Around 150 participants joined the Open Aid Data Conference in Berlin. The event was full with discussions and exchange on how open data can be used to achieve more transparency in the developing aid sector. The first day was split into two workshops – an ‘Aidinfo Data Training’ and ‘Hackday,’ to explore potential data sets and applications to make developing aid more transparent.

In this post I would like to share my experiences from the Hackday as a co-organizer. There was an interesting mix of participants, from different backgrounds, who worked in teams on different issues greatly facilitated by Marek Tuszynski from Tactical Technology Collective. Here is a link summarizing the discussions, some available data sets, and these are the main questions we dealt with:

  • What do we need to know about Open Data for aid transparency?
  • What data is out there?
  • Who benefits from developing aid? Organizations?
  • How does an organization implement Open Data?

The last question was answered by one of the groups and put together in a document. Other teams took a look at the kind of data offered in the German development aid sector. To begin with, the status of information is disappointing and proves the main purpose of the conference: Information is fragmented, almost no data is offered as open, and detailed data for financial spending is not available at all.

It is also impossible to find a list of organizations (NGOs, Government Institutions, etc.) funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Not to mention a list if disbursed funds for each project. That led to one outcome at the Hackday: To initiate a freedom of information act request to the BMZ.

Another team found out that not a single German developing organization offers project information in an open data format, so that it could be easier analyzed. Furthermore, it is very difficult to find out in which countries all these organizations have projects. It can only be found out by clicking through all the websites of hundreds of organizations funded by the BMZ. Imagine how long that takes and how non-transparent that is!

However one interesting database is offered by the OECD, which is called Creditor Reporting System and offers project information for over 50 years. Member countries such as Germany contribute their data about their funded activities under the umbrella of the Official Development Assistance (ODA). We took a look at the data and potential visualizations.

As an outcome of the Hackday, it became clear that we need to invest more time into data analysis to bring more transparency in the sector. Therefore, I will start developing a data catalogue to monitor German aid money better. More to come soon.