Using the Data Theme

There’s no point in publishers putting lots of effort into IATI if no-one uses the data. So how do we make it easy for people to use the data? Are there tools and techniques that make IATI data easier to use by different groups of people? Are there ways the IATI community can help?

Hi all. Development Gateway is preparing for some work around the use of IATI in country systems. Our 5 focus countries will be Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Madagascar. You can see a short blog I’ve written here:

It would be great to have some feedback and to hear who might be interested in coordinating (e.g. peer reviewing some of the analysis we do, providing usability testing on the tool we build, etc.).

I think we should define usage first. Creating IATI data, managing it, visualising it, analysing it. Etc.

In this context using means doing something useful with the data once it’s been published. How do data consumers use the data - analysis, intelligence, visualisation, mashups etc.

And how do we as data producers help them?

From my experience using the IATI data, the key challenge is combining all the different ‘dialects’ being produced by the publishers. Virtually all publishers publish in a slightly different way. This would suggest data quality as a prerequisite for effective usage of IATI data. A separate data quality track could address this issue.

Most of my recent discussions about IATI recently have been along the line of “please show me the data” - which I’m unable to do.

In Dakar, donors saw huge potential in the data to support & facilitate their coordination discussions. They wanted a very user-friendly interface - a browser - they could use to look at the data related to Senegal. Some wanted to map it by region, others wanted to pull specific sectors, etc. It has to be VERY intuitive and user-friendly, for people who don’t know how the data is structured (in fact, don’t even know eg what sector codes are).
Yesterday I was briefing country program staff about IATI, and gain, was unable to prove to them the wealth of data already available. If they want very specific financial information they’ll go into our financial system, no question. But being able to pull quickly a specific project, or all the projects in x sector, or by donors A, B, D and G (but not C, E and F) would make them instant converts to the value of IATI.

I think a huge benefit of making data easy to access would be the immediate increase in quality (dog food and all that).

On the topic of data use, I think it would be good to talk about the supply versus demand issue. Many organizations are working to address the supply-side needs by opening data and working to provide better quality data, but the demand-side issue remains. Many recipient countries lack the capacity to meaningfully analyze and use available data for informed decision-making. If case studies exist on how this capacity building has been successfully accomplished, and the demand-side issues addressed, it would be a good topic to explore. Many organizations are looking to better understand the demand-side issues, and it would be worthwhile to learn from those who have experience.

Both the supply and demand side are worth exploring. Even for IATI experts it is an enormous challenge to build reliable information products when combining IATI data from different sources.

The suggestion of Yohanna is to build really intuitive meaningfull applications which will highlight potential data quality problems and therefore be an incentive to improve data quality. I am not sure this is already possible with the current data quality. In the ideal case the availability, coverage and quality of IATI data should be so good that there are at least no technical obstacles to use data for informed decision making.

I agree that learning from organisations who have experience could highlight the possibilities and at the same time address the critical areas for improvement. That would be an interesting topic for the TAG.

We have tried to establish a workflow just like you have described on You could use keywords (based on title/decscription(s)) or just build a webview based on filters, for example:

Kenya IATI activities: (5378 activities)
Kenya & sector elections: (48 activities)
Kenya & sector elections & budget 10K-1M:,100000-1000000&order_by=-total_budget (20 activities).

Obviously there are many scenarios for a wide variety of views possible, which are not supported by openaidsearch by default, but could be made using the API that runs this interface.

Hope this helps out.

Thanks, this is useful reminder of openaidsearch.

I had a quick look to see how I could use it to respond to the requests I had lately. I think it would, but I’m not sure because I wasn’t able to find the donors whose data I’m most familiar with (ours ie DFATD, DFID, UNDP). They simply don’t seem to be in the Reporting Organization list. Not sure what’s going on.

However, it leads me to another topic that affects usability, which is naming conventions for donors/publishers. It’s all over the place and it makes it really hard to find a publisher (which will only get worse as the number of publisher continues to grow). This may also be a useful topic for the TAG.

