Every year, donor organisations allocate around US$150 billion to support human and socio-economic development initiatives worldwide. Dustin Homer, Associate at Development Gateway shares how the international development community is using GIS to address challenges in monitoring and tracking development aid.
Development Gateway (DG), a non-profit organisation and international leader in ICT for development, geocoding, spatial analysis, and application development, is making waves worldwide for its efforts in providing innovative applications to help many donor organisations monitor the distribution and impact of their development aid.
“DG’s Aid Management Platform (AMP), for example, which we started operating in countries like Nepal, is all about giving the government a tool that they can use to manage information about all the development assistance happening in their country,” shares Homer. “Aid data can be further analysed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).”
DG is a founding member of AidData, a consortium with experience in implementing unique geocoding applications for international development. Recently, AidData was awarded a US$ 25 million first-of-its-kind five-year initiative with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to geocode all development projects in 15 countries.
The initiative aims to help USAID, and the broader global development community, to more effectively target, coordinate, deliver, and evaluate aid by geocoding projects and providing technical assistance and training for in-country partners. In addition, the project also entails the creation of a global research consortium to analyse geocoded aid data, and develop innovative geospatial software applications for better visualisation and analysis.
By using GIS, project managers can quickly demystify complex problems and assist the decisions that aid development organisations make every day. The spatial point of view shows who is doing what and where, allowing donor organisations to plan more effectively and see previously-invisible trends in their development work.
Nepal’s Ministry of Finance launched its AMP Public Portal recently. It showcases reports, and GIS visualisations of more than 40 development partners and details of over $US 6 billion in aid disbursements.
It leverages Esri’s ArcGIS online, a powerful cloud-hosted mapping platform, to enable project managers and donor organisations easily discover, access, and share maps and applications with other users.
“The Government of Nepal has recently made its aid information and mapping tool publicly available so that anybody can download reports, maps and other visualisations. I believe this sends a strong message across the whole international development community about the Government of Nepal’s commitment to transparency and accountability.”
Because of the portal, the Government of Nepal is now able to identify regions of the country where more development assistance is required, and hence, plan to work with donors to direct more resources there.
Apart from Nepal, Homer says that similar initiatives are also being done in countries such as Timor Leste, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and many others.
“Each country that we work in has plans to eventually make their information publicly available. So it’s quite pleasing to note that a lot of countries around the world are catching the vision of transparency and open government.”
In terms of creating long-term sustenance, DG spends more than three years on follow-up trainings and system maintenance to ensure that the system is institutionalised. They also hold annual best practices workshops where they look beyond maintaining the data to developing better uses of the data.
To take its open data initiatives further, DG is working to move beyond managing resources to tracking results so that governments can have a big-picture-view of what the money does, and not just where it goes.
Homer explains, “This is going to have big implications for a lot of governments, especially in developing countries. Having a tool which can bring in information from each donor, government department and NGOs can bring together a picture of the results of what we’re doing and plans for the next steps”.
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