Why data transparency matters in the countdown to Busan
Paul Clough Head of International Finance
28th Nov 2011
Ahead of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Oxfam has become one of the first INGOs to publish our data to IATI, the International Aid Transparency Initiative standard. Paul Clough, Oxfam GB's Head of International Finance talks about our decision to publish in this way and looks at the next steps over the coming months.
The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) was launched in 2008 in Accra and aims to make information about aid spending easier to find, use and compare. Using IATI, those involved in aid programmes will be able to better track what aid is being used for and what it is achieving.
Why are we publishing our data?
Oxfam is committed to being accountable to our key stakeholders, in particular people living in poverty. For some time, we have wanted to support this commitment by publishing our programme data and IATI provided us with a common data format to work towards that will allow people to compare different organisations across the sector.
The decision to publish our data was also largely driven by our Open Information policy which was updated in July this year. The policy states Oxfam's commitment to proactively publish information in order to be transparent and accountable.
Publishing this information will also become a condition for some donors in future, including the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID).
What have we published so far?
Our first wave of published data includes most international projects that were active in 2010/11 and were not primarily programme support. The data covers currently 834 projects in 54 countries and contains both financial information and short descriptions. Read a full explanation of the data set here.
In line with our new Open Information Policy and the DFID Programme Partnership Arrangements we decided to publish data relating to all our international projects rather than just DFID-funded projects.
Some projects have been omitted from publication to avoid any risk to staff security or any harm to our operations. All exclusions from publication are outlined in our Open Information policy.
In addition to the data we are sharing today, we're also aware of the need to publish relevant project documents. In 2010 we made a selection of programme evaluations public for the first time. There are now 98 evaluation reports available to download. We expect this number to grow towards 2013 as we strive to be more transparent about the impact of our programmes.
What were the challenges?
Oxfam is lucky to already have a single effective system that manages our projects, finances and donor contracts. However we still faced some tough decisions: which projects should be considered sensitive? Was the quality of our data good enough? And which parts should we publish first?
The technical challenge of converting the raw data into XML and mapping to IATI standards was greater than expected, but we overcame this hurdle.
Finally we faced the issue of how the information will be understood externally - the source of the data is from internal systems, designed for internal consumption using organisational terminology that may not be easily understood by an external audience.
Committing to publishing our data as it is on a rolling basis will help us to develop our internal systems to improve data extraction and validation processes, as well as the standard of data being added to the system. Knowing the data will ultimately go public should help with this process.
This is just the first step
By April 2013 we plan to expand the information on our projects and move to publishing at quarterly intervals rather than annually. We will also aim to improve the quality of the data published and reduce the level of exclusions.
We are also looking at doing some data visualisation work to support our accountability communications to stakeholders. We already do some of this in our annual reports but only at a global level, producing infographics from this data would be a great way to show how and where Oxfam is having an impact in the lives of poor people.
You can download the Oxfam GB data set in XML from the IATI registry.
Download the data in Excel (XLS 757KB)
See how Oxfam ranks against other organisations in the publishing timeline