I also wonder if browsers/apps should be grouping publishers by type (eg Bilateral donors, Multilateral donors, CSO etc). This may make the above issue a bit less problematic, as we wouldn’t have to go over 300+ names to find what we’re looking fore.
Another solution would be to filter by publisher ID rather than name. This would, in effect, group publishers by category given their various ID conventions (e.g. all bilateral will have an ID starting with DAC).

Other things could make openaidsearch more useful (at least for me sitting in a donor HQ). I wonder if it might be of interest to have brainstorming sessions to explore various user cases (for this site, but also the D-Portal and others). In the meantime I’m happy to make notes of our suggestions.

Is this what tools like were meant to address? I’m not sure many donor country programme staff are aware that tools like this are available to them.

Yes, I think they MEANT to, but they don’t. I tried using the D-Portal in my demo in Dakar and it did not meet anyone’s needs. Openaidsearch is closer I think - though I’d be able to assess it better if I could see how our data displays.

Hello, I’ve just submitted a proposal for a workshop on IATI data use to the International Open Data Conference, same week as the TAG. Really happy to partner up if anyone is interested, or has submitted something similar? Also be good to run something similar at the TAG if there’s space. Cheers, Sarah

Hi Yohanna, would you be able to provide more information about how D-Portal didn’t meet people’s needs at your demo? It’d be really useful feedback.

Hi Sarah

Without getting into too much details, many issues came up with the D-Portal from a data user’s perspective (in the Explore tab, I have not tested the others).
For instance, people want to:

  • not have to scroll down the list to find a publisher (ie need a look up, or filtering by type of publisher, or at least clustering by type to ease the search)
  • select more than one country, for instance to get a regional picture
  • filter by sector (rather than country or donor)
  • combine a search by donor, country and/or sector (ie all donors funding Infrasctrure in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador)
  • click on a sector and get the definition (in fact, definitions for all fields should be available)
  • disaggregate the sector (ie break down Education between the 4 sub-sector, or even better the 5-digit CRS codes)
  • get the list of donors for a given sector (now we get the list of projects, it would be tedious to add them all up)
  • see the receiver of a transaction (the space is there, but the information doesn’t show up)
  • filter by type of aid, type of recipient etc (eg looking at the projects in Senegal, being able to only pull projects with CSOs, or projects with the government)
  • have the start and end date of projects and implementing partner appear in the table of projects, to help users select relevant projects more easily

I’m sure this is not exhaustive. During my meeting, every person seemed to want to do his/her own thing - and that was within the Senegal page.

I hope this helps get people’s creativity going on how to turn the D-Portal into something better aligned to country needs.



Thanks for the really helpful feedback on improvements to d-portal - some of these are in the plans already, and we’ll look at the others too. Some are closely related to data quality. It’s great to get some perspective from potential users in partner countries (Yohanna, was it mainly donors or partner country representatives that you were demoing to in Dakar?). As a general point, there’s so much data and so many angles to approach it from that it’s easy to make things look complicated very quickly - so is useful to have feedback from partner country users.

It’s a really interesting discussion - there’s other comments in the thread about the demand side - current developments in d-portal are based around feedback from the MoF in Nepal…there’ll always be personal perspectives on what people want, but it would be great to have wider understanding of what’s needed across partner countries in using these kinds of tools and the IATI data within them.

I think data quality is a big issue in all this - and like everything (including d-portal!) is a work in progress - it would be great to engage with partner countries on these tools, but there’s a limit to what they can do with the current data, even when the tool is doing exactly what they want - I think we need to continue improving the data quality whilst developing the tools (and consulting users!)…but it’s come a long way in the last 4 years so we’ve got reason to be hopeful!

