Thursday, 25 March 2010

AidData bounce

I realise that this is perhaps a rather unusual thing to get excited about but I have spent the last hour playing with this wonderful new tool. I suppose it is as something akin to a geek getting excited about new hardware or software or whatever it is that gets geeks excited. This is that for me. It is, as my American friends would say, my crack.

I spend a lot of time reading about aid and development (and plan to continue doing so for many years to come). I also not so long ago fell madly in love with the work being done by Hans Rosling and Gapminder. Every paper I read (mostly written by people working in the field rather than ivory-tower academics) reiterates the importance (and difficulty) of a fact-based approach.

And then, someone (or in this case several someones) comes along and sets up a database-tool-system-thingy that makes it possible to identify and track aid flows by donor, recipient, purpose and activity over multiple years, across and within regions. How amazing is that?

No? Just me? Well, it is. Not only will this provide hours of entertainment for development-geeks like me, it has the potential to contribute substantially to transparency and accountability. Now that the numbers are out there, it will be much harder for double-dipping to occur because donors can see who else is giving and how much they're giving. Plus, rich governments will no longer have the option of claiming moral high-ground for all they're giving to the poor when really they're just chanelling money to one little project in one little country. It makes it easier for donors to hold recipients accountable and recipients to hold donors accountable and other stakeholders (like the citizens of countries whose governments are donors or recipients or both) to hold them both accountable. AidData currently only tracks government and multilateral donors but that is an increadibly good start and I imagine the INGOs will jump on board soon. At least, I hope they will. They really, really should.

It also makes it a whole lot easier to present a rational, fact-based picture of the development world and the way in which development (including emergency relief) is funded and run and hopefully to counteract some of the unfounded negative spin that aid and development funding have been getting in the last few years while still addressing the real problems. Yay!

I realise this is still an odd thing to get excited about but it has absolutely made my Thursday. Now all we need is for the folks at Gapminder to step in and turn it all into pretty pictures (i.e. user-friendly, presentation-ready graphics) and my happiness in this particular area will be complete.

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