AidData Newsletter

September 2011

African Development Bank and AidData release new geocoded aid activity data


Last month, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and AidData released a data set containing the sub-national locations of all AfDB projects continent-wide approved from 2009-2010. The data, available at Open.AidData, represent more than $10 billion in AfDB Group funding to 43 African countries. This release follows the June 2011 launch of an interactive map of AfDB project activities in Cameroon, Morocco, and Tanzania.

The AfDB projects were geocoded, or tagged with precise sub-national geographic locations, through a partnership with AidData. Using the UCDP/AidData geocoding methodology, this summer AidData researchers combed through AfDB project documentation to record the regions, districts, or towns where projects were actually being implemented. In many cases, a project has more than one location. In total, AidData's researchers, working with AfDB project managers, were able to identify nearly 2,000 sub-national locations for 183 AfDB projects. Using these data, stakeholders can view the precise locations of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and other bank-financed activities.

The geocoded data are fully compatible with the IATI geocoding standard and World Bank/AidData Mapping for Results data, also available from open.aiddata.org and maps.worldbank.org. This allows researchers and analysts to mash up the data to examine donor coordination, sub-national aid targeting, and many other questions. It is exciting to see donors begin mapping their data to provide a clearer picture of the distribution of aid resources within countries, ultimately improving the impact of aid on the ground.

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AidData Names Bradley Parks and Stephen Davenport as Executive Directors

AidData, now entering its third year, has matured from an informal joint program among three institutions (Brigham Young University, the College of William and Mary, and Development Gateway) to a long-term partnership. With dedicated staff at each of the three institutions, a cadre of research assistants at the universities, a number of affiliated researchers at other institutions, and a wide network of institutional partners, the "AidData team" is large and diverse. Its work program has expanded, and now includes innovation in tools for aid transparency and visualization, research on aid effectiveness, data collection and standardization, and advisory and technical services in the area of managing and displaying aid information.

In recognition of the program's maturation and need for strong leadership, a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from each of the three partner institutions has been formed to provide broad oversight and strategic direction. Effective immediately, the Committee has appointed two Executive Directors, Bradley Parks and Stephen Davenport, to manage the AidData partnership on a daily basis.

Brad Parks is based at the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary, and will oversee AidData's research initiatives and its data collection, coding and standardization activities. From 2005-2010, Brad was part of the initial team that set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government aid agency.  He is also a Visiting Research Associate at the Center for Global Development. Brad holds an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and a BA in International Relations from the College of William and Mary.

Stephen Davenport of Development Gateway will oversee AidData's work with partners on innovation, data visualization, and international standards for aid information and transparency. Steve has been with Development Gateway since 2000, and is currently the Senior Director for Business Development, Innovation, and Partnerships. Until 2010, he led Development Gateway's aid effectiveness work, including the design and rollout of the Aid Management Platform (AMP) to more than ten developing countries. He holds a master's degree in international business administration from Georgetown University, and a bachelor's degree from Washington and Lee University.

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Results emerging from Uganda crowdsourcing RCT

Conventional wisdom holds that involving communities in planning and monitoring development interventions will lead to greater impact. Until recently, though, the toolbox for true community participation on a large scale has been relatively limited. The increasing use of social media and cell phones in developing countries now suggests new opportunities to create true "feedback loops" between donors and community stakeholders. Research is needed to understand how to implement this in a practical sense, and how to motivate citizens to participate.

The AidData team, led by Prof. Dan Nielson of Brigham Young University, worked with UNICEF this summer in Uganda to investigate the kinds of incentives that encourage citizens to participate in a crowdsourcing initiative. The research leveraged a new community monitoring tool launched by UNICEF Uganda in 2010. The system, called Ureport, seeks to create feedback loops between intended project beneficiaries and the project's donors. The system uses a RapidSMS platform to connect over 25,000 Ureporters to the website ureport.ug.

Through a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT), the researchers tested what motivates community members to contribute feedback. Preliminary results indicate that the most effective incentive of those tested was for the participants to receive a tailored reply via text message from a real person (other incentives included 1) the chance to win a prize; and 2) belonging to a sub-group of participants who shared a particular area of interest, such as health or education). This suggests that an important motivation for participating in a crowdsourcing initiative is the sense that someone is actively listening to the feedback one provides. A working paper on the research findings is forthcoming.

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Working as an AidData Research Assistant

This summer, a team of research assistants have been working at AidData's two academic institutions on data collection, standardization, and coding. They have also had the opportunity to pursue some independent research following their own interests. The First Tranche, the AidData blog, recently featured a piece by Kedar Pavgi and Reggie Gomez, both 2011 graduates of the College of William and Mary, on agricultural aid and output.

Some students, including Kedar and fellow research assistant Alex Atkins, also had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC for the Athgo Fourth Annual Global Forum, held at the World Bank. This event, focused on Climate Change and Constructive Entrepreneurship, convened 100 young people from around the world to speak with corporate executives, diplomats, and area experts about social entrepreneurship and how it could help solve challenges related to climate change. AidData was also mentioned in a presentation that referenced aid dashboards created for the Global Facility for Disaster Relief and Recovery (GFDRR), and the geocoding work done with the World Bank through the Mapping for Results initiative. According to Kedar, the highlight of the conference was a surprise visit from Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who spoke about his efforts to develop sustainable enterprises, starting with the Grameen Bank, and extending to a host of other projects around the world (photo: Kedar posing with Dr. Yunus).

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