Keeping Charity in Check

AidData tracks development aid funding and uses GIS, open source data and a number of other approaches to shed some light on where donations go and how they are spent.

Author Anna Rees, 07.04.16

AidData tracks development aid funding and uses GIS, open source data and a number of other approaches to shed some light on where donations go and how they are spent.

Global development aid is, according to the Economist, worth about 130 billion USD per year with over two-fifths filtered through large organisations like the World Bank, UN and the Global Fund. Incidences of aid funds being misused, handled by corrupt officials or funneled into other uses have made some donors wary. In this age of transparency and impact, donors and aid agencies are, rightfully, seeking to know how and where their money is being spent.

This is exactly what AidData aims to do. According to the website, AidData collects and publishes data on more than 5.5 trillion USD worth of development finance. The data is gleaned from 90 bilateral and multilateral agencies at the project level, such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS), and presented online via a database and geocoded maps.

The idea behind the initiative, which launched in 2009, is to make development funding more transparent, track the distribution of funds and also to measure impact in comparison to money poured into a project. Simply put, it’s a tool to help ensure that donations and aid finance goes where it’s most needed and is used in the most effective way possible. In 2010, it released a searchable, online database of one million past and present development funding activities. The product of a partnership between the College of William & Mary, Development Gateway and Brigham Young University, AidData now functions as a standalone entity.

The online database is very easy to use and allows people to search for info relating to funds per sector, region, year, donor, recipient or a combination of all. For example, a cursory search in the Oceania area brings up a map with results of how much aid money has flowed in and out of the region and who the top donors are. In Papua New Guinea, for instance, Australia is the number one donor, contributing 35.6 billion USD. By adding in one more filter to my search, the keyword ‘refugee’, a dataset is displayed showing who’s funding refugee aid in Papua New Guinea and how much is being spent (for what it’s worth, AidData lists the Netherlands as the top donor here, with Australia second).

Alongside collecting, analysing and publishing data, the organisation also creates tools, like interactive maps plotting funded projects, and carries out training programmes so that the data can effectively be put to use in future planning and research in the humanitarian sector. Users can also upload their own relevant data, information and videos.

To learn more about their work or starting using their maps, head to the AidData website.

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