White paper, part 2: How to get started publishing using the IATI standard as a bilateral donor agency

Implementing aid transparency in Sweden, part 2:

Ian Wilson / CC BY 2.0

Every organisation’s path to start publishing using the IATI standard might look different (see InterAction’s blog post on their experience), but here we would like to share some thoughts based on our experiences as a bilateral donor agency.

  1. Stocktaking and extraction. It is important to sort out what data you have available, how you can best extract the data and to choose the appropriate tools to do so. This includes mapping out what the data contains and how it matches with the IATI-standard in terms of document classification and data categories. In our case, as a bilateral donor, we were able to extract our DAC reports (CRS++ format) as CSV and convert it into XML. However, the system at Sida has been around for some time so some data identifiers that the IATI standard utilizes simply do not exist. One example is identifiers for transactions and their respective dates which has required some creative solutions to comply with the IATI standard.
  2. System check. Map out which systems you are currently using in order to figure out how they can be integrated to extract the information you want. The interaction between the planning system, financial information and the digital document archive is especially important to assess. In some cases we simply have to wait on overall system upgrade for our organization that eventually will allow us to comply fully with the standard.
  3. Publishing process.  For security purposes it is vital to figure out whether to have a manual approval process for each project prior to publication or if all data should be published by default. At Sida, we make all of our data available by default, except for any sensitive or classified material that we filtered out in line with the rules of public access.
  4. Communication and dialogue. Establishing a dialogue both externally with key stakeholders and partner organisations as well as internally within Sida has been crucial. Internally it has meant a drive to inform our staff of the value of open data and how it differs from statistics. Externally we have worked to increase general awareness of the values of transparency, open data and data quality through communication and facilitation of reporting and data conversion for the CSOs we support.
  5. Licensing and copyright. Pay attention to appropriate licensing since your data might be without copyright restrictions but still contain material where other copyright laws apply. At Sida, we quickly resolved this issue by meeting up with the Swedish Wikimedia organisation and discussed our options. In our case, our data belongs to the public domain by default due to Sweden’s public access principles, but some restrictions are applied to classified material or material where copyright is owned by someone else. Documents of the latter kind are made available on Openaid.se but they may not be republished without permission from the original copyright holders.
  6. Making use of tools. There are multiple tools and guides that can make conversion and publication using the IATI standard relatively easy. For example, the CSV2IATI Converter is a tool to map, prepare and convert your data and Aidstream is an online service that should be useful for smaller organisations. However, for a larger organisation like Sida, with big amounts of data, a more powerful solution has been required. With the assistance of DFID we have used the SQL-to-IATI conversion tool as a starting point for conversion.

Thanks to the process of reviewing and stocktaking our data, both data quality and security processes has in the long run improved within our organization. That is an important return on investment. Another important advantage is that we can use the IATI data/Openaid.se in our external communication with both partners, the public and other stakeholders. In a larger perspective, the availability of high quality data leads to more efficient development cooperation.


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