The new IATI datastore

We have been getting to grips this week with IATI data with renewed enthusiasm-   thanks to a new user-friendly interface. The IATI datastore was launched earlier this month and is now online in alpha form. Rather than a curated database, the data store is an online service that gathers all data published to the IATI standard. It can be queried, and data can be downloaded in CSV spreadsheet format to allow analysis. In this blog, I share some of my initial findings using IATI data accessed via the datastore. I’ve also written a longer briefing (see bottom of this post), for those interested in exploring the data further.

So, what is new and interesting about the datastore?

  • It’s easier to see what data is available. Some of the really exciting data available from publishers include: forward-looking budget data, activities coded for multiple sectors, and more precise data on the timing of disbursements.
  • It’s easier to get the data you need. The query function available on the datastore platform makes it much easier for researchers to pull out the data we need.  For me, it was particularly interesting to see what it could add to my work on private development assistance. I focused on tracking transfer of funds from UK NGOs to their local partners. The briefing (see below) shows my findings. This type of analysis, which was previously possible through the IATI registry, is now much easier using the datastore.

An initial data dive

I used the datastore to pull out the data from 22 projects by 19 UK-based NGOs which have received a Civil Society Challenge Fund (CSCF) and/or a Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF) grant from the Department for International Development (DFID), to see how much was transferred to their local partner NGOs. Although the small sample limits the general applicability of our findings, the data do show that on average 34 % of the funds committed by DFID to UK-based NGOs are transferred to the local partners chosen by the UK NGOs. The final figure is likely to be over a third as most of the 22 projects end in 2014 or 2015. There is also a trend in the policies of donors like USAID to try and channel more funds through local NGOs (as I expand on in the briefing).

The new IATI datastore fig1

Understanding outflows from NGOs is important, as civil society in developing countries must be able to access data about the funding available from international NGOs and other publishers. More NGOs reporting to IATI will enable better understanding of the financial transactions between international NGOs and their local partners.

New insights to come as more publishers join

As DI’s recently published Investments to End Poverty report highlights, gaps in data reduce traceability of development finance, including finance channelled by NGOs. The data store is therefore a timely complement to existing datasets. Digging through the IATI data, it is obvious that as more organisations join the 180 organisations already reporting in IATI format, we will have a wealth of new insights into how development is financed and delivered which, in turn, can improve allocation of resources to the poorest. To be useful, IATI requires a sustained effort to improve the accessibility and quality of the data. Next year this will move forwards again with the public launch of the IATI data quality tracker. We look forward to joining this conversation, exploring and using data to gain and share new insights.