• Written by Peter van der Linde
    10 October 2012

Last week the Netherlands entered the top three of the 2012 Aid Transparency Index. The index shows how open the world’s biggest donors are about their expenditure on international development aid.

Over the last three years the UK-based organisation Publish What You Fund has rated donors and ranked them in an index. This year they’ve rated 72 donors. Compared to last year, the Netherlands climbed one spot to 3rd place. The news has been well received – Dutch national newspapers Trouw, Telegraaf, Volkskrant and the magazine Elsevier posted articles about this shift – and credited the role of the Openaid.nl platform, that Akvo launched last year.

Openaid.nl – the website and the systems underneath it – was the first implementation of the Akvo Openaid platform. I wrote in more detail about Akvo Openaid in early September. But in short it makes it easy to gather and republish International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data in ways that are easy to read and exchange, so everyone can make the most of it.

The system was created by Akvo’s development partner Zimmerman & Zimmerman and is designed to be easy for governments and large “multilateral” organisations (such as large UN agencies) to introduce quickly. Led by two brothers, Siem and Tristan Vaessen and based in Amsterdam, the Zimmerman and Zimmerman team has since worked with a Nairobi-based innovation unit inside UN-Habitat to build its new Open UN-Habitat site, which was launched in September in Naples. Siem also presented a new, more ambitious site called beta.openaidsearch.org in late September at the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, an important gathering of the people working hardest around the world to bring knowledge out into the open.

Making access to high level aid funding data open is one thing, but opening up the detail on programmes and projects – what is happening on the ground – is something else again. So I’m very excited about the opportunities to move a level deeper and include open data for projects and results from Akvo RSR (Really Simple reporting) to this higher level funding data.

Akvo RSR makes it easy to bring complex networks of partners and projects online, and enables field and support teams to share status updates on the fly. In combination with Akvo Openaid it would allow people to drill down through country level financial data into specific projects – and follow the latest updates in real time. The Akvo RSR development team has started to implement this for two large MFS Dutch aid consortia we’re involved in – Dutch WASH Alliance and Connect4Change. The Connect4Change projects such as this one already have IATI (International Aid Transparency Initiative) identifiers displayed on their pages. To my knowledge this is a world first.

Greater interest amongst media and the public in where and on what aid is spent will embolden those working on open data initiatives, so the index and the media coverage make a real difference. At Akvo we’re focussing on getting extra resource in place to take this work forward and help lead the pack in the field of open data in the international development aid sector.

Peter van der Linde is a co-founder and co-director of Akvo. With contributions from Josje Spierings and Mark Charmer.