We spoke to Joshua Powell, Director of Innovations about Development Gateway’s year-long programme on using IATI data in five countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar and Senegal.
Who are Development Gateway and what do they do?
Development Gateway (DG) is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to technology and co-creation for more effective development. Our mission is to empower governments, organisations, and individuals with the knowledge they need to improve lives.
Why is Development Gateway committed to transparency and more IATI data use?
DG has participated in IATI since its inception, and sees transparency in development assistance as key for aid effectiveness. In particular, DG has worked with nearly 30 governments globally in developing Aid Information Management Systems (AIMS).
Tell us about your recent work on IATI data use in five countries
In January 2015, the DG team began work, with support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to better understand the value of using IATI data in country systems. The programme aimed to integrate the use of IATI data in the operational practices of partner country ministries of finance and planning via Aid Information Management Systems (AIMS). Five countries that use DG’s Aid Management Platform (AMP) agreed to participate in the study: Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Senegal and Burkina Faso (the work programme in Burkina Faso was delayed due to political instability in the country during 2015).
What did you learn from the project about IATI data use?
Countries had heard of, but never used IATI data
At the beginning of the programme, the majority of government staff participants had heard of IATI, but most had never used IATI data before in their work.
IATI provides a huge amount of aid information previously unknown to governments
Typically, the import of selected IATI data resulted in the addition of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid flow data, which were previously ‘blind spots’ for the country governments. These largely included non-traditional actors, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
Using IATI data is challenging for governments
At the end of the programme, government participants expressed greater awareness of and enthusiasm for IATI data; however, challenges still remain regarding the data and the governments’ capacity to use it. Unsurprisingly, one week of training was insufficient and the majority of participants still did not feel confident in using IATI within their country systems.
Training, tools and publication in the official government language would help IATI use
When asked, government participants cited online tutorials and continuous training as their greatest needs, with improved IATI tools also important. Overall, data quality and publication in the official government language both ranked highest in government priorities for improving the usefulness of IATI data.
More information is needed from the publisher about their IATI data
Through interviews, it also became clear the provenance of IATI data was of concern to the governments. They wanted information on publishers’ data collection processes, their inclusion/exclusion rules, the frequency, quality assurance methods used, and aggregation that make HQ data different from their in-country offices. The lack of awareness of IATI data in donor country offices also presented a significant hurdle, as governments said they were accustomed to calling local focal points to discuss the data.
Do you have any recommendations for IATI?
DG made a number of recommendations to the IATI Steering Committee at their last meeting. They included IATI data being published in the official languages of partner countries, creating how-to-guides, and publishers increasing engagement between their HQ and in-country offices to raise awareness of IATI processes and data. Our full list of recommendations can be found on page 12 of our Discussion Paper.
What are your future plans regarding IATI and specifically this project?
DG is preparing to finalise the work programme in Burkina Faso, which was delayed due to political instability in the country during 2015. It is also providing remote support to the remaining countries, as needed. Currently, DG is discussing internally how it can apply the learning from this activity towards improved programming that can help make the use of IATI data more sustainable in these and other countries.