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Linking aid and contracts

Global foreign aid is a $100-billion-dollar-affair. But how much of the money I contribute as a taxpayer arrives on the ground to deliver vital goods and services to people in need? Answering this question proves difficult.

To get a clear picture of the aims and objectives of aid programs, where activities are being delivered, and how they are financed, we require information that’s often trapped in multiple organizational silos.

At the recent International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Technical Advisory Group meeting in Dar es Salaam, we set out to discuss how we can connect information on aid flows and contracts by joining up data published using two different data standards.

We have explored this relationship in more detail, but here’s a summary.

First, we identified the core focus of each standard:

These standards also differ on a technical level. The IATI standard uses an XML data model, whereas the OCDS uses JSON as its primary schema language.

Once the focus of each standard was evident, we explored how they related to each other. We discussed three models at the Dar es Salaam meeting.

The relationship can vary from case to case and country to country depending on the administrative processes, so any integration between the standards needs to take these different models into account.

During the third step we dived into the technical approaches to the integration. In our working paper, we outline the use of identifier cross-references and document links to establish clear connections between contracting and aid.

This would require only minor updates to the two standards, such as adding relevant codelist entries. Current implementers of the OCDS and IATI standard should be able to add these to their publication processes relatively easily.

Fortunately, this is already happening. In our workshop, we heard that donors such as the UK Department for International Development and Global Affairs Canada | Affaires Mondiales Canada have started to make these links. We will now explore the different approaches in more detail, and seek partners and case studies. Have you worked on either? Let us know! We’d love to learn more.

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