donor data from around the world. Since the EU is a single largest Aid provider, its rather welcoming endeavor. However, as most of the times, you may find the info much easier, about donors and where their aid is going, but how it’s being operated within a certain project, where the biggest aid ´looses´ occur, is still very unlikely.