This post has been written by Wendy Thomas, IATI Technical Lead.
Welcome to the IATI technical team’s 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 update our community on the progress made on IATI tech and share our plans for the next quarter. As explained in our first blog, the technical team’s quarterly plans are approved by IATI’s Governing Board technical focal points.
Our last quarter, April - June 2019
Deprecation of IATI Standard version 1
The technical team implemented the deprecation of version 1 of the IATI Standard on 1 July 2019.
Our Business and Data Analysts engaged with hundreds of organisations to support them to publish their data according to the updated rules and guidance set out in version 2 (see their full update on IATI Discuss). We are delighted with the progress of many large organisations who have successfully converted their IATI data to version 2, including:
- Asian Development Bank
- Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
- CDC Group plc
- Climate Investment Funds
- European Commission – Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection
- European Commission – Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
- The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
- UK – Home Office
The technical team also investigated how the deprecation affects the technical tools that support the publication and use of the IATI Standard. We are now gradually working through all the affected tools and updating their code.
We have continued to manage the build of IATI’s new datastore with Zimmerman and Zimmerman. The new datastore will provide timely and standardised access to all data published to the IATI Standard.
This quarter we have undertaken rigorous testing of the datastore’s API, worked on producing thorough and clear documentation, and reached out extensively to users of the current datastore to better understand the impact of changes to the API.
The team has also been working on a user-friendly Query Builder interface for the new datastore, which involves designing a ‘look and feel’ that will enable non-technical users to undertake simple queries of IATI data.
The technical team are managing the outsourced build of the new IATI validator, which will allow publishers, users and developers to check if data published complies with the IATI Standard. In April members of the team met with the vendors of both the validator and the datastore in the Netherlands, to discuss the integration of these two products. Changes to the original specification of the validator have been made to ensure it is aligned and integrated with the datastore.
Since that meeting, we have been working closely with our validator vendor, Data for Development, on the first phase of the project: implementing the IATI rulesets (rules to help enforce the IATI Standard).
To improve the accessibility of the IATI Standard to French speakers, we have added translated codelists to reference.iatistandard.org.
Codelists now accessible in French
To improve the accessibility of the IATI Standard to French speakers, we have added translated codelists to reference.iatistandard.org. Codelists provide publishers with codes to represent important data about their organisations and activities. For example, the codelist for Organisation Type provides a list of codes ranging from Government and International NGO to Foundations and the Private Sector.
French codelists can be accessed on individual codelist pages, alongside English codelists.
Main IATI website
We have kicked off a new project to migrate the content currently held on IATI’s reference site to IATI’s main website iatistandard.org to consolidate information about the IATI Standard itself alongside other key details about the initiative. The first step involves understanding our users’ experience of navigating across iatistandard.org, by reviewing iatistandard.org information architecture.
Separating the Dashboard and Publisher Statistics
Following a decision at last year’s Technical Audit, our developers have worked on moving the IATI Publishing Statistics section from dashboard.iatistandard.org/ onto a separate website to better meet the needs of internal and external users of the tool for different purposes. Although this change will not affect users, our developers are doing much-needed behind-the-scenes work of splitting the code so that we can in future launch the Dashboard and Publishing Statistics as two separate platforms.
One of our big objectives for this quarter was to investigate what would be needed to improve the IATI Registry, which stores the links to all publishers’ IATI XML files. Over the years, we have worked with a few different providers for the Registry, but we have yet to reach a stable situation without downtime and problematic bug-fixes. After investigations, we realised that the scale of this work would be beyond the capacity of IATI’s in-house technical team and will instead work towards outsourcing the much-needed Registry improvements.
Plans for July - September 2019
We hope to be launching both the new datastore and the validator in this upcoming quarter and the technical team will be prioritising work with these two products as core IATI infrastructure, in the following areas:
We are completing the internal tests of the new datastore and aiming for a soft launch in August for public testing. Before the launch, the team are thoroughly testing all API endpoints and undertaking quality testing with data from several publishers against the most common use cases, as well as some known edge cases. Once launched, we will encourage IATI’s Community and the public to test the datastore more extensively and add any issues they come across to Github.Initially the datastore will be launched on its own; when the new validator is available the two products will be synchronised.
We will encourage IATI’s Community and the public to test the datastore more extensively and add any issues they come across to Github.
We will continue to work with our vendor, Data4Development to ensure that all IATI rulesets are correctly implemented on IATI’s new validator, whilst also working with them on the front end design. We hope to have a minimum viable product to release for the IATI’s Members’ Assembly (11-12 September, Brussels).
IATI Standard guidance review webinars
The Business and Data Analysts have rewritten and added content to existing IATI Standard guidance currently published on the Activity and Organisation overview pages on reference.iatistandard.org/, and we invite the IATI Community to review these changes and provide feedback.
The team will hold two webinars in August for community members to join and help us improve our guidance. To sign up and for more information, visit IATI Discuss.
Following on from initial work last quarter, we will complete our research into users’ experience of navigating through the information architecture of iatistandard.org and design new pages within the main IATI website to host the IATI Standard guidance. The team will then review developer capacity and schedule the implementation of these changes accordingly.
Splitting the Dashboard and Publisher Statistics sites
The bulk of the work to move the IATI Publishing Statistics section from dashboard.iatistandard.org/ onto a separate website has been completed by our developers and we are on track to launch these as two separate products this quarter. As mentioned above, users will not notice much change, however this should help reduce time spent overcoming technical issues and downtime on these vital data quality services.
Our team have been coordinating the drafting of the new guidance with IATI’s SDG working group
IATI Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) guidance
Lastly I’m delighted to end this update by mentioning the exciting progress made to release guidance on how to report data on SDG resources and results using the IATI Standard. Our team have been coordinating the drafting of the new guidance with IATI’s SDG working group, which has been out for community consultation on IATI Discuss.
We are hoping to launch the new guidance over this quarter which will help move IATI closer to implementing its mission of enabling IATI data to support efforts to deliver sustainable development outcomes.
I hope you find this update informative and look forward to sharing further progress in our next IATI Tech quarterly update.