This post has been written by Kate Hughes, Technical Delivery Manager in IATI’s technical team at Development Initiatives.
Welcome to the IATI technical team’s new quarterly update. Based at Development Initiatives, it is our job to maintain and improve IATI’s core technical services that support the development and use of the IATI Standard.
Every quarter we’ll be letting IATI’s community know what progress has been made on IATI tech and what lies ahead.
How tech priorities are set and monitored...
Before diving into the work of the team, here’s a reminder of the processes undertaken last year to set our priorities and the governance around their implementation.
IATI Technical Audit
The latter half of 2018 seemed to race by for the technical team. Following the launch of IATI’s new website iatistandard.org at the Members’ Assembly in July, a technical audit was undertaken. This was an important stock-taking exercise where we worked with a panel of experts appointed by the Governing Board to review the technical products that underpin IATI. Hosted by Oxfam Novib in August, the audit discussed and agreed on a single set of priorities.
Quarterly Board reporting
One of the agreements made at the technical audit was the need for the team to undertake regular work planning throughout the year. The panel agreed that creating an annual plan is less practical, as the different pieces of technology that are involved in making IATI run are completely interconnected; so a decision made in one area can totally change the work that lies ahead for the next quarter.
Moving forward, the IATI technical team are instead producing detailed quarterly plans to be reviewed and approved by IATI’s Governing Board focal points. At the end of each quarter we’ll report to the Board on what we have delivered against that plan and also draft the plan for the following quarter.
Update on last quarter...
Over the last quarter we’ve been adjusting to an entirely new developer team, with John and Sam joining us in August and September. Although there is still a developer vacancy to fill, both have been brilliant at getting up to speed with the complexities of IATI tech and managing the workload whilst operating under-capacity.
We’ve also recently recruited Joshua Stanley as a new Business and Data Analyst and we’ll soon be adding his picture to the team gallery where information on all members of the team can be seen here.
We were excited to announce at the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meeting in November 2018 that Zimmerman and Zimmerman had successfully bid and signed a contract to deliver IATI’s new datastore. Whilst face-to-face in Kathmandu, we held a kick-off meeting to discuss the build of the new online data service that will provide timely, standardised access to all data published to the IATI Standard.
A core part of IATI, for both data users and data publishers, is validation. This is the process by which a publisher can check their data against the schema and know if their data meets the requirements set by the IATI Standard. The technical audit prioritised improving the validation service we offer to improve the quality of IATI data.
Over the last quarter the technical team investigated the different validation options already available and provided advice to the Board on whether a new tool should be built in-house or outsourced. Following this review, the decision was made to outsource the build of a new validator tool, so we detailed the requirements and worked with UNOPS to develop a Request For Quotations (RFQ).
As iatistandard.org was newly launched in July 2018, we carried on fixing and tidying up behind the scenes, but did no major work to the main website. We addressed requests from users to add a search feature, which we will be extending and improving in the coming quarter.
The SSOT or Single Source of Truth is the collection of rules and descriptions about elements of the IATI Standard. Essentially it is the Standard itself and absolutely central to IATI. The technical team spent quite a lot of time exploring rules that are currently not machine-readable and, where possible, split them into smaller chunks to develop new machine-readable rules. This will (in the longer term) make it easier for publishers to check their data and therefore improve the quality of IATI data. We also worked on the development side of the tech, behind the SSOT reference site, to streamline any updates and bug fixes in the future.
Plans for the start of 2019
For this first quarter of 2019 we are building and consolidating the work that we did at the end of last year.
We are going to spend more time on working through the SSOT, starting with v2.01, then v2.02 and finally v2.03. By making as many of the IATI Standard rules machine-readable as possible, we will ensure the new validator has clear logic to follow and automated checks of data are more thorough.
To build a new validation tool, we are working closing with UNOPS to ensure a vendor can be selected to deliver this work. The RFQ is currently online and we are available to answer questions that potential bidders may have.
The technical team will be part of the review committee that score the proposals and we will address any clarifications required as contracts are drawn up. We are hoping that at the end of this quarter contracts are signed and a kick-off meeting will have taken place.
The technical team are managing the outsourced development of the datastore. As part of the datastore project, we have regular calls with Zimmerman and Zimmerman to discuss progress of the build and we will be preparing a couple of items for consultation with the community. We expect that there will be a first version for us to test within this quarter.
French version of IATI website
The team are working to create the first version of IATI’s website in French and plan to launch this over the next quarter. This was a request made by IATI members during the launch of the new site at the Members’ Assembly 2018.
IATI Annual Report 2018
The technical team will be supporting the delivery of the IATI Annual Report 2018 by pulling and analysing statistics to assess changes in IATI data quality over the last year. The report is scheduled to be released by April.
Our usual Monday Maintenance days will continue, where we will undergo non-urgent small tasks and bug-fixes, as well as reviewing requests from IATI’s community, including those received through github.
The Business and Data Analysts continue their ongoing support in answering queries via the IATI Helpdesk. They speak to 30 organisations every week and are always on hand to answer any questions you have about publishing and using IATI data.
We hope you find this update informative and look forward to sharing our progress made in our next IATI Tech quarterly update.