This post was written by Gary Forster, CEO at Publish What You Fund on the launch of their new tool, IATI Decipher at IATI's Technical Advisory Group 2018 meeting (Kathmandu, 13-15 Nov)
At Publish What You Fund we’ve been looking closely at how to make aid and development data truly usable. It’s one of the core commitments of our new strategy. So we’ve been working to make previously incomprehensible information accessible for users.
Today at the TAG Andy Lulham will be unveiling IATI Decipher – our new browser extension that visualises IATI organisation file data. For the first time, users unable to read xml code will be able to access over 22,300 strategy documents and $2.6 trillion of global donor budget information.
IATI Decipher provides access to:
- Donor budgets by fiscal year
- Donor budget by sector by fiscal year
- Donor budgets by recipient country by fiscal year
- Donor budgets for a recipient country by sector
- Links to donor documents, such as country strategies
As well as making aid and development data more usable for actors in aid recipient countries IATI Decipher will enable publishers to see and improve how organisational-level information is shared.
We think this is an exciting breakthrough in improving the accessibility of aid data, and hope you find it useful. As part of our US Foreign Assistance Project, we committed to develop a browser extension to enable users to quickly visualise all of an organisation’s strategic data on the IATI Registry web pages. Andy has designed and developed IATI Decipher to automatically translate the raw IATI XML on the Registry into graphs and charts and to make the strategic documents searchable.
How to use IATI Decipher
First, install the plugin in either Google Chrome or Firefox. It’ll take less than a minute.
You’ll notice that a handy button (featuring the stylised IATI “i” logo) appears in the top right of the browser bar. Click this and a drop down menu appears. You can search for individual IATI publishers – for example USAID - regardless of what webpage you are surfing at the time. Click their name and you’ll be taken to a webpage where you can access the publisher’s data. To see the raw XML data you can click download, however with IATI Decipher installed you can now click the big red button to visualise the data.
This will give you access to a new interface, where you will have the opportunity to explore past, present and future total, regional and country budgets, disaggregated by budget line or country (where the publisher provides this information). Expenditure can be analysed in the same fashion.
Documents including global and country strategies, policies and evaluations are made available through a searchable library function.
There is nowhere else you can access this information this easily.
Some publisher’s org file data is either out of date, incorrectly disaggregated, or is fundamentally lacking key information. To some extent this is understandable considering how difficult it has been to access this information in the past. However, now that the data is accessible we expect publishers to be reflecting on what they are sharing and making the necessary amendments!
To this end, we’ll be keeping an eye on how organisations are doing in their efforts to update their org file information and will gently nudge those who still have work to do.
We’ll also be thinking about a long term sustainable home for IATI Decipher – a tool which could be integrated into existing data visualisation tools to enable the broadest range of data users to access it.
In the meantime we’ll also start analysing this treasure trove of data as part of our ongoing research and advocacy programmes.
And of course we’ll be disseminating IATI Decipher far and wide to ensure as many actors as possible can access the data they need. Do give it a try and help us spread the word!