Hi Matt

Sorry, I had not seen your reply. I demoed to both partner country officials and donors, my feedback reflects both groups (for instance, the issue of publisher selection and sector selection/def etc came up with all).

I think it’s really important to seek feedback from partner country people (both government and citizens). However, we should not forget donors as potential users - if only as a way to drive data quality up. It’s a lot easier for me to get support to make project officers code a new field, or to correct their data, if they are the ones asking to see the data on a portal.

At the Foundation Center, we recently built a little app in response to a query on this discussion board a few months ago, namely an IATI to GeoJSON converter. We built one! We haven’t really put it to the test, but it definitely works at small and medium scales for relatively simple cases. This might be handy for folks who want to quickly spin up web maps of IATI data without having to fuss around too much. Let me know if anybody still thinks this would be useful, or if it might be something worth demo’ing.


Hi Yohanna

Thanks for the detail on who you spoke to in Senegal.

A number of recent/current d-portal developments came out of discussions last year with MoF representatives and CSOs in Nepal - including option to view different currencies and change the year start date (to enable alignment with a country’s financial year). There’s been other demos and interaction with a variety of people from partner countries throughout the development, and obviously it’s still a work in progress. We’ll take on board your feedback from the meeting in Senegal too - but I think it’s useful to note that with such a broad and detailed dataset and a large/varied audience that there’s always different perspectives on what people need/want, and so always more you could do!

We’re increasingly getting publishers asking about their data in d-portal and particularly around where there are issues with the data, and are able to point them to where they can amend/improve the data. I’m sure all these kind of tools are useful in making the data more understandable and therefore helping publishers highlight where data needs improving.

This is a very interesting discussion happening here. I would like to chip in with some of my observations based on our direct experience in Nepal as well as based on my participation in the recent Regional Development Data usage workshop in Accra. Please find below some of my points.

  • When we talk about using the data, we need to understand that data usage scenario will be inherently different for different stakeholders - donors, country governments, CSOs, media etc and create use case scenario first. Some of my initial observations on this are:
  • Country governments are interested to use IATI data for comparative analysis ie. to see if the IATI data they have for particular donors/publishers matches with what they have in AIMS or not.
  • CSOs within countries seem more interested to see how resources are being planned and channelled for specific sectors and their outcome.
  • Local media/journalists are interested in the traceability aspect. ie. they want to create data stories by linking different different IATI identifiers and do an analysis on how resources are being spent.
  • While tools like d-portal have come up with great promise to facilitate data usage, we perhaps need to pay a little more attention to the end users and have respective customisation. This is where national level d-portals come into picture. However, the million dollar question on this is whose responsibility would it be to customize and maintain d-portal at the national level

  • Education and awareness around IATI is key for data usage. We often find the case that IATI is pretty much unheard of outside Aid Coordination units within respective Ministries in partner countries. At times, even people within the coordination units (except for a single focal person) are unaware of IATI. Similarly at the donor’s end, most of their country offices have no clue of what IATI is. The situation is even worst at the end of CSOs, Media and other stakeholders. We perhaps need to have a clear strategy on doing outreach to these respective stakeholders so as to ensure uptake of IATI data

  • If we can facilitate IATI to have more publishers (not only donors at the top) publishing and linking different activities together, we can expect IATI to fill the gap of traceability. This is something that will create more demand and usage of IATI data for sure. I know that it is easier said than done. However, we could possibly do some pilot traceability cases and build cases so that the interest on IATI is there at least.

  • We need to link with local tech and open data communities. Somehow, open data stakeholders at the country level are not aware of IATI. They could be real agents for data usage. Eg. organizing IATI hackathon at the country level could really see intersting tools and visualizations coming along. Moreover, these will be an opportunity for us to educate people and make them use data

  • Last but not the least, demand and usage should be facilitated to a certain extent. We cannot simply expect data to be used organically and focus only on the supply side. Perhaps, this is something that partner countries and donors need to jointly embrace as part of IATI country pilots.