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It is just great to be here at the Open for Change Development Camp (follow it on twitter at #oddc) in Amsterdam, and discuss open data with such a wide range of interesting people. One of our contributions to the event was showcasing the mid-term results of a transparency pilot we are doing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which we are bringing part of their water portfolio of projects online. At the moment, we are at 24 projects, for a total of 525 million Euro.

Top: A Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sanitation project featured on the Akvo website

The Dutch government is firmly committed to opening up their aid data following the IATI standard, and they are aiming to publish their raw data before the end of this year. As a parallel track, they wanted to explore the possibilities of opening up some of the data in a more communicative way in a pilot, adding rich project information which they have available in internal documents, but not in an easily exportable format. At Akvo, we’ve been busy getting this done.

The process started with retooling our own database to make it IATI compliant, which entailed pouring over all the field definitions in the IATI standard, comparing them to our own project format, and deciding on a IATI compliant ‘Akvo’ project format. It is a first cut, and I am sure it will be adapted as we go along. Secondly, we took the output of the internal system of the Ministry, and combined it with extra info such as a summary of the project, objectives and outcomes, websites, locations, etc, which we got from the actual project documents the Ministry has.

What proved to be hardest is getting photos. We’ve had to fudge that for the moment – we simply took representative photos from the same region the projects take place in from Flickr. Of course, we only used Creative Commons licensed pics, and attributed the source. Over time, we will work with the Ministry to get real project pics in place.

On the map below, you find a sample of the water and sanitation programs funded by the Dutch Government we’ve managed to put in so far. Click on one of the markers, and you will get a link that takes you to the project page. These are preliminary results on a test server, so go easy on them eh? In addition to rich project information such as goals, web links, outcomes and sustainability, projects also feature a “IATI-compliant XML of this project” link in the ‘related to this project’ section. This will give you a first cut of the IATI compliant XML of the project. Firefox will display the XML in a nicely formatted way, Chrome only if you open it in a new tab. More in July!

For more on this process, and IATI itself, see this short video interview with myself and Mark Brough of Publish What You Fund.


Mark Westra is programme manager at Akvo.