White paper, part 3: Challenges

Implementing aid transparency in Sweden, part 3

image The process of becoming more transparent and publishing high quality data using the IATI standard is not a quick fix, but the rewards are plenty for every effort made. There are common challenges for everyone to improve data quality and to increase the use of the data made available. Making the data easily accessible and creating tools that facilitates understanding, analysis and general use of aid data is an ongoing process. We are constantly working to improve and evaluate our initiative Openaid.se and to support usage by the public, journalists, partner countries and others.

In our experience, we found four main challenges that remains as continuous processes of improvement.

  1. Quality. Maintaining high quality of data is an issue for everyone working at Sida. However, there has been a need to raise awareness amongst the staff about the accessibility of the data by the general public. One example is project titles that often contain cryptic abbreviations and terms interpretable only to the few involved in the projects, making them difficult to find and understand for a wider audience.
  2. Staff culture and privacy. Despite the fact that Sida’s data always has been available to the public by request, the instant and active publishing of our data has exposed privacy concerns amongst the staff. Even though the only real change is that the public can access the data without their knowledge, the staff experience it as an intrusion and they have expressed concern about the availability. This has also unveiled a need for the possibility to make inofficial comments and notes that are only available to staff and that isn’t published. We have found it important to communicate the values of transparency and Sida’s commitments, ensuring staff buy-in and be responsive to the their concerns. This is achieved through continuous and open dialogue with the staff and seminars about what to consider in their daily project management work in terms of privacy, security and awareness about the accessibility of an external public audience.
  3. Usability and usage. Since Sida first launched Openaid.se in 2011, there has been a change in strategy to attend to both the general public as well as the professional users (such as researchers, development professionals and journalists). At first launch, we had an idea that if we build it they will come, but we did not pay enough attention to the user experience. In the latest version of Openaid the goal has been to create an interface that is both simple and intuitive yet precise and sophisticated to appeal to our multiple audiences. The interface allows you to ask very specific questions and export the data to other formats. In the last year Sida has conducted public seminars in Sweden about the role of transparency, open and big data for development and participated in hackathons as data providers. Sida is also increasingly incorporating Openaid.se and IATI data in their communication efforts.

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