Geocoding: a route to deeper transparency

Guest blog by Sohir Debbiche, IATI Project Coordinator for African Development Bank

Introduction by Joni Hillman, Aid Transparency Programme Manager 

One of the purposes of IATI was to make information about aid not only more transparent, but easier for stakeholders in developing countries, and elsewhere, to actually use. Geocoding is one of the most exciting developments in this regard, meaning aid money can be traced to a close approximation of where its ultimate beneficiaries will be. We asked the African Development Bank to guest blog for us, with an update on the geocoding project they are undertaking with the support of Aiddata. We hope this inspires other publishers to explore the benefits of geocoding their IATI data.

This blog, a guest post by Sohir Debbiche (IATI Project Coordinator for African Development Bank), gives some insight into one of the major aspects of the Bank’s new focus on transparency: geocoding.

What is geocoding, why is the Bank doing this, and how is it being implemented?

Geocoding: a route to deeper transparency

sohir debbiche

The African Development Bank has proved its commitment to transparency by joining the ranks of over 190 development organisations who are publishing data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Having disclosed data on both its public and private sector activities as well as providing precise geocoded information, the Bank has also developed its disclosure and access to information policy. Effective since February 2013, this policy will help it prove its commitment to transparency in carrying out its projects. 


As most of DI’s readers will know, geocoding (turning the location of development activities into coordinates that enable accurate placement on a map) has long been high on the agenda for those interested in the traceability of funding for development projects. With this objective in mind, AfDB is geocoding its entire portfolio of activities, by mapping the exact location of the operations on the ground. This will also help the Bank better integrate its actions with other national open data and geospatial initiatives, principally the Open Aid Partnership, USAID and AidData.

In doing so, it will also improve the Bank’s ability to invest in areas where actions are most needed. Today all active projects approved between 2002 and 2012 have been geocoded (with the exception of budget support and institutional strengthening projects (ISPs) and the geocoding of 2013 projects is currently underway. This means 575 operations and 5600 project locations are now geocoded.


A snapshot of AfDB ‘s ‘MapAfrica’ platform, which will be available for use soon

Being able to understand which projects exist, where gaps are, and who is working on what to address these gaps, will help all parties make more informed choices. For example, overlaying planned interventions with open data from governments, other donors, researchers, or NGOs on population, poverty, disease, or other indicators will help to better target, and also better measure, results. Geocoding also offers a powerful tool to close the feedback loop, by allowing beneficiaries to share their views on the success of the operations. AfDB plans more civil society engagement in its efforts for more accountability to stakeholders, and to gauge the effectiveness of their projects, for example a beneficiary engagement project, in which stakeholders will be able to provide feedback by clicking on a project location on the MapAfrica platform. We hope to roll out this beneficiary feedback pilot in approximately one year, and hope this learning experience will result in improved decisions and better project outcomes.

How is the geocoding being done?

The Bank worked with AidData to geocode its project locations according to the IATI 1.03 standard. The geocoded data were created using AfDB’s portfolio portal and project documents, which were processed by AidData researchers using a methodology which includes strict quality control measures. The location references were pulled from, a geographical database, and were joined to administrative boundary files for each country allowing data users to have not only the point data, but also the administrative regions which govern each point.

The data were then merged into the AfDB IATI feed for publication. Currently, the Bank and AidData are working together to integrate geocoding into the Bank’s internal reporting systems, ensuring that data can be sustainably geocoded and reported to IATI by its project managers.

Feedback from partners has been positive but numerous challenges remain. As with other organisations publishing a large amount of IATI data, one high priority is in strengthening systems and tools to make transparency part of the institution’s way of doing business. Reforms are already on-going as part of the broader results agenda at the African Development Bank.

With thanks for their contributions to:

Olivier Shingiro, Senior Results Specialist, AfDB

Joshua Powell, Innovation Team Manager, Aiddata