Colleagues at the Development Initiatives office in Nairobi come to me to find out how/where to get the data they need, to convert it into a format they can work with, and to manipulate the data.
A common issue that I come across is people coming to me with PDFs, and needing the data in a reusable format; it’s an old problem, and it’s getting boring!
I normally work directly with the IATI Datastore but for people with less technical knowledge, there’s a number of problems with it. Even before you get to the technical skills needed to manipulate the data, even the language used isn’t useful for the average layperson; the words and terms used assume that people will understand and know what an ‘activity’, or a ‘transaction’, or a ‘budget’ is, as the very first step, for example. Then, it’s difficult to know what you need in order to answer your question; or even if it’s possible to answer what you’re looking for with data from the IATI datastore.
I usually point people towards donor portals if they know who they want the data from; DFID’s DevTracker for example, or the UNDP’s open data portal. My colleagues also had a two day training on using the OECD data, so now they can access this data themselves without any problems; this was really useful for them.
From my experience here in Nairobi, people don’t often need disaggregated figures, or even detailed geocoded data. My colleagues in the office here are more interested in big aggregated figures that they can use in a ‘headline’ style, rather than the small, detailed data. For example, the level of knowing how much is being spent in a certain country within a certain sector is adequate, or how much a certain donor is spending in a certain country.
There was one time that a colleague of mine wanted to know how much money was being spent on HIV/AIDS prevention + support in Western Kenya, but we couldn’t find anything. We looked at the IATI datastore, directly on the Global Fund site, but we didn’t get anything.