We could end poverty so much quicker if resources were more transparent and accountable….
At aidinfo, we want to empower more people to move out of poverty faster by making aid and other resources for poverty reduction more transparent. We believe that poverty reduction will come about more quickly when information about those resources can be accessed quickly, easily and cheaply by everyone. In short, we think that better information will lead to better spending decisions and therefore better lives.
We support people, their organisations and governments to get better access to information on development spending. This means that money can be tracked, feedback given and that governments and donors can be held to account. We work with many partners including DFID, UNDP, Publish What You Fund, One, and the International Budget Partnership.
We believe in effecting both policy change and real change on the ground, bringing people of different perspectives together to improve lives. aidinfo has worked with others to make the case for greater transparency, and we have been central to promoting a standardised, open data approach, for example through our work on the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).
Who are we?
aidinfo is a programme operated by Development Initiatives, an independent organisation that works to end absolute poverty. We operate in the United Kingdom, Kenya and Uganda and have partners globally including governments, academic institutions, the private sector and citizen representatives. Through objective, world-class research and analysis, we inform decisions at all levels that deliver more effective use of resources to benefit people in poverty everywhere. We champion transparent, accessible information and use technology to deliver practical tools and systems for people to hold their representatives to account and to inform policy and practice.
What do we do?
1. Improve access to information that meets the needs of all stakeholders, particularly those in developing countries.
We are actively involved in driving the International Aid transparency Initiative (IATI), which has approximately 100 publishers including the governments of The Netherlands, Sweden, and The United Kingdom as well as multilateral bodies like the European Union and the World Bank and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Oxfam. Our work on IATI has increasingly led us to champion the ‘open data’ approach to resource flows beyond aid so that decisions can be made in the context of all of the resources available.
We recognise that developments in technology provide a great opportunity for improving transparency and improved access to information. We’re particularly interested in the issues of aid traceability, geo-coding data, getting data to and from local communities and the potential for creating feedback loops. aidinfolabs.org promotes ideas and shares tools that are being developed in this area.
2. Increase the use of information, empowering people to increase accountability and drive more effective use of resources by developing approaches that can be replicated elsewhere.
In our view, it is not enough to simply make information accessible. People need to be able to engage with data when it is presented, be able to cross-reference it with other data and fully understand it, if it is to be useful in changing lives. We have been working closely with partners in Nepal to develop a training programme for civil society organisations in the developing world on accessing and using spending data. Our intention is to roll this training out to other regions including East Africa.
3. Strengthen and communicate the evidence base for transparency and the critical role it plays in improving spending decisions. Provide evidence of the demand for information and use of information that has led to positive change.
We have been building an evidence-based case to illustrate the benefits of greater resource transparency. We have worked to understand the needs of current and potential future users of aid and other resource information to ensure that any approach developed is useful for as many people as possible. We will be using this work to make the case for even greater transparency of information in the future.
What we have achieved to date?
aidinfo worked with others to put aid transparency at the top of the political agenda at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Accra in September 2008. We played a key role in the launch of IATI in the margins of this meeting, and subsequently drafted the initial scoping paper for the Initiative. Since then, aidinfo has been part of the secretariat to IATI and has been instrumental to encouraging NGOs, Governments and multilateral bodies to sign up to and publish to the standard. We provide technical support to IATI and actively support publishers to improve the quality of their data and work with organisations in particular countries to improve accountability. Recently we have shifted our focus beyond aid to consider a wider joined-up ‘open data’ approach to transparency of all resources.
Why does this all matter?
We believe that with the right support aid transparency can supports local accountability, which in turn leads to better spending decisions. To give just one example, studies by Reinikka & Svensson (2005, 2009) found that in terms of outcomes, transparency interventions rivaled the effects of the best health interventions. As a result of putting information into people’s hands, 40-50% more children received dietary supplements and vaccines, health services were used more, and 33% fewer children died under the age of five, amounting to 550 lives saved in a small area of Uganda encompassing 55,000 households. It is our view that access to information could be as significant to ending poverty as access to health, sanitation or education.
How can you get involved?
Are you aware of examples of good practice where transparency has led to better outcomes? Are you aware of situations where access to data is required to improve accountability? We are building a comprehensive picture of the value of transparency in aid information and in other related data. We would love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com. Follow us on on Twitter @aidinfo or join the Aid Transparency Group on Linkedin.