Visualising IATI data for technical newbies

14 February 2014 ⋅ 

This blog, written by Josje Spierings, first appeared on Open for Change’s blog last August; many of the tools mentioned here are still relevant, and we like it as an introduction to the wide variety of IATI tools out there!

In the ‘Aid Development Sector’, there is a little buzz going around about the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard, which sets guidelines for publishing aid data. So data is stored and published in machine-readable format so that it’s easier to find, use and compare.

But what does this data look like, and how can you visualise it?

Project information published in the IATI standard is in XML format, which looks like this

Which is really cool for, lets say, “geeks”.

I, with limited technical knowledge (I know some cool Excel tricks and always like to think I have some computer skills), have to admit that I am a noob when it comes to coding. I can read the IATI XML, because I know how it is built up, but play around with it and make my own visualizations? These are skills I lack.

John Adams (DFID) wrote a great blog about visualising an IATI XML file with the use of three tools. But a warning: technical skills required! If you have a more than average knowledge of data, I would definitely recommend you read the blog and check out these tools.

If you’re like me, and your technical skills aren’t up to that level (yet) there is an increasing number of visualisation tools for IATI data available, where you can just have a browse around the data in a ‘non-geek’ friendly matter.

But how do you find these visualizations?

The IATI registry gives you a link to a few applications using IATI data, but definitely not to all. Below is a list of the ones I found browsing the Internet, and working with Open Data and IATI in my work for Akvo and Open for Change. There are probably more, and I’d love it if you’ll add them as a comment, so we can get a more complete list. I will just list them and not give my opinion about them, because I feel you should explore it yourself, and that it is something for a different blog.

Country/org Portals using IATI data

  • Openaid.nl – Visualising the Dutch IATI data set. And piloting on combining IATI data with Akvo Really Simple Reporting projects (RSR) to give more in depth project information.
  • DFID development tracker – Visualising the IATI set for the UK, plus visualising other data sets, like DFID’s annual report.
  • Openaid.se – Visualising the Swedish IATI set and combining it with historic data from OECD DAC and country information.
  • UNDP Open Aid Data Portal - shows UNDP IATI data.
  • Open UN-Habitat, visualising IATI data from UN-Habitat and displaying city prosperity and indicators historically and in forward looking contexts (to 2050). Browse trough all published IATI sets
  • IATI explorer – Browse through all published IATI data.
  • Open Aid Search – View all published IATI data on a map, and filter and search it.
  • Aidview – Filter through the published IATI data by sector, organisation or country.
  • Aidinfo flow – Relative distribution of total transaction value across each country is shown on a map
  • IATI: Benfords Law - Use Benfords Law to analyze published IATI Data sets.
  • Transparency tracker - Check out what information organisations have published in the IATI standard and what the rest of their IATI roadmap holds
  • Open Spending – IATI data visualized in a tree map.

But Open Development Data is not only about IATI. It is part of a bigger broader transparency movement around Open Development, which also includes open source software, sharing knowledge, open organizations, open contracts etc. Each plays a role in making development aid more transparent and can increase accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

That’s why I want to list some other great and inspirational visualization tools using this Open Development data. To show that IATI is only a part of a bigger and broader movement.

Other Open Aid data visualizations, not using IATI data:

  • Aid data Chinese finance to Africa - Here you can track Chinese Development Finance to Africa.
  • Openaid map – Maps made by the Open Aid Partnership, visualising the geography of aid in Bolivia, Kenya, Malawi, Moldova and Nepal.
  • Mapping4results - visualizes the locations of World Bank-financed projects.
  • Go Three60 – Developed by AmLab, Three60 shows how development aid works on every level from global to grassroots in a test case on maternal health in Uganda.
  • Aidflows – Here you can search through OECD data.
  • German Open Aid Data portal – Here you can see where German development money is being spent.

Josje Spierings is Project Coordinator at Akvo and works on Events and Communications for Open for Change Twitter: @JosjeSpierings