Geo-enabling aid information through the IATI standard

  • June 14, 2011

Many thanks go to Josh Powell for writing this guest blog. Josh is an associate at Development Gateway, working on AidData’s geocoding initiatives.

Publishing sub-national geographic project locations has the potential to greatly increase the transparency of donor activities.  In addition to the required IATI fields including sector, funding, and implementation date, IATI contains an optional section on sub-national geographic data, tying project-level information to locations at the city or administrative level.

For IATI signatories that want to geocode their activities, this means tracking the site location(s) for each project.  There are just a few key pieces of information needed: the latitude and longitude, the relevant country and governing administrative districts for that location, and a precision code to indicate the level of geographic specificity (ranging from “exact location”, such as a populated place or a hill, to “unclear”, in which case the project is classified as “national” and linked to the country’s capital city).  There are a number of other optional fields, but those required create sufficient data to enable a great deal of analysis (and nice maps that can be mashed up with development indicators, or maps of other activities).

To date, two IATI signatories have pursued a large-scale geocoding program: the World Bank and the African Development Bank.  Using the geocoding methodology developed by Uppsala University and AidData – available at – both donors have generated geographic data that meet the optional IATI standards.

Once donors provide sub-national geographic information in the standard IATI format, it will be possible for civil society, policymakers, and researchers to visualize aid distribution at a district or provincial level, as well as access site-level information for ongoing aid projects.  As Aleem Walji of the World Bank has said, this information could be used to fuel feedback loops along the lines of a ”Yelp for government.” Using site-level information, aid beneficiaries in a given city or town would be able to provide feedback on project implementation and usefulness, identify waste, and hold donors and governments accountable.  Combining geographic location with other IATI fields related to funding levels, project dates, and activity specifications will serve to strengthen and inform this feedback, helping to move IATI from transparency to impact.