Research and Innovation

Advancing the ICT4D playing field

The field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) is rapidly expanding as entrepreneurs from around the world—and particularly in developing countries—create innovative new mobile applications, information management tools, and crowdsourcing platforms. Development Gateway continually explores opportunities for new initiatives and updates its current programs based on shifting demand, suggestions from clients and partners, emerging technologies, and the changing international development landscape. In collaboration with governments, tech firms, development agencies, and non-profits worldwide, we’re paving the path towards better and more accessible development information.

Current research and innovation efforts fall in the following categories.

 

[toggle]Geocoding and mapping

Development Gateway is pushing the boundaries of visualizing and mapping aid activities. Development Loop, a web application created in partnership with Esri, presents the locations of hundreds of active World Bank and African Development Bank projects, along with local success stories recorded by GlobalGiving. Now, we are exploring ways to augment the project details with other kinds of content such as project documents and multimedia files, and to link related activities to parent projects and programs.

At the country level, Development Gateway is collaborating with governments that have implemented the Aid Management Program to map out data recorded in their aid information management systems. For example, we’re currently working with the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program at the University of Texas to geocode each active aid project recorded in the Government of Malawi’s Aid Management Platform (AMP). In the process, we are learning how to make geocoded information more useful for decision-makers in developing countries, so that they can use mapping platforms to better manage aid delivery.

[toggle]Web and mobile apps

Web and mobile applications are powerful tools for making data more interactive and accessible. With smart phones rapidly gaining in popularity around the world, mobile apps in particular can help large numbers of people access knowledge and resources crucial to their development work.

Development Gateway is building mobile applications that facilitate access to vast stores of data on development assistance. For example, a new mobile app for the Aid Management Platform (AMP), known as “AMPlify,” allows AMP users to enter and edit project information (including geographic coordinates) from their mobile phones. The prototype Development Loop application is also mobile-accessible, so that field workers and community beneficiaries could instantly report new projects and upload project information (including photos and videos) to the global platform. With the ability to record real-time data on aid projects via intuitive mobile platforms, development workers and regular citizens can more closely monitor and evaluate project implementation.

[toggle]Crowdsourcing

Data on development assistance projects is incomplete if only gathered from donors and recipient governments. Community stakeholders also possess valuable information that can be used to paint a complete picture of project implementation. If a donor is building a bridge in a specific community, for example, a member of the community could report on the quality of the bridge and the speed with which it was implemented. Civil society organizations and watchdog agencies can use this information to hold governments and donor agencies accountable for their actions, and development workers can study these data for valuable feedback and ideas on how to improve aid delivery.

Development Gateway is building tools that enable regular citizens to submit information on aid projects quickly and easily. Working with Ushahidi and UNICEF in Uganda, AidData is piloting a project to crowdsource feedback on aid projects at the grassroots level via mobile phones and SMS technology. Using tools like RapidSMS, the Ushahidi platform, and UNICEF’s devTrac and uReport, the project enables Ugandan “scouts” to report data on projects directly to a central server. In parallel, AidData is conducting a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) to evaluate the conditions under which these scouts are most likely to report timely and comprehensive information. We share the World Bank’s vision of a “Yelp for government” that allows multi-stakeholder feedback and thereby improves aid delivery and effectiveness.

[toggle]Open data dashboards

Development Gateway is continually working on new ways to aggregate and visualize open data in user-friendly and readily-understandable ways. Our goal is not simply to collect and present data, but to reveal the underlying trends and enable informed decision-making. Through AidData, we’re developing dashboards that will enable users to generate custom charts, graphs, and maps of information recorded in the AidData web portal. With the click of a button, users will be able to see how much money the UK has spent on education projects in Africa, or analyze the regional breakdown of Kuwait’s aid to the rest of the world.

Development Gateway is also implementing custom dashboards for individual partners. This includes working with the Global Fund for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), for example, to design a dashboard that enables users to interact with data on development assistance for disaster risk reduction and recovery worldwide. These dashboards enable instant interaction with data so that users without a technical or statistical background can integrate and aggregate data using filters of their choosing.

[toggle]Data quality and standards

Open data is most useful when various datasets can be scraped, manipulated, and mashed-up with other datasets. This requires high-quality data that abides by standard, commonly-accepted formats—if two datasets contain similar information, but are reported using different XML frameworks, for example, they cannot be combined to produce aggregate charts and graphs without running complex computer scripts. Development Gateway stays abreast of the latest data standards by contributing to projects like the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Working with IATI’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Development Gateway helped create the IATI standard, which prescribes a common format for reporting development assistance information.The geocoding component of the IATI standard also references the UCDP/AidData geocoding methodology. Building on these experiences working with IATI, Development Gateway is working to enable users of the AidData database to download aid activity records in the IATI format. Research efforts on data quality and standards ensure that information in Development Gateway’s platforms and systems is accessible, accurate, and “mashable.”

[toggle]Procurement management

The core dgMarket platform is being extended with a new solution for electronic tendering (now in beta version). It follows European Union recommendations on tendering systems, and supports a number of processes, including:

  • Electronic bid submission
  • Online pre-bid conferences and questions and answers
  • Electronic bid opening
  • Bid evaluation
  • Configurable procurement workflows

 

Architecturally, this e-tendering system is based on Sibutu, a new open source Java application framework built by Development Gateway. Sibutu is a light-weight solution for creating extensible, robust, reusable Java web applications with multi-language and hierarchical multi-site support. The framework has a modular structure and integrates popular open-source components (Hibernate 3, Spring, Acegi, Tiles 2, Spring Web Flow and Quartz).

Case Study: Local Projects Database

The aftermath of the tragic Asian Tsunami in late 2004 showed the world how a lack of information on the activities of different aid and relief groups can have serious consequences. Development Gateway created the Local Projects Database (LPD) software tool to support the information sharing needs of local organizations and groups. LPD has been used by organizations in Colombia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Poland, Romania and the USA, and is freely available under open source licensing at www.sourceforge.net.

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